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How to Evaluate a Diet – Part 1

You know how it goes – you’re watching television and an ad for life insurance comes on. At the end, they tell you to look at the product disclosure statement to decide if the product is suitable for you. But it’s full of small print and you simply can’t be bothered dragging out the magnifying glass to read it and the PhD in nuclear physics to understand it.  In the end, you just decide that it’s probably okay, and hand over your money.

Unfortunately, plenty of people – me included – do exactly the same thing when choosing a diet. It’s a tough decision – and not always an easy one. Why? Because in order to make a good decision, the first thing you need is quality information – and that’s not always available.

It’s a foregone conclusion that advertisements don’t necessarily tell the whole truth. Nor should they. Their purpose is to sell you a product, not to tell you everything about it, including the bad things.

But here’s the thing: you need to know those bad things in order to make your good decision.

You need information to make a good decision – but not just any old information. Advertisers are great at throwing all sorts of unfocused and sometimes irrelevant information at you, hoping you won’t notice the product isn’t really what you need. They’re also very good at cherry-picking information – showing you only the bits that will make you buy, not the bits that might make you pause.

It’s interesting – and important – to know, that in the scientific community, cherry-picking the results of a scientific study is considered bad form at best, fraudulent at worst. And yet, when it comes to decisions we make about what to put into our bodies – and what to leave out – advertisers are allowed to call the shots.

Information is everything. Fortunately, these days it’s not too hard to get your hands on. But remember, it also needs to be quality information. And when you have it, you also need to know what to do with it. This whole process is called evaluation.

1. Asking Questions

Say you want to buy a pair of shoes online. Obviously, you’d make sure they were your size, the price was what you could afford, and you’d check to see if they came in the colour you wanted. After that, you’d get your credit card out and hit that magic Order Now button, wouldn’t you?


Because buying a pair of shoes online isn’t just about the shoes. It’s about the website, about their purchasing security, about their reputation for delivery and about whether they have a returns policy if it turns out the shoes don’t fit.

Here’s some questions you should be asking in this situation:

  • What are the shoes made out of? (You ask this, because just looking at a picture won’t tell you, and you could be buying vinyl instead of leather without knowing it)
  • Who runs the website and how long has it been going?
  • Do they have a good reputation for products and customer service? Will they actually deliver once you’ve handed over your credit card details?
  • Does the website have a secure payment system
  • And finally, do you really need the shoes?

2. Looking at the Answers

This last question is perhaps the most important – and not just to those of us living on a budget. The truth is, that about 60% of everything we buy is not actually something we need. Now, of course it’s fine to buy stuff you don’t need – but you should at least be aware of that when you purchase it.

You also need to weigh up one answer against another. While the website might not say it has secure buying software – you have a friend who bought something from the same site and had a good experience. Which is more important to you? Are you happy to buy boots if they’re not leather? Of if they’re not quite the colour you wanted?

You’ve done all this many times before when buying things over the years and it’s all pretty easy when you’re looking at buying something as simple as a pair of shoes. It’s much more important when you’re buying – or buying into – something that affects your health, such as a diet program. This is when you have to be really tough about the questions you ask.

3. Tricks of the Trade

You also need to be ready and aware of some of the sales language being thrust at you. Most of it will be specifically designed to make you feel a sense of urgency – this is so that you sign on before you’ve had a chance to ask this all-important questions. This obviously doesn’t apply to all diets – some are very sensibly put together and well thought-out. The owners of these diets won’t be so desperate to push you into making a hasty decision.

But there are plenty of fad diets out there that will hound you with flashy ads, and promises aimed squarely at the thing you most secretly desire.  Evaluation doesn’t mean you can’t buy into them – it just means you need to take a deep breath first. And I’ll show you exactly how to do that.

In Part 2 I’ll provide you with a complete set of steps you can easily follow to properly evaluate any diet or eating program you’re interested in. I’ll also give you a great tool you can use over and over again to help you evaluate information before you make a decision. Better yet – it’s free!

Have you ever made a decision without all the information and then regretted it? What do you wish you’d known?


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  1. Jane Tisell says:

    I wish I had known (still do!) what was in the injections I had in the late 80’s under a diet regime promoted by a couple of doctors (instant trust: why is that?). It was “harmless” so they said, and it’s only purpose was to keep my metabolism at high rev. The “eating plan” was also extremely restrictive and very low carb, low protein, low everything, so it’s no wonder I lost 30kg. Just the minute I stopped I piled back on the same 30kg plus some more… Now I wonder whether my metabolism suffered permanent damage from being tweaked in that way and know there are a lot of questions I should have asked, and did not.

    1. Mackenzie says:

      It would be very interesting to know what they gave you. When I was 10, my doctor put me on an appetite suppressant that turned me into a manic depressive. They were experimenting in those days, without any real idea of what they were doing. Is there any way you can find out what they gave you?