Some areas of life are just prone to hype—movie premiers and pyramid schemes come to mind. And, unfortunately, so are the fields of fitness and nutrition, which seem to attract extremists like catnip does cats. The result: Fads rise and fall quickly—think ThighMaster, Shake Weights, the grapefruit diet—leaving behind a lot of confusion and misinformation. Use these guidelines to wisely sift through health and fitness info without becoming a guinea pig for every new trend and product that comes along.

See also The Cost of Wellness. 

  • Nothing comes easy. Beware the magic pill, the 3-minute abs, the food or supplement that promises to make you skinny, cure all ills or achieve world peace. A healthy life can’t be boiled down to one product or workout. It’s achieved bit by bit, decision by decision, day by day, through the little healthy choices you make. There are no lasting shortcuts.
  • One size does not fit all. A few broad health claims—exercise is good, Twinkies are bad—apply to everyone, but in general, fitness and nutrition approaches should be highly individualized. If a product or approach claims to be the “only way” for everyone, keep your guard up. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing to it, but dig deeper before jumping in.
  • The source matters. Before embracing any fitness or nutrition claim, do a little sleuth work. Ask: Who is making the claim? What is their agenda? Is there any science behind it? How much? Who sponsored the science? What do other experts say? Thanks to Google, you can track down the answers to most of these questions in a matter of minutes.
  • Common sense is your friend. As the saying (kind of) goes, if it sounds too good to be true, run! Or at least be very wary. If something is true, it doesn’t need a lot of superlatives and exclamation points to attract a following. Instead of chasing fads, build on what has worked for you in the past in terms of fitness and nutrition and make incremental changes. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Find exercise you enjoy. And don’t lose your mind in your pursuit of good health.

Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).