In recent years the age of the wellness blogger has risen. Young people finding fame on social media channels passionately encouraging people to follow their way of life which will lead to ‘wellness’.
What is ‘wellness’? Well according to the English Oxford dictionary it is ‘the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal’. So you have to work at your good health to have ‘wellness’. A wellness blogger is therefore someone that writes and blogs about how to improve your self with lifestyle changes to reach a status of good health.
As dietitians we seemed to have got left behind in the virtual social media world. Why is this? Well we are probably getting on with our jobs in the real world (hospitals, clinics and industry), rather than in the virtual world! People now look for their information on the internet in an easy accessible way. If someone is looking fabulous on Instagram, telling people they look like that due to their lifestyle choices then it is easy to believe what they are saying.
Anyone can be a ‘wellness blogger’, there are no rules or regulations on what they can say or do. Most mean well, but they often have no professional nutritional training or qualifications. Each wellness blogger has their own style and beliefs, but sometimes the nutritional beliefs are not quite right. They may recommend avoiding certain food groups in pursuit of wellness, but if they are not giving the correct advice to go with it (for example if advocating dairy free then to ensure adequate non dairy calcium sources) this could lead to nutritional deficiencies. Perhaps the most worrying is the rise of ‘clean eating’ and people’s belief that if they don’t follow these diets or avoid certain foods, that they will not reach ‘wellness’… Beliefs like this could be taken to far and lead to disordered eating.
Other professions don’t suffer the same fate as dietitians. You don’t see people on social media trying to give advice like a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or speech and language therapist. So why are there are so many people giving nutritional advice? Probably because nutrition is accessible to every one, every one needs to eat, every one is an expert of their OWN diet.
I think it is great that people want to encourage other people on social media to eat healthily and exercise, some of the recipes do look appetising and are a great way of getting more veg and fibre in your diet. But to give such specific diet advice which is not right for everyone is wrong, for example advocating gluten free, diary free, grain free, sugar free for everyone for good health. Of course some people must avoid certain foods if they are intolerant or have a disorder where they can not tolerate a food group e.g. gluten for Coeliac disease or lactose for Galactosaemia.
Dietitians often do not have life changing diet stories to tell their clients, but they do have evidence based science, professional qualifications (degrees and postgraduate diplomas in nutrition and dietetics) and have to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in the UK. If a dietitian is not registered with the HCPC then they are not allowed to call themselves a dietitian or work as a dietitian in the UK. My NHS trust takes this so seriously, that if for ANY reason your registration lapses, then you are suspended from work with out pay until your registration is re instated!
If dietitians don’t adhere to the HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics, proficiency and continuing professional development then we could get struck off the register and not be allowed to practice. This means dietitians must be honest and trust worthy, work with in our limits of knowledge and skills and maintain an up-to-date record of continuing professional development.
Wellness bloggers do not have to do any of this and are not accountable to anybody! Unfortunately the term nutritionist is not a protected title, so anyone can call them selves a nutritionist. There is a voluntary register for nutritionist so look out for ‘RNutrs’ for reliable nutritionists.
There are currently 8,828 (01/08/16) dietitians registered with the HCPC in the UK. There are now a lot more dietitians on social media; facebook, instagram, snap chat and especially twitter. Search for the word ‘dietitian’ or ‘RD’ which stands for registered dietitian. More dietitians are starting blogs to promote good nutritional messages. You can find a list of dietitian blogs on the RDs4disclouser site and on a fellow dietitians blog, Dietetically Speaking by Maeve Hanan.
- degree or postgraduate diploma in nutrition and dietetics
- clinic experience
- protected title
- registration with the HCPC
- use evidence based science when giving nutritional advice
- asses clients and give personalised tailored advice
- passionate about their cause
- have a large social media following
- may base advice on personal experience
- minimal nutritional qualifications
- often advise missing out whole food groups out of diet
You don’t need to avoid wellness bloggers as they do have some nice recipes to try and can be motivating to make lifestyle changes. Just be wary of the nutritional advice they give that goes along with the food photos or vlogs and don’t let them make you feel guilty if you are not always following your path to ‘wellness’.
So should you be getting your nutritional advice from the wellness bloggers or from the nutrition science geeks like us (aka dietitians)? I know who I will be listening to!
Photo credits: www.pexels.com