How To Be Healthy Without Turning To Fads
Wanting to be healthy is a goal we all should have; however when it comes to facing fads and making our own decisions, it is important to keep in mind that everyone is different. Here’s how to be healthy by skipping the trends and doing what’s right for you.
Having friends who have their fingers on the pulse of all the latest fitness trends is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, hearing how by 9am they’ve already done their daily Zumba and meditation as you watch them sip on a ginger-flavoured Kombucha can make you feel more slovenly than a turtle in a deep-sleep chamber – but on the flip side, it means you get to hear the cold hard facts of it all without ever needing to step foot inside a sweaty Bikram Yoga studio. Plus, they give you good hand-me-downs.
This is how, halfway through last year, I found myself with a Fitbit. For the uninitiated, a Fitbit is basically a pedometer but a bit more fancy. They range from pretty basic ones that just count your steps, to high-end versions which monitor heart-rate and contain in-built GPS and specific workouts. You set goals for each day, and your online account keeps track of whether you’re meeting them via pretty graphics.
My friend upgraded to the latest model and handed off her old one to me. As someone who is both super-competitive and who loves counting things, I got hooked – almost immediately. Within days of setting up the account, my housemates would find me storming up and down our stairs at 11:57 to make sure the graph didn’t slip into the terror of the red zone. If it looked like I wasn’t going to reach my daily goal of 10 000 steps, I would do laps of my room as Pretty Little Liars played in the background.
Physically healthy? Yes. Mentally healthy? Perhaps not.
Do things that you like and are likely to do
If the idea of waking up at 5am and stumble-yawning your way through a High Intensity Training class at an aggressively mirrored gym fills you with a kind of eldritch horror then perhaps that isn’t the exercise for you. Logic is the first thing to disappear in a crowd, but: morning people should do morning things, evening people should do evening things. If you’re a swimmer, don’t force yourself onto a running track. If yoga bores you senseless, you’re never going to be able relax into child pose. Completing a marathon is great – but do too many in a short period of time and you could end up with shin splints.
It’s easy to get swept up by the masses, but should you find yourself shivering in a pool, mid-winter, doing aquaerobics with a well-intended friend, perhaps stop and ask yourself why. What works wonders for one person may do nothing for another.
There isn’t one health and fitness goal that fits all – if there was, then by now there would surely be some kind of government-mandated diet and exercise scheme that we were all obliged to follow, rendering all people identical and the Olympics moot. Start by figuring out what healthy means to you, and work from there – not all exercise is in the pursuit of losing weight or gaining muscle.
Do your research
The problem with health fads is that many of them catch on faster than research and logic can keep up with. Via a combination of good marketing, peer pressure and flashy promises, they draw in a large crowd who often see the pros and not the cons. They also often come with celebrity endorsement, further confounding matters. While the bulk of trends come and go without too much visible fallout, in the background they can cause lasting damage, both on a personal level and internationally.
When quinoa burst onto the world stage, the initial surge for Bolivia’s economy looked good. But with huge demand, the country has fallen into a robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario, with rapid expansion of farms essentially salting the earth for future crops and causing over-reliance on a single commodity. To add insult to injury, the rising cost has also made the grain unaffordable to many locals.
On a smaller level, many celebrities have heralded the benefits of going “gluten-free” despite the bulk of them not having any medical reason to do so. As a result, the idea of gluten being a bad thing has become ingrained in our societal hive-mind, despite no evidence to back this up outside of the small percentage that have genuine intolerances or Celiac Disease.
Researching will enable you with enough information to decide if the trend is just that, or if it has genuine health benefits for you.
Seek advice from the right places
Just because someone has released a cookbook or is on the big screen doesn’t mean they know what’s best for yours or anyone else’s health. In the end, when it comes to setting and meeting goals, your best bet for success is consulting a doctor, dietician and a personal trainer rather than looking to a “hottest tips for 2016” list, Instagram or trying to mirror what someone else is doing. There are people who have spent many years of their life specialising in these areas, and a chat with them can set you on the right path.
Your night-jog might be a friend’s nightmare, and that same friend’s aerial silks might be your rope-burn. Not all diet and exercise works for everyone. Don’t buy in to the trendy – do your own research, talk to specialists, and find what works for you.
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Elizabeth is the editor of Voiceworks, and has been published in Junkee, Film Ink, Metro, The Punch, and Lip Magazine. She tweets terrible puns @ElizabethFlux.