What Should You Focus on During Your Healthy Girl Era?
- The Healthy Girl trend on TikTok consists of numerous posts about how to live your best and healthiest life.
- Certain influencers can peddle their own products and misinformation, so beware.
- Living healthy isn't complicated. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting a good amount of sleep and eliminating stress go a long way.
If you've viewed any TikTok health influencers lately, you may have spotted post after post sharing "healthy girl habits," or a peek at what other people are doing during their "healthy girl era" to feel their best.
These alleged healthy habits on TikTok are often misleading and harmful. Many shouldn't be a part of a healthy lifestyle, let alone your daily routine. Let's take a look at the worst of the social media myths.
What are 'healthy girl habits' to avoid?
It's not always easy to recognize a bad habit for what it is or to recognize when someone is dishing out not-so-great advice.
You might be doing several things that may not be as good for you as some social media influencers would have you believe.
Recommendations from non-experts
Who is giving advice? Resist following advice from people who aren't experts on the topics, especially regarding health and wellness, said Serena Poon, C.N., a celebrity chef, certified nutritionist and reiki master in Los Angeles.
Advice such as dietary recommendations or treatments for conditions should only come from experts. If an influencer boasts about immediate results or promises big change, it's wise to be wary.
Look beyond the messaging. Does the influencer promote products or profit from their advice? Be mindful of influencers peddling products, said Stacie J. Stephenson, D.C., C.N.S., a functional medicine doctor and the author of "Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Own Your Health, and Glow."
"People often flock to the idea of a challenge or a drastic habit overhaul, but when the expectations are too high, people tend to give up quickly and make no change at all," said Stephenson, who splits her time between Chicago and Phoenix.
Restrictive habits are too intense and can lead to obsessive behaviors and poor mental health.
"I think most healthy habits are reasonable if you take out qualifying words like 'always' or 'never' or 'daily,'" Stephenson said.
The obsessive nature of these types of trends can trigger anxiety or even eating disorders.
"The negative mental health impact of getting obsessed about health habits can far outweigh any positive benefits of practicing a healthful habit," Stephenson said.
Instead of aiming for a specific number of servings of vegetables per day, aim to incorporate more veggies into each meal. Instead of trying to meditate for 20 minutes every morning, start with five minutes when you have the time.
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Habits that don't make you feel good
Everyone is different. Some habits just aren't going to work for you—and that's OK. Try new things and drop a habit if it doesn't feel good, Poon said.
"Your body is the ultimate judge of what is right for you and what isn't," Stephenson said.
Don't feel pressured to continue certain habits just because you see someone on social media doing them, especially if they don't jibe with your lifestyle. Waking up early may be a great productivity tool for some people, for example, but not everyone thrives in the morning.
"Health and well-being is truly an individualized journey, and it often takes deep work to develop habits that will offer sustainable health," Poon said.
Ditch the 'positive vibes only' mentality
Another healthy girl trend you may spot on social media is an overemphasis on being positive. Things happen. Pretending every day that every little thing is OK isn't good for your mental health. It's often exhausting.
"While cultivating positivity is beneficial, the 'positive vibes only' culture can create pressure to mask or suppress authentic emotions," said Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind in New York City. "It's essential to acknowledge and process both positive and negative feelings to maintain emotional authenticity and resilience. Strive for a healthy emotional balance."
You may have come across more TikTok videos explaining the very detailed, productive routines people practice before and after their 9-to-5 jobs. While this can certainly be inspiring for some people, trying to be productive all the time can have consequences.
"The emphasis on being productive at all times can lead to burnout and chronic stress," Hafeez said. "While setting and achieving goals is fulfilling, it's equally crucial to allow yourself to rest, relax, and engage in activities purely for leisure and enjoyment."
An "on the go" mentality isn't sustainable long-term. Your mind and body need a break. Learn to appreciate time spent ignoring your to-do list.
What are the habits actually worth focusing on during your healthy girl era?
Now you know what you shouldn't do, it's time to look at the things you perhaps should do in your healthy girl year.
It's easier said than done. Everyone knows you need enough sleep, but it's too easy to binge-watch that new Netflix show or get lost in TikTok. Poor sleep or getting less sleep than you need affects every other part of your health and well-being.
Roughly one-third of adults aren't getting enough sleep each night, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH).
"Sleep deprivation can cause overeating and junk food cravings, and we know it is associated with obesity," Stephenson said. "When you are fully rested, you are more likely to make good decisions about your health, like getting more movement into your day and eating more vegetables."
Spend more time outside
"The notion that being in nature is good for us—which seems obvious but which we've gotten so far away from—is finally getting the air time it deserves," Stephenson said. "Getting outside and walking in the woods, on a beach or anywhere where you can see trees, plants, flowers or water is known to lower stress levels."
Spending time outside increases levels of vitamin D as well, an element essential for immune and bone health. Yet many of us don't get enough of it, Poon said.
Sitting in front of a sunny window isn't enough. Go outside. Take a walk in the woods. A lack of sunlight can contribute to fatigue, affect your mental health and even affect your libido.
Move your body
Basic movement over organized exercise is a hallmark of the healthy girl trend. You don't have to join a gym or hit up a yoga class; it's all about naturally incorporating a little physical activity into your day.
"Walking is enjoying a renaissance, and it is such a basic human movement that I think it's really beneficial for people to try to do it more," Stephenson said. "We are in a time when most people sit most of the day, so simply getting up and taking walks during the day is movement in the right direction—and if it's walking outside, even better."
Adults average between six and a half and eight hours of sitting each day, according to a 2016 study. That leaves little time in the day for movement. See how you can fit in a walk—whether you head to the grocery store or out on your lunch break—and start your healthy girl era off on the right foot.
Ditch the food obsessions, counting calories and eliminating certain foods as part of the new you. Eating healthy is another healthy girl habit worth embracing.
"This attitude helps to free people from the anxiety and obsession with eating 'perfectly,'" Stephenson said.
Define what healthy food actually means. Some foods that are marketed as healthy—vegan meat is one example—are highly processed, Poon said. Read the labels and compare nutritional information between the different brands.
Avoid the TikTok myth-dispensing health influencers and embrace expert advice.
Ultra-processed foods make up nearly 60 percent of what an adult eats. It's higher for children at 70 percent, according to NPR.
Stick with the basics. Drink water. Choose home-cooked food.
"Fruits and vegetables contain really amazing nutrients, antioxidants and phytonutrients that support health on many levels," Poon said. "Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will help you eat the widest variety of these healthy compounds."
Practice self-care and stress management
What does it mean to practice self-care? It's a general term for thinking about how to help yourself rest and recharge to better maintain your mental health. The ambiguity of self-care isn't a bad thing.
"This allows people to explore what self-care means for them, and since this is a highly individual practice, I'm loving the leeway that encompasses," Stephenson said.
There's no pressure to do things perfectly, because seeking perfection defeats the purpose of self-care.
This flexible approach to self-care supports stress management, which is one of the foundations of well-being.
"You can eat well, exercise regularly and lie in bed for eight hours a night, but if you are constantly stressed, you can't feel good or be truly healthy," Stephenson said. "Whatever it takes to manage your stress—time off, meditation, yoga, more human connection, naps, creativity, nature therapy—will be a powerful boost to your health."
Foster positive relationships
Living a healthy girl lifestyle is not just about the things you do solo. Social connection is part of living a well-balanced life.
"Building and maintaining meaningful relationships with friends, family and community members is vital for mental well-being," Hafeez said. "Social interactions provide support, a sense of belonging and opportunities for sharing experiences."
If your current friend group leaves a lot to be desired, seek out new connections. Look at the options in your community. From historic preservation groups to running clubs to volunteering at your local library, food pantry or pet shelter, there are many ways to get involved and meet like-minded people to gain a boost in your own mental health.
The bottom line
Avoid the TikTok myth-dispensing health influencers and embrace expert advice. It's never easy to begin with a series of new, supposedly good-for-you habits.
In the case of the healthy girl trend, these open-ended habits can help you stick with them that much easier.