Information sources to beware of tout “wellness” practices that have one or all of the following traits:
- They’re expensive; there doesn’t appear to be much (if any) science to back up their benefits.
- They conflate consensus-based science with controversy-based science; they misuse terminology.
- There is evidence that they’re harmful.
- There’s no evidence that they’re harmful, but they don’t appear to be necessary. This takes a kind of conscious unfollowing, if you will.
How you’ll identify these self-care saboteurs? Ask yourself this: Is the post, article, product, or person touting some philosophy making it more inspiring, helpful, easy, and fun for me to eat more produce or move my tushy?
If the answer is yes, then okay — keep it. But if the post, article, product, or person makes you feel guilty about what you packed for lunch, or makes a healthful lifestyle seem so strict that your knee-jerk reaction is, “Whatever. I’m getting cheese fries.” Well, then, it’s time to #unfollow.
Let’s get specific. Here are some anxiety-inducing, confusion-creating accounts that deserve to just disappear.
Anything or anyone who promotes a product with a health “promise”
There’s a time-honored saying that goes a little something like this: “The only thing that’s guaranteed in life is that there are no guarantees.” Well, my friends: This, too, applies to how scientists feel about science. If a product is making promises or guarantees or if it is using the word proven, please abort mission!
Here’s why: If you work in any peer-reviewed area of study, you are hyperconscious of these words, because it’s rare to find a specific, direct link in terms of one product and a direct health outcome — we simply can’t guarantee that one thing will definitely work for your DNA even if it does for many other humans, or (the worst!) that something is “guaranteed” to work for you simply because it worked on lab rats.
Dietary supplements and weight-loss pill companies (… and their #influencers)
Real talk: You don’t need these, unless you take them under the supervision of a medical professional who says you do need them for a highly specific reason. If you’re thinking, So what?! If there’s no harm in taking supplements, then I should try it! Well… Chew on this: Dietary supplements aren’t overseen by the FDA, meaning they’re not evaluated for safety and efficacy in the same way that food and medications are before they’re available for purchase on the market — so you may not be getting exactly what you believe you’re paying for. And if you are? Well, regardless of evaluation, certain nutrients, when consumed in supplement form rather than food form, can have unintended effects.
For example: Some spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove are often used in whole leafy form for steeping, and have been linked to beneficial health effects, like anti-nausea or lowering blood sugar (especially if you’re on medication for diabetes in the latter), but there’s not much by way of scientific research on the “detoxification” aspect of drinking tea, nor when used with these ingredients specifically. In fact: “Liver detox” teas made from real, whole food ingredients may be beneficial when eaten in food form (especially if you’re eating ‘em with vegetables!), but since the properties linked to stopping specific enzymes linked to cell damage are found in food form, it’s unlikely that those properties (in adequate amounts) are making their way from a pill or powder to the cells of your vital organs in one shot. If they are, though: The scary fact is that there’s a greater chance of you suffering adverse health effects and liver damage than there are of some miracle “cure” or regeneration taking place.
Regardless, keep in mind: Tea may be filled with antioxidants — especially ground leaves like matcha — but no matter how much you drink, any single food or beverage cannot alone reverse the effects of an otherwise nutrient-poor diet. Across scientific literature, plant-based diets (ones that focus more centrally on veggies, fruit, whole-grains, nuts, and legumes, with animal-protein and processed, added sugars in smaller amounts) are always linked to reduced risk of cancer — plus other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
People, products, websites, animals and whomever or whatever it is that makes you feel “bad about yourself”
First of all, let me intercept your thought process right here and say that, NO, YOU DON’T “NEED A BETTER REASON THAN THAT.” Anything that makes you feel bad about who you are right now doesn’t deserve another second of your attention. Period. These are the accounts — people and information sources — that have found their way into your feed and stayed well past their welcome — not necessarily because you’re so keen on beating yourself up before you get out of bed in the morning or because you relish feeling sorry for yourself. (Yet they seem to lead you down that gut-wrenching road anyway!) Take five minutes daily to go through each of your social media networks or email newsletters and “unfollow,” “block from newsfeed,” or “unsubscribe” from the folks and sources that you can’t just un-see. Life is really just too damn short for low-dose, consistent hits of emotional stress delivered to you via newsfeed.
Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. is a New York City-based registered dietitian, nutrition director at Good Housekeeping, and author of Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked).