Before I start, let’s make this clear.
I’m not writing this to decry or start a riot (or anything) on the wellness industry in general.
To be honest with you, I love the wellness industry and all it stands for.
And I love the fact that wellness has changed the lives of many of you for the better.
But there are also times when I’d like to throttle all wellness’s greats, one by one.
And that wouldn’t be too human, to say the least.
Even so, I have very good reasons to give the wellness industry (in general, anyway) a ton of grief.
And I’m not the only one.
“Smash the Wellness Industry”
In one of the New York Times’ latest hits, Smash the Wellness Industry, novelist Jessica Knoll decries the entire industry, calling them guilty for hoodwinking women, worldwide, with their pseudo-scientific claims.
For those of you who have no time to read the article, read and examine these quotes.
“I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear “wellness.” This was before I could recognize wellness culture for what it was — a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems. But at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.”
“If these wellness influencers really cared about health, they might tell you that yo-yo dieting in women may increase their risk for heart disease, according to a recent preliminary study presented to the American Heart Association. They might also promote behaviours that increase community and connection, like going out to a meal with a friend or joining a book club. These activities are sustainable and have been scientifically linked to improved health, yet are often at odds with the solitary, draining work of trying to micromanage every bite of food that goes into your mouth.”
“The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too.”
“….wellness also contributes to the insulting cultural subtext that women cannot be trusted to make decisions when it comes to our own bodies, even when it comes to nourishing them. We must adhere to some sort of “program” or we will go off the rails.”
The Mad Max of the Health Universe
Of all these quotes that I have here, Jessica’s final indictment against the wellness industry is one that I’d definitely side with.
The wellness industry’s callous & misogynistic attitudes towards the well-being of women, like Big Brother glowering at the people in 1984, to the extent that it, in its obnoxious pride, can prescribe diets that claim to benefit them but actually do great damage, should remind you of the Church’s attitudes towards the average person in Medieval Europe.
So, You’re Insinuating that the Wellness Industry Is Acting like the Organised Church?
Yes, I am.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I don’t say this in a cheap manner.
But this is a vital part of our collective history.
And there is no point in dismissing the mistakes of my forefathers. I share them hoping that some may see the errors of their ways, and thereby change their course.
And if you know the ways in which the Church acted then, then you can understand the tone in which I speak.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire at the hands of the barbarians in the 5th century, there was no major power at all in the West.
Kind of like Mad Max & Fallout, right?
But within the ruins, there was a single ecclesiastical power in Rome, the Catholic Church.
In this power vacuum, the Church rose to become the dominant figure in the West.
WTF Is Going On in Wellness, Then?!!
Similarly, in today’s health world the “experts” of allopathic medicine are being increasingly knocked off their high horses.
Especially as the mistakes that pharma is making are drawing more backlash.
I’ll be honest. When it comes to the wonders of modern medicine, I have nothing but deep respect, and to whom respect is due, I give respect.
The emergence of modern medicine has done a great service to humanity by saving the lives of millions across the globe.
I would go so far as to say that many of you would be dead right now if not for modern, allopathic medicine.
But like any system, it has its weaknesses, chief being that it holds itself up to be the “only way”, and it has acted on that claim numerous times.
And that has not sat well with a growing number of our generation, our people.
Which means that this claim would eventually draw a huge amount of backlash from many of us.
It would come as no surprise then that a new group of people viewed as pariahs for an inordinate time are now invading our collective consciousness.
And if you know anything about what the latter does, you know that these guys have been acting as an organised religion of their own.
The Wellness Industry Invades our Mental Worlds
To proceed with the history of church-state relations in Medieval Europe, the Church began to expand in the early 10th century.
As kingdoms rose at the same moment, circumstances arose for a power fight between Church and Kingdom over ultimate authority.
Does this sound familiar to you?
If you know anything about the wellness industry, you can say that it’s benefiting from the decline in trust in doctors in general.
But like the Church under Constantine, which sold itself out to princes for protection & money, so too is the wellness industry selling itself out to the diet industry to gain profits for itself, and creature comforts to impress.
And so the wellness industry, with all its lofty goals & aspirations to improve a general lot of humanity, is doing no better in that glorious goal and instead is reducing itself to kissing the ass of the diet industry, as its bevy of influencers can testify.
And this is not impressing a lot of us Millennials & Gen-Zers.
Yeah, you can bet that includes me.
Protestants and Wellness
As the Catholic Church began to gain ever more power, “their drinking, their lusting and their hunger for power” only grew like a pig’s appetite.
And it was only a matter of time before the general populace became intolerant of the shenanigans of the Catholic Church.
But the people couldn’t exactly do anything about it until the invention of the printing press which allowed them to read the Truth in its own words for the first time.
That was when raucous figures like Martin Luther, with an earthy sense of humour, an extremely Trump-like mouth, and a non-stop hand, stepped in to disrupt the status quo.
And the Catholic Church was not at all pleased with this unwelcome disruption in their ranks.
They scratched their heads on what best to do with it before its fire fizzled out (or so they believed).
But these guys could go on and on about the grievances the Church had caused its followers.
They began to win over a large proportion of the common folk.
And if the wellness industry doesn’t change its current tune it may start to lose its relevance, too!
What the Hell Is Going On Here, Anyway?
Does wellness have to be all about diet, anyway?
Is wellness all about diet?
Isn’t diet only a small part (and I repeat a small part) of anything to do with health & wellness?
If you want to lose weight, for instance, is diet the only thing to fix? Isn’t exercise, a joyful, enriching life, and above all, your entire lifestyle & all your attitude just as important?
If yes, then it would only make sense that the wellness industry could be having it all wrong in a lot of issues! And indeed, it does.
So what does the Global Wellness Institute have to say about this?
After all, according to the Global Wellness Institute:
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.
There are two important aspects to this definition. First, wellness is not a passive or static state but rather an “active pursuit” that is associated with intentions, choices and actions as we work toward an optimal state of health and wellbeing. Second, wellness is linked to holistic health — that is, it extends beyond physical health and incorporates many different dimensions that should work in harmony.
Wellness is an individual pursuit — we have self-responsibility for our own choices, behaviours and lifestyles — but it is also significantly influenced by the physical, social and cultural environments in which we live.
Wellness is often confused with terms such as health, wellbeing and happiness. While there are common elements among them, wellness is distinguished by not referring to a static state of being (i.e., being happy, in good health, or a state of wellbeing). Rather, wellness is associated with an active process of being aware and making choices that lead toward an outcome of optimal holistic health and wellbeing.
Read this well, and then tell me the reason why I call the entire industry a sellout!
Because “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health” is certainly about more than eating to get thin!
So, is the entire industry a sham?
Wouldn’t you say that the entire industry, as a result, is good for nothing & deserves a good shaming?
But, nothing in this world is completely good, or completely evil!
The most redeeming part of the wellness industry is that for all its faults and blemishes, it does allow us to be able to understand and commune with our bodies in a deeper and more fulfilling way, and this, in a big way, can be very empowering.
Don’t you want to be able to feel your best without worrying about all the little details?
True health education, when done right, should add to your life, not take away (like anything else that’s worth learning about).
Like nutritionist Tara Coleman, I also believe (and it may be unpopular) that you can be a strong, confident, empowered woman (or man, or whatever gender you identify as) and still have physical goals.
In fact, if you want a fulfilling life, if you want to be useful, then physical goals are not an option or a nice-to-have. They are a must-have.
Let’s be real here. I’m not a strict feminist, to say the least, although it does remain that I believe, like so many do, that society has been giving women a raw deal which will doom it if the situation is not rectified.
And progress on that has been very slow.
But like Tara, I truly believe that feminism and the more surface goals can co-exist. The caveat here is that your goals need to be realistic, your methodology needs to be physically healthy and sustainable and it can never ever be at the expense of your mental health.
Anything else, and you’ve set yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment.
So Are We Just Going to Let Evil Take Over?
If the wellness industry makes itself the puppet of diets, does that mean that we have to do the same?
If I model my eating habits after a certain diet, does that mean that I have to force it upon you?
If you have heard of intuitive eating, know that I totally & unabashedly support it.
And I definitely support you doing what’s best for your body, even if it’s definitely going to cause mine grievous harm.
I have no right to stop you if you decide that your body would be cool with a tub of Baskin-Robbins’ every Saturday.
If your body needs a vegan diet, for any time, for any reason, it would be against my ethos for me to try to stop you (no matter what the evidence says).
I personally come down on the side of the Weston A. Price’s dietary guidelines, but do what you want & must do for your body!
But I digress.
Since when was wellness all about diet anyway?
If wellness really lived up to its definition, then as Jessica said, why isn’t the wellness industry promoting behaviors that increase community and connection, like going out to a meal with a friend or joining a book club?
Surely we as humans thrive more on connection than strict diets?
I am not saying that you must sacrifice everything to be with your squad or self-flagellate for the sake of “personal health”. What I’m saying is that if you really want to call yourself well, you must take time for all the other things as well!
Which means that diet can’t be the only thing we should talk about if we want to shift the dialogue on wellness!
And if we want to do that, we’ll have to emphasize a lot on what we can give the rest of the world!
Yes, the wellness industry has, thanks to its duplicity, made itself a mortal farce on the world’s humans!
But it’s not to say that it’s not redeemable. It is, if enough of us decide to stand up, be the resistance, and hold the very concept of wellness accountable.
And that’s what I’m going to do, too.
Rest assured that I’m definitely not going to let the wellness world keep sleeping.
Which means that I’m not going to let any of you catch a break from me holding any of you on your own definitions.
I know, as well, that the things that I talk about here are not going to be easy reading for status-quo worshippers.
But I promise you that I’m definitely going to keep wellness accountable even if I have to scream myself hoarse from the rooftops.
And right now, the very notion of wellness could use more voices from the rooftops!