The year in fitness and dieting 2021 was far from uneventful. The introduction of MyPlate, larger conversations about nutrition in school food, and the condemnation of too-thin celebrities kept things interesting and proved that we don’t see diet, nutrition and fitness as just fads, they’re a part of our lifestyles. From our vantage point, there were a few things that will make 2021 memorable and keep the fit-focused conversations moving in 2021.
1. Gluten-Free Diet. Throw diet on the end and it sounds like anyone with a few pounds to lose could be benefited by this eating regimen. However, the gluten-free diet is not one-size-fits-all; it’s a necessity for the three million people living with celiac disease, according to University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, or gluten intolerances. This autoimmune disorder affects the digestive process, which is disrupted when they consume gluten, the protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. In the past year, the availability of gluten-free labeling and gluten-free products has made it easier than ever for those who actually need to follow a GF diet to do so.
2. HIIT. This High Intensity Interval Training was all the rage this year, whether people realized they were doing it or not. Programs like P90X, Insanity, Jillian Michaels, and the new PINK Method rely on this style of training, which uses quick bursts of intense exercise followed by brief periods of recovery, in a constant series. HIIT is one trend that actually has staying power, and Liz Neporent, author of 12 fitness titles including The Winner’s Brain, explains why. “HITTS is attractive because you can get a great workout in less time. Instead of dedicating a full hour to cardio and then an additional 20-30 minutes to weights – you can often pack in an awesome workout and burn tons of calories in as little as 20 minutes.” She explains more about HIITs in this episode of Health Buzz.
3. Juicing and Raw Diets. Our pressed-for-time society found a way to eat right without too much prep time. It’s called the raw diet, and can stand alone or be followed in conjunction with the juice diet. Whether for weight loss, to reverse disease, or to be conscientious about the earth, the raw diet boasts a lot of nutritional benefits for its dedicated followers. “Raw vegan is moving so quickly, even more so than vegetarian did years ago,” says Mimi Kirk, author of Live Raw, about the trend. “Raw restaurants are popping up, the media is covering this subject, and so many wonderful documentaries are in the theaters [i.e. “Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead”] educating people about the food we consume.” We agree with Mimi’s forecast that we’ll continue to hear a lot more about the raw food movement in 2021. “It’s quite exciting to be part of a conscious group of people who are helping to change themselves and the world for the betterment of all,” added Mimi.
4. Paleo Diet. Although first developed in the 1970s, the paleolithic, or caveman diet, has gained new traction over the past several years, in part due to of increasing awareness of the problems associated with consuming too much processed foods. The diet also appeals to the growing number of Americans with gluten and lactose intolerances. The past year was particularly big for the Paleo diet, as prominent supporters Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain both published new books on the subject. Several Paleo cookbooks were also popular in 2021, including Everyday Paleo, which made the New York Times bestseller list.
5. Rise in Amateur Athletes. If you’ve competed in a triathlon this year or crossed the finish line at a marathon you might have noticed more competitors than usual. Our resident running expert, Lacy Hansen, who finished her second Boston Marathon this year, observed that the finish lines are staying open much longer than they have in the past. Such a move allows more newcomers to these endurance sports to cross the line and claim a finisher title. Running half or full marathons or competing in triathlons has become a weight loss reward for many men and women in the past year. As if the shopping spree for smaller clothes wasn’t enough, being able to put their new bodies to the ultimate test is becoming a weight loss badge of honor.
6. Local/Organic/Sustainable. These buzz words were used as often as possible this year, either by journalists, marketers, or concerned shoppers. We want to know where our food comes from, and such a desire is completely fair. Why shouldn’t we? With a number of high-profile recalls this year, including ground turkey, melon, Starbucks lunches, and even Tylenol, transparency in our food production process is being demanded more and more. We want cleaner, healthier food that provides what it promises, and we don’t want to risk blindly eating moldy applesauce. One way more consumers are protecting themselves is to skip the middle men of food manufacturing and go straight to the source – shopping local farmers markets, CSAs, and butchers for fruits, vegetables, meat, and other goods like eggs and honey.
7. Crossfit. CrossFit exploded in popularity this year, and showed itself to not only be one of the best ways to get in shape, but a lucrative business opportunity as well. CrossFit affiliate gyms have popped up all over the world, run by CrossFit converts, inviting people of all genders, ages, shapes and sizes to challenge themselves physically and mentally to complete the WOD (workout of the day) — usually displayed on a whiteboard or chalkboard. The exercises vary, but you will never see traditional gym circuits. WOD can be anything from 100 pullups and push ups, then dragging a tractor tire around the building, to relay races of bear crawls and crab walks. Your only goal? Do better than you have before. Everyone does the same workout, which creates a team atmosphere. When the faster competitors finish in record time, they cheer on those who are struggling to finish. CrossFit has received some criticism for being too intense and not taking special considerations for different fitness levels, but ask any of CrossFit’s cult-like followers and they will say that fun and intense exercise is far less dangerous than what most Americans do: nothing.
What do you think stood out this year and helped define the diet and fitness space in 2021?