Celebrities and influencers alike all tout their healthy living habits as the best thing since sliced bread, but copy them with caution.
Photo by LYFE Fuel on Unsplash
Atkinson, keto, caveman, vegan, paleo, intermittent fasting, you’ve probably heard of at least one of these diets before from your spinster aunt who apparently used it to lose weight and feel like Angelina Jolie again.
How about CrossFit, P90X, or the Jane Fonda workout? A couple of these may only be recognisable by the older reading demographic, but they were no less a fad during their time than the likes of the Chris Hemsworth-backed Centr is today.
Unfortunately for health professionals, healthy living fads aren’t going anywhere any time soon on account of their one true strength: marketability.
No one wants to hear the hard truth, that personal health is a marathon you compete in throughout your entire life and not a sprint you can complete in a few short weeks. Sure, you might see some changes in a short period of time, but that is generally attributed to “Newbie Gains” or the sheer shock of moving your body for the first time in years.
The Fad Problem
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash
As I mentioned before, health fads have been around since the dawn of the advertisement, though back in the early days, people were peddling the curative abilities of Coca-Cola rather than kale or quinoa.
Coke might be bad for your health, but kale is just disgusting. I don’t care how healthy it is for you, fancy lettuce leaves shouldn’t be blended up and drunk.
The main marketing hook of fads is their accessibility and minimal time investment. In reality, reaching a healthy weight and muscle mass if you fall into the obese or morbidly obese weight categories can take months or even years to attain.
Realistically, how do you feel when presented with the option to only perform these gruesome and tedious tasks for a few short weeks? I know better, but I also know which one I would prefer.
Another problem with fads is that, in general, many people don’t know better and trust the apparent professional on-screen to tell them the reality of what their health journey can look like. Yes, in some cases they are professionals in the health and fitness industry, but that doesn’t mean they are above selling you a half-truth.
Curing obesity is their business, and right now, business is booming.
Breaking Down The Fads
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash
It’s all well and good to tell you that fads aren’t going to get you far in your progress to a healthier lifestyle, but it’s not going to be any help if you don’t understand why they won’t help you in the long run. Luckily for my readers, I’ve seen enough of these fads — and even participated in a few in the past — to have a general understanding of why you should avoid them.
Fad Diets: this one is a fairly easy one to explain so I’ll get it out of the way first. While you may lose some weight while taking part in these diets, or even lose substantial weight in some instances, that’s not because of the diet itself. In the majority of cases, the weight loss is attributed to simply eating less calorie-dense foods as a result of cutting certain food groups.
In the case of the Atkinson, keto, paleo, and caveman diets especially, the lack of carbohydrate intake, a food group that is generally calorie-dense, is the sole reason why you are losing weight. This is fine in the short term, but as far as long-term weight goals go, it’s not sustainable and you’re likely to feel sluggish or tired after taking part in it for a long time.
The keto diet has even addressed this shortcoming and accepted it as part of the process of losing weight. This alone should be seen as a giant red flag for those considering taking part in it.
Humans are omnivorous as a species, cutting out any of our food groups for the sake of supposed health is going to have long-term negative effects on our minds and body. Instead of cutting them entirely, maybe you need to reduce the amount of a certain food group instead. In the western world, our foods are generally high in simple carbohydrates and fats, so reducing your intake of these foods is always a good start.
Fad Exercises: exercise is important to maintaining both a healthy muscle mass and bone density. While many exercise fads will claim to give you six-pack abs faster than any other exercise, the reality is that this is unlikely to happen unless you also drastically change your diet alongside it.
I’m sure some of you have heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”. It’s not wrong.
Certain fads, particularly CrossFit, have even received some backlash for the potential danger people can face if they try to take part in it. The most notorious example is the pull-up competition which, while impressive to look at, will cause people to start having repetitive stress injuries in their shoulders and elbows.
No matter what new exercise fad is being pushed onto you, the best exercise you can ever do is the one you enjoy doing regularly because that’s the one you will be able to maintain for a long period of time. There’s no point repeatedly lifting weights while the burly bodybuilder screams at you if you dread going into the gym every time you do it.
New Age Fads
Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash
Not only are diet and exercise fads taking over our advertising space, but we are now being subjected to certain “new-age” fads that claim to be able to enhance your health. While activities such as meditation and yoga may also fall under the new-age umbrella, these are activities that have proven to actually benefit those who take part in them and should be considered before any liquid “cleanse” that promises the same results with no effort.
I don’t have the biological knowledge nor the word space to provide an in-depth description of why cleanses are stupid, but I can break it down for you in a few words that should resonate with those with even a basic understanding of human biology: THAT IS WHAT YOUR INTERNAL ORGANS ARE FOR.
A more recent kind of new-age fad that has surfaced in the last few years is Breathwork, one that sounds far too good to be true and absolutely is. Broken down, the idea is that you hyperventilate to the point where you are in a state of hyperoxygenation — providing your brain and body with too much oxygen — for a euphoric result.
Breathwork is advertised as something of a “return to our roots”, an act that we had forgotten over years of evolution for no apparent reason. It has about as much credibility as those “weight loss secrets the scientists don’t want you to know!” and is just a cheap way to get high. Mindful breathing is one thing, but if your yogi is trying to get you to take part in their Breathwork classes, I suggest finding a new yogi.
The Harsh Reality
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
I may have already mentioned this fact, but I need to hammer it home because it baffles me at the sheer volume of people who fall for these fads: they are simply a product being pushed on you, those supporting them are betting on you not knowing any better to get your money.
Physical and mental health has no shortcuts and it’s high time we stop looking for them. You can get all the lap band surgery and liposuction you want, but if you don’t change your habits for the long term, they aren’t going to stick and you’ll end up right back at square one before you know it.
Instead of looking for a shortcut solution, think about the parts of healthy living that you enjoy doing and focus on those. Are you vehemently against running but love to swim? Go to a public pool instead of killing yourself on the treadmill for an hour. Do you hate using weights but love playing basketball? Find a court or local team to join so you can remember just how bad you are at the game.
There are also health professionals who are more than happy to help you with your lifestyle changes. Your GP can recommend you to a dietician if you struggle with your eating habits or a psychologist if you have mental health issues. The personal trainer at your local gym who hasn’t had a client in months due to COVID is probably itching for someone to train after being bored out of their mind for weeks on end.
The solutions are out there to help you on your wellness journey, they just aren’t the ones advertised between Dr. Phil and Days of Our Lives.