Nutritional mistakes: How they arise and how you can recognize them
How do nutritional mistakes actually arise?
People who watch a lot of TV are fatter — scientifically proven.
So does TV make you fat?
If yes, how?
Could the TV emit a mysterious “fat-making radiation” that’s switching your cells into extreme storage mode?
Sounds pretty far-fetched, right?
The truth is: TV itself doesn’t make you fat.
Nevertheless, conclusions of this kind are surprisingly common.
Good if you have a bullshit detector that works.
This is how nutritional mistakes are made
Treacherous conclusions: As more ice is sold, more is stolen. Because burglars like ice cream? No, because the sun is shining.
How are television and obesity-related?
The fact that people who watch TV are heavier is not due to TV consumption. The reason lies in the fact that these people as a group:
- sit more,
- eating while watching TV out of habit and
- pay less attention to their health.
TV viewing is not the cause, and it is a symptom.
This means that although watching TV and being overweight go hand in hand (correlation), watching TV is not the cause of the higher body weight (causality). In science, this is called the difference between
Correlation ≠ causality
When correlation and causation are confused, myths arise. Unfortunately, you see this error regularly in the media.
In marketing miracle pills or magical fitness programs, correlation is often sold as causality.
If you specifically question such statements, you will quickly notice this error in the future.
The following four myths arise when correlation and causation blur.
Nutritional Mistakes #1 – Chocolate makes you slim
According to a new study, magazines recently reported that chocolate makes you slim. However, the scientists only found that the group of chocolate eaters studied was slimmer than a comparison group that did not eat chocolate.
The study thus proves a correlation. However, anyone who reads the article and does not know the difference between correlation and causality quickly interprets the text as “chocolate makes you slim.”
Chocolate as a fat burner – I like the idea!
Unfortunately, it remains a myth. Chocolate consumption is why people stayed slimmer is not mentioned anywhere in the study.
Countless other possible causes were not observed in the study. However, such a message attracts fewer readers.
Nutritional Mistakes #2 – You can make it rain
When people open umbrellas, it rains – reliably. That means if you want to make it rain, all you have to do is open your umbrella and let’s go?
Nevertheless, correlation and causality are (too) often confused in more complex contexts, even in specialist journals and among scientists.
This is how myths are made. Now you see how invisible scripts are made.
Nutritional Mistakes #3 – Restaurant food makes you fat
People who eat out a lot gain weight more quickly. But do they gain weight more easily because they eat out?
Some people eat regularly in canteens and restaurants and are slim and fit.
Correlation, in this case, means the following: If we look at all the people who eat in the restaurant as a group, then statistically, they increase – for the following reasons:
- Restaurant food often has a higher energy density than home-cooked meals.
- In many restaurants, the portions are larger than at home.
- When eating out in restaurants, the temptation is higher to eat appetizers, soft drinks, delicacies, and desserts.
So the answer is no! If you make a conscious choice at the restaurant, you can eat out as often as you want and stay lean.
Nutritional Mistakes #4 – Eating late makes you fat
There are also many studies on this question. People who eat late at night are more likely to be overweight. So does a late-night dinner automatically make you fat?
But people who eat more in the evening often eat simultaneously – for example, while reading or watching TV. They tend to eat foods with a high-calorie density – chips, gummy bears, etc.
Would they be slimmer if they ate more chocolate?
Uncovering nutritional mistakes: 4 psychological traps and how to avoid them
If you know that correlation and causation are often confused, you already know one of the leading causes of confusing nutritional mistakes.
There are also four other mental traps that you can fall into. This is how you recognize and avoid them.
Trap #1 – Herd instinct
Diet misconceptions are spreading faster than ever in the digital world: you believe what you believe because the people around you believe it too.
Psychologists call this “social proof.” And it often makes sense if you adopt views that have “proven” in the group. It’s also comfortable because you don’t offend.
But what if the group is wrong? What if everyone adapts their behavior to their counterpart?
Followers follow followers, and few think for themselves. (That’s why followers rarely have abs.)
Recommendation: question the prevailing opinions. A thought experiment will help you:
“What if I did the opposite of what most people do?
What if the opposite were true?”
Trap #2 – Authorities and “Gurus”
Experts should know what they are talking about. But how do you determine that this is the case?
Fitness experts are often believed solely because of their great physique. And I like the idea of people practicing what they preach.
But unfortunately, a good figure alone does not guarantee competence: a lot of bad advice comes from good-looking people.
The same applies to other authorities such as doctors, professors, scientists, or celebrities, whom many believe simply because of their status.
There are even some who are known for being known.
No matter how educated, any person can be biased for various reasons.
It would be best if you were particularly skeptical when experts receive something in return for their statements – for example because they are using their name to advertise a specific product.
Recommendation: Don’t let the expert status pass as the first evaluation criterion.
Facts count for more than authority. Of course, you should listen to a mentor if you trust and respect them.
But you should also question his statements and look for facts.
Trap #3 – Anecdotal reports (before and after in a short time)
Before and after photos. Why don’t diet and fitness programs back their promises with anecdotal evidence?
These images impress and convince potential customers.
However, they do not provide any scientific proof.
Its power is comparable to a friend telling you, “There was this guy at the gym who said he lost 70 pounds with an African berry flower extract.”
Plus, it’s easy to fake before and after photos. (watch this YouTube video)
Recommendation: Even if no evidence meets scientific standards – make up your mind about how trustworthy the source is.
Always try to get the testimonials first-hand and not over a few corners.
Trap #4 – Verification Error
We see what we believe. Your subconscious protects you from information overkill by constantly deleting or reprogramming information.
Your current beliefs (invisible scripts) play a crucial role in this process.
Psychologists call this phenomenon “confirmation bias”: We look for information that confirms our invisible scripts and ignores what contradicts them.
Rethinking costs energy – and your brain is constantly trying to minimize energy consumption.
With almost 20% of the basal metabolic rate, it is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in your body.
Thinking “on autopilot” is much more convenient.
Advertising uses this behavior to prove existing beliefs of its target group – if necessary, with individual hand-picked scientific studies that do not necessarily reflect the current state of research (so-called “cherry-picking”).
Recommendation: Many people stop asking as soon as they find the first piece of information that confirms their assumption.
If you remain attentive at this point and question your beliefs from time to time, you will remain open to new things.
Nutritional Mistakes – Conclusion
Five updates have been installed for your bullshit detector. The new functions at a glance:
- Bug Fixes: You know the difference between correlation and causation. If a report once again makes a correlation out of causality, a pop-up with the title “Nonsense” appears in front of your inner eye.
- Improved synchronization: You question common beliefs and look for more facts when you find you believe something just because everyone else is doing it.
- Closed vulnerability: just because XYZ says something doesn’t mean it’s true. Facts count for more than authority, and you are looking for facts.
- General Bug Fixes: Anecdotal reports are impressive but not scientific proof. If you use anecdotal reports, then first-hand.
- Performance Improvement: You understand that your subconscious likes to believe claims that match your current invisible scripts. Before this mechanism kicks in the next time, the red “Bullshit” warning lamp lights up, and your mind wakes up from standby mode.