sliced green fruits

Wellness Industry Red Flags – Buzzwords to Watch For

It can be hard to tell what is a waste of money in the wellness industry, but there are certain red flag words you can watch out for to avoid getting scammed. You can find scams in pretty much any industry, but the wellness industry has the advantage of being able to use sciencey-sounding words to convince you a product or program is legitimate. That combined with capitalizing on people’s insecurities and health goals, creates some pretty tantalizing offers. Here are some common wellness industry red flags you can watch out for to clue you in that an offer is bogus.

Toxin/Toxin-Free

Toxins are a huge buzzword in the wellness industry, playing on our fears and the average person’s lack of knowledge about chemistry, biology, and manufacturing. The “natural is best” argument makes sense on its face, but just because something is manufactured or lab-made, doesn’t make it unsafe. The wellness industry would have you believe that we are constantly being bombarded with massive loads of chemicals that do everything from make us gain weight to cause infertility. But there is little to no scientific evidence behind those claims. These companies also neglect to mention that plenty of natural solutions can actually be toxic, so natural is not necessarily safer.

Bottom Line: You don’t have to pay $47 for a toxin-free shampoo and the claims these all-natural companies make are unfounded.

(if you want to learn more about chemicals, particularly in food products, check out @FoodScienceBabe)

Cleanse/Detox

Similar to “toxin,” marketing of cleanses and detox programs rely on consumer fear and distrust to convince us that we need these products to cleanse our bodies and optimize our health. But here’s the thing: our bodies are already equipped with a top-of-the-line detoxing system, our liver and kidneys. Our bodies simply don’t store up all of the toxins we’re exposed to and we don’t need any special products or programs to rid our bodies of them. Our bodies already do that.

Bottom Line: Save your money and skip the cleanses and detoxes.

Superfood

Repeat after me: there is no such thing as a superfood. “Superfood” is literally a made up marketing term designed to play up the supposed nutritional superiority of a food to sell more of it. Off the top of my head, blueberries, kale, acai, and cauliflower have each had their turn as superfood of the year. But the nutritional value of these fruits and veggies is no greater than any other produce. All fruits and veggies are good for you, but none of them are going to magically cure any ailments or upgrade your biomarkers overnight.

I see this term used most often to market over priced protein powders, mostly from MLM companies. They’re just another shake. There’s nothing super about them.

Bottom Line: Superfoods do not have super powers.

(For more reading on diet industry shenanigans, check out Food Isn’t Medicine by Dr. Joshua Wolrich)

Limited Time Only/Limited Edition Flavor

This is another one MLM companies LOVE to rely on. They fabricate a product shortage to create FOMO and convince you that you just have to seize this opportunity because you can’t live without X wellness product. This is a huge red flag that the product is not worth it. You shouldn’t have to fake a shortage to convince people to buy your product if it’s really a good product.

Bottom Line: Short of an actual prescription medication used to treat a specific condition, there is no wellness product you truly can’t live without.

Bonus Phrases!

Here are a couple bonus wellness industry red flags to clue you into possible scams.

Boosters

Anything that promises to boost your immune system or boost your metabolism, etc. is a scam. It’s just not a thing – 0 science behind this.

Spot Reducing Fat

Any product or program that promises you will lose weight (specifically fat) in a specific area is selling you on lies. You cannot spot reduce body fat – whether it’s with a supplement or doing those weird air humping videos on TikTok. If you want to reduce fat in your belly area, you have to reduce fat in your body overall. You can’t just target one area – that’s just not how our bodies work.

Rapid Weight Loss

Any product or program that promises you can lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time is a HUGE red flag. First, you can expect that any weight loss from such programs/products will not last. Secondly, they could be relying on unhealthy means to get you there. Third, the means they do use will without a doubt not be sustainable in the long term. A reasonable rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, for reference.

photo of people having dinner together

What to do when you overdo it

Feeling like you overate can be a really crummy feeling, but the tactics we tend to turn to in those instances typically aren’t helpful options. Skipping meals to compensate, overexercising, only eating certain foods – these tactics don’t work and promote unhealthy habits. Fact: you can’t “compensate” for overeating. So what should you do when this happens?

First, let go of trying to compensate for overeating. This simply is not how our bodies work. Your body has already digested and dealt with that food accordingly. It is not sitting in a reserve tank to be emptied and you can’t create a void in your body for that food to take up by creating a calorie deficit the next day. Furthermore, even if you do successfully undereat or overexercise the next day, your body will adjust for that accordingly. You may or may not notice it, but 2-3 days later you will be much hungrier than usual and eat more. Remember, our bodies evolved to keep us alive through periods of starvation. Finally, we don’t get to pick and choose what gets burned and what doesn’t.

Second, be realistic and take it easy on yourself. One day of overdoing it isn’t going to make a difference. One weekend of overdoing also probably won’t make a significant difference. You won’t gain 10 pounds overnight and you won’t “undo” any progress you’ve made. Something else to note, when I work with clients who feel like they went way overboard with their eating, very often when we actually map out what they ate, it’s not as much as they thought.

Third, still practice those healthy habits you’ve been working on. Remember, there is no proverbial wagon to fall off of, no proverbial train to derail. Every day is a new opportunity to pursue your goals and those 4 margaritas didn’t “ruin” that opportunity. So carry right on with eating in balance. Move your body. Drink plenty of water. Listen to your body.

If you want to avoid overdoing it the future, keep in mind the main reason why we engage in overeating is deprivation. When we don’t allow ourselves to eat certain things, when we dub certain foods “bad,” we give those foods all of our power. It’s human nature to respond to deprivation this way. The best way to make sure these overindulgence episodes happen rarely, is to give yourself permission to the eat the foods you want to eat when you want to eat them. Yes, absolutely, practice balance and make sure you’re also eating lots of veggies. But, chocolate cake doesn’t only have to happen on your birthday. Mashed potatoes and gravy don’t only have to happen on Thanksgiving. When we only let ourselves enjoy these foods once a year, that’s when we get into issues with last supper eating.

photo of people having dinner together
Trying to compensate for overeating is not the answer. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

flat lay photography of vegetable salad on plate

You don’t need a meal plan. Here’s Why

It may seem like it’s the solution you need, but a meal plan probably won’t be very helpful…not in the long-term anyway.

Here’s the thing about a meal plan: it tells you what to eat and when but what happens when you’re not longer on it? What if you can’t afford to continue having someone write them for you? Or your nutritionist moves on? Or whatever program you’re doing ends?

You will probably resume the same eating habits you were accustomed to previously. And that is not your fault.

You see, a meal plan is really no different than a diet in that it forces you to overhaul all of your eating habits at once without teaching you any skills or helping you gain insight into your eating habits. The result? It’s not sustainable.

So if you are hoping to change your eating habits in the long-term, a meal plan is not the answer. In fact, unless you’re just looking for someone to plan your menu for you because you’re tapped out in terms of energy, creativity, and brain power, I don’t recommend them.

So what is more effective? Work with someone who can:

  • teach you how to compose a balanced meal and how to snack to keep you energized throughout the day
  • coach you in setting reasonable meal planning and prep goals
  • help you develop the skills you need to meal plan effectively
  • coach you in working through obstacles that may disrupt your meal plan

The difference is that skills continue on. They’re translatable. Meal plans are a one-time fix. So you’ll get way more “bang for your buck,” so to speak, focusing on picking up skills and strategy rather than having it done for you.

So before you seek out meal planning services from someone, ask yourself what your goals are and what you are hoping to get out of it. If your goals are more focused on long-term eating habits, that meal plan probably isn’t the best solution.

If you’re interested in learning how to make healthy eating work in your busy life, give me a shout.

woman seated at computer

About Your Work From Home Space…

What does your work from home space look like? One of the most common issues that I hear from employees now working from home is that they very often feel like they’re living at work rather than working from home. This can significantly impact their stress levels in negative ways, leading to burnout and even physical ailments. Luckily, there is something you can do today to start to improve this situation.

Work Space vs Living Space

I’m sure you are familiar with the saying “your home is your castle.” Home is supposed to be your safe space, the place where you relax, recover, unwind. But when we are working in those living spaces, they lose that relaxing feel.

Ideally, you should have a workspace that is separate from your living space and the two do not cross. However, this is not possible for many of us, in which case, we need to get a little creative to separate the two.

The Bedroom is not a Work from Home Space

First and foremost, your workspace should not be your bedroom. If your home is your castle, then your bedroom is the keep – the strongest most protected part. This is your most important rest space. When you start working in your bedroom, or worse, in your bed, you stop associating that space with rest and start associating it with work and all of the stress and anxiety that may go with it. This translates into poor sleep, low energy, higher stress levels, and more. Once that association is created, it’s difficult to change it back.

Working in Your Living Space

Crossing the bedroom off your list may leave you with your kitchen, dining room, or living room as your shared work and living space. In this situation, you can set the scene for your work day versus your non-work hours in order to create some separation.

Setting Up Your Work from Home Space

When it is time for you to work, set that space up to resemble work. Set all your work materials up nearby. If you have some things from your desk in the office, like a certain mug full of pens, setting those out is helpful. Next, remove as many distractions unique to your home as you can (by turning off the TV, for example). Finally, try to create a work routine. This could mean getting up at the same time every day, actually preparing a lunch for yourself for later, or setting a schedule for checking email, etc. Taking these steps will help mimic a routine workday at the office and put you in a work mindset, making you more focused and productive.

Setting Up Your Living Space

Once your work day is up, it’s time to convert that work space back to a living space. Put away everything that you used to create your working space in the morning. As long as those items are in view, you will find it more difficult to “switch off.” Plus, if your laptop is away, it will be a lot harder to answer emails at 8 pm! If possible, replace some of those work items with “homie” items – whether they be scented candles, family pictures, etc. Creating a routine can play an important role here as well. Set a hard stop time at the end of the day and create a ritual to mark the transition from work time to home time. For example, take a walk around the block every day at the end of the day to mimic your old home commute. Taking each of these steps will help transition you back into your home mindset so you will be better able to relax, switch off, and unwind.

Many of us have found working from home far more stressful and challenging then we could have imagined. While this may be our reality for a while, there are, fortunately, little tricks we can use to help mitigate that stress.

Since work from home is our new normal, many employers have started offering wellness webinars to support their employees from home. Be sure to check out Well & Simple’s employee wellness offerings to help support your workforce!

The Case against Employee “Wellness” Challenges

Employee wellness challenges are very popular corporate programs – from walking challenges to weight loss challenges. But these challenges actually come with a number of issues which can make them more of a problem than a solution.

1. Change is temporary

One of the big drawbacks of these challenges is that they are not effective in creating any lasting changes in employee behaviors. Typically, employees will engage in a given healthy behavior for the duration of the challenge but fall off as soon as it’s over (if they make it that far). This is because the challenge is an extrinsic motivator rather than an intrinsic motivator. Extrinsic motivators are simply not as potent as internally-driven motivators. If one of the goals of your wellness program is to change employee behaviors, challenges will not achieve that.

2. Workplace wellness challenges don’t account for skills and strategies

Another reason why change does not last following these challenges is that they don’t provide employees with the skills and tools they need to implement the challenge objectives in a meaningful way. Instead, left to their own devices, employees will find a strategy that works for the time being, typically forcing the habit. Strategies are hodge-podge and not sustainable rather than accounting their day-to-day reality in the long-term.

3. Challenges can be triggering

For someone struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating, weight loss and fitness challenges can be triggering for them. This puts their recovery in jeopardy and can result in their sliding back into disordered behaviors. These challenges are also inherently fatphobic, equating weight with health and overlooking the fact that there is more to someone’s weight than eating and exercise habits. Employees in larger bodies may feel singled out or unduly pressured in the course of these challenges. If you want to foster a safe, inclusive work environment, then it is best to avoid these wellness challenges.

4. Success tactics may not be healthy

When there is the promise of a prize and the challenge is short-term, some employees may resort to tactics that are not healthful for the sake of winning. Obviously, employing unhealthy tactics undermines the intent of the challenge and can create other issues for employee health.

So what should you offer if employee wellness programs aren’t effective?

An effective employee wellness program must take into account the unique needs of your staff. When is your most difficult season? What are their major stressors? What are their biggest health concerns (if you know of any)? It must be educational as well as practical and motivational. It should teach appropriate skills and strategies and leave employees with doable action items. There should also be some variety in the program to appeal to different learning styles: some webinars, some demonstrations, some interactive and hands-on options. Above all, your employees need to feel that it is a program that truly has their best interests at heart.

Be sure to check out Well & Simple’s comprehensive employee wellness offerings

The Trouble with Fitness Trackers

These days it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have some type of wearable fitness tracker. You probably have one yourself. I have one – it’s on the floor between my bed and nightstand where it’s been gathering dust for months. Oops. From the Apple Watch to the Fitbit, these things are everywhere, but are these fitness trackers as beneficial as they seem?

Accuracy and Arbitrariness

The first issue with these trackers is that many of the goals they set for you are completely arbitrary. The goal of 10,000 steps, for example, is not some magic number that was arrived at after decades of scientific studies. It actually came from an ad campaign for a Japanese pedometer in the 1960s. And, while there are some studies that show it is beneficial to walk 10,000 steps a day, those studies also show that ANY amount of exercise is beneficial. So you need not beat yourself up if you come up short of your 10,000 step goal. Also, because any exercise is beneficial, you don’t need to worry about 10,000 steps PLUS your fitness class. You can do one or the other and still reap benefits.

Looking at the other possible goals a fitness tracker may set for you, keep in mind that these are not tailored to you, even if you enter your biometrics into their app. These are numbers based on general populations data. So those goals may not be right for you specifically.

When it comes to tracking those arbitrary goals, these devices vary widely in how accurate they are. For those of us who have a tendency towards obsessiveness or perfectionism, this could lead us to push ourselves too much for the sake of reaching that goal. Then there is the feeling of disappointment or defeat if you fail to reach your tracker goal as well. So it’s very important not to place too much stock in those numbers.

Tracking of Other Metrics

The newest fitness trackers can also track metrics like sleep and blood pressure, which may be very appealing to those who struggle in those areas. However, some evidence shows that these trackers could actually create or exacerbate issues in those areas just by tracking them because the tracking creates an anxiety there. Think about it, it’s hard to sleep if you’re worrying about getting enough sleep. Likewise, stressing about your blood pressure could impact your blood pressure.

The Slippery Slope

My major concern with wearables is how easy it can be for an otherwise healthy habit to turn into something destructive. Just as dieting can turn into eating disorders, fitness tracking can become disordered as well, leading to injury and health issues. We live in a culture where how little you ate, how much you exercised, and how much weight you lost are worn as badges of honor without regard to the toxic impacts that paradigm can have.

Fitness trackers can be a good source of motivation and can help show you (some of) the progress you’ve made. But they have significant limitations and drawbacks. If you’re wondering if fitness trackers are beneficial, make sure you consider these points.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a medical doctor and that none of the above information is to be construed as medical advice.

Dieting is the problem

Why do 90% of dieters regain the weight yet we keep turning to diets over and over again? The answer doesn’t lie in willpower or in sugar addiction or in the irresistibility of food additives. It lies in the nature of diets themselves.

First off, the diet industry thrives off promoting unrealistic (and often unhealthy) physical ideals. It makes a whole lot of promises about those ideals it knows it can’t keep. Regardless of whether they involve calorie counting, carb cutting, or fasting, essentially all diets drastically reduce the amount of calories that you eat so that you are consuming fewer calories than you burn. This is the weight loss equation: calories in < calories out.

The thing is that diets cut your calories to an unsustainable low to make sure you lose weight faster. However, you cannot sustain at those levels long-term. The adult body is not made to run off of 1200 calories – in fact, that amount is more suitable for a toddler. What happens in response to such low calorie intake over time? Cravings, obsessing over food, binging. Plus, your body slows down your metabolism in response to those reduced calories so that you must eat less and less in order to maintain (check out this great breakdown of your body’s adaptation to calorie restriction by Precision Nutrition).

When you deprive your body of energy (calories), nutrients, and the foods you enjoy, it’s not a matter of willpower. It’s basic human biology that makes you gain that weight back. It’s not a personal failing. Diets are made for weight loss, not maintenance, not keeping it off.

So, why do dieters regain the weight they lost? Because that’s what diets are designed for. So, please, keep that in mind before you sign up for your next weight loss challenge or before you start to beat yourself up for “falling off” your diet.

Want to learn more: check out my post on the difference between dieting and healthy eating.

It’s Not You; It’s Your Workout

Have you ever found it really hard to stay motivated to work out? If you find you have to drag yourself to the gym and you’re miserable the whole time, checking the clock constantly, it might not be an issue with motivation.

Our bodies need movement, yes, but our minds do, too. And our workouts shouldn’t be something that elicit dread or misery. Often, when this is the case, we blame ourselves, thinking we struggle to stay motivated to work out because we are lazy or out of shape or need more willpower. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to blame ourselves like this because we’ve grown up surrounded by toxic diet culture. None of these self-critical things we think are true.

Here’s the thing, there is no one workout that is best for everyone. You and I could do the exact same workouts every single day and we would still look and feel completely different. You don’t have to do HIIT or pilates or run 5 miles.

The best type of exercise is the one you’ll do.

Let me say that again: the best type of exercise is the one you’ll do. Some maybe the problem isn’t motivated; maybe it’s that your workout just isn’t right for you.

Our bodies need movement but they don’t need Zumba specifically or step aerobics specifically. If you are struggling with your motivation to work out, tune in to your body and your mind. How do you feel physically and emotionally while you’re doing your workout? After your workout? Is there anything you enjoy about it (other than when it’s over)? What do you dislike most about it? What would your ideal workout look and feel like?

Use your answers to these questions to try new ways to exercise. What kind of movement you’re doing isn’t as important as whether or not you’re moving. If you’re skipping more workouts than you’re doing or you’re stressing out about them, then they’re not really very helpful. Just getting yourself moving will help improve your mood, relieve stress, improve your confidence, increase your energy levels, and have a number of physical benefits.

“But if I give up my current workout, isn’t that quitting?” No, it’s not. You’re making a proactive decision to seek out something that’s a better fit for you. “But if I keep pushing, won’t my workout get easier?” Technically yes, but you must be consistent for that to happen and easier does not necessarily mean less miserable.

There is no shame in trading in a workout routine that isn’t working for you.

There is no point in sabotaging yourself with something that doesn’t work. You owe it to yourself to find a workout routine that suits you. So search for online classes, try out a new studio, pick up some weights – whatever works for you!

Click here to learn about the different types of exercise to start your exploration.

Should You Use a Protein Powder?

Protein supplements are pretty much all the rage right now, but should you be using protein powder? Great question! I’m so glad you asked.

Do You *NEED* a Protein Powder?

Before you decide to add a protein supplement to your routine, there are a number of things to consider, the first one being, do you even need it?

In the strictest sense, supplements fill in your nutritional need gaps as a supplement your regular diet. Protein deficiency is extremely rare here in the US, even amongst plant-based eaters. So, chances are, if you’re an average person who is able to consume a balanced diet, you probably don’t *need* a protein powder.

That being said, some circumstances can increase your protein needs. For example, if you are not able to get adequate protein from your diet, whether due to lack of access to protein rich foods, lack of time, or issues with digesting protein. Another reason could be that you need more protein to support physical activity. Our bodies use protein to repair and rebuild, so if you engage in a lot of very strenuous exercise, then you will have greater protein needs than your next door neighbor with a desk job who walks his dog twice a day. And on that note about protein being used to rebuild and repair, if you are recovering from illness or injury, that could also increase your protein needs. Finally, we must consider the convenience factor. It’s definitely easier to toss a protein shake into your gym bag than a steak. So occasionally adding in a protein shake can help on those on-the-go days.

If you’re in doubt about your protein needs, speak with your physician, trainer, or dietician. (Note: I do not work with athletes)

Protein Quality

It’s important to note that the supplement industry in the US is notorious unregulated. This means that there could be issues with quality, ingredients, formulations or health claims and we, as consumers, may never know. So you need to be very cautious and informed when choosing your protein powder. Fortunately, third party resources, such as Labdoor.com and Consumerlab.com, independently test supplements for purity. You won’t find every protein powder available on there, but you will find many.

One thing to watch out for are supplements (almost always in the MLM category) that loudly brag about large numbers of scientific studies that back up their purity or efficacy. Those studies very often are either conducted by or funded by the company that makes the supplements and, therefore, cannot be assumed reliable. If you cannot obtain the actual study documentation and findings or cannot determine who conducted the study, it’s a red flag.

What Type of Protein?

So you’ve read this far. You’ve decided that you would like to use a protein powder. Now what?

Protein powders come in all sorts of varieties – whey protein, pea protein, soy protein, rice protein, even cranberry protein (WTF, right?)! Which one you choose is really up to you – your dietary preferences or allergies, price point, etc. In terms of athletic performance, studies really haven’t found any huge difference between protein types, but you will still see a preference for whey among many body builders.

Whether or not you were already a protein user, I hope this was informative. If you have questions about adding a dietary supplement to your routine, you should consult a qualified professional.

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What’s the difference between healthy eating and dieting?

How can you be a nutrition coach and be anti-diet? What’s the difference between healthy eating and dieting?

Dieting and healthy eating are actually very different, mutually exclusive things. In fact, dieting is NOT at all healthy eating.

Dieting

Dieting means drastically restricting what you eat, either by counting calories or outright eliminating foods, with the goal of weight loss. Diets are not meant to be sustainable in the long-term. Rather, they are designed to get you to your goal weight quickly, but not to keep you there. The proof of this is in the pudding: with all of the scientific evidence we have that shows that slashing calories will slow your metabolism and that these approaches almost always result in weight regain (plus more), the diet industry continues with the same fundamental approach. This is because the industry makes money off of dieters coming back for more.

Another hallmark that all diets have in common is the diet mentality. Diets promote deprivation and moralization of foods into “good” and “bad” categories. They entail black-and-white thinking – you’re either on a diet or off, being good or being bad. And, regardless of the specifics of the diet, they are too often a slippery slope into disordered eating. Dieting does not promote a healthy relationship with food. Think about the last time you were on a diet. How much time did you spend thinking about the foods you weren’t allowed to have? Wishing you could eat like everyone else? And how much time did you spend stressing out about how much of what you could eat? You shouldn’t be wasting so much time and energy stressing about fulfilling one of our most basic human needs. Food is not meant to be a source of stress, but the diet mentality makes it so by convincing us that we need to monitor our every bite.

The sneaky thing is, diet companies will convince you that it’s YOUR fault for not maintaining. The truth is that it’s NOT your fault if you struggle to stick to your diet’s strict rules and it’s NOT your fault if you gain your weight back. Our human bodies and minds are simply not compatible with the diet structure. Our bodies are not meant to run on just 1200 calories a day and we are programmed not to respond well to deprivation. If you would like a really eye-opening illustration of this, read about the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (and pay attention to how many calories they were consuming a day).

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating does not require counting calories or cutting out foods. In fact, there is room for all of your favorite treats! Instead of focusing on rules and numbers, you re-learn to tune into and trust your body so that you can securely give yourself permission to indulge. Healthy eating is about finding the right balance for you and for your body. By getting to the factors behind your cravings, eating mindfully, and tuning into your hunger and satiety cues, you are able to balance your diet and release that food stress.

The “healthy” in healthy eating isn’t just about the types of food you eat; it’s also about your relationship with food.

Healthy eating requires you to flip the script on that old diet mentality that we all carry with us. It requires recognizing that what works for me might not work for you. We could eat the same way and exercise the same and our bodies would look completely different – and that’s OK. It requires recognizing that there are no “bad” foods and that eating ice cream is not going to have negative consequences.

One final point: the goal of healthy eating doesn’t have to be weight loss. For example, you can focus on healthy eating to feel better, improve your health, manage certain conditions, or just to care for yourself. Our culture would certainly prefer to have us believe otherwise, but our bodies are supposed to come in different shapes and sizes and they are supposed to change as we get older. At 33, I don’t fit into the clothes I was wearing at 21 and I shouldn’t – my hormones are different, my metabolism is different, my eating and movement are different. Learning what your unique body needs is also an important part of healthy eating.

I write this post not to put down anyone else’s thing, but to give you some important information to consider before you embark on a diet program. If you have questions about this post or how I approach nutrition coaching, please don’t hesitate to send me an email.