12 Jul Wellness Culture is Just Diet Culture with Extra Lavender
From Issue 001 of The Wilderness, the Wild Healthy Nutrition Newsletter
|Wellness is an active and consistent pursuit of a lifestyle that assumes we have full control of our health, our thoughts, our digestion, our sleep, our stress and our body size. We are encouraged to embrace this lifestyle, to constantly focus on being well. The methods by which we attain this lifestyle are highly commodified. The business of Wellness is gargantuan. It’s an entire industry, with Forbes recently projecting the annual worth of the global Wellness market at almost $4 trillion a year and growing (Nelson, 2019).Everything can be sold to us, including ourselves, repackaged and upgraded, with more features to show off.Health, vitality, nourishment, glow ups, goals, lifestyle.There may appear to be nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of these things at the individual level. If it makes you feel good, then what’s the harm, right? A vital point of enquiry over the concept of help or harm is to reflect on whether it actually makes you feel good. The constant pursuit of goals. The feelings of personal responsibility over things that are often out of your control. Do these things make you feel good? If it is a pressure point for you, a reminder of not being good enough, that you should be doing better and feeling better, then is it really serving you? Crying into your good vibes only mug. Lying prone during a sound bath and struggling to quiet a ruminating mind. Spritzing lavender pillow spray during a period of insomnia. Feeling dizzy and nauseous after a workout because you thought you needed the extra push – no pain no gain right? Digging deep, yeah?|
If help does not help, it isn’t help.
|So here’s some things to consider:|
Does wellness culture understand your complex needs or is it selling you a false promise via a simplistic solution, the way diet culture does?
Does wellness culture push your pain points and then sell to you when you’re vulnerable, the way diet culture does?
Does wellness culture offer you external solutions to internal issues that can’t actually be solved with external solutions because they’re internal issues but then convinces you that it’s not an internal issue so that you then purchase the external solution? Know who else does that?
Do wellness advocates target people as they age, as they navigate new parenthood, as they confront fertility struggles, as they become peri-menopausal and menopausal, as they enter phases of upheaval and change?Are they being thoughtful and holding your best interests close? Or is your life cycle being strategically targeted and commodified for the benefit of their profit margins?
Are your favourite wellness advocates thin, white, cis-hetero, able- bodied, wealthy, smiley, placid, nurturing, having-it-all, here’s-how-i-did-it, just-copy-me, why-are-you-holding-yourself-back, you-are-standing-in-your-own-way women? Are the profits and the decisions also made by women or is that just for the male investors?
Are conversations about race, poverty, accessibility, ageism, chronic disease, neurodivergence, patriarchy, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and capitalism glaringly absent?
Diet culture isn’t selling as well as it once did, but wellness culture is picking up the slack. Wellness culture convinces us we are broken and sells us bandaids that do nothing, just like diet culture has done for decades. When Weight Watchers rebranded itself as WW (Wellness Works) in 2018, what they essentially did was ctrl+find for ‘diet’, ‘weight’ and ‘low-calorie’ and ctrl+replace with ‘wellness’, ‘health’ and ‘lifestyle’. Many followed suit. It’s now a little trickier to notice the obvious forms of diet culture because of this wholesale rebranding across the industry. But if you know what you’re looking at, if you’re wise to the tactics, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Both wellness culture and diet culture paint thinness and muscularity as markers of health and moral virtue. They pedestal certain bodies and frame the body as a constant work in progress. They blame health conditions on personal failings and health attainment as personal responsibility. They create hierarchies of foods and convince us we should feel bad every time we diverge from the apex of the hierarchy. Wellness culture, just like diet culture, creates intense anxiety and obsession about food and health. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.