Friday, May 13, 2011

Advice in just 140 characters...

I love twitter. I mean, it's like facebook distilled, but without the limitation of having to previously know someone to be able to talk to them. It's a room full of people who wind up congregating around shared experience or interests. I've learned a lot, had short conversations with people I never thought I would speak to (Just in the past month a 7x TdF winner, a disgraced 1 time TdF winner, several professional triathletes, a world champion cyclocrosser, and of course friends both near and far). I've participated in some fun #fitblog and #bikeschool discussions, and am nigh to constantly tweeting about bikes, hockey, or beer with someone.

But something has been bothering me lately about how twitter is being used to dispense advice. Because folks are looking for that "literary sound bite" of saying something that will get endlessly re-tweeted on a topic they have something they want to share, they'll over-simplify their thoughts and wind up offering advice that not only isn't all that helpful, it can actually lead people in the wrong direction.

This seems to happen in particular with health and fitness coaches, especially those who specialize in weight loss. One example was the other night when someone tweeted a picture of a bunch of boxes of cereal she was throwing away. "Keep these out of your cupboard!" she said. Amongst the mix were some corn pops and a chocolate cereal. But the vast majority were variations of Honey Nut Cheerios and the like. Keep these out of your kitchen? America eats a lot of complete crap for breakfast (donuts, McDonalds, fat-heavy meats, etc.) and yet a cereal thats 150 calories per serving (including the milk) and whose primary ingredient is Oats should not be in your breakfast diet?

Her point was that it contains "unhealthy processed ingredients" (primarily in cereal sugar or sugar syrup). Making smart choices are a big part of what eating healthy and losing weight are all about. I don't claim to be a coach, but saying that no cereal is good is doing a disservice to what the people following you might take from it. It wasn't until I questioned her thinking and called her on what she said did she take time an respond, in the end saying that at "high level, theres no place for processed food or added sugar". And that if I want to "eat that and lose scale weight, more power to me". She seemed to indicate that while having nearly any kind of cereal in your diet was a sabotage to eating healthy.

My point wasn't to call this person in particular out (hence, she wasn't named), nor was it to suggest that she's wrong for trying to help people. It's merely to remind folks that making blanket statements over twitter in the name of brevity, especially in regards to health, eating, or exercise can be dangerous to your readers. (Plus I know for a fact people can have healthy diets while eating cereal and lose weight because I'm doing it and so do lots of others).

In the spirit of offering health advice, here's what I'd say in 140 characters:

"see a nutritionist and doctor before starting diet. get your blood tested. eat balanced healthy meals and exercise in tandem. dont overdo it"


- I am formally and officially registered for Rev 3 Cedar Point, so I'm really on the hook for the rest of my fundraising now. The race is 4 months from this past Wednesday, so if you haven't made a donation yet, please feel free to do so now.

- Speaking of losing weight, I've lost another 2 pounds, so that's 12 in all in the past few weeks. I am closing in on what I weighed at my lowest point last year, and will hopefully be below that when I take on Patriot Half. I have a long ride scheduled this weekend that I'm probably moving to tomorrow due to rain expected on Sunday.

- Rach is in Florida, and I'm living the bachelor life. Last nights softball game didn't go so great; I went 1 for 3, and we lost 10-8. But I'm enjoying playing. Softball requires a totally different type of fitness (lots of quick bursts) so that's gotta be good for accelerations in my run training, right?

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