As the year draws to a close, I am filled with gratitude as I reflect back on what has been the most challenging, but hands down the most incredible year of my life. Realizing and pursuing my passion in the midst of what might have otherwise been a tough year (divorce, downsizing, and a handful of other wake-up calls that I won’t bore you with) has left my heart fuller than I even knew possible, so if you’re reading this, thank you – for stopping by, for supporting me, and for being curious. You have impacted me, and I hope than in some little way, I’ve been able to return the favor.
Sentimental stuff out of the way, I always think it’s a fun idea to look back and take a quick year-in-review as the ball begins to drop. As a person who subscribes to more health websites and blogs than I care to count, I've certainly gotten my fill on the top health-trends-in review of 2015…and they’ve ranged from sound baths, to activated charcoal, to cricket (yes, the insect) protein powder. So in keeping with the theme of this blog, I thought I’d share my own favorite health trends of 2015, the movements that I personally believe have the most impact on overall health, not just passing fads. Below is my own personal short list, and if I were going to suggest jumping on a bandwagon of sorts, these would be the ones I most encourage you to welcome with open arms.
1. The Anti-Diet And all this time, I thought Rachele Jaegers and I had pioneered this concept (kidding…but pleased to be on the forefront nonetheless)! Still, I couldn’t be more thrilled to witness firsthand that the notion that dieting does in fact, suck a little, has begin to go more and more mainstream. Even major weight loss brands have started to adapt – Weight Watchers launched a campaign this year called Beyond the Scale, which brings focus to other elements of a healthy lifestyle for the sake of feeling good, over weight loss.
2. The “Gourmetization” of Health Food. It used to be that "healthy eating” was synonymous with carrot sticks, fat-free microwave meals, and iceberg salads topped with diet dressing. Today, you can easily reconcile being a foodie with a healthy lifestyle: there are countless high quality, nutrient-heavy versions of just about any previously “naughty” food under the sun out there…and plenty of truly gourmet versions at that! Restaurants using high quality, fresh ingredients are beginning to go mainstream, even fast food is having a moment: two ex- McDonalds execs founded Lyfe Kitchen, a healthy, affordable take on fast food that is set to open 250 more locations over the next 5 years, and local chains such as Lemonade are beginning to pop up all over California. While many of these types of restuarants mostly prevalent in major cities at the moment, the trend should eventually trickle down to smaller towns.
3. Mindfulness. Recently, I walked into a group meditation studio and the first thing I noticed (aside from the fact that cell phones were collected at the door), was the incredible variety of people waiting in the lobby for the next session to begin. Men in expensive business suits. A group of female friends who seemed to be in their 70’s. A 20-something guy with a Mohawk. I’m not making this up.
I know this is a buzzy word right now, and as a skeptic of anything trendy myself, I understand how easy it is to write off things that sound hippy-dippy or just generally vague. But I’m telling you, mindfulness is the real deal. Defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations,” the idea of mindfulness is incredibly important, as we live in a society of sound bites, instant everything, and constant distraction. We are arguably busier than ever, cramming more into 24 hours than generations preceding us. Slowing down to take a moment to get in touch with our current feelings, live the present moment, and setting intention, teaches us how to savor those moments without getting lost in the day to day chaos. Meditation has become more mainstream, with apps such as Digipill and Headspace offering 5-20 minute guided mediations, dedicated meditation studios, and the idea of finding your Zen, whether that be through prayer, nature, music, meditation, cooking – whatever allows you to really be in the moment, sans distractions.
4. The Continued Growth of Group Fitness Call it the SoulCycle effect. Say what you may about the indoor cycling giant, but there is no doubt that the community-focused, teamwork-oriented, studio has been at least a partial catalyst for the explosive growth in group fitness. Group-focused classes and studios began exploding onto the scene a few years ago, and 2015 was no exception. Barre, Pilates, yoga, zumba, circuit training, and indoor cycling have been big players for a while now, but studios are getting even more creative, introducing classes where you can climb, row, shadow box, and scale areal silks. The options are limitless and they come at a variety of price points - even box gyms are beefing up their group fitness programs. (I recently read an article about companies that entertain clients with spin classes rather than via happy hour!) What I love about group fitness is that fact that for many people, group fitness has become a social outlet in addition to just a workout. Not only can it replace a percentage of less healthy social outings (I cut my happy hours down drastically when my friends and I all began working out at the same Pilates studio years ago), but when something feels like fun as opposed to a chore, it can be much easier to endure. Enjoyable, even. Plus, there’s the support factor: many studies show that people who work out with a buddy (or class full of buddies – these classes are natural communities), are more apt to stick with it. Wins, all around.
5. Holistic Health The idea that health goes beyond food has made its way into many a wellness article this year, and while as a Holistic Health practitioner I may be slightly biased, I must admit that it makes me warm and fuzzy inside. Leading experts and pioneers alike are beginning to recognize that while many people know how to eat, or at least have a general idea, that there are literally dozens (hundreds?) of other factors that influence our behavior and overall health. While the term “Holistic Wellness” was misunderstood for years – most people simply associated it with an all-natural, even “hippy” lifestyle, the actual definition of holistic health is looking at health from the standpoint that the body and mind function as a whole: as integrated systems rather than as segregated parts. Understanding why we eat what we eat, the effect of stress or lack of sleep on overall wellness, and the mind body connection all fall under the holistic umbrella, and these are all such crucial elements when you really consider the fact that health goes far beyond what we look like. Which leads me to…
6. Feel Good Health A huge trend in 2015 was the continued focus on the importance of eating well, working out, and practicing other healthy habits to feel good, rather than simply looking good. As a nutrition coach, I can speak firsthand to tell you that increased energy and generally feeling better has been entirely more motivating to my clients than fitting into their skinny jeans. Coming back to that Holistic word again, when you physically feel good, you benefit tenfold. You have the energy to exercise. The temptation to snack mindlessly diminishes. I could easily come up with more examples, but you get the idea.
7. Bio-Individuality While there are still a half dozen best selling diets on the NYT Best Seller List at any given time, the concept of a single, superior dietary theory lost more and more steam last year as we began to embrace the idea that we are each genetically unique. The idea that what fuels one body to peak performance might be poison to another has been the catalyst allowing veganism and the Caveman diet to peacefully co-exist, and carefully paying attention to our own bodies reaction to certain foods (mindfulness, if you will) has started become more of the go-to than blindly some author's word that his or her solution is the only solution, a trend that I hope to see gain even more traction in 2016.
8. The Rise of the Health Coach Again, I’m probably a little biased here. But admittedly, I too was skeptical of this idea as I waffled around, trying to decide what route I wanted to take when I made the decision to enter the health and wellness field. Ultimately, the idea of having a liaison between doctors and registered dieticians, and the end user appealed to me greatly. As someone who has known how to eat since I was 13 years old, but could never figure out what was keeping me from being able to do so until my late 20’s, the idea of helping people target their own obstacles and effectively integrate health in a diet-free manner made perfect sense. Most people can Google how to be healthy and get a general (if overwhelming) idea about how to proceed, yet according to the CDC, obesity rates are at an all-time high, with 66% of adults being overweight. Health coaches bridge the gap between knowing what to do, and knowing how and why to do it, and they are being hired by doctors, RD’s, chiropractors, personal trainers, even in the workplace. (See below!)
9. Increased Corporate Support More and more companies have begun to connect the dots between healthy employees and their bottom line, and are actively stepping in to support them. According to a RAND study, about half of US companies use a corporate wellness program of some sort, and the corporate wellness industry is growing at about 5% year over year. In some industries, employers take this a step further, offering free or discounted gym memberships, onsite training, and reward employees for making healthy choices. If you’re lucky enough to work for one of the Healthiest Companies in America, you might even enjoy perks like in-house farmers markets, subsidized bike to work programs, “green” dining options, an on-campus spa (!), and more. Being that most of us spend more time in the office than we do at home, promoting a healthy lifestyle at work is sure to show payoffs.
10. Athleisure Did you really think I was going to forget my beloved yoga pants? As someone who wholeheartedly embraced leggings in the 80’s (so what if I was 8?!) and supported Spandex well past the point of it being cool, I wholeheartedly embrace the idea of sporting yoga pants as daytime wear. If I can throw a cable knit sweater over a pair of black WunderUnders with a pair of boots for work, I am so game. And I’m not alone here: athleisure (look it up – it’s in the dictionary) is a 68 Billion dollar a year industry. The range of affordability runs the spectrum: C9 for Target and the Forever21 activewear pieces are super cute and very affordable, and designers including Tori Burch and Mara Hoffman are launching their own athletic lines as you read this (hint: Carbon38.com does 30%-50% off already-reduced sale items several times a year, allowing you to score designer pieces for as low as $20).
Wishing each of you a very happy, very healthy, and mindful (<- had to) 2016!
With so much love,