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Welcome to the Banter Brain Boggles.

Here, the Body Banter team provides you with reviews and thoughts on books, articles, blogs, podcasts, videos and other forms of media that touch on the general topic of how we relate to our bodies.

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Tips for critically evaluating study findings

As members of our community shared, one of the most healing steps that they used in recovery from a disordered relationship with food was distinguishing the truths from the myths. For many of us, this means evaluating scientifically grounded research findings.

But, did you know that even scientific research can be biased? Did you know that even supposedly significant findings can be potentially untrustworthy? 

In this case, you might want to know, how am I even supposed to know which studies I should trust and which ones I shouldn’t trust??? 


This is far from an exhaustive list, but here are a few points to consider on your next reading/research adventures: 

  1. What was the sample size? 

    • Many studies have sample sizes that are very small, which means that the results are likely not generalizable to the greater population. 

    • Why? Because there is a lot of variation within a small group of individuals, so even if findings are statistically significant, the changes that are observed in this sample may be due to a lot of different individual factors (and not just because of the effects of the variable or intervention being studied)

  2. Was the sample representative? 

    • Was the study conducted on individuals that are similar to you? 

    • If you’re a teenager, and you’re looking at a study conducted on elderly patients living in a hospital, it is likely that the findings from this study will not be applicable to your life. 

  3. Did the study control for common confounds? 

    • Many studies showing that ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’ individuals are unhealthier fail to control for important confounds that can lead to poor health outcomes, such as disordered eating behaviours and weight stigma. 

    • Why does this matter? 

      • Because many individuals who are born into naturally larger bodies are still told by health professionals to lose weight, causing them to engage in disordered behaviours, such as restrictive dieting, in order to do so. More and more studies that control for disordered eating attitudes and behaviours have shown that these, as well as the weight fluctuations resulting from these attitudes and behaviours, are more likely the cause of poor health outcomes than higher weight itself. 

      • Moreover, weight stigma, which is when an individual in a larger body constantly gets discriminated against, results in significant amounts of stress, which, as we all know can have strong impacts on emotional, physical and mental health outcomes! 

And finally, remember that no research study that you read online knows YOU as a unique human being.

Importantly, even if a study passes all of the qualifications listed above, be prepared to notice which results do or do not match up to your own experiences. Always remember that YOU are the ultimate authority of your own health and wellbeing. Be prepared to be curious, not complacent. Channel your inner detective and explore your wonderful, unique body!! :)