November 7, 2014
5 “Healthy” Things You Should Stop Doing

When a new fad hits the market, the pendulum of action swings madly to the right. After the fad fades away, the pendulum rests in the middle where it should have remained in the first place. Even after a fad is gone the residual “knowledge” of how awesome it was remains present. Some fads we regret ever happened… do you remember spandex and the workout thong?


Back in the 80’s these matching outfits were a great idea. Form fitting, sleek, and demonstrative of gym prowess, if you wore these, you were awesome. In hindsight, we realize these were only appropriate if you were an extra in Flashdance or leading a Jazzercise class.

Do you remember the most epic of haircuts: The Mullet?


What guy hasn’t sung “Achy Breaky Heart” or disarmed a bomb with duct tape and a ballpoint pen? You may even be thinking, “gosh, what could be manlier than shirtless wood chopping while supporting a mullet?” I’ll tell you: shirtless wood chopping without supporting the mullet. The Mullet used to be awesome and was a perfect expression of a dual purpose haircut, and had the catch phrase: business in front, party in the back. But seriously, have you ever heard a customs agent ask “are you here for business and pleasure?”  I think not. Glad to know that fad is over (for now).

There are many health fads and pendulums out there that are still swinging, and could be giving you false hope. I would like to address 5 health fads that really need to stop and get back to neutral. If you are not doing any of these, then more high fives to you. If you have a misguided friend who swears by one of these, please forward them this blog.

1. Cleanses and Coffee Enema’s

Cleanses offer the promise of cleaning out your body, getting rid of toxins, and saving the planet (OK maybe not the third). There are three types of cleanses that immediately come to mind, the foot bath cleanse, a food cleanse, and a colon cleanse.

First, the foot bath cleanse. Have you seen one of these devices? You put your feet in a bath of salt water, and with the help of a mild electrical current you can draw toxins out of the body.\


Wow! Look at all those toxins in the water! In reality, the device is set up to create rust, NOT to pull out toxins from the body. There is plenty of info online (and in chemistry / physiology books) to debunk this one. For the price of this device, you could go to Trader Joes and get a month’s worth of veggies. Or you could go to Whole Food’s and get at least 3 days’ worth of quality beef, chicken, or fish.

Food cleanses and juice cleanses (discussed below) are still quite popular. They promise to help you lose weight, be rid of toxins, cleanse your liver, and clean you out. However, if we ask the basic questions of what, how, and why this would work, the food cleanse starts to lose its appeal. What you eat or drink on a food cleanse will vary. One cleanse requires drinking a gallon of water mixed with lemon juice, cayenne, and olive oil. Do this three days in a row and eat nothing else, and you will be cleansed. Another cleanse requires drinking ½ cup of olive oil mixed with ¾ cup of grapefruit juice. Well, with that much fat entering your system at one time, you can be sure you will be cleansed. But it may feel more like an exorcism than a health routine. Cleanses often restrict calories to near starvation levels, so of course you will lose weight. Starvation is also used to take advantage of the natural cleansing process your body already has: autophagy. When fuel is low, your cells will starts to gobble up other cells, or proteins within themselves to use as fuel. This is a good thing. But you know what else does this? Exercise. Also, if you are not overeating all the time, your body will do a good job of regulating autophagy at its own discretion. Lastly, if you are eating well, with a wide variety of whole foods, then you really should have nothing to worry about. This will keep your bowels functioning smoothly and efficiently, and you won’t have to go get that coffee enema.

One last note on cleanses. Even if you or a friend have lost weight on a cleanse, they are temporary. Could you imagine a smoker doing a lung cleanse? They might say, “next week I am starting my 3 day cleanse to get back on track.”
To which I would ask, “hmmm, what does your cleanse entail?”
“Well, I go outside and go on a hike and take in at least 350 breaths of fresh air and don’t smoke. After 3 days, I will be feeling awesome.”
…….. you get the point.

2. Every herbal supplement you ever saw promoted on TV.

Before you even think about taking a supplement, you should assess your current lifestyle. Fixing your current eating pattern and exercise routine is paramount to health. I cannot say that herbal supplements are useless, as such a blanket statement could not be fully supported. However, it is the expectation that this (the supplement) is the one thing your diet is missing to make you healthy. No amount of spirulina and garcinia cambogia is going to save you from nightly pizza and a lack of exercise. If you are thinking of taking a supplement, meet with a dietitian. More often than not they have read about the herb or supplement you are interested in and can give you an updated viewpoint regarding the research. Also, you get to use the expertise of a professional to change your eating. There are many supplements on the shelves these days, and some can be helpful to you. Your lifestyle and expectations will be much more helpful to you in the long run. A final note: these supplements are not regulated, so you cannot be sure what is in their “proprietary blend.” If you are adamant about knowing what goes into your body, then you must be willing to accept a little bit of mystery with these supplements.

3. Intermittant Fasting


The purpose of fasting is to take advantage of that natural process mentioned above: autophagy. Looking at the image above, it seems like fasting would be awesome! We all should be doing it. Before jumping to conclusions, let me remind you that exercise does the same thing AND has additional benefits. While fasting is not necessarily a bad thing, practicing it while exercising can put you in a bad place. Your body needs fuel to move. If you don’t provide the fuel, it will consume your own tissues to get it (such as precious muscle). If you are not exercising and are thinking about trying intermittent fasting, consult a professional. As a side note, many people fast because they want to get lean and lose weight. Some of the most efficient weight losers I can think of are bodybuilders and figure / physique competitors, and they are not fasting. They modify their eating and exercise to make the weight peel off. In our 20/20 program, the folks who effectively lose weight fuel themselves for their workouts and do their best to preserve muscle mass.

4. Juicing

Juicing comes in and out of fashion and lately has been back in with the cleanse craze. Also, the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” has inspired a lot of people to change their eating habits and start juicing. Just like fasting, and herbal supplements, it is not the juicing that is bad, but how it is applied to your health. The premise behind juicing is to get all of the processed foods out of your diet and get all the nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, you also remove a lot of the healthy fats and practically all of the fiber from your diet. It is easy to juice 2 apples and a pound of carrots, and drink it in a single sitting (try eating 2 apples and a pound of carrots in one sitting and you will not be feeling so hot). Those calories can add up quickly, and because you are not getting the fat, fiber, and protein, you are more likely to get hungry sooner. When you are juicing as a primary means of getting your nutrients, you are pulling out entire food groups that provide you with necessary nutrients. Hopefully you are not just drinking juice for your daily calories, but if you are, try to at least to keep the pulp and make a smoothie.

There is a common side effect of juicing and intermittent fasting: the hangries. “Hangry” is a term used to describe the negative shift in your emotional state when you are hungry.

This is also labeled as the “hunger monster.” If you don’t eat enough through the day, then at night or the next day you are much more likely to binge eat. Our 20/20 LifeStyles dietitian, Andy, likes to say, “Skipping meals and very low blood sugar makes people’s brains not work so well. Both of these are solid ways to alienate friends and family.”

5. Overeating superfoods

Goji berries, walnuts, and coconut oil, oh my! What makes a superfood so super? Marketing. Of course, food can be placed on a spectrum of quality, caloric density, or nutrient density, but that does not necessarily mean it is worth consuming a ton of the top choices. Heck no. It is probably worth adding a superfood or two to your diet just to mix things up. The body and brain likes variety. Where you can get into trouble is by adding in lots of that superfood in addition to your current eating routine. If you ate nothing but superfoods, you could still gain weight and be unhealthy. Eating in moderation from a wide variety of foods should still be your foundation for food choices. If you are cooking with coconut oil to change things up, then great. If you are adding it to everything because of the magic of medium chain triglycerides, then not so great. You will be adding hundreds of calories of saturated fat to your diet. Also, many folks will trick themselves into believing the superfood counteracts the cheat meals. Like I stated above, no amount of goji berries will counteract nightly pizza and a lack of exercise.

To summarize, the above 5 “healthy” fads are not inherently bad (well, some of them are just plain trickery). The problems arise when these become the sole fixes to your health issues. They are not fixes, they are temporary Band-Aids at best, and at worst they are a depressing waste of time. If you really want to cleanse the body, then place it in an environment where it can cleanse itself effectively. Eat in moderation and from a wide variety of sources. Control your stress. Sleep tight, and make sure you are exercising like a champ. 

Written by Clark Masterson

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