The last thing most of us want to do in the new year is start a depressingly restrictive diet or trudge to the gym before daybreak. Instead, getting fit and healthy in 2021 will be all about simplicity, gentleness and finding our inner calm. Here are the wellness trends set to change our lives this year.
1. Load up on new superfoods
Among this year’s predicted new superfoods is carob. The chocolate substitute is seeing a revival as it contains hydroxyproline, an amino acid involved in collagen production that is often deficient in vegan diets. Choose palm oil-free carob.
Starch-rich breadfruit tastes a bit like bread when cooked, but can also be dried and ground into flour, which a British Columbia University study suggested was easier to digest than wheat. "Flour produced from breadfruit is a gluten-free, low glycaemic index, nutrient-dense and complete protein option for modern foods," says lead researcher Ying Liu.
Mankai duckweed, also known as Wolffia globosa, contains fibre, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 and could help you lose weight.
A new study published in the journal Heart found men following a Mediterranean diet who drank duckweed shake daily lost 800g more on average over six months compared with those following the diet alone.
2. Calm your chattering mind
Nearly one in five adults was suffering with some form of depression by mid-2020, double the rate of the previous year – so books on mental well-being are destined to do well. Psychologist Ethan Kross’s new book Chatter promises to help readers harness their inner voice to prevent them going "down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk and endless rumination".
Mind coach Don Macpherson calls our negative inner voice the ‘Monkey Mind’, after the Buddhist idea that it is like a monkey swinging from tree to tree. His book How to Master Your Monkey Mind explains how to ‘harness’ this inner voice through breathing and heightened awareness. "We all need to learn how to tune our brains to be calmer and have a more balanced perspective in 2021," he says.
3. Eat a ‘climatarian’ diet
Worried about our impact on the planet, but can’t stick to a vegan diet? Climatarianism could be the way forward. The diet means sticking to foods with a low carbon footprint and the least environmental impact, such as local and seasonal produce, sustainable fish, animal products from high-welfare, free-range suppliers, while also avoiding excess packaging.
Meat eaters should switch from beef and lamb to chicken to save a ton of CO2 being emitted every year, according to the Climates network. It says: "Grazing animals who chew the cud like cattle, sheep, goats and deer have a much higher climate impact."
4. Embrace micro-changes
Joanne Mallon, author of Change Your Life in 5 Minutes a Day, recommends replacing a new year lifestyle overhaul with ‘micro-changes’: small, easy fixes that improve your life, such as stepping outside to look at the sky or taking five minutes to extend a conversation with a neighbour beyond ‘hello’. "Even the smallest interactions like that can make us feel more connected and less isolated," she says.
5. Fast – for 14 hours a day
In 2021, the trend for intermittent fasting – or time-restricted eating – will continue to grow, as evidence mounts to show its benefits for weight loss and all round health.
You could lose 3kg in three months simply by eating all your normal meals between 8am and 6pm, according to nutritionist Jeannette Hyde, whose new book 10 Hour Diet is out.
"Research shows this is the sweet spot," she explains. "Fasting for 14 hours overnight helps improve heart health, lower blood pressure and protect against type 2 diabetes because our bodies go into repair mode. It’s a gentler way to lose weight."
The science behind this says humans were never meant to eat at the times we do now. With people eating breakfast early and having dinner late, their systems don’t have enough time to recover overnight.
6. An immunity-boosting break
International travel has lately become a luxury, but when it’s back on the agenda, many holidaymakers will be swapping Bacchanalian breaks for healthier options. Bookings for ‘immunity-boosting retreats’ are up 22 per cent at specialist holiday provider Health and Fitness Travel.
Founder Paul Joseph says: "Our clients want to continue or start their fitness journey and improve resilience to stress, boost immunity and therefore improve their mental and physical well-being following a tumultuous 2020."
Luxury breaks to Greece, Spain and Thailand offer travellers a health check in the form of blood and urine tests, nutritional analysis, guidance on boosting immunity with lifestyle changes and a host of treatments such as deep meditation, forest walks and underwater massage.
There’s no firm evidence these treatments can really alter your body’s immune response, but that hasn’t deterred people desperate to escape the gloom – and they are certainly better for you than overdoing it the all-you-can-eat buffet.
7. Mainstream menopause
Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Meg Mathews helped make the menopause mainstream this year, according to John Lewis. It predicts a 2021 boom in products to help cope with symptoms, such as supplements, hair removal devices and cooling sprays to deal with hot flushes. Kamwell also predicts menopause technology will be the next big thing, such as the wrist-worn device Grace, which tracks and fends off hot flushes via a cooling patch.
8. Get a shedload fitter
Retailer WeMakeGyms.com saw a 30 per cent increase in home gym inquiries this year. Decking out the shed is the logical next step.
The shed office, or shoffice, is being replaced by the ‘shym’. For instance, Scott Church, a British father of three twentysomething sons who were home during the pandemic, saw an opportunity to get creative. "We haven’t felt the need to renew gym memberships," he explains. "But we did have to upgrade the roof structure, so we could fit a punchbag."
9. Stress-reducing chocolate
With a third of adults now more anxious than they were before the pandemic, consultancy Mintel says stress-reducing foods will be big in 2021. Chocolate is already a known mood booster, with 2018 research by Loma Linda University in California showing chocolate with more than 70 per cent cacao had a positive effect on stress and inflammation levels, mood, memory and immunity.
But savvy producers are now developing ‘supercharged’ chocolate – enhanced with other stress-relieving compounds such as reishi mushroom, used in Asian medicine to promote sleep.