Hot and Cold

Five Health Trends Running Hot & Cold into 2021

At long last the terrible, horrible, no-good year of 2020 is winding to a close. It was nothing like we expected or had ever seen before. Because of the coronavirus that still stalks us, patterns of life, health, and wellness have turned upside down. With a vaccine now sputtering out into the population, some of those changes may recede. But we are doubtful that we will go back to life as it was before. So here’s our take on some important health trends that will run hot and cold in 2021.

Hot: Health | Cold: Diets

Despite all the unfortunate talk this year about “the COVID Nineteen,” pop diets seem to be waning. Popular interest in the ketogenic diet has been fading since it peaked in 2019. Likewise, interest is dropping for low-carb and intermittent fasting diets. Right now we don’t see anything coming to take their places.

Instead, people at long last seem to be focusing more on actual health and wellness instead of weight loss. This is not to say that people will forget about weight loss altogether. Opportunists are gearing up for diet season in January, ready to sell us a Keto Fat Bomb.

But smart money is on strategies that put health first, displacing an excessive focus on weight. In this respect, we believe the Canadian obesity guidelines provide an excellent perspective for the future. This past year has given people a taste of genuine self care and it tastes good.

Hot: Telemedicine | Cold: Clinic Visits

Few people really like their trips to medical clinics and hospitals. To be sure, the medical care we receive can be great. But it can waste a lot of time with an unpleasant process. Our year of pandemic has shown everyone that a lot of that is unnecessary. Until now, providers, payers, and patients have all been reluctant to embrace telemedicine. This year has given us a crash course in its benefits. Utilization of telemedicine has exploded.

No doubt, some folks will remain resistant to technology and avoid telehealth visits as soon as they have that option. Many others, though, are embracing the efficiency of avoiding clinic visits. This trend is here to stay.

Hot: Eating Local | Cold: Ultra-Processed Food

There’s no doubt about it, this pandemic has changed the way we get our food. We’re making fewer trips to the store, buying local, stocking up on frozen foods, and choosing carefully to support the local food businesses we value most.

Meanwhile, we anticipate more critical thinking about the role of ultra-processed foods. Though the derisive talk about processed foods is nothing new, the appreciation for their potential impact on health is growing. We see this as a long-term issue. We need better definition for the ways in which processed foods can be problematic. Because processed foods will not go away, even if they come under increasing pressure for health issues.

Hot: Immunity | Cold: Stress

Immunity has become a pre-occupation and we don’t see it going away anytime soon. This means that 2021 will bring lots of empty hype on this subject. But some of it will be quite important – like getting the vaccine. The smart thinking about immunity will be all about basics of health and wellness that support a healthy immune system. That means healthy patterns of eating and physical activity, along with regular, restorative sleep.

It also means keeping stress at bay. For some, working at home has done that this year. For others, it has created new stresses because of childcare and remote education issues. Regardless, 2020 has given us new lessons in managing stress that will be useful in the year to come.

Hot: Human Connections | Cold: COVID Isolation

No doubt about it, Zoom and similar tools have been a boon in this awful year. We’ve been just a bit less isolated because of remote happy hours, remote meetings, and virtual conferences. Without a doubt, though, we’re missing some real human connections. Life in a bubble to avoid a menacing virus wears thin. Zoom fatigue is real. Right now, some people are paying with their lives because they got tired of it and exposed themselves to the virus.

Though that is not smart, you can be sure that people will be getting out of their bubbles and bringing back some other ways to make human connections. The vaccine will be part of it. Other lessons from the pandemic will help, too. The human urge to connect will come roaring back in 2021.

Hot and Cold, photograph © Apionid / flickr

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December 31, 2020

3 Responses to “Five Health Trends Running Hot & Cold into 2021”

  1. December 31, 2020 at 11:05 am, Allen Browne said:


    Happy Better New Year!!!!!!


  2. December 31, 2020 at 3:28 pm, Chester Draws said:

    Though that is not smart,

    It is perfectly smart. Please stop with this insistence that people behave irrationally all the time.

    I drive a car. Is that not smart because there is a risk of death or injury involved?

    We don’t ban people from riding horses, parachuting, climbing mountains etc — all things considerably more dangerous to a young fit person than covid.

    Life is not worth living if you are in perpetual fear and isolation. It is perfectly rational to take risks to make life worth living.

    • December 31, 2020 at 5:46 pm, Ted said:

      No, Chester, it is not smart to behave in a way that puts the lives of other people at risk.

      Driving a car while intoxicated is illegal because it endangers the lives of innocent persons.

      Likewise, when a person behaves in a way that spreads a dangerous and highly contagious virus in the community, they are putting other lives at risk. This is not smart because it is uncivilized. It is wrong.