The rise of the nutrition haters


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From a distance, nutrition would appear to be a pretty gentle profession – lots of feel good food talk; fun cooking classes and trips to the supermarket and who does not like to talk about what they are cooking and eating? 15 years ago, that’s what I thought as well, until the rise of the social media nutrition hater. For some reason, any opinion about diet and nutrition, from a professional or not, will now generate much powerful, often hate ridden communication for reasons I am yet to understand. A simple Facebook post that mentions a particular product or recommendation can almost guarantee an onslaught of abuse, giving far most energy to a simple photograph of a particular breakfast cereal or bread than I would have ever thought possible.

What is it about diets and nutrition that can elevate emotions to the point of anger, hate and aggression? And why is this hate directed so powerfully towards the health professionals who are only trying to give useful, scientifically proven information to those who are interested in it?

Indeed, my experience with this type of negative emotion has been most apparent as the social media mediums such as Facebook and Twitter permit faceless, but direct, instant interactions with individuals whose paths you would never cross in life, let alone have a conversation with. In recent months we have seen the result of these online ‘trolls’ who take much delight in firing off inappropriate and simply rude comments and opinions that would usually be screened in other communication pathways, if not blocked completely. If you speak to any media personality they can give you classic examples of the disgusting comments and feedback they receive on a daily basis through their social media channels, whether it be for their choice of dress, opinions or for just being who they are. It seems if you are going to put it out there, you also have to have a pretty thick skin.

But back to nutrition and the specific hate there. From memory much of the direct hate and criticism developed when a group of non-health professionals brought out big selling diet books on controversial topics like the role of sugar in the diet. Unlike accredited professionals who have a range of guidelines controlling sensationalized statements like ‘quit sugar’, these largely unregulated individuals can create whatever diet headline they like, without the scientific data to back them up and create powerful cult like followings as a result. Such groups band together and feel more comfortable in their groups to openly reject other models or opinions that do not agree with the views of their diet cult. They feel strong enough behind a computer and within their group to hurl abuse and hate at any opinion that does not agree with theirs and before you know it, you have 20 haters arguing between themselves on your Facebook page.

So, where does that leave the humble nutritionist whose only goal is to deliver user friendly nutrition information to her followers? Like a number of my media friends I am too working hard at building a tougher skin and becoming very good friends with the ‘BLOCK’ button. It is very simple; if you do not like what I write about or say, just stop following people. And take a load off, there is really no need to get so angry about a muesli bar. Even I think there are more important things in life.

Comments

comments

23 Comments

  • Well said Suzie! I for one value everything you write about. It is simply your opinion, take that or leave it!

  • Tracey Phillips says:

    I love following you on Facebook and Twitter Susie and have been to see you in Sydney, just like to say thank you for your posts they are always much appreciated. Stopped reading the comments after your posts due to the negativity and absurdity of some.

  • Amy Teasdale says:

    Well said! As one of your many followers & a dietian, I applaud you for continuing your presence on social media despite all the haters. I often see comments from these trolls who believe they know more about nutrition from reading an article on a blog or website, than some of the most experienced dietitians & researchers. As a profession of nutrition experts we need to better educate people about our level of knowledge & the science on which we form our opinions. In the mean time I suppose all we can do is block the haters. Keep up the good work

  • Lorena McKee says:

    Personally I love reading your blogs Susie. I have an open mind about things even when you talk about eating meat and I’m a vegetarian. But you definitely focus more on vegies which is awesome. There are a lot of angry people out there fuelled with antibiotic filled and growth hormoned meat. It naturally makes people angry and feel compelled to write hateful comments. People need to chill out and munch on a carrot or bake a healthy carrot cake hold the icing. ♡

  • Heather Smith says:

    Well said Suzie, you are an expert in your field trying to help people understand nutrition because we are constantly being bombarded with new food trends, new wonder foods, new diets and told we shouldn’t eat this or that and it is so confusing! I heard you speak at a conference a couple of years ago and from that day have followed your blogs because your knowledge was palpable in that room. Please keep doing what you do so well :)

  • Emily says:

    Totally agree here. As a newly graduated dietitian , so many people seem to know what’s best ( with little evidence or any nutrition related qualification ). Leave it to the professionals thanks

  • Bertrand says:

    And generally abuses would come from people who have no accreditation at all but believe they know everything and better than you the professional… I am a fitness professional myself, had my very first nutrition course with Matt O’Neil 13 years ago, different ones in the meantimes and I love your work Suzie, if only those closed mind people would understand your expertise and remember what respect means! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your guidance on social medias :)

  • Sharlene says:

    This is the first time I’ve read one of your blogs and I loved it!! Well said!! :0)

  • Lara Pasternak says:

    Thank you for your great article Susie. As a dietetics student I often feel under pressure with all the forever changing food trends posted by the many health writers/bloggers that smother social media. People seem to be so obsessed with nutrition and food these days, that it often feels like a competition who can make the healthiest dish, and have an award looking photo to go with it.
    It often leads you to lose sight of the bigger picture of healthy eating as so many people out there seem to be so opinionated with what they already know about nutrition and health regardless of where they received their information. It makes it tricky to stay focused on sticking to what you have been taught through theory and training at university.

    I am working on a blog purely about my journey to becoming a dietitian and for sharing recipes. My blog is quite empty due to the fact that I dread being criticized for my work or opinions by others.
    Out of pure politeness I often find it difficult to block someone from social media, or to not take to heart people strong opinions on something you agree/disagree on.
    Reading this article has made me realise maybe I need to build thicker skin also and get friendly with block button without feeling guilty.
    I always enjoy your articles :)

  • Leonie says:

    Agree completely – for some reason everyone thinks they are an expert on food and nutrition if they’ve read a book or article that resonates with them – regardless of the author and their qualifications (or lack of!!) am sick of seeing negative and abusive comments on feeds of people like yourself – as you said if you don’t agree, don’t follow. I for one enjoy and appreciate all your advice and respect your expertise. Enough of these ‘trolls’ – they are dangerous and not worthy of air time.

  • Michelle Reynolds says:

    Well said and this is exactly why I like to read all that you write. Sensible, no nonsense, scientifically backed advice.

  • Kathryn says:

    Could not agree more Susie – I actually witnessed a very similar scenario this weekend on social media where a post was slammed – this then turned into an attack on the individual who had posted the comment. Absolutely ridiculous. I feel that in this day and age the nutritionist or dietitian plays second fiddle to all the other media, hype and diets that are out there. As a personal trainer a lot of my clients have tried ‘every diet going’ but if I ask them have they seen a dietitian……… Tumbleweed ;) Unfortunately people like to jump on a band wagon and believe that that’s the ONLY way to eat (I especially love the ones where we should ALL avoid gluten, dairy and fructose etc etc). Keep building that thick skin because your followers such as myself truly value your information :)

  • Jennifer says:

    Bang on! Well said.

    Everyone has been eating from the second they were born…. They become self appointed experts. And as we all know “a little information can do a lot of damage”

    Yay for critical thinking!

    Jennifer
    Dietetics student

  • Liz N says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your blogs of late. Don’t let the haters get you down. Evidence based nutrition practice is the way to go. I’m surrounded by all sorts of haters who think that I’m unhealthy eating grains and dairy products. Ridiculous!

  • Kylie says:

    Well said Susie! Another student here…
    I have often thought that people miss the point entirely whenever you post information regarding products. You are giving the general public a healthier version from a range of products that they may already be eating and unwilling to give up, for instance muesli bars & breakfast cereals.
    It isn’t aimed at the members of the holy “I’m so pure I eat nothing but clean food” bandwagon. It’s aimed at regular people who whether we like it or not eat packaged food that is readily available in the supermarkets.
    Now as for the isogenix bandwagon…I’d love to hear your thoughts on that “cult”!

  • Annie says:

    Well said Susie, As a diabetic for 25yrs I thought I knew lots about nutrition, exercise and diet, untill I did a advanced diploma in nutrition. Wow you get to see the whole picture of it all. Just because its in the called media doesnt make it the whole truth and yet with all these armchair experts we stll have 60% obesity rate. I totally agree with everyone here. Evidence based is the way to go, We so valve your input. Thank u

  • I applaud you! I have a decent following on FB (33k to do with food) and hesitate to press delete and unblock incase I offend someone – even when they are downright nasty to me! I love this blog post of yours and I too am trying to get a thicker skin, press delete and keep smiling and being true to me – for the ‘fans’ that love and support me.
    A kind friend shared this with me and I am so grateful, I will be sharing also. Thank you! Bless you x

  • Nice post Susie, although it’s unfortunate that it’s necessary. I haven’t had to deal with the haters yet, but I’m sure it will happen eventually. I’m a firm believer in evidence-based nutrition and refuse to sensationalise or jump on the band wagon of anything that lacks evidence. I believe that it’s possible to eat a healthy diet based on the foods that you can buy in the supermarket, just by making a few small changes and some sensible decisions. Eating healthy shouldn’t have to be hard, but it shouldn’t require the extremes that many people want to take it to either. Keep up the good work – I read your blog regularly and like your sensible approach.

  • Nick Lo says:

    Susie, you say that “15 years ago” nutrition appeared to be “a pretty gentle profession – lots of feel good food talk; fun cooking classes and trips to the supermarket” but, ignoring social media, I wonder how you consider the role of your profession now?

    It’s not difficult to find graphs, from organisations like the WHO or The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, that indicate a dramatic rise in obesity during that time period, but that’s hardly needed when we are constantly bombarded with news articles reminding us about the obesity epidemic that is upon us. An epidemic whose healthcare costs are allegedly going to cost our children millions, that is if its ill effects don’t get them first! I’m sure you’ve even read hypotheses that suggest stress itself is a contributor to the epidemic.

    My point? Perhaps that the era of “feel good food talk” has passed. Perhaps the public are now seriously looking to health professionals, like yourselves, for intelligent, transparent and trustworthy guidance, because if not directly affected by obesity related illness ourselves, most all of us know friends or family that are. The question that should be asked is; how many of those you, and so many commenters here refer to as “haters” are actually genuinely concerned people, people who may also be fellow health professionals?

  • Karen Taylor says:

    Great post, Susie. It’s a shame there are negative people out there. I am a fellow nutritionist and appreciate the great contribution you are making to our society with your sensible, scientific and easy to follow advice.

  • Tatum says:

    Well in my opinion I feel honoured to have access to Suzies nutritional advice.
    Knowing she is a qualified dietitian /nutrionist . I Can fully trust & follow her advice. Suzie is Someone who obviously is very passionate about Encouraging people to lead a healthy life naturally.
    Leading to a better quality life and Great for the Wellbeing.

    Thankyou Suzie :)

  • Vindy says:

    I stumbled upon your blog here I am, reading everything like an addiction. I prefer to get as many advice and opinions as much as I can on food & health and then put them to test myself before choosing what fits me. So thanks for the loads of free valuable info!. I know the kind of people who get angry if someone talk about changing their diet. This is just because they are not ready at all to change a thing they eat and mostly are comfort eaters. So it’s obvious, when they hear someone say pizza or burger is not good, cos their ultimate joy lies upon such food. You shouldn’t worry about those comments. Keep up the good work.

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