From Hot Girl Walks to Whole30, mouth taping to lettuce water, TikTok is anything but short of catchy health trends. In recent years, TikTok has become somewhat of an online pharmacy, selling so-called health solutions to the masses. Except TikTok’s health and fitness trends, whether for weight loss or insomnia, are rarely based on real, scientific evidence.
While the internet has always been home to unproven health fads that often lack any real evidence, the superfast trend cycle of TikTok means these fads are getting churned out faster and faster to an ever growing audience of young people who have yet to learn the meaning of the term ‘yoyo diet’. We’ve analysed the top health, weight loss and diet trends on TikTok to confirm whether or not these trends are not just worth your time, but safe.
If you’ve existed on the internet for any part of the past 20 years, you’ll know there’s no shortage of health fads, and TikTok is no different. While some, like the chlorophyll water trend that swept the app in 2021, are safer than they are dangerous, others are a little more nefarious.
This years’ Borax Challenge saw TikTok users ingest sodium borate, which is used in washing detergent and household cleaning products. Mixing the chemicals with water, users falsely claim that the concoction helps with several health conditions, from erectile dysfunction to kidney stones. On the contrary, borax is banned from foods and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea if ingested by itself. Large amounts can even cause kidney failure.
Similarly, the ‘Black Out Rage Gallon’ – or BORG – became popular among students as an alcoholic drink with an inbuilt hangover remedy. Rather than a healthy option for a night out, BORGs, which contain water, vodka, a flavoured mix (like kool-aid) and an electrolyte drink (like Powerade), were linked to multiple alcohol intoxication cases at one US college and there’s no scientific evidence that they help to cure hangovers.
75 Hard Challenge
The 75 Hard Challenge peaked in popularity in 2020, but it's yet to slow down. In fact, Google searches for the term ‘75 Hard Challenge’ were up 90% in the last 30 days.
Created by Andy Frisella, a motivational speaker, author, and the owner of a supplement company in 2019, 75 Hard has been billed as a means to improve not only your physical fitness, but your mental toughness. Those who managed to complete 75 Hard have claimed to see significant weight loss, as well as newfound discipline.
For 75 days straight, you must follow five core rules. If you miss a day, you have to start the whole 75-day cycle again.
- Follow a diet of your choice – but you can’t have any cheat meals or drink any alcohol
- Drink a gallon of water a day
- Complete two 45-minute workouts, one of which should be outside
- Read 10 pages of non-fiction
- Take a photograph of yourself
As our inhouse Superintendent Pharmacist, Jana Abelovska, says, intense programmes such as this recent fitness challenge cannot only lead to physical and mental exhaustion, but could result in overtraining, leading to injuries. “The extreme diet restrictions of the challenge also promote a very unhealthy relationship with food,” said Jana. “This is especially concerning for individuals who are vulnerable to such issues who can access this kind of content.”
Instead, Jana recommends opting for a more balanced lifestyle, incorporating rest into your fitness routine and setting realistic goals. The 75 Soft Challenge, for example, is a more balanced take on 75 Hard. Its rules allow drinking on social occasions and reading any books – not just nonfiction – working out only once per day, including one day of active recovery, and limiting your water intake to 3 litres. As Jana says, balance and enjoyment are crucial factors for long term happiness in health.
Hot Girl Walk
The term Hot Girl Walk was coined by TikTok user @exactlylikeothergirls in 2021 and has taken TikTok by storm, continuing to trend two years later. Hot Girl Walks are less about looking a certain way and more about feeling confident “from the inside out”.
A Hot Girl Walk is an outdoor walk that lasts for at least 20 minutes and has one rule – that you’re only allowed to think of three things: things you’re grateful for, your goals and how you’re going to achieve them and, finally, how hot you are.
The verdict on the Hot Girl Walk is that it is very much a worthwhile trend to get in on.
Jana said: “Not only does daily walking enhance cardiovascular health (reducing the risk of heart disease and improving circulation), but a simple walk each day can aid in weight management, muscle strength, and improving physical endurance. The low impact nature of walking means it's accessible to people at all fitness levels!
“Mentally, daily walking can reduce stress and anxiety. Rhythmic motions promote relaxation and can release endorphins - known for elevating your mood. This aside, taking the time for yourself to enjoy a walk gives an opportunity to practise mindfulness and improve mental clarity.”
Shy Girl Workout
The Shy Girl Workout began trending on TikTok in 2022 and has since accumulated over 700 million views. These workouts are designed for anyone who has gym anxiety or feels shy or nervous going into a busy gym. They’re typically used to help beginners gain confidence in the gym.
Shy Girl Workout is a general term that encompasses workouts that require no or very little gym equipment (such as a few dumbbells), can be done in one small area of the gym and include simple, easy to remember exercises. Shy Girl Workouts can be adapted for any muscle group, from full body to leg day.
While Shy Girl Workouts are a great way to get you into the swing of things, it’s important to make sure you’re not only doing the moves you see on TikTok, but doing them correctly.
“Correct form is the foundation of an impactful (and safe!) fitness routine,” says Jana. It means you can engage the right muscles and massively reduce any risk of injury.
“When done correctly, weight training has a number of health benefits you might not have considered, including increasing muscle mass which boosts metabolism. Weight training can improve balance, stability, and functional health – making every day tasks easier, and of course can boost your self confidence.”
The 12-3-30 workout is a treadmill workout that made huge waves on TikTok in 2023. Slightly more intense than a Hot Girl Walk, the simple workout was coined by influencer Lauren Giraldo as an easy way to lose weight or build general fitness.
The 12-3-30 workout is easy – all you need is some comfy shoes and a treadmill. Start by warming up with a 5-minute walk. Then, set the incline on the treadmill to 12% and the speed to 3mp/hour and walk for 30 minutes (hence 12-3-30). Finish with a 5-minute cool down, walking slowly on a 0% incline.
Weighted hula hoops took TikTok by storm in lockdown and are still popular now. Weighted hula is exactly what it says on the tin: using a weighted hula hoop to build fitness, lose weight and tone your stomach muscles. Weighted hula hooping provides a full body workout, engaging your core, legs, glutes and back and makes for an easy, at-home cardio workout.
Bella Hadid Slim Thigh Workout
The Bella Hadid Slim Thigh Workout circulated on TikTok in 2022 and claims to be the 15-minute workout that the supermodel uses to get into catwalk shape. The short, lower body workout consists of bodyweight movements such as squats and donkey kicks. However, it's doubtful Hadid uses this workout alone to stay in shape considering its low intensity.
What does it entail?
- Squats — 20 reps
- Donkey kicks — 12 reps each side
- Plié Squats — 12 reps each side
- Banded Squat Walks — 12 reps each side
While 12-3-30, weighted hula and the Bella Hadid workout are all great examples of accessible workout trends, if your goal is weight loss, it's important not to pin all of your goals on this workout alone. “Exercise plays a significant role in improving overall health, and it’s fantastic to see trends such as this encouraging accessible workouts for most fitness abilities, but diet also plays a substantial role in weight management,” says Jana.
“It’s important to consider a balanced and calorie controlled diet, which is essential if you are looking to lose weight. Speak to a qualified professional to gain clarity on what’s right for you, your body, and your fitness goals.”
TikTok’s Whole30 Challenge trended in 2022, but the original programme has existed since 2009. In simple terms, Whole30 is an elimination diet that involves eating only meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables and fruit; and natural, healthy fats for 30 straight days. Foods that aren’t allowed include: added sugar (real or artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan or sulfites and baked goods, treats or junk food.
After the 30 days, dieters should spend 10 days reintroducing these foods individually and assessing how they feel. Rather than weight loss, the purpose of the diet is to let your body ‘recover’ from the effects of these foods, such as fatigue or chronic pain.
Some people on TikTok advocate fasting for extreme lengths of time, sometimes up to 14 days. There are different types of fasting, including: fruit and vegetable fasts (only eating fruit and veg); intermittent fasting, whereby people eat for a select window of time and fast for the rest, the most common split being an 8-hour window with a 16-hour fast; or juice fasting.
People fast for different reasons, the main one being weight loss, as well as detoxing the body, and its likely fasting has grown in popularity along with other health trends as a quick fix for weight loss and other health benefits.
Research has shown that intermittent fasting, when done correctly, can help with thinking and memory, improved heart health, improved physical performance, type 2 diabetes and obesity management and tissue health. Intermittent fasting can also help with weight management if done in conjunction with a calorie deficit. Intermittent fasting is safe for anybody other than pregnant women, children, those with type 1 diabetes and anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
30-day Gallon Water Challenge
Just like the 75 Hard Challenge, TikTok’s 30-day gallon challenge encourages users to drink 1 gallon (4.5 litres) of water every single day. Those who tried the challenge have boasted improved energy levels, glowing skin and less bloating, but a gallon a day is likely to be too much for one person.
“Whilst keeping hydrated is important for a healthy lifestyle and general health, it’s important to know how much your own body needs as an individual,” says Jana. “As a general recommendation, those with low activity levels should drink 8 cups (1.9 litres) of water a day. Moderately active individuals, for example those who enjoy brisk walks, cycling, or light workouts should drink around 10-12 cups (2.4-2.8 litres). Those with intense workout routines may need to drink upward of 12 cups (over 3 litres) each day to satisfy hydration needs.
“It’s very important to pay attention to your body’s signals, and not force yourself to drink an excessive amount of water which is uncomfortable or unnecessary. In fact, overhydration has its own set of health risks, notably, electrolyte imbalances.”
Hyperhydration can result in dangerous side effects such as fatigue, lethargy, disorientation, confusion, headache, nausea and vomiting. In worst-case scenarios, if sodium levels drop below 135 millimoles per litre, people can experience seizures, brain damage, coma, and even death.
Lemon coffee has been trending on TikTok for its supposed weight loss effects. TikTokers claim that adding half a lemon’s worth of juice to your morning coffee can help you to shed the pounds. But, while lemon juice has some health benefits, such as supporting your immune system and aiding digestion, there is no real evidence that it supports weight loss, especially not without an exercise and nutrition plan designed to help you lose weight. As Jana says, lemons are not “a magical weight loss solution”.
Expert recommended tips on improving your health
Improving your health doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. Hopping from trend to trend could potentially harm your health in the long run, if not hinder your progress when trying to get healthy.
Instead, focusing on implementing consistent, realistic and healthy habits into your daily and weekly routine, such as drinking between 8 and 12 cups of water per day depending on your activity levels, exercising for around 150 minutes per week (broken down into multiple sessions), eating a healthy, balanced diet consisting mainly of whole foods and getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
On top of that, make sure to incorporate mindfulness habits, such as journaling, meditation or yoga and, most importantly, make sure to balance your health and fitness goals with social plans and enjoyment so that you don’t develop an unhealthy relationship with fitness and health.