Everyone wants to shed a few pounds, and most people do so during several phases of life. Health and fitness fads will, by nature, come and go, but a few of them stand the test of time. Diet supplements have been used to regulate weight as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece, and China. Portion control was practiced by ancient cultures, as well. If you’re always trying the Next Big Thing, here are nine health and fitness fads that came and stayed. Some we love, some we hate, but one thing’s for sure — these nine fads are older than you.
- It’s so popular because it’s simple math: calories in should be less than calories out. Even a nutrition professor at Kansas State proved that weight loss was possible on a diet consisting solely of Twinkies. He did it by counting calories. Some gurus will argue that not all calories are created equal, but elementary math will prove them wrong by the scales.
- Definitely a fad and not quite healthy, cosmetic surgery is a fast way to fake fitness. Plastic surgery, first introduced in 1827, is more common now than ever. It might be an extreme way to get a beach body, but more than 200,000 people had liposuction in 2010. Proper diet and exercise may be the true way to health, but cosmetic surgery is certainly en vogue. If you want to live a long life, be healthy. But if you want to look a certain way, countless numbers of people have made a similar choice.
- Exercise is one health fad that should never go out of style, and group exercise has been popular for ages. Boot camps especially are enjoying a renaissance — both in-home and at the gym. Boot camp offers a quick, regimented way to shape up, and one that’s segmented to increase viability and impact. After a dip in popularity, in-home boot camps have become popular again with the rise ofP90X and similar plyometrics programs.
- Portion controlled meals have become and remained popular for generations of dieting divas. If there’s one thing that guarantees weight loss, it’s not overeating — and buying pre-portioned meals has long been a crutch of dieters and fitness freaks everywhere. In America especially, portion sizes are routinely too large, and sticking to a smaller-plated plan has always helped to tighten the belt.
- Speaking of belts, this relic from the 1960s may seem long gone, but the vibrating belt has come back in infomercial-tastic ways in the recent past. While we hate this fad and everything it stands for, it might actually tone you up a little. That being said, if you’re so lazy that you want to pay to use a vibrating belt to move your muscles for you, there are many life decisions you need to structurally re-think. Many.
- Aerobics classes as we know them may have started in 1968, but Jane Fonda’s the one that made aerobic exercise popular from the privacy of one’s own home. Although you can sign up for gym classes and aerobics all that you want, there are a plethora of television channels and work out DVDs that are available for purchase. You can work out at home in an indoor gym like the perennially popular Bowflex, or you can be instructed by any number of videos. Whether it’s Pilates, yoga, or Tae Bo, working out in the comfort and privacy of your own home is a fad that’s here to stay. Spandex and leg warmers optional.
- Very Low Calorie Diets are a long-time fad that remains popular. Food intake restrictions, all-liquid diets, and cabbage soup are among the things you’ll come across when researching VLCDs. Raw food or low-carb diets can also fit this description, and VLCDs remain popular due to promises of quick weight loss. Whether it’s powdered shakes or a Master Cleanse, these fad diets make their way into the limelight at least once per generation. VLCDs can be extremely detrimental to some, but can jumpstart healthy weight loss in others. As they are a mild form of starvation, some form of weight loss is all but guaranteed.
- Even though they’re dangerous, they’re always around in some form. Upon learning that Fen Phen was dangerous in the ’90s, diet pills have been different (but the same) ever since. They range from ephedra (now illegal), called "trucker speed," to fat and carb blockers. It’s hard to imagine a world without celebrity endorsements of hoodia, guarana, and other proprietary blends. Word to the wise? There’s no magic pill. If it didn’t work for Alice or those guys from The Matrix, it won’t work for you. Try something else, and don’t be so gullible and desperate next time.
- Cleansing and juicing can be a form of fasting and/or a form of detox. While Jack LaLanne’s Power Juicer used to rule the airwaves, now we see ads for the Master Cleanse and Omega. Although things change, they often stay the same — and these fads have been popular with celebrities and yo-yo dieters for years. The raw food and slow food movements have seen a resurgence of interest in fresh juicing, but making living food has been marketed and repackaged as a diet solution more often than not. While detoxification and health do go hand in hand, the use of detox as a diet plan has been a slow-dying fad.
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