1. IT’S TIME TO SAY BUH-BYE, “PERFORMATIVE WELLNESS”—AND HELLO, SANITY
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When your *self-care routine* is stressing you out more than chilling you out, things need to change.
When your wellness routine—AKA the rituals and habits you embraced to make your life better—is stressing you out, things need to change. And for so many people this year, the line between constructive self-care and pure anxiety trigger (as in, just another thing on your already-jammed to-do list) became blurrier than ever before. In 2019, it’s time to simplify, simplify, simplify. And get that wellness-loving mojo back.
“In the age of social media and particularly Instagram, I believe the pressure people feel to engage in performative wellness creates anxiety, self-doubt, and depression,” says author, doula, and wellness maven Latham Thomas, who’s watched the landscape shift and expand as wellness has gone from esoteric to everywhere.
In the process, Instagram feeds have been flooded with picture-perfect healthy meals, #selfcaresunday rituals, and more. (Hey, if you don’t take an in-studio selfie, did your workout even happen?) All of this enthusiasm is infectious and, yes, fun—but it comes with a side of unspoken pressure to perform your healthy-living habits.
“In the age of social media and particularly Instagram, I believe the pressure people feel to engage in performative wellness creates anxiety, self-doubt, and depression.” —Latham Thomas, wellness pioneer
The industry boom—and the staggering number of new fitness, food, and lifestyle options to choose from—is partly to blame. New data shows that since 2015, the global wellness industry has grown 12.8 percent, from $3.7 trillion to $4.2 trillion. That increase is reflected in myriad new and expanded companies, products, and trends—which means more decisions to make.
“People have more choices than they’ve ever had in history, and whenever you have a lot of choice, it can be overwhelming,” says David Siik, creator of Equinox’s Precision Running program. He says that in the fitness world, people are hungry to return to basics, as evidenced by the cool-factor resurrection of the treadmill.
But, some want off the proverbial treadmill altogether: 2019 is looking like the year when we get real about what’s doable on a daily basis. The indications are there already—after all, when fitness phenom Kayla Itsines is singing the praises of JOMO, you know something’s up. And while “staying in is the new going out” has been a trend for a while, bonding over the desire for a simpler life has become a national pastime. (Raise your hand if you’ve seen the meme of comedian Hannah Gadsby identifying as “tired.”)
Other ways people are streamlining? In the beauty world, “skip-care” is the new pared-down way to do K-beauty (see ya, 10-step skin-care routine). And the number-one nutritional plan right now is the Mediterranean diet, which is less restrictive than buzzy options like Keto, Paleo, and Whole30. At home, the decluttering craze has taken a more attainable turn with the embrace of wabi-sabi—a Japanese design philosophy that finds beauty in imperfections and is all about embracing your home as it is. (Consider it KonMari’s cozier cousin—the one who will let you eat takeout on the couch.)
Basically, this new wave of self-care involves reclaiming your time—shout out to Congresswoman Maxine Waters—and attention. (Heck, even some of Instagram’s very creators have logged off forever, saying that the platform compromises a sense of well-being.) While opting out of all social media likely isn’t going to happen for most of us in 2019, a back-to-basics wellness revamp is a chance to get back to what made you fall in love with self-care to begin with.
2. CBD A BOOM OF NEW PRODUCTS
If 2018 was the year that CBD started seeping into everything—from our skin care to our cinnamon rolls—2019 will be the year the world stops perceiving it as a niche wellness fad and sees its mainstream potential. Why? Well, once the 2018 Farm Bill finally passes (any day now!), hemp-based CBD cultivation is expected to become legal nationwide.
Industry experts believe this will clear up the current confusion around the hemp plant’s legality, making retailers, scientists, and manufacturers more comfortable working with it—and paving the way for a tidal wave of research, product innovation, and distribution of hemp products.
To be clear, we’re talking about cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating compound in hemp and cannabis plants that’s credited with relieving anxiety, insomnia, pain, and inflammation. (Though rigorous studies backing up those claims are scarce, due to the current regulatory landscape.) And to put the hunger for CBD into perspective, the market for hemp-based CBD could top $22 billion by 2022, according to cannabis industry research firm The Brightfield Group. Yep, $22 billion. In contrast, turmeric—another plant ingredient with lots of hype surrounding it—raked in $11 billion in the US in 2017.
“[Expect] stricter requirements about how people are making claims about cannabinoids.” —Christopher Gavigan, CEO Prima
That said, experts still commonly refer to the CBD market as the “wild west,” and there are many issues to address before it can truly ascend to the next level. For one thing, it’s a totally unregulated industry right now. “A lot of [beauty and supplement] brands are aligning with the CBD [trend] without actually using CBD,” says Anna Duckworth, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Miss Grass, an elevated lifestyle shop and publication for women and cannabis. Various brands have been called out for using hemp seed oil and calling it “cannabis oil”—when, really, this part of the plant contains negligible levels of cannabinoids. (It’s the flowers of the hemp plant, not the seeds, that contain the most CBD.)
Actual standards for CBD products could be coming, though, if the 2018 Farm Bill passes as expected. “[Expect] stricter requirements about how people are making claims about cannabinoids,” says Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of the The Honest Company and CEO of soon-to-launch hemp CBD brand and education platform Prima.
Miss Grass CEO Kate Miller and Duckworth predict we’ll start seeing CBD brands touting sustainable sourcing, transparency, and giving back as a way to distance themselves from shadier players in the market. (Look to Juna, a new CBD oil brand as an example of a company touting “single-origin” ingredients and ultra-clean extraction processes.) And Cannabis Feminist founder Jessica Assaf, Prima’s co-founder, predicts that we’ll see a new wave of products that emphasize bioavailability—ones that are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body than the standard CBD oils and tinctures —in “new formats that work with the modern lifestyle.”
Jenny Sansouci, health coach and writer behind Healthy Crush, is particularly excited to see more CBD products for women’s health, noting that cannabis-based sexual wellness brand Foria is about to launch a line of CBD-only products (think suppositories for period pain and an intimate massage oil).
CBD protein powders, pain-relief patches, and vaporizer pens are also filtering into the market, and there’s a growing number of brands combining CBD with other herbal ingredients. Recess’ new line of adaptogenic CBD seltzers is creating a buzz, while Yuyo Botanics offers a CBD tincture with ashwagandha, plus peppermint and lemon.
It won’t just be startups contributing to the impending green rush, either. Coca-Cola is rumored to be experimenting with CBD in Canada, while the first FDA-approved pharmaceutical utilizing synthetic CBD, an epilepsy drug called Epidiolex, became available in the US in November. Laurel Myers, Prima’s COO, says it’s hard to predict exactly what kind of impact big business (and its big research dollars) will have on the nascent CBD industry, but she’s hopeful that it will be a positive one. “The more people you have looking at this and trying to crack the code, the better,” she says. “We’ll learn more, know more, and it will hopefully help broaden the impact on people’s lives.”
3. GOT OAT MILK?
Two years ago, it was a major deal when Starbucks added almond milk to its menu. At long last, everyone’s alt-milk dreams came true! Now, there’s a new dairy alternative on people’s healthy latte order wish list: oat.
The demand for oat milk has become so massive that market leader Oatly has upped its production by 1,250 percent just to meet it—including building a new factory to do so. The brand largely credits baristas for spreading the oat milk gospel. “When we decided to come to the US [from Sweden], we thought folks here would be ready for us and they definitely were,” says Sara Fletcher, the brand’s communications and public affairs lead. “A lot of people tried Oatly first at a coffee shop, which is an easy way to see how it tastes and performs. And when we launched in grocery stores earlier this year, the people who had grown to love oat milk in their coffee were ready to stock their fridges, too.”
The demand for oat milk has become so massive that market leader Oatly has upped its production by 1,250 percent just to meet it—including building a new factory to do so.
Lee Zheng, who owns Saltwater Coffee in New York City, sees the demand for oat milk firsthand, saying it’s now even more popular than (gasp!) almond. “It doesn’t have the nutty taste the other alternatives, like almond or macadamia, do, and it’s creamy and steams quite well compared to [dairy] milk, which is an added bonus as not all alternate milks do well being frothed,” she says.
Quaker, owned by PepsiCo, is also coming out with an oat milk next year. “The dairy alternative beverages space is growing rapidly, as 60 percent of the US population is reducing their consumption of animal products and 60 percent of US adults also drink non-dairy milk,” says Brian Hannigan, senior marketing director of innovation strategy for PepsiCo North America Nutrition. And the decision to launch a Quaker-branded oat milk only came after extensive research into what consumers are looking for in this space, according to Hannigan.
Kara Nielsen, the vice president of trends and marketing at CCD Helmsman credits both the plant-based hook and Americans’ familiarity with the ingredient, for turning oat milk into a home fridge staple. “Oats are a familiar American crop and already often part of morning mealtime, when many of these milk alternatives are used, whether on cereal, in a smoothie or for a coffee drink,” she says.
But just because it’s become the new darling of the mylk world doesn’t mean oat milk is without its faults. “Oats were found to have glyphosate on the products the Environmental Working Group tested,” points out integrative and functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, MD, adding that although oat milk was not tested, all other oat products had glyphosate. (Fletcher, at Oatly responds to this saying the brand sources their oats from Grain Millers, who since 2015 has required that its farmers not use glyphosate on their oats, which are tested regularly to ensure compliance.)
But don’t expect for it to stay just a coffee add-in: It’s only a matter of time before the dairy alternative becomes the starring ingredient in alt-yogurts and “nice creams.” (One out now: Frankie & Jo’s.) And maybe—just maybe—2019 is the year it shows up at your local Starbucks.
4. CORTISOL-CONSCIOUS WORKOUTS
The “rise and grind” memes may never stop on Instagram. But at some point, your body might. There’s a growing realization that relentless, punishing, long workouts aren’t always better—particularly if they trigger a wave of cortisol, AKA the stress hormone. Cortisol sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, so it temporarily hits pause on regular bodily functions and slows metabolism (it can also prime your body for injury, or signal it to store fat).
Translation: Those last dig-deep reps can actually backfire on you, slowing your progress toward a fitness goals. For this reason—as well as a mindset shift toward working out for your brain as much as your bod (thanks to growing research into the connection between exercise and mental health)—many fitness lovers are starting to take a more measured approach, turning to sweat sessions that are more hormone-conscious than hurts-so-good.
In 2019, look for shorter training sessions to become the new norm—30-minute classes are already offered by Peloton, barre3, Equinox, and more.
Just look at the trend of HILIT (high-intensity, low-impact) workouts popping up everywhere––from big gyms like Equinox and Crunch, to boutique studios like SLT, the LIT Method, and B MVMNT, which was an early adopter when the workout launched back in 2010. “At the time, I received a lot of backlash from the fitness community, but now people have come around,” says celebrity trainer Bizzie Gold, B MVMNT’s founder. Her strength training classes include a dash of yoga and even tribal dance to “sweat with intention,” as she puts it. This attitude of careful calibration—versus go-for-broke grit—is also leading many people to adapt their weekly workout schedules (by avoiding HIIT two days in a row, for example, or fitting in regular yoga classes) to be more conscious of what’s actually sustainable for their body.
In a similar vein, in 2019, look for shorter training sessions to become the new norm—30-minute classes are already offered by Peloton, barre3, Equinox, and more—as well as “cardio weightlifting,” which involves short, heart-rate pumping, strength-training classes (without long cardio breaks), like those offered at NYC’s Iconoclast Fitness.
So, what if hard-hitting workouts are your method for releasing stress? You’re not alone. But boosting your recovery routine is another way to avoid the dreaded C-word. (Not that one.) And when your foam roller wasn’t looking, a host of high-tech tools have arrived to steal its spot as your restorative BFF. From cryotherapy tanks (a favorite of Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake), to handheld massaging devices like Theragun and electrical muscle-stimulation dots that stick onto your skin—the gadgets are varied and next-level. At the same time, on the low-tech side of things, stretching-only classes and studios are also on the rise.
There’s a good reason for this: Skipping out on recovery and jumping straight into your next workout makes your body more vulnerable to injury, according to Eric Glader, co-founder and CEO of PowerDot (the company responsible for the aforementioned muscle-stimulating dots). “Advancements in technology have allowed us to bring a modality that was once reserved for those that have the resources and time to the masses,” says Glader.
With these tools making their way to your bedside table, and even cropping up en masse at your neighborhood gym, keeping your cool, cortisol-wise, will soon be easier than ever.