By Josie Rubio
Some fitness trends have all the makings of a passing fad—like corset waist training or toning shoes. We asked experts how to spot a fad and current trends to avoid.
Any trend, in fact, should be approached with some degree of caution, says Jennifer Galardi, star of the “Dance Off the Inches: Hop Hop Jam” workout. She says, “The word 'trendy' implies that the program or exercise has found temporary popularity or success, as opposed to being based on sound intelligence or long-term efficacy. I have no problem with people partaking in certain trends or fads, but use intuitive discernment to judge if a particular program is right for you.”
The problem with many trendy programs is that they’re not sustainable long-term, so it’s easy to throw in the towel on a health plan altogether. Galardi advises asking yourself: “Are you miserable doing it? Does it cause you pain? Then it doesn’t matter how many people flock to class. If it goes against your own body wisdom, stay away.”
Fitness and healthy eating plans should be part of your lifestyle, not a quick fix. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “Be wary of any grandiose promises—‘Lose 10 pounds in just two weeks! Flat abs instantaneously!’” warns Galardi. “We have become a society that feels almost entitled to instant gratification. Know that when it comes to fitness and health, slow and steady wins the race. Educate yourself the best you can and make the right decision for you.”
How to Steer Clear of Fads That Won't Get You Anywhere
If you’re thinking about trying the following trends, read what experts say first.
Elimination diets and exercise programs. Variety is important, from your diet to your exercise program. “Avoid fitness trends that involve eliminating something completely—whether it's completely removing something from your diet, or choosing only one specific form of exercise,” says Ashley Turner, star of the “Element: 5-Day Yoga” DVD. “Moderation is key and I notice that when clients eliminate something completely or focus too much on one thing, it's rarely sustainable for them to maintain long-term.”
Of course, there are times when you can make an exception. “If your goal is to train for a specific event, then specificity is of course important,” Turner says. Those training for a marathon, for example, should spend a lot of time running, she notes. “But for general fitness and in the early stages of training, try all forms of fitness so that you can gain strength and flexibility.”
“Detox” diets. While detoxes and cleanses are less trendy than they were a few years ago, some still sing the praises of living only on liquids for days or undertaking extremely low-calorie diets to rid the body of "toxins." “When people talk about a ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse,’ they’re most likely referring to a program that transpires over the course of days or weeks, or an herbal protocol or ‘flush’ that is supposed to magically rid the body of poisons overnight,” says Lisa Kinder, star of the “10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training” DVD and a trainer at Equinox. “I take serious issue with all of these measures. For one thing, they’re often ill-advised. I’ve looked at the ingredient labels on some of the herbal ‘cleanses’ out there, and they’re pretty horrible.”
Many of the descriptions of “toxins” are fairly vague, but the truth is, our livers and kidneys rid the body of environmental contaminants. Some liquid cleanses claim the body needs a break from the “stress” of eating solid food, but that’s simply not the case. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet of whole foods, to give your body a break from junk food, or consider clean eating over cleanses. (See some of our nutrition tips here.)
Cleanses and detoxes also claim not to have the goal of weight loss, but these programs can be attractive to those looking to lose weight fast. The main element lost in an extreme low-calorie cleanse is water weight, which will return once you start eating again. Fat will also return—but not the muscle lost. The end result is a body composition that is more fat and less muscle.
One more thing: Drinking juice is healthy, but subsisting only on juice, with no fiber, will make you even hungrier. And good old-fashioned fiber from fruits and vegetables is what helps you eliminate waste. “I don’t believe that these [detox] products do much to cleanse the bowel or the body,” Kinder says. “For the most part, they’re nothing more than overpriced laxatives.” Skip the overpriced products and opt for high-fiber foods like beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (And healthy foods will probably taste better than some of these concoctions.)
“Celeb” trainers and trends. There are plenty of celebrities with solid trainers and nutrition experts behind their toned bodies. However, there are also a lot of fads and endorsements from self-proclaimed-“experts” who may have their 15 minutes of fame, but not necessarily the fitness or nutrition expertise and background to dole out advice. Do a little bit of research and be wary of something that might seem to go against common sense.
“People with little knowledge in fitness—like reality-show contestants—capture the public’s attention with fitness books while ‘celebrity trainers’ further muddy the truth about fitness for everyday people,” says Jonathan Ross, founder of Aion Fitness in Washington D.C. and master instructor for ACE, SPRI and Tabata Bootcamp. “The misinformation makes life as a trainer harder.”
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