Autumn Dreamscape

Three Kinds of Health Advice for Wishful Thinkers

Wishful thinking is pretty easy to find when the subject is fitness, nutrition, health, and obesity. Another label for it might be magical thinking. Unfortunately, health writers promote wishful thinking far too often. Here are three notorious forms of it:

  1. Run!Exercise for Weight Loss. The myth that working out is a great way to lose weight is dying a slow and erratic death. Exercise has plenty of other health benefits, but weight loss is not one of them. Even top tier media, like the New York Times, sometimes goes along with the myth. But they also publish numerous stories that set the record straight.
    Unfortunately, the record is considerably worse for consumer health and lifestyle publications. A quick look at Prevention, for example, will take you to a wide range of tips for exercising to lose weight.
  2. Superfoods. Now that we’re donning smart new fall fashions, we must need fall superfoods to detox our apparently filthy bodies. The wishful thinking is that those superfoods will heal us.
    Don’t get us wrong. We love beets, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and warming spices. We’re just not counting on them to make us super healthy. We eat them because we like them.
  3. Magic Diets. Even before superfoods, new magic diets were popping up every year to satisfy the yearning for a quick fix of weight loss. Right now the hot trend is a ketogenic diet. Like most hot new diets, it works for a while, but it’s tough to keep following. The simple fact is that short term diets don’t work for the long term. What works is a sustainable pattern of healthful eating that you enjoy. A smart dietitian can help you find your way if you’re serious about it.

All kinds of professionals find themselves besieged by wishful thinkers looking for magic answers. It’s a challenge confronting health and communication professionals alike. The smartest professionals dispense advice that’s both factual and satisfying.

The rest just tell people what they want to hear. So magical thinking lives on.

Click here for a more charitable view of magical thinking.

Autumn Dreamscape, photograph © Otter Love Photography / flickr

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October 4, 2016

2 Responses to “Three Kinds of Health Advice for Wishful Thinkers”

  1. October 04, 2016 at 10:38 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    Thanks Ted for debunking some popular magical myths.
    Fast talking hucksters continue to earn millions by robbing millions of their hopes and dreams.
    As boring as it sounds, weight loss can only be accomplished by consuming less calories then you expend. Calories in and calories out. If anyone can prove otherwise…I will be first on that long line.

    “Blessed are those who count their calories for their efforts shall not go to waist”

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors

  2. October 04, 2016 at 2:45 pm, Allen Browne said:

    That’s a challenge – answering wishful thinkers looking for magical answers with advice that is factual and satisfying.

    Much to do.