If you have been following the news of late, you may have read about the recent storm that has swept through the world of online health and wellness celebrities. First there was the horribly tragic death of Jess Ainscough – AKA – The Wellness Warrior – a beautiful 30 yr old girl who recently passed away from the cancer she had managed to stave off since the age of 22 using Gerson Therapy . This was closely followed by the outing of supposed brain cancer survivor and online social media sensation – Belle Gibson – AKA – Healing Belle – who’s inspirational story of surviving terminal brain cancer, saw her hugely popular app – The Whole Food Pantry – picked up by Apple and take the world by storm, before it was revealed her cancer maybe nothing more than a figment of her imagination. Last cab off the rank was the news, Chef Pete Evans latest book – Bubba Yum Yum – has been delayed for release amidst claims it contained recipes that were unsafe for babies.
These latest events and revelations seem to have stirred up a media frenzy, and while elements of these stories may be nothing more than a storm in a teacup, I do believe, no matter what the truth is behind these stories or what opinions we may have towards these individuals and these events, there is a valuable message we can all take from them. I have seen a lot of things come and go in my time as a practicing Clinical Nutritionist, but one that has truly amazed me is the way we have embraced the online world of health and wellness. Driven by our insatiable thirst for knowledge on all things healthy, we are undoubtedly witnessing a much needed wellness revolution. What more could you ask for I say? But like all things in life, there is an upside and a down side. Whilst there is NO doubt the upside to this health and wellness revolution very much outweighs the downside, I have to admit my concerns surrounding the number of online bloggers that are being heralded as health “experts”, simply on the basis of their social media status and beautiful glossy photos. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is any harm whatsoever in promoting images of healthy food and lifestyle tips, but when folks with absolutely no qualifications in health, or at best have studied a 6 month online course to become a health coach, are catapulted to virtual health expert celebrity status on the basis of their social media credentials, I believe this is treading a fine line between social and moral responsibility.
There is no doubt the world needs as many people as possible promoting the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle, but there is also a lot of health information online that is not only inaccurate but can be potentially dangerous for some individuals. I tend to raise an eyebrow at those who are handing out health and medical advice on anything and everything from how to treat cancer to vaccination, as though they are world “experts” when they are actually only speaking from personal experience, or regurgitating information they have acquired from a health professional. Sadly all too often this advice is underpinned by a motive to get rich and famous, as we may have just witnessed in the case of Belle Gibson.
So whilst the aim of this post is not to enter into a debate on these individuals specifically, what I am saying, is that despite the pandora’s box the internet has opened up on health and wellness information, this does not mean we should be any less discerning than when we seek advice from a medical Doctor or ANY professional for that matter. YET it seems many of us would sooner take health advice from Beyonce, than we would a qualified and experienced health professional.
If the story of Belle Gibson is anything to learn from – no matter what the truth of the matter – it’s that we should be extremely mindful at all times of whom and where, we are seeking out information and advice when it comes to our health, especially for serious and life threatening illnesses such as cancer. Whilst I encourage people to do their research and take control of their own health as best as possible, this should not be at the exclusion of consulting with a qualified and experienced licensed health professional. Because like any illness and disease, there are always personal circumstances that need to be individually assessed vs simply basing your health choices and decisions on the grounds of another’s personal experience, or the online status.
Copyright Sally Joseph 2014 All Rights Reserved