Fitness Week Twenty – Against All Fads

Welcome to fitness week twenty of my twenty-one week fitness program.  Obviously I will spend a good deal of time next week evaluating all sorts of things, and figuring out what I am going to do with fitness in the future.  And I have been doing a lot of reflecting the last couple of weeks.  This meant articles about fitness heroes like Jack LaLanne or fitness inspirations like my dad.

But as this journey comes to a close, I have a new journey to start.  So this week I wanted to jump the gun, as it were, and discuss things that trouble me about fitness and nutrition in general.  And hopefully, I will use this as a springboard in the future to talk about other fitness trends, ideas, and opportunities out there for you to engage in.  I want to be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t when it’s out there.

What troubles me about fitness?  There is so much there ripe to discuss.  But first, I want to talk about trends in general.  This takes me back to a conversation I had with my aunt and uncle a few years ago when I had been working at losing a bit of weight.  I had dedicated four hours a day to cardio.  And I was counting calories every day.  (Whether that was an insane dedication or not, I leave for you to decide.)

As such, I lost a ton of weight.  I dropped nearly 100 pounds I had put on during my marriage and was as fit as I had been since high school.  My aunt and uncle saw how svelt I looked and took me aside.  My aunt said that she wanted to use me as motivation for her friends to lose weight.  And asked me what it was that I did.

“Well . . .” I said, “Diet and lots of exercise.”

My aunt looked at me in disbelief.  And then she responded, “Well, that’s no fun.  No one is going to want to hear that.”

I laughed nervously and said, “Probably not.”

While I did appreciate the dilemma my aunt faced, I stood back in disbelief and pondered why it was that people wouldn’t want to hear that sort of deal.  It works.  And truthfully, everyone knows that it works.  They are fully aware that if you eat less and exercise more, that you will lose weight over time.

The problem is that everyone wants two things that no magic pill will provide them.  First, they want the results that they want.  And second, they want those results now.  Whether it’s the fault of the internet, the tooth fairy, or the orange headed man with a plan, we all expect immediate answers to life’s most difficult questions.  Nobody loses weight overnight.  And no one necessarily gets the body that they want, unless they do liposuction, plastic surgery, and have a million bucks.  But ask a few millionaires and their wives if they are happy after those drastic changes and I would bet that fifty percent of them would still say no.  I bet fifty percent or more will go back for plastic surgery again . . . and again . . . and again.  So try telling me anyone other than the plastic surgeon’s bank account is happy.  I dare you.

As we expect instant gratification, we tend to run towards fads that will fix our problems overnight.  So these fads come and go.  But these fads are fads because they cannot fix everyone’s problems.  They may work for a select few.  Or they might not work at all.  So they are here today and gone tomorrow.  But really they are a placebo for our unhappiness with our appearance.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot do anything about our appearance.  We do have that unpopular thing that works for everyone.  Eat less.  Exercise more.

So in my concern about fads, the Guide has gone out and done research into these fads that are going on.  Our crack team has asked a series of “experts” (read friends) and determined whether the fad was made up or real.  And whether or not they had used it and to what effect.  The list grew longer than I could count so I threw out all of that research and decided that I would start over from scratch, dealing with my top five crazy fads, and how our “experts” had experienced them.


The Top Five Crazy Health Fads

5) Going Gluten Free To Lose Weight –

First off, this fad comes from the notion of food intolerance.  As a person who has had, at the very least, food sensitivities in my life, I am not going to sit here and say that food intolerance is junk science.  It’s not.  But how we know what we are sensitive to, and what we should do about it is being manipulated.  As of this writing, there is no definitive blood testing for intolerance.  There is, however, a legitimate methodology they use to test.  It’s called the elimination diet.

This elimination diet is a strict regimen.  It means removing all suspected intolerances for a month or more, and then re-introducing them into your diet one by one.  The next time you hear a person say they have an intolerance, ask how many of them actually followed this process.  Because this test, like dieting, asks people to give up so much that they aren’t really willing to follow through on it.  So they just claim to have them without knowledge or proof.

What they don’t consider is that there may be other reasons for why milk or sugar may produce bad results.  Insulin spikes from sugars do cause crashes and may make one lethargic.  New additives in protein and energy bars are made so that your body cannot process them.  This causes bloating.  So the problem may be the additive and not the gluten in the bar itself that is your problem.  The laziness into discovering the real reasons behind the problem have turned gluten-free diets into a popular dietary alternative.

While this gluten free diet has taken on fad status, some people have then claimed  they can use it to lose weight.  While this may be possible, as removing carbs from your diet does help (Atkins), it also causes problems much like Atkins and vegan diets.  You find yourself with constipation problems.  Or you find out in the long run that you lose too many vitamins by taking away the gluten.  So your body may be thinner AND weaker.  I know you wanted to get thinner but did you really want the weaker?  I am guessing not.

4) Cupping To Cleanse Your System of Toxins –

Despite Jennifer Aniston’s recommendations otherwise, there has been no scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of using heated cups to remove toxins from the body.  The theory of using the cups, like most crazy theories, sounds like it has a real scientific methodology behind it.  But it really has none.  And what’s worse, it does damage to your body.  Putting heated cups on your back will cause suction, and ultimately cause your blood vessels to break.  Supposedly, this rush of blood and white blood cells into these regions forces toxins out of your body.

Unfortunately for those who use this treatment, the real scientific evidence proves the ineffectiveness of this method.  Not only is it ineffective, but it can harm the people who use it.  When you damage your blood vessels and cause them to break, contrary to the belief that it fixes problems, it can actually release toxins into your body that can cause long term harm.   So if someone suggests cupping.  I say, “Just Say No.”  Or nein.  Or nyet.  Or something . . .  you get the picture.

3) Hot Yoga / Hot Fitness Classes –

Yes, turning up the temperature on your body will cause it to shed pounds.  No one is going to dispute that.  But your body is a delicate system.  It works best when it’s in balance.  Your body sweat, despite some crazy advertising agencies pushing deodorant and promotion of damaging your sweat glands, does serve a purpose.  Your body uses sweat to cool itself down when it’s hot.  Like any good engine, your body is trying to prevent overheating.  Overheating causes “minor” inconveniences such as heat stroke and death.  I guess that depends upon what your definition of minor is.

Hot Yoga or Hot Fitness turns up the temperature on the rooms that you do your workouts in.  This means that when your body should be turning the temperature down, your facility is turning the temperature up.  Your body goes into shock.  And no amount of Gatorade and water will solve this overheating problem.  So unless your aim is death (and I prefer to hope that it is not), stay away from the hot yoga.  Cool yoga works just fine.

2) Oil Pulling –

Another one of those fun fads where you do something crazy and the magic toxin fairy takes out all of your toxins.  I guess with this one there does not seem to be the risk of death.  So if you are going to choose any of the fads on this list, I might go with this crazy doozy.

Oil Pulling.  What is it exactly?  (I guess with some fads I think I had to read about them five and ten times just to believe someone would actually believe this stuff.)  Oil pulling begins with putting coconut oil into your mouth and swishing it around for 20 minutes.  You have to do this while you are on an empty stomach or it won’t work.

The good news? Swishing and spitting coconut oil will do no harm.  The extra good news?  It actually will help clean your teeth and gum area?  The downside.  None really except to destroy your belief in homeopathic medicine as it does absolutely nothing to reduce toxins in your body.  Furthermore, for people using it in place of brushing and flossing, stop!  While it does reduce plaque, it does it much less effectively than brushing or flossing.  It’s equivalent to sticking gum in your mouth to protect your teeth.  It helps.  But if you think it replaces something than you are sadly mistaken.

1)  Ear Candling –

I saw a picture of this when doing my research and began to laugh.  And then cry.  And then laugh.  Followed up by more crying laughter.  Who in their right mind sticks a candle made of wax in their ear to reduce wax and toxins?  At some point I wonder what people actually mean by the word toxins.  Because it does not mean what they think it means.

So what is ear candling?  To “ear candle” one must purchase a special cone about ten inches long dipped in wax.  One must stick this cone through a paper plate.  Then one must lie on one’s side and shove that candle base into your ear canal.  Finally, you must have a trusted friend that will light the top of the candle.  Do this for 15 minutes.  Then repeat on the other side.  I hope you can get the picture and are rolling on the floor appropriately right now.

But for those in stunned silence, let me explain.  Supposedly this creates a low level suction which draws wax and toxins from your long interconnected canals in your ears.  There is a large problem with this.  First, whatever suction it does create would never, and I repeat never, pull out ear wax.  You would have to have really strong suction to pull out that ear wax.  This moderately warm candle will not do that.

Second, there may be canals in your ear.  But there are also large blockers that would prevent you from collecting ear wax and “toxins.”  You would not get a perceptible amount of ear wax from this low level suction because of things like the ear drum in the way.

But you say that you saw the stuff inside the candle that they were able to pull out.  And it was gross ear wax and black “toxin-like” stuff inside the candle.  And with that I get to my last point.  They ran a test of this stuff.  The “ear wax” turned out to be candle wax.  And the ashen material turned out to be ash.  Surprise!!

And were this merely a placebo, not unlike swishing the coconut oil in the mouth, I might let it go.  But you are sticking something in your ear drum.  Like hot yoga, I am not sure you will like the side effects of this treatment like hearing loss and complete and utter deafness.  Unless you really want to stop hearing.  Which if you do, start practicing your sign language skills now.  I can find a good book for you.  I am a librarian after all.

Fitness Week Twenty

So what did you think of those fitness and health fads that are out there?  Sometimes I get concerned for the human race when I read about fads like this.   As we have stopped believing in universal things, we have begun to believe in anything that tickles our fancy.  It’s not that we don’t have religion.  It’s that our religion becomes a hodgepodge of likes and dislikes that occur at our whim.  So when people tickle our ear with something that sounds good, we run after the latest fad like a dog to a bone. The internet makes it worse.

What works in fitness?  We know what works.  Dedication to a healthier diet.  And exercise.  There are lap band like short cuts.  But they do come at a price: not being able to eat much ever again without feeling sick.  And who wants that?  As much as I want to be healthy, I’d rather do that than be sick of food.  Which brings me to my fitness goals.  How did I do this week on them?

Fitness Goals Week Twenty –

1) Do Four Outings Or Go To The Gym Four Times –

This week was not my best week when it came to exercise.  I cannot tell you why exactly.  I did hit a wall last week.  And I came back down from that wall, even though I did activities.  This week I needed to scale back on things I was doing aside from activities.  I think I ended up scaling back on both.  I am not sure I motivated myself the right way.  Quitting some things does not mean quitting everything.  So this next week it’s about finding and getting back to balance.  I need to find my sweet spot and stick with it.  I did do two exercise sessions at home.  And then I went out once on an outing during the week.  I had a lot of fun.  But that only reached three and not four.

I know that this does not sound like I had a bad week.  And for those of you who can remember, it was a lot of what happened to me at the beginning.  I would do three workout sessions and not make the fourth.  I was so happy when I was able to make the fourth.  My problem with myself is that I had two opportunities where I could have gone to the gym and did not.  I don’t know whether it was lack of motivation or what was the cause.  But I didn’t go.  This is why I feel more down about this section.

2)  Eight Glasses Of Water Per Day –

My research for this post today uncovered some interesting findings.  And while I am not quitting my goal of increased water drinking entirely, the research I found said that I shouldn’t be drinking any more than eight glasses of water per day.  Drinking more puts out an imbalance.  And drinking less than eight is actually not a bad thing.  Your body knows when it needs water.  That’s why it gets thirsty.  So in those times of hardship, “We Are Groot.”  

Wait.  No.  When I feel thirsty I just need to remember that I should be picking up that water glass instead of that diet coke.  But I also should reconsider whether I want to make the eight glasses a chore.  Because making it a chore will make me fail.  If the focus is on healthy alternatives instead of having to do one thing or another, I think that gives me more room to succeed.  I won’t change my goals for this last week because I said I won’t.  But into the future, I will be keeping a wary eye on that number eight.

3)  Counting My Calories –

I did try to track my calories throughout the day.  And honestly, I have become very conscious about how many I am eating.  I am not always plugging them into the My Fitness Pal app.  And maybe I should be.  But I think the real goal I had in mind was to be conscious of what I am putting into my mouth.  That is where you win.  I know whether I have eaten too much, or too little with each meal.  And I know whether I have eaten the right things.  And that is a win in my book.

4)  Eight Hours Of Sleep Per Night –

I think the down side this week is that I was probably only getting six hours of sleep a night.  I don’t think this is fully my fault though.  My problem wasn’t getting to bed too late.  My problem was waking up at 4:30 in the morning.  It doesn’t do any good to fall asleep at 10:30 if I  wake up at 4:30 because I wake up with the sun.  As such, I am resolved this week to finally get blackout curtains for my windows.  They have become absolutely essential.  Not only will they keep the sun out longer, but I am hoping that they will cool my room.   Check back with me on whether I accomplished this goal then.

Overall Grade: C+

Week Twenty-One:

For this week I am not changing my goals in the back stretch.  I think you cannot suddenly change everything in the last lap of a race and hope those changes to stick and make a difference.  Maybe they help in future races.  But you really haven’t established these goals so you have not made them a habit.  And that is the goal of doing something for 21 weeks.  You try to habitualize fitness.  That was my goal anyway.  We will see what the coming weeks bring.  So I am putting these fitness goals down for this last week, with one minor addendum, which you will recognize from what I just wrote.


1) Four Times At The Gym Or Outings

2) Eight Glasses Of Water Per Day

3) Counting Calories

4) Eight Hours Of Sleep Per Night

5) Purchase Blackout Curtains

Continue the Conversation

So what did you think of the fads this week?  Are there any of them you have tried?  What was your experience with them?  Is there any other fad out there that you are curious about and would like me to research?  My crack team (me) of researchers will be on the case.  Sometime.  Bringing you all the fake news and fake history that is fit to print.

Follow Me

If you liked this post, please follow me here at the Guide.  People who sign up via email will get access to the Dad Rules, exclusive subscriber content.  These are ten rules every dad should follow if he wants a great father’s day present next year.  OK, maybe not, but it may result in getting a cooler one because you all of a sudden have become the cool dad.  Thank you again for stopping by.

Until next time, blackjack!  Wait . . . it’s not twenty-one just yet.

David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life


Other Fitness Weeks

Nineteenth Week

Eighteenth Week

Seventeenth Week

Twelfth Week

Eleventh Week

Sixth Week

Week 0

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