Don’t follow Paleo? Your diet is probably full of processed junk. Or at least that is the logic that Paleo proponents employ to make you think you need to buy special books or sign up to programs to make your diet better. How do they do this? With logical fallacies. Read on to find out how a commonly used logical fallacy is being used to trick you.
We all like to think we can spot a con. It would be an insult to our intelligence if we couldn’t. We are smart individuals who know the best way to take care of ourselves and we don’t like to be told otherwise, of course. Pushers of fad diets would like us to believe that we are ‘doing it wrong’ when it comes to our diets and health. So, in an effort to avoid looking ignorant or wrong, we jump at the chance to sign up. However, fad diets are aptly named for their promise of dramatic results that are not based on sound science – and this is where logical fallacies come into play.
Logical fallacies refer to subtle tricks or illusions that are used to manipulate people into seeing a particular point of view. They are seen as ‘flaws in reasoning’ and are commonly used by diet gurus and wellness warriors to sell products or diet plans.
We have seen many examples during the year of logical fallacies being used by prominent diet figureheads to try and convince you that you need to be following their diet regime. And it is obviously working for them. In 2013-14 Australians spent an estimated $6.6 billion dollars on health and weight loss products. Just over $300 million of that was spent on weight loss products and self help books – and this figure is expected to grow by 3% in 2018-19.
Black and white thinking
A false dichotomy is one of 24 common logical fallacies. False dichotomies occur when two options are presented as the only two possibilities in a scenario, when in fact many more than two possibilities exist.
For example, many Paleo advocates employ ‘this or that’ thinking when trying to convince others that the Paleo Diet really is the one diet that will rule them all. It’s common for proponents to say “what’s the harm? It’s better than all the processed junk people eat nowadays!”. This is a classic example of a false dichotomy – it’s either black or white. If you don’t eat Paleo, you eat processed junk. Plain and simple. They are also using another logical fallacy – appeal to nature – but that’s another post for another time. It’s designed to make you focus on the processed food that you eat, regardless of how much you actually consume. You may then become concerned with what these foods are doing to your health and feel that the only way to improve your health is to follow the diet. In this way, we can see how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking we need to follow XYZ diet, based on flawed logic.
The spectrum of healthy eating
Healthy eating, like many other things, exists on a wide spectrum. What you consider to be a healthy way of eating could look completely different from your friend’s. We all have different priorities when it comes to our food and eating and that’s totally fine. Problems can arise when specific diet plans or ‘lifestyles’ are peddled as the best or the only way to eat healthily. Or, as is the current fashion, when some diets are held up as morally superior to others. It has been said many times before – there is no one size fits all approach to eating and you have to find out what works best for you.
Unfortunately, we are bombarded with dieting messages every day. Social media ensures that we have no escape. So perhaps our best defence is understanding some of the sneaky ways that fad diets are sold to us. False dichotomies are just one of the tactics used to try and convince us we need that book or need to sign up to that six week program. You can click here to find out about other commonly used logical fallacies. Have a think about how each one could be applied to the dieting industry and remember – fad diets are called fad diets for a reason. They are not ‘lifestyles’ and they will not put you on on the path to better health no matter how slick the marketing campaign or the number of logical fallacies used. That is one statement that we can make with the backing of solid science. Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:9.
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|1.||⇪||Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:9.|