I’ve been practicing wellness and utilizing natural products and medicine since I was at least 11, which is when I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease. My parents hadn’t grown up thinking about wellness and holistic health, but once it was a matter of healing illness in my family, they changed a lot about how we ate and lived. We didn’t even think of it as “wellness” — it was just what we had to do to be healthy! So today, as wellness becomes more and more hip, I have mixed feelings. While it’s exciting to see a lot of wellness practices and products going mainstream, there are also a lot of buzzy trends that — based on my personal health experiences and the interviews I’ve filmed since founding WellBe — I believe are more hype than substance. Below are three trends I subscribe to and three I don’t, and why.
Three 2018 Wellness Trends I Follow
1) SoulCycle/Group Fitness: I love SoulCycle! I know, I know, I’m a millennial urban girl cliché. But I love it for two very specific reasons that have much more to do with mental health than physical health. The first is music therapy. The intense focus on music in SoulCycle classes, rather than RPMs or calories burned, makes you focus on just the music and the beat. Once I do that, my own expectations, guilt, stress, anxiety — it all melts away. Music therapy is a powerful tool used in clinical settings that can improve a variety of conditions, including some kinds of mental illness. The combination of belting out the lyrics to my favorite Britney Spears song (remember I was born in the 80’s!) while moving my body creates a sensational high and quells stress and anxiety. The second reason is community. A 2017study showed that exercising in groups is better for you than exercising alone, because it improves not only your physical body but also your mental health. Humans need connection, and in today’s world of working remotely and being glued to our smartphones, that connection is getting more and more scarce.
2) Smoothies for Breakfast: I fought this wellness trend for a long time, but finally gave in when I received a Vitamix as a wedding gift and have never looked back. A reason I love smoothies is that you’re putting so many different, nutrient-rich ingredients into your first meal of the day. Before I was putting 3-5 ingredients in a cereal bowl. With all the nut butter, plant-based yogurt, leafy greens, avocados, seeds, spices, fruit, nut milk, and more that I now throw in the blender, that number has climbed to 10-12! Another reason I love smoothies is that I know I should be having vegetables at every meal, but sometimes (especially in the morning) it just doesn’t seem appealing. With smoothies, I can disguise them and mostly taste the fruit and nut butter. And lastly, since it’s the whole food going in, I’m not losing fiber (see juicing below for more on this)!
3) Plant-based Yogurt: I made this switch after I founded WellBe and began filming stories of health recovery. I heard from many people who had successfully healed autoimmune and other chronic diseases that removing dairy did wonders for their gut, skin, and respiratory health. Though I don’t have a strong sensitivity to dairy, I have switched to plant-based yogurts to reduce my intake of inflammatory foods, and because I have fluctuating thyroid antibodies, which is a symptom of Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition. My favorite brands at the moment are Lavva, Forager, and Anita’s, but there are so many new great ones coming out every month it seems!
Three 2018 Wellness Trends I Skip
1) Restaurant Salads: Okay, I know this one seems crazy. But in the era of globalization, we have no idea who has handled our food when we eat out or where it’s come from; even scarier, getting just one serious foodborne illness that requires a powerful antibiotic will wipe out all of the good bacteria in your gut (and therefore your immune system), allowing bad bacteria and fungus to gain control of your gut and cause a whole host of different health problems. Yikes. Most of the biggest foodborne illness outbreaks in the past few years have been in raw greens (I assume we’ve all been steering clear of romaine recently?) and packaged raw veggies, so to reduce my risk, I choose to only eat raw produce at home after soaking them with grapefruit seed extract for 15 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I miss having a salad when I’m out to lunch or dinner! But my gut health is too important to me, so I opt for cooked veggies in restaurants, and steer clear of raw fruit (an exception is a lime wedge on a drink, I will squeeze in the juice but I do not drop it in!).
2) Juice: A wellness advocate who doesn’t drink green juice?! I know, you’re shocked! This is for three reasons. First, as a continuation of the point above, when you’re eating out you have no idea how your raw produce was handled (if a food handler didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, you could be drinking straight E. coli — no, thanks!). Second, if it’s not organic (unless stated when purchasing, it is likely not) you’re drinking concentrated pesticides — again, no thanks! The last reason I don’t drink juice is that when you juice a vegetable or fruit, you’re taking away the fiber (skin), which is crucial to how your body digests and breaks down the sugar in an apple, for example. Nature is a genius as they say, so all of the individual components of that apple are needed for your body to properly digest it (OK, maybe not the core). Because of this, I try to eat the whole piece of fruit, whether I eat it straight or cut it up and throw it in a smoothie!
3) Keto/Paleo/Vegan/Mediterranean Diets: I get a lot of questions about whether I follow a particular diet and my answer is this: There is compelling evidence from many reputable nutritionists and MDs for vegan, ketogenic, mediterranean, and paleo diets. How can they all be entirely wrong or entirely right? Because of this, I have taken dogma out of my diet. I believe in eating mostly plants and only a little high quality, clean meat and fish (and organic dairy, wine, and sure some French fries when I really want them!). The popular diets out there today all share certain commonalities that I subscribe to, such as cutting out fried and processed foods, non-fruit sugar, fake sugar, dirty meat and dairy, and refined carbs, and they all have a foundation of mostly vegetables. So limiting nutrient-poor, potentially toxic food, plus loading up on vegetables is my only food “religion” at the moment. That being said, our bodies and the science are always changing. If my body is dealing with something in which gluten and/or dairy becomes a major trigger, I will cut it out. It’s about understanding what keeps your body the healthiest, and being open to adjusting when needed.