If you’re early in your journey toward living a comprehensively healthier lifestyle, it’s hard to feel like you belong. But what does it even mean to be healthy?
Whenever I sit down to write about something about my health journey, I feel like a fraud. I feel like I snake oil saleswoman who dropped her briefcase of wears, causing the bottles to shatter, and ends up covered in stinky oil.
I’m not in perfect shape. Last year, I lost 30 pounds, kept it off, transformed my regular diet, and advanced my yoga practice, but I’m not at my goal yet. That’s why I end up feeling like a fraud when I try to write about health and wellness.
The commercialization of health and wellness is a big part of why people like me feel like frauds when we try to improve ourselves.
I do believe that all bodies are beautiful, but I still have a little more body fat than I should for my height. It’s not that I want to wear size 0 jeans — it’s that I am still dramatically more at risk for a wealth of diseases caused by heightened sugar intake and the strain that being overweight puts on my heart, lungs, and the rest of my body.
It sounds a little grim when phrased like that, but try not to get lost in the dark side of that. This isn’t a pity party. It’s about putting why “being healthy” really matters in perspective. It’s not to look a certain way, it’s to be able to live a long, happy life with as few serious health problems as you can manage.
The Global Wellness Institute reports that the “wellness industry” became a $4.5 trillion dollar global market in 2018. That’s horrifying, to some extent.
The industry grew by 6.4% annually from 2015–2017, from a $3.7 trillion to a $4.2 trillion market. That’s nearly twice as fast as global economic growth, which is 3.6% annually — which says a lot about how we, as a society, are putting wellness on a pedestal and focusing on it more.
Everyone, of all shapes and sizes, can do more for their health.
Health and wellness aren’t just about weight loss. The marketing of diets, gym memberships, and all means of weight loss products tends to dominate the “wellness industry,” which makes it feel like that’s all there is to it. Since these things are always so abundant at the forefront of it, it’s easy to see the entire movement as something shallow and pointless.
On top of that, there’s such an unholy boatload of wrong information out there, it makes me cringe. Last summer on the beach, I repeatedly saw those old-fashioned banners pulled by little airplanes advertising weight loss surgery and showing bodies with significant muscle mass and six-pack abs.
This kind of blatant false advertising shouldn’t still be happening. After all, you don’t just magically become ripped because you lose some body fat.
While a lot of people know how unrealistic advertising like that is, it still gives a bad rap to the entire health and wellness community. It all looks like a sham and a scam rather than normal people simply trying to live healthier lifestyles.
There’s so much more to health and wellness than weight loss, though that tends to be at the forefront of the industry.
Despite that, we should all be striving to eat nutrient-dense foods, consume lots of protein and fiber, have a good balance of getting all the macro and micronutrients we need.
We should also all take steps toward making sure our bodies are healthy, not at unnecessary risk for diseases, and that our minds are healthy as well. It’s all part of that “health and wellness” idea.
Going back to those statistics from earlier, here’s how spending in the wellness industry breaks down.
- Personal Care, Beauty, and Anti-Aging ($1,083 billion)
- Healthy Eating, Nutrition, and Weight Loss ($702 billion)
- Wellness Tourism ($639 billion)
- Fitness and Mind-Body ($595 billion)
- Preventative and Personalized Medicine and Public Health ($575 billion)
- Traditional and Complementary Medicine ($360 billion)
Preventative medicine, public health, and traditional medicine do count as a part of these statistics. I’m not going to get into health care discussions, because that’s not really the point of this. The point is that while personal care, weight loss, and anti-aging are all well and good…we should all be focusing on health and wellness from the perspective of doing it because we want our bodies to be healthy, not because we want to look a certain way.
Yet since there is such a focus on vanity wellness, that’s why ordinary people like us feel left out and out of place when we try to be healthier.
What does it mean to be healthy?
Is it being skinny? Is it eating salad every day? Is it simply feeling happy with yourself?
Various studies on what it means to be healthy generally relate to how the World Health Organization boils it down.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
It might sound overly simplified, but that’s essentially what we’re all trying to do. That’s what the health and wellness community really needs to be about. At the heart of it, the quest to be healthier can be simple. It can be as simple as exercising a little, eating more nutrient-dense foods, and doing what makes you feel good about yourself and your body.
If we all focused on this, everyone who doesn’t have a billboard-ready body could feel a lot better about being part of this massive health and wellness community.
If you’re new to the scene of health and wellness or if you’re still early in your journey to becoming healthier, own your space. If you’re doing the work, if you’re striving to change your habits, then that is what matters. You’re part of the health and wellness community and you don’t need to be afraid to share it.