Health Fads. Are they right for you?

by: Christine Morse, M.S., Certified Personal Trainer

High intensity interval training (HIIT), hot yoga, CrossFit, Paleo diet…There are innumerable fitness trends and fads. With all the hype, it can be difficult to know which foods to eat and what exercises to perform. Here are some basic questions to ask about health trends before you jump in:

Is it safe?

The cardinal rule of health is “First, do no harm.” Is this diet going to make you so weak with hunger that you feel dizzy? Is this workout program going to be too intense for you? Are you inviting injury by performing high-risk movements with little to no training? If you have questions, consult professionals. Talk with your doctor, a trusted fitness professional, or do your own research. Research means actually looking for scholarly discussion on a topic, not just typing the word “fitness” into an internet search engine. Always make sure you get your research from several different sources not just the company selling you the product. Reading customer reviews and testimonials is fine, but always look “outside the box” to see if there are any red flags.

Will it help me achieve my goals?

In order to determine if a fad or trend will be helpful to you, you must first know your own goals. Possible goals may include weight loss, muscle gain, increased flexibility, reduced blood pressure, improved stamina, or increased strength. Decide what you are looking for before you start looking. While something popular may seem appealing, if it will not help you individually, you may want to pass.

Is it extreme?

Even after you’ve verified that a popular new craze is somewhat safe, it may still be too extreme. For example, eating only grapefruit for weeks on end is extreme. Doing six hours of cardio a day is extreme. Exercises that are so intense they cause you to vomit are too extreme. Diets that eliminate essential vitamins and minerals are extreme. Remember that what is extreme for one person may not be for another. A high intensity workout or a strict diet may be enjoyable for one and torture for someone else. It’s your body. Know your limits.

Is it sustainable?

Now that you know this particular trend is safe, it can help you achieve your goals and it’s not too extreme, it’s time for the final litmus test: is this habit sustainable? Many people work very hard at accomplishing a certain diet or exercise regimen for a short period of time. But there’s a reason why so many people gain weight back and become health “yo-yos.” We see this most with dieting. If you constantly deny yourself things you love and only eat oats, kale and carrot sticks, at some point you are going to fall off the wagon. And as soon as you start eating junk again, your body starts storing fat. Changes in diet and exercise need to be moderate and sustainable. Small calorie deficits or slight increases in workout intensity help you form habits that will last you a lifetime.

You can still try new things, even fun fitness fads, without going overboard. Learning a new exercise technique or changing up your diet can help you break through a weight loss plateau or prevent boredom. So if you’re looking for a “new you” with the New Year, make sure the bandwagon you jump on promotes safe, sustainable, goal-oriented diet and fitness. Then, the new you is here to stay!

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