I worked as a science writer at an outlet funded by, and completely obsessed with, clicks. So I’m going to write about the thing that makes people click: how I lost 40 pounds, and also my job as a science writer.
I had not tried to lose any weight between May 2018 and today, I read no nutrition books, nor counted calories. A big reason I didn’t bother trying to lose weight was that, as a science journalist, I never thought I could get a handle on the information, and misinformation, around weight loss. Certainly not enough to succeed in shedding pounds without sacrificing health and sanity. I saw that the science around weight loss/nutrition was inconsistent, complex, daunting, biased, and often funded by industry or activist groups. And I knew well that the news about nutrition that reached readers’ eyes was strained through a certain filter. I didn’t have the time or motivation to obsess over finding which nutrition facts were actually true when I was already pretty preoccupied with my career.
My career, oh, so glamorous, my dream job, in many ways. Being a good science writer was far and a way the thing I cared about most. Living in the big city, writing for a household-name publication, communicating science for the world was what I had always wanted. People trusted us to tell them the truth about all sorts of natural and technological concepts. And as people trust us, with our big, weight-bearing name, they are sure to make decisions based on what we write. Journalists, then, have an important responsibility to the truth, otherwise we will lead people astray.
And that is why, at this glamorous dream job — not really— I tried as hard as I could to avoid covering anything about nutrition and weight loss. I simply did not think that it could be done responsibly by someone tasked with writing five articles a day for $39,000 a year in Lower Manhattan, with no actual training in nutrition. Still, I was made to, because of the pressure and financial incentives to get views. The editors, click-hungry, attached inaccurate headlines to my articles, assuming that would generate views. (Does it, though, in the long run? No one could answer that for me.) I eventually became too emotionally exhausted to fight them on it.