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Apr 03, 2019

Why Wellness Fads are Dangerous

Written by Dr. Caroline Leaf

It seems like almost every day there is another wellness fad, whether it is a new diet that claims this is this “only” way to eat, a “natural” supplement that will help you lose 10 pounds in 5 days, or a new type of machine that will get rid of all your cellulite. Wellness fads may be extremely popular, but they can also be ineffective and extremely dangerous.

What makes these wellness fads so appealing, and so risky?

1) The quick-fix illusion. Since the advent of the technology era, we have become increasingly obsessed with quick fixes and “biohacking” our own bodies. As I discuss in my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart, our whole idea of time has changed—we are ruled by the dictates of a 24-hour clock, and all of us feel the pressure of its ticking. As a result, if something promises to solve a problem quickly, we are far more likely to fall for the scam, even though we know that true change takes time, especially when it comes to our physical and mental health.

The promise of instant change is not only false, but also dangerous. When we try to cheat our own biology with extreme diets, supplements or contraptions, we may see our desired results in a short amount of time, but we could also be doing untold damage to our brains and bodies, while setting ourselves up for an unhealthy relationship with food in the future. Indeed, if we do not take the time to change the way we THINK about food, we will never change the way we EAT food, because our thoughts direct our food choices. Quick fixes may seem to work fast, but are never sustainable.To this end, I have created a Think and Eat Yourself Smart online program that helps you change the way you understand food and eating over 63 days, which is roughly the time it takes to create a new mental habit. Most people tend to give up around day 4, so when it comes to changing the way you eat it is important to recognize that true change is something that takes time, but the results are worth it! This program is designed to help you change your mindset towards food and physical health, and help build healthy eating and thinking habits. 

2) Prioritizing the external over the internal. Through propagandizing, wellness scams make us feel like the only way we will be at peace with ourselves (that is reduce the anxiety in our own life) is if we are accepted by others based on how we look (the external). Wellness scams thus play to our vulnerabilities and insecurities, especially our desire to be accepted as part of a group, and can potentially create or perpetuate an unhealthy body image. Furthermore, we often believe these scams will solve an internal problem (such as some personal issue that we are dealing with), and when they don’t and the initial dopamine rush is gone, we look to find another fad to solve the new problem that has arisen, essentially getting ourselves stuck in a toxic loop as we try to suppress the problem. A wellness fad will never solve an internal issue. 

It is far more important to deal with the internal problem than the external symptoms. So how do you identify and resolve an internal issue? It starts with learning how to self-regulate your thought life, so that it does not manifest in unhealthy external behaviors. Self-regulation is the process of becoming aware of your thinking and mindsets, analyzing why you have these thoughts through a process of internal dialogue, and then taking an action step to change the way you think. An important part of the action step is reconceptualizing (redesigning) thoughts that are holding us back by deciding what thought we would rather have, writing this down and then working toward eliminating the toxic thought and practicing the healthy thought over three sets of 21 days, which is the minimum amount of time it takes to change a negative thinking pattern.  

For more information on how to do this see my new app SWITCH (coming soon!) and my book Switch on Your Brain.

3) Not examining your motives.When it comes to your health, it is so important that you ask yourself why you want to change. You need to think about what motivates you, writing down your thoughts and analyzing them. Is it for yourself? Is it to please someone else? What are you measuring yourself against? Indeed, you need to ask yourself if you are more in love with the idea of change than the process of changing. Long-term, sustainable change requires a strong mental foundation to support it. If your motives are based on what is popular today and gone tomorrow, or just the desire to see instantaneous results because you are impatient and do not want to put in the required effort, you will find it very hard to develop healthy habits that promote true mental and physical wellbeing. You will be more susceptible to the manipulative marketing of wellness fads, which never focus on the process of change and will never satisfy you completely. 

4) Not asking enough questions. Many people place way too much value on the opinions and advice of others. This is a way we try to reduce uncertainty when it comes to decision-making (for example, reading product reviews). Yet, often we do not ask enough questions. If everyone says it works, it must work, right? It worked for that person, so it will work for me, yes? The truth is, we all have different bodies, and we all have different needs. What works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. In fact, certain wellness fads can even be dangerous depending on a particular health condition, so we need to be very careful.

We also tend to place too much value on social media influencers, especially when it comes to wellness, because we think they must be doing something right. Since the beginning of social media began, we have seen these influencers as the decision makers, people with authority. But don’t let looks deceive you—ask questions, do your own research and don’t just accept what you see or read at face-value. Social media has helped create a culture of “showing off” on a much larger scale than ever before, and this can be risky when it comes to our health. We have become addicted to the extrinsic value of seeing what someone is promising us, and this dopamine rush affects our decision-making, which wellness fads unfortunately prey on. So always take the time to monitor, question and restrict your social media use, and research and think deeply about what is best for you.

 

For more information on how to optimize and improve your mental and physical health, wellness, and nutrition, see my book  Think and Eat Yourself Smart. You can get it today for less 20% with the code TAEYS20 at checkout! 

 

 

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