Ignore the wellness industry & diet culture

A hand holding about eight red and orange cherry tomatoes.
A hand holding about eight red and orange cherry tomatoes.
Chinh Le Duc, Unsplash

It isn’t always a straightforward equation of food = fuel, or food = enjoyment.

For some of us, food is confusing and every meal is paired with anxiety. Food is a moral quandary, a daily dilemma. Food has become something that must be counted, weighed, analyzed, budgeted, or regretted. Certain foods — or maybe even entire food groups — have been demonized as though they contain no nutrients whatsoever. Standing in front of the open fridge door might paralyze these folks. Holding a menu in their hands can bring on a cold sweat. These are both situations for potential “failure.”

It’s an awful way to live. I know because I’ve lived it.

I’ve also…


Sometimes they get it wrong

A black and white image of a bunch of males doctors in white coats peering over each other to witness a surgery of some kind.
A black and white image of a bunch of males doctors in white coats peering over each other to witness a surgery of some kind.
Austrian National Library, Unsplash

When I started writing this essay back in February 2020 I had no idea just how much doctors had failed me.

I picked the title then, and I still stand by it, but at the time I thought my health was improving and that the doctors’ failures were far smaller than they actually are.

In March, I found out I was wrong on both accounts.

I’ve had health problems for a decade — since I was seventeen years old — and while my quality of life has long not been ideal, I muscled through. I had an eating disorder (which you can read about here), that led to nutrient deficiencies, plus I had/have anxiety and depression. …


No matter your age, I bet you can’t actually take care of yourself

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Peter Lewicki, Unsplash

It’s 10:37am and so far today I have been completely dependent, lazy and exceptionally entitled. I will continue to be so for the rest of the day.

Yes, I’m a Millennial. Perhaps you’re tempted to blame it on that. I get it. But no matter what generation you belong to you were probably just as indulged and coddled as I’ve been since I woke up this morning.

Personally, when I woke up (to an alarm at 7:30am) I went downstairs, turned on my electric kettle, plopped myself on my couch, and read NPR on my phone. Everything I ate for breakfast came from the grocery store; I had no hand in the creation of it. Indeed, nearly every single object I have encountered so far today was…


There’s no going back to “normal”

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An opened bag of black bean tortilla chips; Charles, Unsplash

Dates have been made of sadder fare, I’d wager, though probably not much sadder.

It was late summer, but the sky was grey. I was twenty-two and on an afternoon outing with my love. As poor college student foodies our dates mostly consisted of visits to health food stores, which is what we did that day, in a small Maryland town. We got a bag of organic, non-GMO tortilla chips with no more than seven ingredients and a bag of organic, lightly sweetened dried pineapple rings. (Possibly also a kombucha, but I cannot confirm this.) And I was terrified — in every sense of the word — to eat the snacks we’d purchased.

I…


It is a truth universally acknowledged that this is probably not a good idea

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Ivy Barn, Unsplash

Is there anything more wholesome than a period drama?

The spirited pursuit of true love! The bonnets! The accents! The beautiful (but modest) dresses! The swelling violins! The immaculate English countryside!

What exemplary entertainment! Why, in this day and age, with so much sex and violence and nudity causally displayed, period dramas are a sweet respite, are they not? Perhaps not for everyone, to be sure, but certainly what good quality viewing and virtuous messages for the young in particular. Right?

And yet…

I had a steady diet of these tales from the time I was fifteen until I was twenty-one — films, TV series, and books. I partook…


Hint: it doesn’t cost a dime

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Allef Vinicius, Unsplash

When I got engaged back in 2014, something felt wrong.

It wasn’t that I didn’t wholeheartedly love the man who asked me to marry him. I was sure about him, about Us.

The trouble was, when he and I started talking about getting engaged, it felt like there was a one-size-fits-all formula society expected us to follow. We all know how it goes:

1. The guy asks the girl’s father for permission to marry her.

2. The guy buys a ring. Secretly.

3: The guy proposes. The girl is shocked and says yes.

At first, I couldn’t pin-point why these traditions didn’t sit well with me. Slowly, I began to…


It’s time for this trend to die

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goodpals, Unsplash

Starting in my teenage years, there was nothing I wanted more — at least when it came to my physical appearance — than a perfectly flat, “washboard” stomach.

I didn’t want abs. I didn’t want any kind of topography in that region of my body. I wanted my stomach to glide seamlessly into…well, into whatever was below (I was pretty disassociate from that, if not all, parts of my body). Essentially, I wanted the build of a ten year old. And perhaps a ten year old boy, at that. Flat stomach, no hips, no hint that either had ever been or ever would be part of my physical form.

Not that it really matters, but for the sake of full disclosure I’ll tell you that I was only…


Maybe it’s wishful thinking

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Hand holding a pair of binoculars, Nick Seliverstov, Unsplash

My body broke when I was eighteen.

After a lifetime of pretty exceptional health, I suddenly and mysteriously became unwell. But not, apparently, unwell enough for any doctor who crossed my path.

Almost ten years ago my journey through the offices of a dozen or so practitioners began. My mom accompanied me to the first round of visits and testing in 2010 and 2011, where my chief complaints were frequent urination and discomfort in my upper GI tract after eating. …


What’s wrong with women wearing glasses?

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Gabrielle Henderson, Unsplash

I’ve had four eyes since I was ten years old.

I acquired my first pair of glasses in grade school and — for reasons now beyond my comprehension — I was pumped. What I saw in those sad, round, early 2000s wire frames for children I do not know.

Now I’m one month away from twenty-seven and I can’t say I’m quite so enamored with my spectacles all the time. My love for Warby Parker notwithstanding, sometimes I feel a touch uncomfortable with this apparatus hanging on my nose. Sure, it lets me see but I wonder: does it affect how people see me?

When I got married three years…


Including me

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Alan Labisch, Unsplash

Someone asked me outright if it was a real engagement ring. Other people asked the same question with their facial expressions, rather than words.

I’m not sure which hurt more.

I got engaged in late December of 2014. I’d known the fella who I intended to (and did) marry since I was five years old, and we’d been dating for a little over a year. At the start of our engagement, he was twenty and I was twenty-two.

Five months after we started dating, moments after the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve, we had quietly, timidly admitted to each other that we’d both been thinking we wanted to marry the other person. Moving a bit fast, you say? Don’t worry. Everything else…

Ema Hegberg

Writing about health, food & whatever strikes my fancy. Easily distracted by cats & a good cup of earl grey. emahegberg@icloud.com

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