If there’s one thing American’s love, it’s a new diet or fitness trend. It seems we can’t just stick with one way of eating or exercising and call it a day. We’ve Slim Fasted, tried abiding by the advice of Dr. Atkins, ate like we lived near South Beach and even thought consuming only cabbage soup for several days in a row seemed like a good idea. We’ve also stretched ourselves thin through yoga, sweated in spandex along with Jane Fonda and believed that we can get amazing abs in just eight minutes.
Fill your plate prehistoric-style
This year’s health and fitness trends are focusing less on fads of the future. Instead, it’s all about going back in time to simpler, more functional ways of eating and exercising. A perfect example of this is the Paleo diet, which topped the list as the most-Googled diet trend of 2013. Nicknamed the “caveman diet,” the Paleo diet comes from the idea that human genetics haven’t changed in 15,000 years, since the Paleolithic era. The Paleo diet consists of eating lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts and lean meats such as fish while avoiding grains and processed foods altogether. Hillary Sargent, a holistic nutritionist who lived in the Vail Valley for 10 years before moving recently, said people like the Paleo diet because it’s not overly complicated.
“It’s a pretty easy approach to wrap your head around,” Sargent said. “There’s no calorie restriction. ... The biggest thing people notice first hand is that it’s a no grain diet, and that includes corn and it includes all the gluten-free grains, like quinoa.”
While cutting out all bread, pasta and that daily doughnut might seem extreme for some, Sargent said many people who try the Paleo diet end up not craving carbs as much as they thought they would.
“I would recommend a Paleo diet to pretty much everyone out there,” Sargent said. “It sounds very daunting, but there’s so many great resources out there for people (who want to start). If you stick with it for 21 days, you won’t miss (the grains).”
‘Changing your whole mindset’
Eagle-Vail resident Joe Ryan began following a Paleo diet one year ago and said he follows it about 97 percent of the time. Compared to the vegan diet he tried before this, Ryan said the Paleo diet gave him a lot more energy throughout the day.
“I noticed once I started doing the Paleo diet, my mood changed,” Ryan said. “I just (felt) rejuvenated. Once I increase my good fat intake, after 30 days I noticed a big difference. My endurance was much better and my recovery time was a lot better. In the gym, I felt a lot lighter on my feet, and I didn’t feel as bloated when I was running.”
Like many locals, Ryan leads a very active lifestyle and thinks the hardest part of adopting the Paleo diet wasn’t sticking to it, but understanding the science behind it.
“(As an athlete,) I always thought that (a lot of carbohydrates) was healthy,” Ryan said. “So (Paleo) is changing your whole mindset, your whole perspective of what you thought you knew and re-educating yourself.”
The Paleo diet is just one example of what Sargent calls a “clean-eating” lifestyle. It’s not just about not eating processed foods, but also about being aware of where your meat and plant-based foods come from. The pieces of steak you get at the deli might seem cut straight out of the cow, but it’s important to remember that most cows are raised on a diet of animal feed, which consists of corn and soybeans, both of which are genetically modified.
“I think a clean-eating movement is on the way,” Sargent said. “More people are getting into the local foods movement. It’s a big thing for restaurants to say where their meat comes from ... (I’ve noticed in Vail that) chefs are becoming more forward-thinking about eating locally and knowing where your food comes from.”
Trimming the fat in less time
The “caveman” idea of returning to our roots doesn’t just apply to our eating habits. Many of the most trendy workouts of the past year focused on “functional” fitness and getting our bodies to move in ways they’re naturally designed to. Programs like CrossFit, TRX Suspension Training, Insanity and P90X all use little or no equipment other that your own body weight and are designed to obtain a lean, muscular physique.
“It’s kind of this playground mentality, doing pullups and pushups intermixed with interval training,” said Missy Lacey, fitness director for the Athletic Club at the Westin in Avon. “(Workouts) are going back a little bit old school (this year).”
These workouts aren’t just about cutting the fat. They’re also trying to trim down the amount of time you spend getting fit. Lacey said high-intensity interval training, in which people perform movements or exercises for shorter periods of time at an elevated intensity, is popular because it’s effective.
“With high-intensity interval training, that’s where people are achieving (results),” Lacey said. “People used to get on the treadmill four days a week and run. After you do that for so long, you don’t see results. It’s all about strength training, using your own body weight and switching up your cardio.”
Lacey said in conjunction with jungle gym-like workouts, many fitness enthusiasts are trying fusion workouts, such as mixing spinning with yoga or adding cardio to a Pilates class. This adds variety and keeps your routine from getting in a rut. It’s too soon to tell if the Insanity and P90X DVDs people are currently buying will end up on a shelf next to a dusty Tae Bo VHS tape, but currently the high-intensity training trend is hot and people are enjoying the burn.
“In the fitness field there’s always something new,” Lacey said. “(But) I don’t see (high-intensity workouts) going away for the next year; it’s still going to hold its vitality.”
As we settle into the new year, we’re reminded there’s no magic gadget or manufactured superfood that will put us on the fast track to wellness. Like our caveman ancestors, we too have to grunt and make our muscles work hard in order to get stronger. We also have to spend time growing or hunting for the right kinds of foods that will help us live a long life, free of illness or disease. In our minds it’s 2014, but for our bodies it could still be 10,000 B.C. Maybe at some point our bodies will catch up to us, but for now, we’ll just have to follow the trend setters as they trek back in time to a cleaner, leaner and healthier era.