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Experts share which social media health trends to leave behind in 2023 — and which are worth carrying into 2024

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From the rise of the "girl dinner" to videos normalizing gut health issues, social media was full of wellness-related trending topics over the past year. But which ones stuck out to experts as try-worthy trends, and ones are you better off skipping?

We asked a range of experts across nutrition, fitness, mental health and beyond what social media trends stuck out to them this year both for good and bad reasons.

Those they approved of centered around safe and approachable wellness additions while those on their disapproved list focused on videos that lack professional backing or scientific information. 

Here are some of the recent trends they highlighted: 

Cottage cheese: Try it

Move over charcuterie, the hashtag #CottageCheese stole the spotlight this year with more than 1.3 billion views on TikTok — and the high-protein ingredient is expert approved.

"Cottage cheese is the frontrunner in my opinion," says Amanda Holtzer, a registered dietician based in New Jersey. "For a long time, cottage cheese has gotten a bad rap. Many people are turned off by the texture. However, cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, and can be super versatile. Just half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese has about 80 calories and 14 grams of protein."

TikTok users definitely got creative and optimized its versatility, transforming the chunky dairy product into a must-try ingredient for recipes like cottage cheese ice cream and cottage cheese cookie dough, garnering tens of millions of views.

"In 2023 the FoodTok community added cottage cheese into popular sweet and savory dishes for a healthy, protein-rich take," TikTok shared in a statement to CBS News, adding cottage cheese even made it into the app's "Year on TikTok 2023" list.

Cozy cardio: Try it

Originated by TikTok creator Hope Zuckerbrow, "cozy cardio" — a trend that focuses on a more mindful, low-pressure relationship with exercise — has amassed more than 15.9 million views on the app. 

Morit Summers, personal trainer and founder of Form Fitness Brooklyn, says the trend is great — and even does a version of it herself. 

"People need to move, and if doing it from the comfort of their homes in their cozy clothing and with the lights dimmed, then great!" she says. "Our lives are really stressful and there is no reason for all fitness to also feel that way — for example, going to a gym or a class with bright lights and blaring music. Movement is movement, so whatever movement makes you feel good is the right movement."

Slaying your steps: Try it

2023 was the year walking got a re-brand with trends like 12-3-30 and the "hot girl walk" really taking off.

"12-3-30 is a trend that I think simplifies the idea of getting your daily dose of exercise and is so approachable because all it asks you to do is walk," says Dr. James Wantuck, co-founder and chief medical officer of PlushCare and associate chief medical officer of Accolade. "12% incline at 3mph for 30 minutes on a treadmill is a great way to get your heart racing."

For some, 12-3-30 can be pretty extreme, says Summers, who noted some may get a bigger benefit out of the trend using a lower incline.

"The goal when doing a challenge should be to get through it but also... having built habits, not feeling burnt out," she says.

The "hot girl walk" is another great low to no-incline option that encourages anyone to take time for physical and mental health through an accessible form of fitness. 

"Our generation sees walking, or at least did... as not really a valid form of exercise," Mia Lind, the "hot girl walk" creator, previously told CBS News, pointing to running videos or YouTube ab workouts as what she typically saw online. "For some people starting out, (those) can be really scary, and walking is a very accessible form of exercise. You can be at any fitness level to begin (and) it's completely free."

Social media as therapy replacement: Skip it

Using social media as a replacement for a real therapist is a no-go, experts say.

"Mental health is a big deal, and many people are turning to armchair psychologists for advice about how to manage their mental health. This is dangerous and also not effective," Wantuck says. "To really get the help you need, you should find a trusted, trained professional to assist you."

Self-diagnosis: Skip it

Another mental health trend that concerns mental health experts are self-diagnosis and "un-diagnosis" videos posted online that have no professional backing.

Though the self-diagnosis trend has been around for a while, Benjamin Goldman, a licensed mental health counselor, says he has more recently seen the trend transform further.

"Something that is more alarming for me is the rise of un-diagnosis videos, where creators and users will self-diagnose and then basically determine that they are undiagnosed," he says.

While the trend is meant to be humorous, Goldman says users often "dismiss their perceived mental health disorders and use broad diagnostic criteria to invalidate the seriousness of mental illness."

The representation and normalization of mental health challenges online can be a positive thing, but Goldman says without a professional approach, this trend can lead to misinformation about disorders and their symptoms and even increase stigma. 

"It turns these mental health diagnoses into a joke, which can discourage people from seeking clinical help if you're watching a video like this and having the message reiterated that mental health diagnoses are dismissible," he says. "Using humor to discuss mental health can be helpful in other contexts on on social media... but there's this fine line between using humor as a way of doing psychoeducation versus reiterating this idea that one can just, quote-unquote, 'quit their mental illness.'"

Weight loss misinformation: Skip it

False or misleading information is rampant on social media, and this year experts especially saw increased misinformation regarding weight loss, specifically related to the interest in drugs like Ozempic.

"Everything from 'nature's Ozempic' — aka berberine, an ineffective and potentially dangerous supplement — to overblown (and) fear-inducing side effects like 'Ozempic face' and 'Ozempic butt,'" Wantuck says. "For trusted information and to learn and possibly get a prescription for these drugs, seek the counsel of a physician, and don't trust most of what you see on TikTok."

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