Paralysis by analysis – (over)researching health on the web


In my online research into health and fitness, one of the advantages I’ve identified is the ease at which we may corroborate the information. If, for instance, we are sceptical about whether something is just the dogmatic views of one school of thought, we can simply weigh that view up against ananother. Some can find this to be a cause of confusion:

“If you’re like most people, you’ll first survey all the most often discussed programs before deciding which to follow. And in this appraisal, you’ll get confused, lost, and then do the inevitable. That’s right, you’ll revert back to your old, ineffectual nutrition habits.
Instead of parsing out the similarities between all the successful plans out there, the common principles that affect positive, long-term change, you get thrown off the trail by the stench of the steaming piles of detail.” (http://www.golffitnessproducts.net/the-seven-habits-of-highly-effective-nutrition-programs.html)
For the findings of any research, especially the statistics that they produce, inevitably generalize. Consequently, a number of statements (about health and fitness for instance), can remain sufficiently vague that they frighten or affirm everyone. This can be a great way to sell newspapers, or get hits on a blog – but not very good at letting readers make informed decision.
“In the world of fitness, recommendations for improving performance and body composition often gain blind acceptance despite a dearth of objective data. This is common in a field where high hopes and obsessive-compulsive tendencies are united with false appeals and incomplete information. In order to be proven effective beyond the mere power of suggestion, supposed truths must be put through the crucible of science. Drawing conclusions from baseless assumptions is a good way to get nowhere - fast.” (http://alanaragon.com/an-objective-look-at-intermittent-fasting.html
Such articles can all be true in their own way – and yet also be entirely at odds with one another. This is life – for there are usually plenty of cons to every pro, and side-effects to any treatment. The key is to discern what is applicable to us - to see whether the cons are relevant to our particular situation and whether they ‘outweigh’ the pros.

A dangerous case of cybercondria can manifest from an over reliance on the web for health advice. And the media and advertising doesn’t help either – we can quickly ‘discover’ that all of our life habits are shortening our life expectancy. Yet knowledge is power – and generally we have the means in which to act on that knowledge. All we have to do is sort through the bull:
“All the fundamental principles you need to achieve good health and optimal body composition are out there already, and have been for years. Unfortunately, with 500 experts for every fundamental principle, and very little money to be made from repeating other people’s ideas, experts must continually emphasize the small (and often relatively unimportant) differences between their diet/eating plans and the diet/eating plans of all the other experts out there.” (http://www.golffitnessproducts.net/the-seven-habits-of-highly-effective-nutrition-programs.html)
Once we have managed this, the power is ours.
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