Social Media Health & Fitness Trends (That Are The Worst)
Social media is certainly good for ... something, probably. But getting health advice is most assuredly not that thing. You see, the platforms that have granted anyone the ability to say whatever they want and gain massive followings for it have somehow led to fitness trends that are much more likely to just make everything worse. For example ...
"Fitspiration" Mostly Makes You Feel Terrible
"Fitspiration" is the name given to how we follow more-in-shape individuals than ourselves -- "fit" people, if you will -- in the hopes that staring at their tight asses and glistening abs will "inspire" us to be more like them. It's like that T-shirt with the rhinoceros on a treadmill looking at a poster of a unicorn, only somehow even less helpful.
It turns out that constantly comparing yourself to other people isn't a good way to do anything, unless your goal is to get depressed or pick up an eating disorder. Putting aside the fact that looking at Instagram is a bummer in general, as little as 30 minutes of it a day can lead to higher levels of self-objectification, i.e. viewing yourself as a thing instead of a person. And almost 20% of the folks looking at #fitspo posts wind up exaggerating the discrepancy between how they think they look and how they think they should look. Which in turn can lead to exercise addiction, maladaptive eating patterns, and good ol' hating yourself.
Hell, #fitspo posts are so unnaturally perfect and seemingly unattainable that a lot of folks don't even make it to the gym. They are instead intimidated and left feeling that it isn't for them. Which, for anyone without a dictionary handy, is the exact opposite of being inspired. But let's assume the gambit works on you, and you don't pass out from starving yourself and actually get your butt down to the local gym. Fitspiration followers are more likely to beat themselves up about stuff like missing leg day, which is a sign of compulsive exercise, i.e. the bad kind of exercise. Because c'mon, as anyone whose lost a Tuesday evening to half a season of Justified can tell you, missing the gym once in a while isn't that big of a deal.
Of course, those are just the mental repercussions. Now let's talk about how trying to be like the pretty Instagram people can physically hurt you. If you've ever watched real people at a gym, you know that exercise is weird and gross. People sweat and fart and make strange faces. No one wants to show that to the world on purpose. So if you're an Instagram influencer and want to show off your rocking bod, what do you do? Something that looks cool, even if it took you years of normal, ugly practicing to get there, or something that's so overwrought and bonkers that it doesn't actually do anything?
The most popular posts are the ones that involve unnecessary and difficult exercises -- ones that display strength, as opposed to building it. So if you try to emulate that, as many a #fitspo person encourages you to, that's a good way to pull something, or take a medicine ball to the face, or worse. Hell, sometimes you literally can't do something, no matter how much you practice, because the person doing it is basically a mutant.
Look, no one's saying not to exercise, or that pretty Instagram people have all made secret deals with various devils. I'm just saying to be smart, and maybe take advice from actual professionals instead of whoever has the nicest ass online.
The Side Effects Of IV Vitamin Treatments Are Worse Than The Hangover
Hungover social media influencers have been touting the benefits of intravenous vitamin treatments for a few years now. And on paper, it makes sense. Mainlining a solution of saline and calcium and magnesium should make any sleep-deprived, dehydrated vomiter feel better. It's like drinking fluids and eating healthy to replenish yourself, without having to, y'know, do any of that.
Except most of these vitamin IVs aren't being administered by trained professionals, and bad insertions are rampant, causing complications that include bruising, bleeding, infection, and inflammation of the veins. Hell, Kendall Jenner was hospitalized after a session. Vitamins and supplements can mess with prescriptions or can fuck you up all on their own. Too much potassium in your bloodstream is a medical condition called hyperkalemia that can mess with your metabolism and slow your heart. When you ingest vitamins normally, let's say through eating food, your stomach can filter out what you need from what you don't, making higher amounts safer and more palatable. But when you literally shoot that shit into your veins, generally at much higher rates than you'd find in bananas, there are no safeguards.
Never mind that because these vitamin "cocktails" are technically supplements, the boutique IV clinics that are administering them aren't regulated by the FDA, meaning there could be literally anything in those bags. The CEO of a door-to-door IV clinic in Arizona actually referred to them as "chocolate chip cookies," adding that "everyone has their own recipe." And surely no one's ever fucked up baking before.
But here's the real kicker: Most of the shit they're pumping into you doesn't actually do anything. Yes, it might help a hangover or a migraine, in that it is a bag of fluids and electrolytes, but it's not going to do anything lasting. The FTC actually charged the company iV Bars Incorporated with making "false claims about their product's health benefits," after they argued their drips could fight cancer. And, I mean, given that all the rejuvenating claims of IV vitamin treatments could just as easily be accomplished with a Gatorade and a nap, that was pretty goddamn ballsy.
Appetite Suppressant Lollipops Are Snake Oil Candies
It simply wouldn't be an article about bad-faith social media practices without mentioning her, so here goes: Kim Kardashian was taken to task not too long ago for touting an appetite-suppressing lollipop which, surprise, was just a bunch of sugary bullshit. Aside from potentially inducing eating disorders in impressionable youth, the lollipops are also just, uh ... lollipops.
The "weight loss" ingredient is a tiny bit of a saffron extract called satiereal, which has no actual effect on weight loss. The company behind the lollipops, Flat Tummy Co. (which already got in trouble once for pushing detox teas) is apparently basing their entire argument for satiereal being anything on a single 2010 study done by the extract's manufacturer. More recent studies have proven that claim to be horseshit.
They're basically telling you to eat candy instead of anything with nutritional value to curb your appetite, which many doctors have pointed out is the opposite of a good idea. You, as a human person, are supposed to be hungry. Tricking yourself into thinking you're not only works to deprive you of nutrients and create bad eating habits. And for added fun, the lollipops are technically "supplements," so again, they're unregulated by the FDA. So who knows what's actually in there!
The "Purple Diet" Is Pretty Lackluster
Some years ago, Mariah Carey gave birth to twins, and like many a woman not allowed to look like an actual woman who just gave birth to twins, she immediately decided to shed the baby weight. Reportedly, she ate nothing but purple foods to do so, adhering to and advocating for the aptly named "purple diet." And while it's true that purple foods often have antioxidants to help keep your hearth healthy and may reduce your risk of cancer, you, like, still need protein, iron, and other nutrients not found in grapes and cabbage and eggplant.
To maintain a healthy diet -- which is especially important if you're trying to lose weight -- you need to, in the words of noted health food advisory board Skittles, "taste the rainbow." Never mind that purple foods do not in any way have anything to do with weight loss. Unless you count starving yourself as an effective regimen, which no. Please don't do that.
People Keep Trying To Replace Sunscreen With Stupidity
Look, I think we've all agreed that putting on sunscreen fucking sucks. Either it's slimy, or it's an aerosol and you're inhaling it and getting it in your eyes. So in an effort to make sunscreen less annoying, several companies have been selling and promoting "sunscreen pills" on the socials. But here's the bottom line: Sunscreen pills don't work. Full stop.
This isn't to say that they're necessarily bad for you. Made from various plant extracts, some pills can curb some of the inflammation from a sunburn and/or help mitigate some of the damage from ultraviolet radiation. "Some" being operative word there. Sunscreen pills are being touted as a replacement for regular sunscreen, which 100% no they fucking aren't. That bright fireball in the sky that burns your skin and gives you cancer will still burn your skin and give you cancer.
That differentiation is actually why the FDA came after several manufacturers recently, explaining that these pills are "putting people's health at risk by giving consumers a false sense of security that a dietary supplement could prevent sunburn, reduce early skin aging caused by the sun, or protect from the risks of skin cancer." Which is certainly good news for Big Sunscreen, but what about all us knuckleheads who refuse to give them our hard-earned dollars? Well, good news! You can make your own sunscreen!
I mean, it doesn't work at all, really. But don't tell that to Pinterest. Recipes for "DIY" sunscreen are fucking rampant on the social media board. And almost a full 70% of those recipes are hot trash. Again, while most of these recipes aren't necessarily bad for you, they still trick you into thinking you're protected against the sun, which means you'll stay out longer and put yourself at a greater risk of sunburn and skin damage. Honestly, I don't see what's wrong with just staying inside all the time. Or underground. I mean, it's working out great so far for me and my Morlock friends.
"Clean Eating" Is Just A Fun Name For A Serious Eating Disorder
Instagram existing only for sandwich photos is an old joke, but recently, this focus on food porn has helped to spread the notion of "clean eating" -- i.e. a diet that consists of only raw and perfect (read: photogenic) foods. Nutrition experts, meanwhile, like to call clean eating by its clinical name: the eating disorder orthorexia nervosa.
While some proponents of the trend are content to simply cut out processed foods, many are doubling down and focusing intently on what their food looks like and where it came from. And focusing on looks and purity is not a good way to choose what to eat. Because when the goal is as nebulous as "being healthier," rather than losing weight or boosting your immune system or whatever, there are no real metrics, and therefore no guidelines. Eating "purely" becomes its own thing, with some dieters becoming almost religiously fanatical about what counts as "clean."
That's where the line between diet and disorder gets dangerously thin. By calling one food "clean," you're implying that other foods are "dirty." And dirty foods are obviously bad, and doing something bad is shameful, and so on. Suddenly your entire association with food is broken, and even if you don't descend into psychological distress, such a diet is just not healthy. At its core, clean eating is "rigid and restrictive," and significantly limits your avenues for obtaining iron and calcium and all the other necessary parts of a cheeseburger. One woman was subsisting largely on sweet potatoes and carrots, which stopped her period and turned her skin orange (neither of which, it should be noted, was something she wanted).
Clean eating has all the same nutritional hurdles as veganism, only amplified, because if your tofu looks too weird, you can't eat it. And guys, tofu always looks weird. But here's the other thing: Just because something looks pretty doesn't mean it's edible. In fact, one botanist scrolled through Instagram to point out all the poisonous flowers people were decorating their cakes with, including smoothies topped with catharanthus, which contains the same potently toxic alkaloids as chemotherapy medicines. So if there's any lesson here, it's this: Social media is full of lies, and if you're looking for health and fitness advice, go see an actual trained professional. Unless they have an Instagram account.
Eirik Gumeny spent his twenties subsisting off of Slim Jims, Gummi Bears, and Surge, so you can totally trust him when it comes to dieting advice. A 10th-anniversary collection of all five of his Exponential Apocalypse books is due out at the end of February. Follow him on Twitter.
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