Health is a journey and every trainer you talk to, website you visit or medical professional you consult is advocating for one “trend” or “diet” that will help you reach your health goal. Social media is full of advertisements telling us about the “hip new trend that will take off the pounds fast” or “the new health product that will give you the sleek look you desire.” We are bombarded with so much that it can get confusing. So, what can you do? How do you cut through the malarkey and find that thing that will work best for you? Well, Step One is to talk to your doctor before trying any type of fad. Step Two: With any health craze you intend to pursue, make sure to exercise due diligence. To give you a start, here are five health trends and diets to avoid, and five to engage. Note: Everyone’s body is different – what works for others may not work for you and vice-versa.
Health Trends to Avoid
1. Activated Charcoal
A big draw for Instagram foodies, adding activated charcoal to food and drink is claimed to improve digestive health, remove body impurities and lower cholesterol. Evidence to support these claims is lacking and the harm from consuming activated charcoal vastly outweighs the benefits. It is useful to prevent poisoning by binding to the poisonous substance in the stomach, preventing it from entering the bloodstream (it is used by poison control centers in some cases), but its functionality is also its detriment. It can block the absorption of nutrients in foods you consume and cause constipation that can lead to bowel blockage and perforation.
This traditional Chinese or Middle-Eastern therapy utilizes a glass, ceramic or plastic cup to create suction on a small area of the skin, pulling it up into the glass. In “wet” cupping, the skin is pierced before applying suction, drawing blood into the cup. Popular with social media influencers, celebrities and professional athletes, cupping is said to alleviate pain and accelerate healing. The actual effects of cupping include intense bruising (broken capillaries), infections, scars, anemia and it could spread blood-borne disease.
3. Social Media Influencers
The other trends on this list have become trends due in part to endorsement by social media influencers and celebrities. With millions of followers on a number of social media platforms, influencers can help or harm. The big problem with influencers is that they have the body but not the training; they provide opinion as fact and fail to provide evidence for their lessons. Influencers are often known to push harmful products onto their followers in an effort to turn a profit. It’s best to stick with a professional. Each person is different and if you want help getting into shape, find an accredited personal trainer or nutritionist who can tailor a unique personal workout or diet. The life of an influencer is fake; yours is not.
4. Waist Trainers
A waist trainer is a restrictive garment similar to the corset of times past. When worn, it pulls in a person’s midsection as much as possible in order to create a sleeker waist and an “hourglass” shape. They are said to help a person lose weight but they do not reduce body fat and instead put pressure on a person’s stomach while forcing the digestive organs into unnatural positions causing permanent damage. Waist trainers can also cause breathing issues and acid reflux. Exercise is not meant to be a fashion statement and exercising with a waist trainer can be dangerous.
5. “Hot” Workouts
This trend is blowing up and expanding around the country. A “hot” workout is one that takes place in a room where the temperature is 85 degrees or higher with some classes operating in temperatures over 100. The belief is that heat will make the heart work harder and therefore, burn more calories while detoxifying the body through sweating. It makes a little bit of sense on the surface, but in actuality, the opposite is true. Your heart works faster because it is being stressed as it attempts to cool the body, not due to enhanced effort. Dehydration is the main concern. “Hot” workouts can be safe for people who are properly hydrated, but working out in a much more accommodating temperature burns more calories in the long run and the organs involved in detoxification (liver, kidneys, etc.) work better well-hydrated.
Health Trends to Engage
1. The Mindfulness Movement
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing on the present and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Mindfulness can bring calm, relieve stress, help with heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce pain and enhance sleep. Everybody needs a break from this tumultuous society now and then. Take some time for yourself and just be.
2. Outdoor Hobbies
Being active outdoors is gaining momentum. People are spending more time hiking on trails, kayaking, biking, skiing, fishing, golfing and more. One thing the recent quarantine has taught us is that we are social creatures and outdoor hobbies are social events. Gather a group of friends and enjoy the sunshine. As an added bonus, you will get exercise without even noticing.
3. Limit Social Media
I’m sick of it. You’re sick of it. Everyone is sick of it. Limiting time spent on social media can improve mental health, lower stress and lower blood pressure. Time spent aimlessly browsing Facebook or TikTok can be spent in better and more healthy ways. Also, make sure to turn off the screen at least an hour before bedtime. Your sleep will be much better for it.
4. Join a Fitness Club
I don’t mean a gym; join a local cycling group, running club or sports league. Working out in groups is the name of the game nowadays. A group can help you to work harder and be accountable for your health. Being active in a club is an obligation and an obligation can become a priority.
5. Health-Tracking Mobile Apps
It is important to keep track of your progress both for goal achievement and personal recognition. Apps such as Couch to 5k, MyFitnessPal, SleepCycle and others are extremely helpful in keeping track of the details so you can focus on effort and reward.
Diets to Aviod
It seems that with each year comes a brand-new diet that everyone jumps on and some work well, initially. The secret to weight loss is to function with a calorie deficit and any diet that can help a person decrease food intake will naturally be successful; but what about the long run? Is the diet too restrictive? Can a person cut out too much? Is your diet providing you with everything your body needs or is it missing an important piece of the puzzle? Here are five diets that seem effective but may cause harm down the road. Note: Diets work differently for everyone. Always consult your doctor before committing to a new diet.
I know what you are thinking: “keto-friendly” food is the trendiest thing right now. You may have friends who swear by it and have lost weight – and that’s probably true. The Keto Diet starves the body of carbohydrates to achieve a state of ketosis, when it begins to burn fat instead of sugar. It’s initially successful, but the diet can cause future problems. If not done absolutely right (and for no more than 90 days) the Keto Diet can be harmful, causing lethargy, diarrhea and reduced athletic performance. In extreme circumstances and for those with diabetes, it can cause ketoacidosis (a serious complication). The diet also leads to reduced muscle mass which in turn, can affect metabolism and weight regain. Heart disease and diabetes are also associated risks.
Like the Keto Diet, the Dukan Diet restricts carbs in order to achieve a state of ketosis and initial results will be encouraging; however, this restrictive diet can starve the body of essential nutrients causing in some instances, heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Other side effects are constipation, fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, nausea and insomnia. The diet is so restrictive that many of its advocates suggest multi-vitamins be taken while on the diet.
This one has been around for years and is one of the first “low-carb” diets to hit the mass market. The diet achieves weight loss initially, but the long-term effects of the diet mirror those of the Keto and Dukan diets. The moral of the story: Carbohydrates are important for body and brain function and should be consumed in moderate quantities.
4. Whole 30
Whole 30 is an elimination regimen meant to be followed for 30 days in order to “reset” your overall diet. Users of this diet must eliminate all added sugars, grains, legumes, peas and soy, dairy, processed foods and alcohol. If followed for more than 30 days, the diet can cause nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities and a heightened risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The diet is not sustainable long-term.
“If a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you” is the premise behind the Paleo Diet. Focusing on whole foods, it eliminates foods that were introduced to humans through farming, such as dairy, beans, grains, salt, alcohol and other processed foods. Again, elimination diets can result in malnourishment as needed nutrients become scarce. Two key components are generally missing from this diet – calcium and fiber – which affects bones and gut health. The logic seems sound, but we have evolved along with the animals and plants of the day. What a man in the Paleolithic period ate to survive can be vastly different than food available today. This is another diet that recognizes its deficiencies by advocating for the addition of vitamin supplements.
Diets to Engage
The Mediterranean Diet is consistently rated by health professionals as the most nutritious diet. The food is fresh, the menu is huge, fat isn’t banned and you don’t have to count calories. Everything in this diet is built for nutrition. It is what your body needs for an active lifestyle. Portion control is key as very few foods are banned. As long as you are active, you can lose weight and feel great.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The focus of this diet is to treat and prevent high blood pressure. The key is to drop sodium levels while continuing to eat nutritious foods. Besides lowering blood pressure, the DASH diet can help to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Those on the DASH diet consume lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products while including limited portions of fish, poultry and legumes.
3. Weight Watchers
Utilizing a point system, people on Weight Watchers can eat whatever they want as long as the food points stay below a specific overall daily total. This diet focuses on portion control and allows the person to make decisions best for them. Each food is given a point total based upon nutrition and there are three ways to follow the program. Those on the diet have access to a robust community of dieters who can offer support, as well as a rewards program and a way to track progress.
4. Mayo Clinic
Created by weight-loss experts at the Mayo Clinic, this diet is designed to reshape your lifestyle by adopting new, healthy habits. The Mayo Clinic diet doesn’t just affect your diet but also focuses on behavior change and helps with motivation. It features two phases: the first is “Lose It” when weight-loss is jumpstarted and “Live It” when lifetime healthy habits are made and reinforced. The main foods included in the diet are fruits and vegetables with moderate amounts of whole grain carbohydrates, lean sources of protein (fish) and unsaturated fats.
The MIND Diet is designed to prevent dementia and loss of brain function and is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and focuses on foods that best support brain function such as leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry and wine. Engaging the MIND diet even a little can help delay the onset of dementia.
Again, the world is a crazy mess of pseudoscience and erroneous claims. It is always best to investigate and research any new health trend and diet that seems promising. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Please consult your health professional before embarking on any health journey. Good luck!