How not to be an idiot (or at least not to sound like one) when talking about health & fitness topics

Have you ever listened to a podcast or overheard a bro-trainer at the gym and heard something so profoundly idiotic that you did a spit-take while trying not to break your form on the rowing machine? Here’s how not to be the guy that makes that embarrassing situation happen:

  1. If you are going to use scientific (or anatomical, or otherwise technical) terminology, learn how to spell it and how to pronounce it. Creatine is not the same as creatinine. Hemoglobin is not the same as hemoglobin A1C.
  2. Learn what it means, too.
  3. A single study does not a body of evidence make. And use common sense— a study with an n of 10 isn’t impressing anyone.
  4. Don’t cherry pick. Anyone can go into PubMed and find an article that sounds good for his or her point. But it’s stupid at best and deceitful at worst to ignore evidence that hurts your position.
  5. I can’t believe I have to say this, but if you are going to cite a study, friggin’ read it. No, I don’t mean skim the abstract.
  6. Be open to opposing viewpoints and be willing to change your mind.
  7. If you have an agenda, or an angle, be clear about it. Do you have a paleo podcast? Cool. Make sure your description says that, and be willing to talk about what it means and why you do it.
  8. Be very, very careful when you are stating something as fact. Particularly something that is controversial. It can make you sound a little brainwashed. Try it: “Butter is good for your brain.” “Ketosis is healthy.” Do you still trust me when I tell you that penicillin can cure strep throat, or hand-washing prevents the spread of disease?
  9. It is absolutely OK to give your opinion or relate your personal experience, as long as you are clear that that is what you are doing.

So there you have it, kids. Go forth and discuss the science without sounding like an idiot or a quack!

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