Critical Thinking Too

Debbie’s cute grandkids. Mary’s hilarious jokes. Mary Beth’s handsome dogs. A new baby. A vacation vista. A high school graduation. A great pair of heels. A wedding…all the positive pictures and stories we love to we see in our social media.

David Rand, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Economics, Yale said, “most people browse Twitter and Facebook to unwind…” We connect to people we don’t often see and celebrate with them or offer sympathy as the situation warrants.

Dr. Rand’s quote ends with, “hardly the mindset you want to adopt when engaging in cognitively demanding tasks.”

The irony of writing about social media and being a discriminating reader while posting on Facebook is not lost on me, but here’s the point. Our faith in non-experts giving health (and nutrition) advice is concerning and causing more problems, potentially serious ones, than it’s solving.

Elaine asks, “What’s your source material?” But Elaine is an engineer, so, of course she’d say that. For the “general” social media reader, I’d suggest, don’t follow any advice for your health without understanding the educational qualifications of the author. And his/her motivation!

For my Minute readers, my suggestion is to ask yourself two questions:

  • does that sound reasonable?
  • does this new information fit into what I already know?

What Minute-eers know is that a variety of food is good, plants are great, don’t overeat, don’t exclude foods/food groups and move more. Well, inheriting great genes is helpful too, but beyond our discussion.

Please don’t follow random, untested nutrition advice if you want to be well,


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Critical Thinking

So, I attended a webinar last week: Can consumers think critically about weight management: Insights from behavioral science. This was sponsored by the Weight Management Practice Group affiliated with my professional organization the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The speaker was Jason Riis, PhD who has been on the faculty at Harvard and currently serves at Wharton in the area of marketing and consumer behavior; Dr. Riis opened with some work done by two Nobel Prize winners – unquestionable bona fides.

Because the topic was so “meaty” I want to give this a couple Minutes.

Why do consumers make poor food, diet and nutrition decisions?

The first premise is: “People are not ‘naturally good’ at critical thinking”.

Early survival depended upon quick decisions. Is that lion going to attack me? It would be ill advised to think about the time of day the lion last ate, look around for cubs, consider what other food choices the lion could make. Deciding to protect oneself is innate and the decision made immediately.

So, quick decisions are a natural bias. Trading our lion for the candy bar at the grocery check out lane, browsing the sundae pictures while ordering from the car at DQ or adding on to a meal at a restaurant because the waitstaff suggests it. You’ll make those decisions without pondering the consequences of other options.

How can we use this information?

  • clear the “junk” food from your kitchen counters
  • add a bowl of fruit on the counter
  • add already prepared fruits/veggies front and center in the fridge
  • don’t bring temptations into your house or store them in a hidden locale
  • decide what you’re going to eat at a restaurant without looking at the menu

There’s hardly another issue where that quick decision gratifies instantly so I can certainly understand our lack of critical thinking while in front of the bakery case!

Prepare your environment to be well,


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