worst wellness trends of the decade
Illustration by Hunter French

Round 2: What Was the Worst Wellness Trend of the 2010s?

The Shake Weight vs. MMA. Bulletproof coffee vs. essential oils. It's time to vote!
Katie Way
Brooklyn, US

Welcome back! The opening matchups in our Worst Wellness Trends of the 2010s tournament are coming to a close, and our first winners have been declared. We saw a few major upsets this round; most notably, CBD and protein were knocked out of the running (by Tough Mudder and activated charcoal, respectively).

worst wellness trends bracket round 2

Hunter French

The remaining 32 trends are going head to head in this post, and you can vote for the ones you hated the most via Twitter polls, which will be posted throughout the day Wednesday and embedded in this post as they go live. Read about each trend below, and then choose the one you think was the dumbest, the most dangerous, the most “what… the actual fuck?” We’re one step closer to crowning a terrible winner.


Matchup 1

MMA—MMA has been a competitive sport for some time, but in the 2010s, it enjoyed a moment of popularity as a workout… until everyone realized it’s too violent to reasonably pursue much beyond throwing some practice punches and doing some very light grappling. Arm bars hurt.

The Shake Weight—The Shake Weight, a dumbbell that shifts around as you essentially jerk it off, was invented to capitalize on a nationwide fixation on Michelle Obama's toned arms. More than two million of them were reportedly sold after the 2010 debut of a lurid advertisement—in which women demonstrated how to use the device (again, by giving it a vigorous handjob)—that went viral.

Matchup 2

Microdosing—Microdosing, or the act of regularly consuming a small amount of a psychedelic like LSD or psilocybin, rose to popularity in late 2015 among (where else?) Silicon Valley circles. The practice has been touted as a way to increase productivity and creativity. But microdosing is also just… being high at work, something not everyone can get away with.

KetoKeto, or the “ketogenic diet,” is a high-fat, low-carb meal plan designed to send the body into a state called “ketosis” and burn up stored fat; it spiked in popularity around 2017. Studies have shown it has benefits for people looking to control neurological disorders like epilepsy. Otherwise, it’s potentially bad for your brain because it deprives it of the glucose it needs to run smoothly. Plus, it’s notoriously hard to sustain. Have you ever gone out to eat while doing keto? It’s almost as bad as going out to eat with someone who’s doing keto.


Matchup 3

Yoni egg—In 2017, we were reminded not to put just anything in our pussies when Goop began selling jade eggs meant to be shoved up one's vagina. The site claimed the crystal eggs could “balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, prevent uterine prolapse, and increase bladder control,” which was quickly and noisily refuted by gynecologists, and for which Goop was eventually fined $145,000.

#nodaysoff—Because of our deep aversion to loving ourselves, we closed the decade bragging about #grinding, #nevernotworking, and taking #nodaysoff from our jobs on social media. Come on, bb, let’s get that bread and that engagement! It’s not like the labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th century worked tirelessly to get us weekends, paid time off, the 40-hour week, and other necessary reprieves from capitalism’s clutches or anything!

Matchup 4

Corporate wellness—Corporate wellness is the latest iteration of workplace wellness, which has been around since the late 1800s, and has always existed to increase worker productivity. The current iteration of corporate wellness is mainly focused on mindfulness, but can also include, uh, taking DNA samples from employees or harassing a double-mastectomy patient into getting a mammogram. Surprisingly, these programs don’t actually contribute to workplace wellness. Go figure!

Collagen—You are what you eat… or, at least, that’s what we tell ourselves when we chow down on some collagen. The tissue-binding protein, which one dermatologist described as “the glue that holds the body together,” has become a $100 million industry over the past few years, with consumers gobbling down chewables, powders, and capsules of the stuff with the hope of increasing collagen production, reducing wrinkles, and looking younger. Does it work? Perhaps. There are some studies that suggest collagen supplements might improve skin elasticity and decrease signs of aging, though, as The New York Times pointed out in a recent deep-dive into collagen’s effectiveness, a lot of those studies are small and paid for by companies trying to sell us the stuff.

worst wellness trends lower left quadrant

Hunter French

Matchup 5

FitBits—Even though humans have had the ability to walk for millennia, this decade is when we decided to really get into walking, and the FitBit will forever live as a relic of this time. When aliens write their textbooks on the history of the Earth, FitBits will be documented as a mostly forgettable device that gently nudged us off our asses… at least until they all inevitably broke, and were shoved away in some drawer.

Not vaccinating your children—Being anti-vax is extremely stupid and actively harmful, and is the rare value shared by extremely wealthy liberals and Republicans. People who neglect to vaccinate their kids mostly do so because they’re worried about disproven side effects like autism. Vaccines are so soundly safe and medically advisable, that not believing in them is like thinking chemtrails are what happen when angels fart.

Matchup 6

Nootropics—A late entry into the dumb things we did this decade, nootropics are essentially just supplements like vitamins or OTC “male enhancement” tablets, but “for the brain.” Like many things on this list, the sweaty insecurity of Silicon Valley dwellers is to blame for this one.

Apple cider vinegar—Instagram loves apple cider vinegar, which is supposed to be something of a cure-all: ACV will solve indigestion! Get rid of dandruff! Take care of a sore throat, reflux, and eczema! People use it topically for skin and hair issues, and take shots of it (diluted with water, one hopes) for digestive and other internal issues. There is no evidence it has any health benefits whatsoever, unless you're eating a salad underneath it—it makes for delicious dressing.


Matchup 7

Coconut water—Coconut water is water-like fluid harvested from the inside of young coconuts. Its sales doubled in 2011 and has enjoyed a steady popularity ever since thanks to its successful marketing as a healthy alternative to sports drinks and carbonated beverages. It is a natural source of potassium and electrolytes. But so are a lot of things. And coconut water, if I recall correctly, kind of tastes like cum.

Activated charcoal—While it has long proven effective at treating overdoses and improving digestion, activated charcoal got a cute new wellness makeover during the 2010s, popping up in everything from toothpaste to ice cream by mid-decade, largely thanks to its super Instagrammable, rich black color. Unfortunately, putting activated charcoal in something like ice cream has, if anything, a detrimental effect, sucking the calcium, potassium, and other vitamins right out of the frozen dairy treat before your stomach can absorb them.

Matchup 8

Tough Mudder—In 2010, Tough Mudder (and, later, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash) invited participants to run through mud, crawl under barbed wire and across giant nets, carry other entrants on their backs, and “work together to form a human pyramid against the steep, slick wall to get over the top.” By 2014, Racked reported, “Tough Mudder has soiled over 1.5 million participants… more than 4,000 of them even have Tough Mudder tattoos.” Thanks to the huge cost of putting them on—including the major marketing campaigns intended to convince people that they were actually safe—and the fact that most people do them once and are like “I’m good,” the races’ future remains uncertain.

Teatoxes—In the early 2010s, there was an explosion of “fit teas” with names like Bootea, Skinny Me Tea, and Flat Tummy Tea. Despite seeming to come out of nowhere, the brands apparently had big enough #sponcon budgets to get into the hands of influencers and A-list celebrities who shamelessly promoted them on Instagram. The teas promised to help you “feel light” or “fight bloat”… thanks to the help of senna, an FDA-approved ingredient that is essentially a laxative. In reality, they either did nothing or made you shit your brains out.


Matchup 9

Bulletproof coffee—Also known as “coffee with butter in it,” bulletproof coffee took hold in the Bay Area in mid-2014, with many coffee shops blending melted butter into hot coffee. That was it. People claimed drinking this beverage instead of breakfast suppressed hunger and promoted weight loss. As you can see, it worked and everyone is thin now.

Essential oilsScented, plant-derived oils surged in popularity around 2017, in part thanks to wellness conspiracists like InfoWars' Alex Jones and Goop's Gwyneth Paltrow, who marketed their purported health benefits to their followers. Multi-level marketing companies like doTerra and Young Living also popped on Facebook, where distributors push them to their friends, claiming they can cure… just about anything a person might like for them to. Medical science points out that they're possibly good for aromatherapy—but that you might want to also try actual medicine for what ails you instead of what amounts to homeopathic perfume.

Matchup 10

Whole30—Scientifically speaking, Whole30 is a diet; its creators, however, would prefer that you consider it an entire lifestyle overhaul, a way to heal your body’s woes with carefully selected food. Like with most draconian diets, the two major problems with #Whole30 is that it is so obsessive it hedges on disordered eating; and it’s impossible to follow without talking about it constantly.

Oil pulling—Oil pulling, or swishing an oil around one’s teeth for 10-20 minutes at a time, comes from a time before we had anything resembling modern dentistry. Yet in 2014, everyone started talking about it. Then everyone realized it was gross, time consuming, and didn’t replace regular brushing. Ah, well.


Matchup 11

Arianna Huffington’s $65 phone bed—Step back into the fever dream that was Arianna Huffington’s mid-2010s rebrand as the “Queen of Sleep,” as one SELF contributor called her. In 2016, the billionaire author and businesswoman published The Sleep Revolution, and the following year she began selling a $65 phone bed through one of her companies, Thrive Global. The phone bed is exactly what it sounds like. “You put your phone under the blanket and you tuck it in and say goodnight,” she told a CNBC reporter in 2017. Despite the fact that no piece of overpriced doll furniture ever could solve capitalism, the phone bed remains available for purchase.

Hair gummies—Thanks to the pioneering efforts of The Bachelor’s most shameless castoffs in the mid-2010s, the world got sold on the idea that a blue pastel gummy bear could maybe give us luxurious locks. But do hair growth gummies really work? Publications have been asking that question since at least as far back as 2015, and, despite the completely static scientific evidence about biotin’s ability to strengthen brittle nails and make hair grow thicker and faster (it’s insufficient, babes!), they always come to the same conclusion: We should write a blog about it and “find out.” Meanwhile, in 2019, influencer overlords James Charles and Tati Westbrook almost murdered each other over SugarBearHair promo. As Natasha from America’s Next Top Model Cycle 8 would say, some people have war in their countries!


Matchup 12

Peloton—A Peloton is a $2,200+ exercise bike with a screen attached that allows riders to stream Peloton workout classes ($39/month), from the comfort of their beautifully sparse Black Mirror-esque homes. The brand—which is beloved by celebrities like Hugh Jackman and other unknown Rich People—was founded in 2012 and has been “selling happiness” (again, for $2,245 + $39/month) ever since. If you are looking for a vaguely culty bougie fitness trend to get into, but can’t afford to buy a Peloton for yourself, there’s always the possibility that Hubby will gift you one.

Kombucha—Kombucha is a fizzy fermented drink that tastes like alcohol (not in a good way) but is not actually alcoholic. Lovers of the yeasty bev claim it helps with digestion (thanks to probiotics) and rids your body of “toxins.” Around 2014, several kombucha brands launched, and true fans started making their own at home (which requires something called a SCOBY or “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast”—yum!). But for all its faults, kombucha did bring us this good meme.

Matchup 13

Waist trainers—"Who doesn't love to feel tight & right?!?" wrote Khloe Kardashian in a 2014 Instagram caption underneath a photo of herself in what appeared to be a tight black corset. She and her sisters Kim and Kourtney proceeded to wallpaper the internet with photos of themselves wearing waist trainers, often while working out. The compressive abdominal sleeves squinch their wearers' stomachs restrictively, supposedly to target fat loss around that area and help you sweat more. This has no basis in science, and is actually mad dangerous, no matter how "tight and right" they purport to make their wearers feel in a gym selfie.

MatchaEvery cafe in 2015 was serving matcha, a powdered green tea that appeared first in 12th century Japan. Matcha has a meticulous preparation process that involves whipping the powder into water with a particular type of whisk, because the mindfulness aspect of creating the tea is supposed to be equally as important to one’s health as the tea itself. Eventually people realized they didn’t have time for this between meetings.


Matchup 14

Crystals—Crystals are gorgeous rocks that believers say harness energy, which can then be used to heal, to attract, and to manifest (or, at least, look nice on a table). The trend apparently sprang out of an uptick in interest in quartz jewelry around 2007, and gained traction throughout the decade. We’re still in the thick of it, even though crystal mining is deeply unethical and environmentally unsound. At least it’s also proven pseudoscience!

TRX—TRX, or the more general “suspension training,” is a kind of workout that popped in early 2018 and involves using woven nylon straps suspended from the ceiling. It sounds cool and futuristic, but imagine the disappointment when we all got to the TRX class held at the local gym, only to find out it’s still pushups and rows, just harder.

Matchup 15

No Fap/No Nut November—No Nut November is a trend rooted in mens’ proclivity toward doing stupid shit that harms only themselves for no reason and/or for reasons rooted in deeply held misogyny. The Reddit-based challenge involves simply… not orgasming for a month, despite this having no health benefit or implication at all.

Soylent—Soylent is a line of meal replacement products, best known in ready-made beverage form. It hit the U.S. marketplace in 2014 after one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever, and has remained a hit with engineers and people who hate eating food. Its original flavor tastes like extra bland cereal, and its founder has been explicit about his desire to completely obliterate food. Good luck with that.


Matchup 16

e-cigs/juul—The rapid glow-up (and even-more-rapid fall) of e-cigs and vapes was pretty incredible. At the beginning of the decade, e-cigs were cumbersome contraptions that earned their users a fair amount of bullying; cut to 2018, and everyone (including teens) could be found sucking on their JUULs. The decade comes to a close with vaping’s safety in serious question.

Paleo—The paleo diet, which hit big in January 2014, is based on the idea that for optimal health, we should all be eating like cave people did—because, the thinking goes, humans haven’t evolved enough to be able to eat foods like dairy, legumes, or even potatoes without it leading to health problems. It’s mostly just a low-carb, high-protein diet, and despite the fact that there’s no real evidence backing it up—and only a cop would ban potatoes—it’s probably the reason there are now 30 types of artisanal jerky brands with names like “Mastadon” and “Prîmatîv” available at Whole Foods.

What Was the Worst Wellness Trend of the 2010s?

Round 3: What Was the Worst Wellness Trend of the 2010s?

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