In our world inundated with health and wellness advice, it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of people eager to share their *wisdom.* And as we approach the time of year when holiday gatherings become the norm, the influx of health and wellness tips seems to be as abundant as the festivities themselves. The confusing reality is that, even with how loud and pervasive it is, much of the messaging swirling around our feeds and inboxes is health advice to ignore.
But, how do we ignore it?
Sure, some of this advice is on constant replay throughout the year, but it seems to reach its peak in anticipation and then in the “aftermath” of the holiday season. You’ve heard a lot of it before – eat this, avoid that, exercise this way, don’t do this, and so on. It’s enough to make you feel like you need a daily checklist to meticulously track your adherence to “the rules.” And the consequence if you don’t follow? Well, the advice-givers have convinced us that our overall well-being is going to deteriorate immediately, and subsequently, the earth will probably start crumbling beneath our feet.
I can empathize with that feeling. I’ve been there, grappling with the pressure to conform to every nugget of wellness “wisdom.” And I’ve experienced how it can lead to anxiety, stress, obsession, and how it can perpetuate disordered eating habits and behaviors.
So, consider this your friendly reminder, whether you’ve heard the advice a thousand times or just once, whether you’re dealing with eating disorders or body image issues, are on a path to recovery, or don’t feel the struggle at all right now– there’s some health advice we can all collectively agree to let go of this season and beyond.
8 Pieces of Health Advice to Ignore This Season (and beyond)
1. “If you want to be *healthy,* you just need willpower!“
Cue the TikToks with the super dramatic music that features someone waking up at 4:30am and heading to the gym with their pre-workout in hand. The overlay text will have some variation of “While everyone else is sleeping, I’m working toward my goals,” while said person does a pull-up. Okay, excuse the sarcasm, but.. Come on. For one, can we first agree that 4:30am is the middle of the night? And secondly, the guilt trip here is more cringe-worthy than it is motivational. The message? If you want to achieve a health goal, you must exercise (no pun intended) an intense amount of “discipline” and willpower, no matter the cost. The truth is, sustainable health goals are not built on extreme sacrifice.
2. “Calories in, calories out!”
You’ve got to burn what you eat if it’s over a certain number of calories. The implication? You are actually a robot. So being *healthy* is as simple as plugging in some numbers to a formula. You should control your weight, and to do so, just track the number of calories you eat, and make sure you burn more than you consume.
I did this for a long time. And for me, there were few things that dehumanized the eating and movement experience like reducing them to numbers to plug in and manipulate. Our body composition and health status is impacted by far more than the number of calories we consume and expel on any given day. Reducing it to this oversimplification fosters a mindset that promotes unproductive and obsessive fixations on arbitrary concepts.
3. “Wait 20 minutes after you eat to feel full.”
This seems logical. But what I learned is that it actually is a *rule* that inadvertently suggests that you cannot and should not trust your body’s signals when you are eating. If we don’t feel full when we are done with a meal, we should *double check* by waiting a while before eating more. This will prevent us from eating “too much.” This can undermine our body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, and can cause us to attach shame to not being full after one plate of food.
4. “Eat fruit if you’re craving something sweet.”
This age-old advice implies that when those sweet cravings hit, reaching for a piece of fruit is the virtuous solution. The subtext here is a subtle critique of anything “artificially sweetened.” Aside from the fact that cutting out foods entirely is just unrealistic, this advice fails to acknowledge the reality that we do not just eat to stay alive; we eat for enjoyment, too! If health advice attempts to suck the life out of eating a cookie, we have to question how healthy that actually is.
5. “Detox your body with a juice cleanse.”
Detox your body, “clear your gut,” reset your metabolism, lose weight quickly – I’ve heard each of these are reasons a juice cleanse is a *good idea.* First of all, to echo an earlier point, sustainable health goals and improvements are not achieved through extreme sacrifice.
While it is true that you may lose weight if you do a three day cleanse of sorts, it is likely that you are doing so because your body is starving, not because you are detoxifying your system. Doing a cleanse carries with it its fair share of risks: malnutrition, dehydration, blood sugar irregularities, kidney problems. It’s best to let this advice go in one ear and out the other.
6. “Drink water if you’re hungry.”
“Avoid food unless entirely necessary!” they say. Drink water to curb your appetite, and if this does not work, drink more water. Now, no one is making the argument that water isn’t important. Staying hydrated is necessary, but using hydration as an appetite suppressant is not necessary. Even if this works, the mentality that makes this feel like a viable option is problematic. This demonizes hunger and can cause you to second-guess what your body is indicating it needs.
7. “Don’t eat at night!”
I used to be a slave to this one. So much so, that I would purposefully go to bed earlier than I normally would to ward off the hunger pangs that started to plague me around 8pm. The reality here? If you are hungry at night, your body may need more food to be fully satiated or you may just want a snack for comfort (and this is okay!). If you are routinely hungry at night, your body may be signaling that it requires more fuel to operate optimally, and getting this at night is not something to fear or frown upon.
8. “Only shop the perimeter of the grocery store.”
While fresh produce, meats, and fresh fish can be great parts of your diet, the advice to only shop on the perimeter of the store can be quite limiting. It inadvertently suggests that the inner aisles are somehow inferior and less healthy. Not only is this rooted in the assumption that everyone has access to the same food options, it’s also an inaccurate assessment of what is both practical and nutritious for individuals and families. In reality, the “inner aisles” of a grocery story contain a wealth of nutritious, convenient, and accessible options and pantry staples to integrate into your daily meals and snacks.
Health Advice to Ignore: Saying Goodbye to the Fear-Induced Health Tips
At their core, these and many other pieces of health advice swirling around in conversations and on social media feeds are fear-driven attempts to control our bodies at the cost of our physical and mental health. They tend to rob us of the very thing we are striving for, and as we enter a season full of gatherings and events, let’s try to do so with our minds and bodies in a good place – a place that allows us to fully embrace and enjoy all this season has to offer.
By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC
All images via Unsplash
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