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Influence, Credibility and Wellness: Ask Before You Act

What influences people the most? Think about what might influence you. If I ask you to lose five pounds in three weeks, is that enough to motivate you to change? Well, are you Googling “treadmills,” “diet plans,” or “gyms nearby” yet? Not likely…

What if your best friend asks you to lose five pounds? Or your primary care doctor? Would that make you feel a little more inclined? Yes, it probably would. Research tells us we’re more likely to be swayed into a decision if we’re led to do so by family, friends, or our doctors. Indeed, it’s no surprise social circles have quite a bit of influence on our behaviors.

Consider this scenario: You see Perfect Susie Neighbor on Facebook and Instagram posting tons of photos of herself at the community Christmas party looking svelte in her trendy red dress, the dress she specifically mentions she can finally wear because she just dropped 20 pounds. Oh great; now everyone’s fawning all over Perfect Susie Neighbor. Look how happy Perfect Susie Neighbor is. Her smile is so bright! Her arms are so toned!

You know, Susie has been hitting you up on social media for the past three months. She’s been trying to get you to purchase some Dreambod shakes, recipes, and exercise plans. Quite honestly, now you’re considering it, though the sample drink she gave you was a bit nauseating. But, if it worked for Susie, it’ll work for you, right? May as well click that chat button and pull out your credit card, especially since she just posted about her Dreambod program’s flash sale.

Not So Fast

 Does that inflated example seem at all familiar to you? It does for me. Even I have made decisions based on social media marketing, ads, and maybe even influencers. While being influenced to make a health change is a great way to get motivated, take heed: do your research when it comes to signing up for programs, buying products, foods, or supplements, or adopting overly restrictive diets, trends, or fads. The tricky thing here is that many people do not know when they’re buying into a “trend” or a “fad,” but not to worry – I’ll help you understand how to do your research when it comes to investing in your health.

We live so much of our lives on social media, and the internet in general, we simply cannot overlook the importance of researching before diving off the deep end. First, it’s important to consider the source. We live in a consumer-driven world built upon supply and demand. The truth is, it really doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars to get healthy. The key to your success is YOU! YOU just make a plan, the right plan for you – and get started.

Find the Facts and Stick with Them

So, how do you get started? That greatly depends on your specific goals. First, ask your primary care provider. Doctors can often make recommendations to additional specialists (such as registered dieticians, a health coaches, therapists, etc.) when it comes to individualized health plans and goals. Next, don’t forget about your local UF/IFAS Virtual Wellness Agent – that’s me!

If your goals are nutrient-based, or you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight, I may direct you to MyPlate.gov, where you can enter in personal details and goals, and the website will set you up with a meal plan. There are also healthy recipes and additional tools. While MyPlate isn’t the end-all be-all, it’s a great stepping-off point, and that’s because it contains reputable information from solid, credible sources. And that part, my dear reader, is very important. Find the facts, and stick with them, regardless of how appealing a popular (and usually overly restrictive and expensive) diet might be.

Again, this is just an example of a stepping-off point. If your health goals are more along the lines of better managing stress, being more mindful, perhaps getting more active minutes in your week, I would have other credible suggestions on where to start – as always, if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to email me.

Pause Before you Act: Use the 5Ws

We’ve determined that facts are important, but how do you know if information is credible? I want to give you an easy formula to use when you find information on the internet, or really anywhere – TV, books, magazines, social media, newspapers; it should all be vetted, especially when your health is on the line. Wherever you gather information, be sure to make your health decisions well-informed health decisions.

The formula is easier than you might think: all you have to do is ask the 5 Ws. Do you remember the 5Ws from school? Who, What, Where, When, hoW (yeah, that last one counts as the fifth W, here). The gist is to find out Who created the material, What the material is inferring or claiming, Where the material was found, When it was published, and hoW the material compares to other sources. Lucky for you, I made this handy Do Your Research Infographic, which goes into additional detail.  Feel free to save it, print it, and keep it by your computer or in your office.

Do Your Research Infographic

Do Your Research Infographic

You can use this method for all sorts of information, not just health and wellness content. It’s also a great tool for everyone to use, whether it is for scholastic, professional, or personal research. It’s a quick and useful way to access whether the material you come across is valid, trustworthy, and credible. And in turn, your health decisions will be based on material that is valid, trustworthy, and credible. Now, you can get back to scrolling and Googling – in a more informed way. Remember, ASK before you ACT, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more!

Resources:

Radom, R. (2017, February 16). Evaluating information sources using the 5 WS. OER Commons: Open Educational Resources. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://www.oercommons.org/authoring/19364-evaluating-information-sources-using-the-5-ws/view.

The University of Utah. (2020, August 29). Writing 2010 Library & Research Guide: Evaluation of Information. ULibraries Research Guides. Retrieved      November 8, 2021, from https://campusguides.lib.utah.edu/c.php?g=1072666&p=7813016.