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“Wellness”: the sublime to the silly

It would appear cottage cheese is making a comeback. As ice cream.

Google will tell you all you need to know. The lumpy white diet fad of the 1950s has been re-incarnated as a high-protein, low-fat and low-maintenance dessert. TikTok user @lainiecooks kicked it off: Mix full-fat cottage cheese with the sweetener of your choice [preferably a “more nutritious” option, like honey or agave syrup], fruit slices and chocolate chips, transfer to a container and freeze.

As happens with TikTok, the original post got upwards of one million views, cottage cheese went flying off the shelves, and instructional healthy ice cream videos exploded – each one prettier than the last.

“It’s just like the real thing!” some rhapsodise. Others aren’t so sure – all the sugary additions can’t mask the unmistakable tang of their grandma’s go-to guilt-free snack. Others were justifiably concerned about supply and demand. “Cottage cheese gonna be $25,” one user drily noted.

If you subscribe to social media in any form, you’ll know this is just the latest in a litany of viral wellness trends. If it can help you hack your way to a model physique and an enviable digestive system, it will proliferate online. Humans like to look good and feel virtuous, influencers like to make a buck. Match made in heaven/hell.

Wellness trends range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Last year, for example, TikTok tried to convince us a spoonful of balsamic vinegar added to a glass of sparkling water tasted “just like Coca-Cola – but healthy!” I haven’t tried it – I’m rather fond of my tooth enamel.

Another viral “healthy alternative” – dunking cucumber slices in sugar as a replacement for watermelon. Because in this timeline, we’re afraid of fruit [naturally-occurring sugar – the devil]. And then, just to be confusing, you’ll find the vegan Youtubers who eat nothing but fruit. And the “Carnivore” Youtubers insisting vegetables are toxic. Pass the grass-fed steak.

Speaking of vegetables… you’ve probably stumbled across the juicing trend at some point. Back in 2019, Anthony William, an Instagram influencer calling himself “The Medical Medium”, claimed a daily glass of celery juice could heal everything from fibromyalgia, to shingles, to hypertension. Something about mineral salts in celery breaking down pathogenic cell membranes.

Sounds wonderful – Hollywood certainly thought so. Problem is, William has no medical qualifications. Other than being connected to the heavenly realm, where he receives all his advice from “the Spirit of Compassion”.

[What are their credentials? There’s no compassion to be found in celery…]

Some trends are just laughable. I don’t think I need to tell you that a garlic clove up your nose won’t help congestion. Or that doing yoga poses with a baby goat on your back [“goat yoga” – it’s a thing] probably doesn’t have medicinal properties. Or that jade eggs [cheers, Gwyneth] don’t belong anywhere near the vaginal muscles.

I understand. People want an easy fix to whatever ails them. People want to avoid more serious ailments in the future. People want replacements for their calorie-laden favourites to stave off the FOMO. And the internet is full of appealing solutions.

Unfortuntely, there’s no way to hack your body. No one food is a cure-all. Staying healthy takes effort: a balanced and varied diet [which, yes, can include treats], staying active, and working on an individual care plan with a health professional come fairly highly recommended. But I guess that doesn’t make for a concise hashtag, or aesthetically-pleasing Newsfeed.

My advice? Eat the actual ice cream. Save the cottage cheese for crackers, the balsamic vinegar for dipping bread, and the jade eggs for home décor. And enjoy your celery any way you like. Or not.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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