Positive long-term health practice — or fleeting fad? The answer to that question is sometimes not clear until it’s too late, and you’ve already spent half of your grocery budget on detox tea to flatten your tummy.
Some health recommendations, like reducing sugar in your diet, are extremely well-researched with a hefty helping of medical evidence. Others are less clear-cut, especially if the trend has just popped up recently and there isn’t enough research yet to back it up. In those cases, how do you decide whether it’s worth adapting a new health habit into your life?
Sometimes, a little advanced foresight is necessary to evaluate whether the latest health trend will work for you. Here are 6 key questions to ask yourself, to help you assess whether the next enticing health trend that catches your eye will really work for you.
1. Is This Trend Holistic?
Holistic is a term that gets thrown around in the health world, but when used genuinely, it’s a term with a lot of value. A holistic health practice simply means that it’s interconnected to your wellbeing as a whole, not isolated to only treat one aspect of a healthy life.
Maintaining your health over the long-term is about striking a balance between many factors, including eat, sleep, and exercise. Red flags should fly if a health trend exclusively emphasizes one and neglects to mention the role other behaviors will play on your health.
The internet is full of exercise programs that promise to let you eat whatever you want as long as you complete the rigorous workouts. While it’s true that your body will demand more nutrients when you’re exercising regularly, there must still be a healthy limit placed on what you eat. Exercise does not erase or cancel out poor eating habits. It won’t matter if you’re exercising three hours a day, only to fill your diet with sugar — if you don’t eat well, you can just as easily put on weight, decrease cardiovascular health, and develop conditions like type two diabetes, despite your healthy workout routine.
Look for health trends that offer a well-rounded approach to how you live your life.
2. Does It Work With My Lifestyle?
The most effective health trends are ones that allow you to create sustainable, long-term shifts to your philosophy around health and wellness. A health practice will work only if it does not require a fundamental shift to your daily schedule, or the things you value.
While pledging to join those weekday high intensity spin classes may seem like a great way to jump aboard a health trend, it won’t work out if those sessions occur right when you have to pick up your kids from school. Taking on the trend of enjoying five smaller, well-portioned meals during the day may sound like an effective way to track your food intake; but it won’t be sustainable if you work in a profession where you are not allowed to eat outside of your lunch hour. This doesn’t have to apply to external constraints, but internal constraints may come into play here as well. If you cannot successfully go for a week without eating a bowl of pasta, a carb-free diet may not be sustainable with your lifestyle.
Before adopting a health trend, consider what it would actually look like in application if applied to your life.
3. Can I Afford This?
Diet and exercise programs can come with a high price tag. Many popular health trends recommend a whole slate of accompanying services: support, fitness classes, access to online learning platforms, and more. That’s in addition to the set meal plans some prescribe.
Take the Jenny Craig diet, for example. Proven as one of the most sustainable long-term healthy eating plans, this diet is a financial investment. That investment comes in the form of six pre-packaged meals a day. Jenny Craig’s meals cost between $15 and $23 a day, plus shipping, an enrollment fee, and a membership fee. Many people have seen results through the program, but this plan is an illustrator of how pricy dieting can be. Make sure you have the financial capacity to sustain a program over time — otherwise, when you run out of budget for the health practice you’ve implemented, you risk slipping into old behaviors.
One of the hottest health trends for 2017 comes in the form of wellness retreats that fuse travel and healthy living. While many of these offer dreamy oceanside yoga sessions and locally-sourced food that can all contribute to a healthier you, they also come with a fairly generous price tag. Be sure to check for long-term affordability before you make it your goal to embark on a retreat for every vacation. If you find there’s room in your budget for one retreat per year, what else can you do on a weekly basis that’s more affordable and still contributes to your health?
4. Does the Trend Highlight Just a Single Solution?
Adam Bornstein, a New York Times bestselling author and founder of Born Fitness, says you should avoid health trends and plans that point their finger at a single enemy or a single solution; be it sugars, meat, carbohydrates, etc. The reason for this, he says, is that weight loss and healthy living are much more complex than giving up one category of food. Our personal lifestyles, allergies, family histories, food availability, and preferences are just a few factors at play — meaning the diet that works for one person is not necessarily the best choice for someone else. This goes back to the importance of finding a holistic health trend. A health trend should never make you feel as though the only route to success is a single, unwavering path.
Health trends shouldn’t make you feel guilty if you miss a day of exercise, or choose to satisfy your cheeseburger craving. Truly valuable health practices should be firm but forgiving, and never skewer the relationship you have with food or your body.
5. Could I Do This for the Rest of My Life?
The best health trends are those that you can maintain for months, years, and decades. If there is an element of your health plan that you don’t like within the first week, chances are that feeling will only get worse. There’s not much point in pushing yourself into a health practice that you will resist or grow to resent. You’ll either ditch the practice quickly, or add burden and unhappiness to your life by insisting to yourself that you stick with it. Be open to trying new trends and techniques, but don’t be afraid to kick them to the curb if they add more stress than positivity, and move on to a new health practice.
Pick your health plan and diet like you’d choose the person you want to marry — can you see yourself together in the long-term, and will you be able to put in the work to make this relationship a success?
6. How Does the Trend Make Me Feel?
You may not be able to evaluate this question until you’ve already started a health trend or diet. A definitive way to assess whether the latest health trend will truly work for you is to let your body do the talking. The ultimate goal of adopting a new health practice is to feel better than you did before you began the practice.
Am I sleeping better or worse?
Do I have more or less energy?
Do I feel happier?
Am I more irritable?
Before you start on a new trend or diet, do a self-assessment of these questions, and then answer them again when you’re a few weeks into the new habit. If your answers have not improved, you should reassess whether the plan is right for you.
Armed with this evaluation criteria, you will be better able to weed out the plans that will work from those that can be filed away as mere fads.