Päntsdrunk or pilates against the wall?


Päntsdrunk or pilates against the wall?

What to make of all the health trends, wellness advice and diet plans we’re constantly bombarded with in the media? BIANCA DU PLESSIS is so overwhelmed, she tends to choose nothing at all.


THE morning of my 50th, I woke up and grabbed my phone to check for messages.

Up popped an advertisement on Facebook with a wiry little woman demanding: “Do you want to lose belly fat?" How does she know, I wondered. On Instagram a few minutes later, the same Gollum person yelled: “Whatever you do, don't do cardio!" As if I would, I thought indignantly.

Unsolicited advice

Three years later, I’ve grown accustomed to the skinny woman in kids’ clothing preaching the anti-cardio gospel on every platform; promising that just seven minutes of her exercise routine is more effective than 45 minutes in the gym. And if only I consumed fresh turmeric and ginger every day, plus three other goodies that are unknown to me because I’ve never watched for long enough … but should I consume these five “mega-influencer foods" daily, my metabolism would get such a boost that… That whatever. Because it's never going to happen.

In one video, she sits on the toilet and says to the camera: “It's like pooping out bloat." At least she kept her running shorts on.

Social media is flooded with them. Young, muscular gurus dishing out unsolicited advice to middle-aged people, and the only thing everyone seems to agree on? Cardio is pure evil. I've always preferred hygge to huffing and puffing, but when did cardio become so unfashionable?

Quick fixes & big bucks

“Everyone’s just looking for a quick fix these days," says a personal trainer about the trend of reducing wellness to five of this and seven minutes of that, for a limited number of days. “That seven-minute session will work, provided you do it 18 days a week," she laughs.

The wellness industry encompasses all aspects of mental and physical health, from mindfulness and meditation to diet, fitness and longevity. In 2022, the global wellness market was valued at $5,243.3-billion and it is estimated to reach $8,057.7-billion by 2030. For a few crumbs of this enormous pie, I’ll also sit on a toilet and talk crap.

As with babies and weddings, we tend to lose it when it comes to our bodies, and we piss away far too much money. 

Ice bath on our doorstep

Ice baths are hot right now and a bit more extreme than the cold-water swimming trend of previous years.

“Why do people throw enough ice for a thousand G&Ts into a bath just to sit in it?" I ask the trainer. “Can't they just take a cold shower?"

“Yes, but for an ice bath to work, you have to do it right. The water must be a specific temperature (6-12°C) and you must sit in it long enough (10-15 minutes). You should preferably submerge your whole body, including your head if you can. This exposes the thyroid gland and back of the neck, which elicits a more effective hormonal response."

So, not how Mariska and Michelle from Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande did it — they were submerged only up to the waist — and more like a 10-minute swim in the chilly Atlantic. 

Pilates against the wall

Yoga and pilates aren’t massive calorie burners, but they’re great for flexibility and soothing the soul. Contrary to the quick fix, they are skills acquired over years and “perfected" slowly, according to what your tight muscles, hips and joints will allow.

But not wall yoga! This phenomenon promises a beach body in just 28 days! Or even 21 days! I've had enough of the exclamation marks. All you need is a wall, an app on your phone (to follow instructions), and a few minutes a day. You can also practise face yoga to get rid of wrinkles, or chair or bed yoga if standing up or exercising on the floor isn't your thing. Could it be any easier?

From the lips to the hips

Exercise is optional, but everyone must eat. It comes as no surprise that we tend to lose the plot with diets, especially.  The obsession with weight is almost as old as the mountains.

When the rotund William the Conqueror fell from his horse in 1066 AD, he hid his embarrassment by pretending to kiss the earth for joy. He summarily swore off all food and followed a liquid diet consisting only of alcohol. William lost enough weight to get back on his horse, but died during a battle when his saddle’s pummel hit him in the stomach and ruptured his intestines.

Every era has its diet fads. Compared to Lord Byron's vinegar diet in the 1820s and the cigarette diet prescribed by doctors in the 1920s, the intermittent fasting of the 2020s and eating plans such as Noom, Galveston and the Mediterranean diet exemplify a balanced, healthy approach.

Not that we’re necessarily making progress. Given humanity's penchant for shortcuts, and with the help of medical science, you can now inject diabetic drugs such as Ozempic and watch the kilos melt away.

Päntsdrunk on the couch

If all of it sounds like too much trouble, the Finnish selfcare phenomenon of kalsarikänni could be for you.

Unlike hygge, the Danish concept of selfcare through aesthetic pampering, kalsarikänni literally means drinking in your underwear. With their long winters and all the layers of clothing that socialising requires, the Finns enjoy nothing more than kicking off their pants and relaxing on the couch with a drink.

We all know that genetics play the biggest role in determining how we look. Followed by food and fluid intake. And, yes, exercise.

It’s just that the reality of ticking all these boxes is a bit boring. Rome will not be built in a day, so don't start by trying to count every stone.

♦ VWB ♦

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