Co-written with Nisha Parker

I bet you have spotted at least one of these hashtags recently (maybe even today): #cleaneating, #lowcarb, #paleo, #weightloss, #diet, #cheatmeal or #whole30.  Is it possible that these tags perpetuate lies about healthy eating? Are they being used unwittingly (which is bad), or deliberately (which is worse) by well-intentioned health practitioners? Do diet hashtags harm our health?

Do diet hashtags harm our health?

I feel that we are now living in a hashtag hell where intuitive eating, basic healthy eating, and science go to die. Perhaps what is most angering is that health practitioners who claim to be against diets are using these hashtags to promote healthy eating.

Hashtags Harm Our Health

Does hashtagging imply endorsement?

When dietitians & other health practitioners use these diet hashtags for recipes, it implies we agree with this idea and even promote it. It may get an article or recipe more views, but what are the long-term consequences? It hurts science, it hurts dietitians’ credibility as advocates for health and it most definitely harms followers- the very people dietitians claim to want to inspire to be healthier.

Is hashtagging the heck out of recipes helpful? No. People with Celiac disease (an allergy to gluten) already know if a recipe contains gluten or not- no hashtag needed. Same goes for people with other legitimate food allergies and sensitivities- they are already aware of what ingredients they should avoid AND how to substitute for them. If they don’t, you could always include that in the article rather than hashtagging a fad diet.

I come across so many health practitioners who state that they believe that “dieting doesn’t work” and that they advocate for “mindful eating” but these same people are hashtagging their recipes as #glutenfree #paleo #lowcarb. It is basically the same as endorsing these diets- the very thing you state you are against. Are they co-opting the currently popular “non-diet”, “mindful eating” message OR do they not understand that eating paleo or low carb is dieting? To learn more about mindful and intuitive eating, read this and this.

Giving in to the crazy diet world is like giving up on science AND giving up on the pursuit of what really helps us be healthy

No diet has been proven to really “work”

Giving in to the crazy diet world that includes the “low fat”, “gluten free”, “low carb”, “paleo”, “high protein”, “clean eating” movements is giving up on science AND giving up on the pursuit of what really helps us be healthy. As dietitians, we tout ourselves to be pursuers of science – but somewhere along the way we’ve given into click bait, beholden to likes and shares. Let me be clear, there is a big difference between using a hashtag to indicate that you talking about the harmful effects or futility of certain diets and actually promoting the diet.

If most diets fail to help their followers keep the weight off in the long run, AND there are major physical and mental consequences of following them, how can we say we are helping out clients pursue health? How can we say we have our client’s best interests in mind when the failure rate of diets is up to 95% and weight yoyoing leads to poorer health?

Calling yourself an anti-diet advocate means ditching the diet hashtags

It is wrong to be promoting yourself as an advocate for mindful or (especially) intuitive eating and the non-diet movement while using diet hashtags. No matter how popular or trendy these hashtags are, by using them we are promoting the idea that we need to adhere to a specific diet to be healthy or worse, that we need to lose weight (or be at a certain weight) to be healthy. Whether it’s #cleaneating, #lowcarb, #paleo, or whatever diet is currently trending, at the end of the day they are still diets – lies about improving health, making you happier, more deserving, and lead to any form of sustainable weight loss.