Why do you trust fitness and health gurus? To me these people seem like some the the least trustworthy professionals out there.
The incentive structure in the industry is akin to what would be that of a Hedge Fund (HF-A) who makes money by giving away their exact investment strategies. If they actually did give correct information, they would only be successful a short while, before other competitors (HF-B,C,D, etc) start using their strategies, and either outcompete HF-A by making more money and rising to the top that way, or bring HF-A down by devaluing it's stock purchases when they buy it.
So, if one guru wants stay ahead of the other, he needs to get a leg up on public approval. The public doesn't like to move more and eat less, because that requires sacrifice. So, instead, he either has three options. Option A we can call "approval seeking." THis would be just telling the public what they want to hear, including some truths but not whole truths about what it is he/she actually does to get in great health/shape. That is leaving out the less glamorous and/or more arduous/time consuming/expensive parts. Making it accessible. Option B would be to just "be honest." If he is fully honest, he runs the risk that people will find what he does either too time consuming, no different than what they've heard before, or just unhealthy and disapprove it (let's say, for instance, he doesn't want to be honest about his minuscule calories, or his steroid use, or his elaborate exercise routine). If he is honest, he doesn't make money. And health gurus earn their living being gurus and selling their secrets, pills, potions, whatever. SO he would go out of business.
On top of that, these people are not held accountable. They aren't personal trainers. They have been given the authority to declare what's not healthy is and what is healthy is not (for instance, when it comes to blood lipid panels, the merits (or demerits) of exercise, the right types of foods, etc). The only thing they are actually held accountable to is to continue providing information that people want to hear, and possibly have a body that shows for it (which, again, may not have been achieved via the means they're dispersing to the public).
Given tha most important business leaders don't pass the psychopath test (meaning that they're psychopathic, and more liable to cheat, lie, and scam their way to get what they want), and the atypical and unusually poor incentive structure of the Health Guru Industry, it seems to me that these people are not those that we should be taking advice from. That is, until they can be held more accountable. One way to do that would be to allow them to actually patent the nuances of their methods. Another would be to make them publish 100% legitimate hormonal and blood lipid panels, as well as photos of them with their shirts off (if that's what you want, or what the guru sells, and it usually is- a good body and remarkable health). Make them take a doping test. Another would be for people to stop looking for shortcuts and the easiest method, but that won't actually work.
This is obviously just more thinking aloud than anything else, but does anyone else here agree with me that the incentive structure in the GURU industry? (do not conflate with personal trainer, because they are accountable for what's relevant).
For examples, This is why Martin Berkhan gets so angry at people like Lyle McDonald for writing books about IF that incorporate "his" strategies. UNfortunately for Berkhan, you can't patent skipping breakfast and nutrient timing. It could by why Marin Berkhan only does deadlifts chins and squats 2x per week but has bigger biceps and more striated pecs than many bodybuilders. It could be why Mark Sisson (who condones the use steroids not on his website, and probably does esoterically on his website by referring generally to "antiaging regiments") eats virtually zero starch and has more muscle mass than most 25 year old full time athletes. It explains the rationalization of high LDL and total Cholesterol, and just focusing on how low one's trigs are. It could explain the generally poor lipid panels by the majority of the medical field. IT could explain why no one ever gets a good body naturally eating a hgih fat ketogenic diet and hardly exercise. Sisson is a salesman. he's on P90X peddling a high carb whey protein beverage that I'm sure he gets commision off of. Only that was made before Blueprint, where it's actually the high fat whey protein beverage that's now better and he also gets commission off. Doesn't it make sense for Mercola (and most other gurus) to constantly be telling us that everything is poison so we need to buy all his super foods and powders and potions? That we're these fragile things that can't thrive in anything but the most pristine environment?
Just seems a little fishy to me. That's all. Feel free to close because I'll admit this isn't very well thought out at all and kind of ramble, but given this information, how do you choose who to trust? Is the ones that aren't selling anything? That is, that don't earn the majority of their income as a guru? That seems like the logical step to me, personally. How would you recommend improving the incentive structure in the Guru industry?
(For purposes of the discussion, I'm using "Guru" as the term for non medical physicians who earn the primary source of their income selling health information and products to the public. This would be in contrast to physicians/trainers who need good clinical/tangible results from patients/clients to be successful and keep their job).
asked byforeveryoung (14952)
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on March 29, 2013
at 04:42 PM
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on March 29, 2013
at 04:35 PM
I trust no gurus. I read their stuff, form an opinion based on the quality of their reasoning and references, then accordingly adjust my internal probability for reading their stuff again. Some health bloggers really are just trying to get it right, Jaminet comes to mind. Some are just cheerleaders for the supplement industry. You mentioned hedge funds - the analogy here is reading zerohedge vs CNBC?
on March 29, 2013
at 04:38 PM
The answer, of course, is that none of them are trustworthy. I'd put them on the same level as a used car dealer, with about the same or greater chance of their advice causing me physical harm.
The reason why paleo isn't taken seriously is because it has mutated from a research collaboration into a rapidly growing industry. Why does everyone call it a fad diet? Because there are a bunch of hucksters branding it and selling useless crap. We've allowed it to become a fad diet.
Paleo needs a coup badly. It needs to go back to its roots as a research collaboration by people whose investment in it is their own health and well-being. I donate lots of my time to helping people because there have been and will be lots of people donating their time to helping me.
I'd rather have a bunch of unqualified hobbyists (with real jobs) scouring Google Scholar and bouncing ideas off of each other to create hypotheses than a legion of bullshitters with letters after their names trying to steal our money. They can shove their e-books where the e-sun doesn't e-shine.
on March 29, 2013
at 04:57 PM
It's just how the world works man. Civilization is based on division of labor. Division of labor implies inequality which implies class division. The CEO psychopaths you mention are the result of a system that's unequal by design. Coincidently those guys probably have for the most part superior anabolic mindsets which let them focus more on goals and less on remorse. So IMO we should all be more like them. But now I'm ranting. Just follow the facts man, and take any advice with a grain of salt, more salt if they have obvious biases (monetary interests), also follow your instinct.
on March 29, 2013
at 11:01 PM
I think there is such a thing as "healthy skepticism", but I am not sure I condone specifically searching out reasons to MISTRUST ALL "gurus" either. For example, Mark Sisson is a role model of mine- not because he is perfect, but because his message reached me and changed my life. He may have some theories that are just plain wrong, claims can be made that he is "in it for the money", but what I know for a fact is that his message reached me, and changed my life for the better. The "gurus" live under a magnifying glass, I believe they are just as flawed as the rest of us and are simply subjected to more scrutiny than the average joe (rightly so I might add as they are asking for our trust).
The questions I pose to you:
If the message is solid, does the messenger's main motivation matter? (alliteration win) If it does matter, does it outweigh the benefits the information grants?
on March 29, 2013
at 11:39 PM
We have an occupation government that rigorously implements Machiavelli's political advice to weaken a conquered population through various subterfuges such as cultural degeneration. The problem is that the institutions of society are messed up.
The universities, by their national function, are supposed to house the intellectual authorities in each area. The departments of physiology, biology, medicine, should have multiple health & nutrition professors and researchers on their staff.
Leading scientists should receive national and local research grants to study all aspects of nutrition and exercise.
Including in prison experiments. Of course.
Doctors should be minor experts, by definition. The local houses of worship should have pastors or dieticians that advise on such matters as well.
Lacking this, we have what we have.
on March 30, 2013
at 02:17 PM
First, the paleo diet is based around the principle that no one knows what foods introduced in the past 10,000 years are healthy. So weather someone is a doctor, guru, biologist, or layman, its just an educated guess if milk, wheat, Gatorade, cheese, are healthy or not. So as a base most all paleo gurus are for whole foods such as fish, meat, veggies, egged, and fruit. Basically, eating like a caveman. I don't find a ton of difference between them, besides some advocating higher or lower carb. To be honest, there really isn't much to talk about with a pure paleo diet.
Now, the maybe foods is where it tends to get interesting. Here you'll find a wide range of opinions on the paleo maybes. No study is perfect or even good in my opinion when it comes to nutrition, too many variables to account for, so while the gurus present the arguments the best they can. They all sell products, but these are mainly for people who don't have the time or desire to eat a 100 pure whole food paleo diet. For example the 80/20 rule is to make it not seem so hard for people, but ideally you do 100 percent paleo. Mark doesn't tell people you must eat pizza once a week,but he is saying if you do don't let it get you down or derail you.
Now you can blame the gurus for the opinions, but its not like doctors aren't the same or trainers. Doctors have incentives to give generic or bad advice due to lawsuits and pharmacy incentives. Trainers have incentive to focus on weight loss instead of health, etc. The truth is everyone in every profession has an incentive arrangement that isn't in the best interest of the client. As soon ad money is introduced then the system is corrupted.
So I guess I'm not sure why your picking on the gurus, they try to back up their claims as best they can, but again what would? satisfy you? A lipid profile, shirtless pick, a meaningless study, a camera following them around?