We're smarter than we used to be. In terms of health, anyway. Compared to the generation before us, we're less likely to eat heavily processed diets or tremble at the sight of dietary fat. We're still not great in the kitchen, but we're getting better. And occasionally, we go to the gym. Things are really looking up.
But we still have some problems to work out. Some ideas that are making life difficult and doing no favors for our health. Here are those ideas.
A juice cleanse will fix months of neglect.
You've partied your way through the holiday season—including an over-the-top all-nighter on New Year's Eve—and then committed yourself to an austere liquid diet in effort to vanquish the "toxins" and return your youthful glow.
Well, that's not how toxins work. And there's nothing about juice that will restore you to optimal health, says Molly Kimball, a dietician based in New Orleans. Sure, toxins do exist. But even the detoxers don't typically know what they are. You know what does a good job of ridding the body of toxins? Internal organs. They're great. And free. Kidneys and liver all day, baby.
Now, that's not to say that drinking juice is bad. The green variety is typically chock-full of vitamins and antioxidants, thanks to its abundance of veggies, says Kimball. Getting more of that stuff is always a good thing, and if juice is your elixir of choice, go for it. But rather than go full bore for days of juice-induced brain fog and muscle atrophy from lack of protein, just eat a normal, healthy diet and drink a damn juice every now and again. Or better, yet, eat more vegetables.
In this crazy world of ours, one must meditate at all times.
Meditation's boons are hard to ignore: The practice has been praised for reducing blood pressure and symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. And all that's well and good. But in 2016, people took meditation to the next level. All of a sudden people were incorporating it into every possible second of the day. No time in the morning? Be mindful on your commute. Gotta workout? Work it into your run. Stink like a pig? Take a nice, hot meditative shower. Just whatever you do, don't. forget. to. meditate.
I declare horseshit. The whole idea that I'm wasting time if I don't spend every 10-minute break focusing on my breath, or how the smelly-garbage wind of NYC feels on my face, doesn't work for me. And I shouldn't feel bad about that. The time I spend commuting, running, and showering is the time where I read, listen to music, think, whatever. And I'll just mediate when I have time to meditate.
But I'll still like the T-shirts that riff of yoga phrases. Namast'ay in bed, too.
Cupping will make you swim like Michael Phelps
When the long-torsoed human jetboat Michael Phelps emerged at the Rio Olympics covered in those distinctive purple marks, people around the world started following his lead. Cupping became an official thing. And the Chinese therapy is certainly interesting: It works by using heat or an air pump to pull the skin up and away from its underlying muscles to promote blood flow and speed recovery. It can in fact work, but there's no concrete evidence that it works any better than a good ol' sports massage. It does, however, make you look like you ended up on the wrong side of a bar fight.
As a reminder, please note that massages do not leave unsightly bruises on your skin. So until cupping is proven to do something magnificent, let's stick to the massages.
GMOs are the new trans fats.
Surely you haven't forgotten the big trans-fat scare of the early aughts? That was justified, as research repeatedly found that the newly popular processed fat was far more effective than saturated fat at driving up rates of cardiovascular disease.
Now, some people are treating genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, with the same level of vitriol. But the worry is unjustified: Researchers haven't been able to find a connection between GMO foods and poor health. The primary reason that foods are modified is so plants can resist harsh weather and pests, so that food prices don't skyrocket and make eating a thing that only rich people do. While there are certainly risks involved with altering natural foods, and while GMOs have indeed sometimes been associated with higher pesticide use and land-depleting monocultures, the blanket statement that GMOs are unhealthy is patently false, and in cases where they allow farmers to use fewer pesticides, they may actually be good for you.
Nature wants you to eat paleo.
The caveman diet isn't anything new: People have been singing its praises since CrossFitters and celebrities catapulted it into the mainstream back in 2008. The diet nixes ingredients like whole grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugar, and alcohol because it wants to get you back in tune with nature by eating the way your ancestors did.
But there are a few holes in the idea of eating like a caveman. For starters, if I eat like ancient humans, then I'm probably eating my next-door neighbor. Seriously, one study found that the original caveman diet included cannibalism. Femur and tibia bones were apparently quite tasty. That's all sorts of fucked up. And other research has found ancient humans eating bugs and starches, or a variety of other things.
Here's another reason paleo blows: Plenty of the foods it eschews are undeniably good for you. Legumes are high in protein and fiber, whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease, red wine can slow the growth of fat cells. Let's enjoy the bounty of foods we have. The cavemen sure as hell would have.
That gadget on your wrist will make you fit.
Sure, athleisure is still a thing that's trending so my Apple Watch Nike+ does look pretty sleek. (Just kidding, I don't actually own one of those. But if I did, you know it would look good.) But LBH: Slapping a tracker on my wrist isn't really going to keep me motivated. Once the novelty wears off, trackers are just like any other bracelet. The buzzing reminders become little more than minor annoyances. Studies have shown that most trackers are inaccurate in some way or another, they can make working out less fun, and they can actually sabotage your weight loss efforts. But hey, to each their own. At least you can now count steps with a normal-looking watch, if that's your thing.
It's not a workout unless it makes you want to vom.
Thanks, CrossFitters. Thanks for making it uncool for me to phone in my workout every now and then. In fitness classes all over the country, studios are trying to reduce their patrons to puddles of exhaustion, so they can re-solidify as muscle-clad terminators with giant biceps sticking out everywhere. Tone House, for example, beams with pride now that multiple media brands have deemed their routines "the hardest workout in New York City," and high-intensity interval studios (HIIT) like Orange Theory Fitness are starting to spread from the big cities into smaller markets.
But there are two major argument against these workouts: 1. They're really hard, which sucks, and 2. We don't actually need to work that hard all the time.
"HIIT can be effective, but too much can cause injuries and over-training," says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "Mixing in low-intensity steady-state workouts, or LISS, gives your body time to recover while still being active."
So what I'm hearing is: "low-intensity workouts are amazing." Perfect. It looks like 2017 is off to a good start.
Sauna suits will blast away fat.
If you're still turning to the Kardashians for your fitness-trend advice, that's problem numero uno. The hype they built up about waist trainers was insane—despite doctors telling people again and again that they didn't work and could be potentially dangerous, there were enough people buying them that a huge-ass lawsuit was filed (and later settled) because, lo and behold, they were a waste of money.
So keep that in mind if you were considering a sauna suit because Khloé Kardashian started using one. While the concept is simple—don a fancy version of Bradley Cooper's Silver Linings Playbook running outfit and start sweating—it too is dangerous. A sauna suit causes your body to hold in the heat it generates during exercise, thus raising your body temperature and reducing water weight, says McCall. That can lead to overheating and dehydration, both of which can be deadly. Not to mention any weight you lose will only be temporary because, surprise, water weight fluctuates all the time.
Whatever your problem, essential oils are the cure.
You might rub a little peppermint oil on the back of your neck when it's feeling tight or turn on the doTerra diffuser after a stressful day. Essential oils and aromatherapy have gotten a lot of press lately. Admittedly, the stuff smells great. It just doesn't do much for your health.
A few small studies have found that essential oils can increase pain tolerance or help with nausea, but that's the thing: They're small, and even those study authors admit that other factors may be driving the results. Plus, two review studies—one in 2000 and the other in 2012—looked at the purported health benefits and found that aromatherapy doesn't have any "convincing" evidence to support it. But of course, there's the good ol' placebo effect: If I believe inhaling something is going to make me sleep better or feel more blissed out, then my brain will likely convince me that it will. It doesn't really have anything to do with the actual oils themselves, but rather my own mental trickery. As is the case with a lot of alternative medicine, there's more research to be done. But I won't be holding my breath for a verdict.
Morning dance parties are worth waking up for.
To the guy that was able to convince thousands of people to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to dance in an actual club while SOBER and wearing SPANDEX, there's only one thing to say: You are an evil, evil genius.
I've been to a few of these Daybreaker parties, which are held in 15 cities across the country, and the fact of the matter is they're really fucking awkward. As I sipped my life-saving green juice (oh wait), I wondered why the hell I sacrificed high-quality sleep for this. Next year I'm keeping my dancing to three locations: the actual club (if I ever get my ass there), the fitness studio (305 is pretty legit) and my living room.