It really can be a wonderful thing. Since I joined Facebook over 10 years (!) ago I have watched it evolve, with the introduction of other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
Like most new concepts there is that initial fear of getting involved. It’s something novel. It can be quite scary to put your life, your thoughts, yourself and more so now, your expertise on there.
However, more and more health professionals, including many Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists are embracing it. Twitter boomed with Tweets to support Dietitian’s Week, which last year, surrounded evidence-based practice.
Using social media definitely has its positives for Dietitians
It is fabulous for creating a community and raising awareness to the general public about our roles and work ethic. It is also brilliant for sharing information, for following an event when you cannot attend and for general networking. As Dietitians, we have a code of conduct to follow, which includes being professional at all times; ensuring anything we are sharing with our professional hat, is evidence-based.
However, often what we are sharing isn’t trending or exciting. We talk about sustainable healthy eating and weight loss. Dietitians are very unlikely to post pictures of themselves in bikinis, drooling over a shake that has not only made us lose 10lbs of fat but also tone and build muscle. It is rare you would get a Dietitian spouting their experiences on eating a raw food diet or surviving solely on honey, with jaw-dropping health results. Why? These fad diets are not evidence-based and potentially dangerous. We are regulated and we want to teach the general population to #trustadietitian and banish the many myths all over social media. Our social media numbers may not be great. Our followers may not be massive and we may not go viral. Well not often. There are the occasional posts.
Unqualified ‘Diet experts’
This isn’t necessarily a problem until other “nutritional experts” start to take over social media. So-called experts who post one sensational diet-related post that attracts the masses. The masses that can equate to hundreds of thousands of followers. These “experts” are not qualified and often going on a sample size of one – themselves and their experience with a certain diet. Human beings are often lazy, we want a quick fix. Who doesn’t really? But we are all different and what works for one, certainly won’t work for us all; illustrating why novel diets need to be rigorously studied and tested with a large population group.
If someone promises you cutting out a food group will result in fast weight loss and feeling amazing vs slow and steady loss with the dietitian, who are you going to follow? Who will get your “Facebook like”? Not hard to guess really. That diet may result in weight loss but is it safe, sustainable and does it address any mental health issues going on under the surface for an obese individual? No. But the likes and follows increase and the “diet expert” gains momentum, may go viral and suddenly have an article in a popular newspaper. Instagram accounts promoting obsessive clean eating and exercise have been exposed. Accounts that also attract and fuel the minds of people with eating disorders. Scary and very worrying.
For a long time, these were the people getting asked for quotes in the news. It is getting better with more Registered Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists speaking the truth and educating the general public on evidence-based nutrition. This needs to increase! If something seems too easy in life, it usually is, weight loss fads included. Most things take hard work and motivation. There is no magic pill.
Dietitians and Registered Nutritionist need to keep tweeting, keep blogging and keep reaching for that evidence-based viral post to attract the masses. Our voices are the ones that need to be heard and followed.
I’m not sure Louise or I will be getting our bikinis out anytime soon but we will keep trying!
A condensed version of this post first appeared in the NHD Magazine November 2017 issue.
For trusted nutritional advice on social media then look for advice from a Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist.
Dietitians (RD) are degree qualified and have to be registered with the Health Care Professions Council.
Registered (RNutr) and Associate (ANutr) Nutritionists are degree qualified and are registered with the Association of Nutrition.