Like it or not, you can't believe everything you read, a fact that's especially true in the world of health. For every high-quality, well-researched article available on fitness and nutrition, you'll find at least twice as many pieces backed by nothing but opinion and a prayer (often posing as questionably derived statistics).
Even in the modern era, the art of snake oil sales is alive and well, so when it comes to your health, the age-old mantra remains true, "Buyer -- or reader -- beware." Here are some of the most-cited words that should raise your skeptic's antenna; their use is frequently a sign of a bullshit health article.
Detox and cleanse
Detox and cleanse are often used in tandem, as in, "Follow this three-day cleanse to detox your body!" That claim? Total bullshit, and for a couple reasons. Dr. Rachele Pojednic, an Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Simmons College and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, Harvard Medical School puts it this way: "Your body is designed to cleanse itself naturally with these organs you have called a liver and kidneys (your intestines add a helping hand, too). But the real problem with a cleanse or a detox (besides the three to seven days of agony) is that it's an absolutely temporary 'fix' (and usually really expensive)."
To break it down for you, detoxes and cleanses are unnecessary agony that cost you a boatload of money. Instead of throwing good money after bad, Dr. Pojednic suggests the always solid, never appreciated advice to, "Play the long game of committed nutritious eating and physical activity, because health doesn't come in three-day spurts of juice, tea, and cayenne pepper."
Quick and easy
Sadly, changing bad habits and revamping your health is never quick or easy, no matter how many "experts" tell you it is… that is, if you'll buy into their latest, greatest program designed to solve all your problems in less than 10 days. As Josh York, founder and CEO of the mobile fitness concept, GYMGUYZ points out, "If it were easy, we wouldn't have an epidemic of obesity in our country."
And as it relates to "quick," short, high-intensity workouts can certainly be effective, but it takes consistency and effort that's maintained for weeks, months, and even years to see lasting results.
It's impossible to do anything instantly! Take "quick and easy" and multiply by infinity.
There are no one-size-fits-all programs, and there are no plans that work for everyone. So when you see the word "blueprint" in an article, internal alarm bells should start going off.
Kristy Stabler, an ISSA-certified personal trainer and nutritionist says, "There are so many factors that go into good health, such as nutrition, exercise, recovery, sleep, supplementation, low-level activity, hormones, and age, just to name a few. To think that someone can give us an exact blueprint of what to do, and we all will get the same fabulous results, is naive."
That doesn't mean it's impossible to find a program that works for you, but if an article claims to have a solution that works for everyone, slow your roll. Stabler continues, "Finding your best health requires trial and error. A lifestyle that's easy for one person may be unacceptable to someone else. You're amazingly different from anyone else and your health plan should be, too."
Cure or heal
It's only natural to want to cure whatever ails you, but "cure" and "heal" are hot-button words that are overused and abused. The fact is, "It's rare that anything is a true, complete and total cure. Many [articles] claim cures that they cannot back up with statistically reliable, empirically validated studies," says Dr. Gretchen Kubacky, a Los Angeles-based health psychologist. In other words, anecdotal accounts and testimonials are interesting, but they're certainly not proof that a regimen or program works. Proceed at your own risk.
Fat does not "blast," nor can it be blasted. Fat actually burns slowly, chugging along much like the Little Engine That Could, only resulting in fat loss if there's a consistent and persistent calorie deficit achieved, typically through a combined change in nutrition and physical activity. Blast is often used to convey a "fast" or "instant" result, which, again, isn't really a thing.
Also, be wary of articles that promise a specific calorie burn, as in, "Burn 600 Calories in 30 Minutes!" Metabolism is highly variable from one person to the next, and is based on factors including height, weight, age, sex, and body composition. It's always better to assume you'll burn fewer calories than suggested, to avoid the risk of overeating later.
Natural and organic
It's not that the words "natural" and "organic" are necessarily bad, and there are certainly appropriate ways to use both terms, but due to their popularity, they're often used to support an agenda that might not be entirely factual, such as, "Natural Supplements You Need to Buy Now," or "10 Reasons Organic Is Always Healthier."
In regards to "organic," Dr. Pojednic affirms, "Of course we want to make sure that our food is sustainable and responsibly sourced, but the halo effect that comes from slapping 'organic' on a label does not make the product actually healthy. You can have organic donuts, ice cream, and cookies just as easily as you can have organic apples, broccoli, and spinach. Organic sugar is still sugar." And (sadface) added sugar of any kind won't do your body good.
"Natural" isn't much better, as Clint Fuqua, a certified personal trainer and health coach points out, "The FDA defines anything that came from or was synthesized from or created to function as a thing found in nature as natural. This means that even synthetic vitamins created from petrol oil, GMO foods and artificial flavors can be called natural."
So yeah, maybe those "natural" supplements you need to buy now aren't really all they're cracked up to be. The good news is that the FDA is currently assessing how the word is used on nutritional labels, but that won't stop publications from shouting it from the rooftops.
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