Wellness Myths Debunked

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 06. Oct. 2020

We break down some of the top health falsehoods.

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As the wellness world has exploded in recent years, so too have the myths it’s long peddled. Indeed the concept of wellness has been influenced by half-truths long before the ways in which we care for our bodies transformed into the capitalist juggernaut it is today. Think back to the first adages and rules you were taught about leading a healthy life, and chances are more than a few of them have been proven wrong in recent years. Add to this the booming wellness industry and the roster of unnecessary products and conflicting information it’s imbued into our grasp of personal health, and it can feel impossible figuring out what’s true and what’s not. 

To help, we’ve rounded up and explained some of the most common wellness myths around today. 

If you're overweight, you're unhealthy.

There are few more widely-held perceptions when it comes to health than this one: overweight people are unhealthy, and thin people are healthy. And while a higher body max index (BMI) can put you at risk of serious complications such as high blood pressure and stroke, studies in recent years have indicated that how much you weigh is far from a foolproof indicator of how healthy you are. Indeed, a 2012 study at UC Davis showed that overweight and obese participants had similar and in some cases even lower death rates than people who were a normal weight. This study joins a mounting body of research that has begun to disprove the notion that you can’t be both overweight and healthy, or thin and unhealthy, conversely. In fact, decades of research, including important studies like the 2002 article published in the Annals of Epidemiology and a 2004 study from the Archives of Disease in Childhood, have indicated that exercise and activity level is a much better indicator of overall health than body weight.

Juice cleanses detox the body.

There are few trends more emblematic of our current wellness-obsessed moment than the juice cleanse. In the U.S. there are upwards of 4,000 companies selling juice cleanse products and programs today.  These controversial cleanses have you forfeit chewable meals for a few days in place of fruit and vegetable juices that supposedly detox your body and give your kidneys, liver and digestive system a rest. It’s a thing of marketing genius: just a few days and your body can be cleansed of the havoc months of bad eating has wreaked upon it.  Even the science seems to make sense, as long as you don’t think about it for too long; fruits and vegetables are healthy, after all. And why wouldn’t your digestive system want a break? Doesn't everything need a break?

The answer, actually, is no. In fact, one of the main functions of the kidneys, liver and many other vital organs is to detox the body of the toxins. Unless you've had unusually powerful exposure to harmful toxins, there wouldn't even be chemicals in the body to "cleanse". What's worse, juice cleanses can actually be harmful. Juice cleanses eliminate important nutrients from your diet including protein and valuable fats, which can lead to a lower metabolism, sluggish digestive system blood sugar spikes and even mild depression. A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine in 2013 indicated that juice cleanses could even lead to kidney damage. 

While fresh fruit and vegetable juices are undoubtedly healthy and make a great addition to any diet, the science is out that juice does not have enough nutrients to sustain you as a solitary mutli-day food. 

Most vaginal cleansing products.

While vaginal cleansing and healing products are nothing new, the wellness industry’s recent boon has ushered in a new, increasingly outlandish generation. Perhaps the most infamous is Goop’s infamous “vagina egg”, a $55 piece of rounded quartz that once purported to “increase vaginal muscle tone and hormonal balance."

Goop's infamous "Jade Egg". 

In reality, the vagina egg is no more ridiculous than the army of douches and cleansers which have been marketed to women for centuries. This is because the vagina is completely self-cleaning, dispelling dead cells and bacteria by utilizing discharge. While a mild soap can be used to clean the outside of the vagina, cleaning the inside is totally unnecessary in most cases, and can even lead to complications including infection.

The old 'eight 8 oz. glass of water' a day rule.

Unlike most health myths, we know where this one originated. In 1945, the National Research Council published an article with their suggestion for an adult's daily water intake: 2.5 liters a day, or eight 8 oz. glasses. Much of that daily allowance, the council stressed in their last sentence, would come from foods we already eat. In the subsequent 75 years, the first part of this article has proliferated across books, news casts, health classes and kitchen tables. The latter part, alas, has not. The elimination of this last bit of information has had a major impact on how people understand this part of their health, promulgating a myth that water consumption is one size fits all. In reality, as the counsel stressed, most people are getting a lot more water into their system each day from the foods they eat than they realize. What’s more, how much water you should drink a day relies largely on factors like your health, age, diet and size.

While it’s important to drink lots of water, and eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day isn’t a bad target, most experts now say that listening to your body and drinking when you’re thirsty is as good a metric as any.

That you get to decide where you burn fat.

Those workouts that claim to give you a flat stomach and thinner legs? They’re lying. Few fitness myths are more widely-spread or more false than that of “spot training”, or the idea that you can target weight loss to parts of the body. In reality, fat burning is much more democratic. If you’re burning fat, you’re burning fat everywhere, regardless of what part of your body is doing the work. While a strict regimen of ab workouts will build up muscle, it won’t yield a thinner mid-section any quicker than it will fat loss in other parts of the body. 

This doesn't work.

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