Is the wellness industry actually making us sick?

Image Source: Hot Yoga Life

By Anna Day | @anna_day_

From vegan smoothies, HIIT workouts, 5:2 fasting diets, hot yoga and crystal healings, the idea of wellness has crept its way into the mainstream over the last decade.

But dietician Rhea Burgmann fears the wellness industry is “very sick.”

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the booming $4.2 trillion global wellness market includes sectors such as fitness, healthy eating, nutrition, weight loss, preventative medicine, and the spa industry.

Senior GWI researcher Katherine Johnston explained that the huge surge in the wellness industry has only happened in the last few years.

“Once upon a time, our contact with wellness was occasional; we went to the gym or got a massage,” Ms Johnston said.

But this is changing fast. A wellness mindset is starting to permeate the global consumer consciousness, affecting people’s daily decision-makingwhether food purchases, a focus on mental wellness and reducing stress, incorporating movement into daily life, environmental consciousness, or their yearning for connection and happiness.

“Wellness, for more people, is evolving from rarely to daily, from episodic to essential, from a luxury to a dominant lifestyle value. And that profound shift is driving powerful growth.”

Rhea Bergmann is a non-diet dietician, psychotherapist, and owner of the Adelaide-based practice Mind-Full of Food Nutrition Counselling.

Ms Bergmann thinks the intensification of the wellness industry is “having a detrimental impact on women’s ability to feel confident and calm in regards to food, eating and their bodies”.

“Wellness, and therefore health, has become a super value, a hierarchical measurement of a person’s worthiness,” she said.

“This has created an environment whereby women are stressed and hustling to attain the title of ‘most healthy’ as if it were a competition, and subsequently engaging in disordered eating behaviours, which sadly have become normalised in our society.”

A lot of the success behind the wellness industry is enabled by an ingrained culture of dieting, where restrictive regimes are masked by the concept of wellness and a holistic health journey.

However, Ms Bergmann emphasizes that diets can’t guarantee true and authentic health.

“We really can’t talk about diet culture without acknowledging the ingrained fatphobia we are conditioned to buy into from very early on in our lives,” she said.

“Diet culture exists because we are all taught to fear fatness and sold the lie that it’s our job as women to control the size of our body—for the purpose of so-called ‘health, desirability and worthiness’.

“There are so many facets to why this continues: stigma, oppression, lack of diversity or representation of body sizes shown in positive and empowering ways, healthcare providers advocating for “weight control” measures as a way to improve health, family history, and public health campaigns built on shame.”

The Internet has become a mecca of online wellness advice.

Health and fitness influencers on social media produce daily content, which chronicles their workouts and “what I eat in a day” videos.

This overload of advice can take away from our intuition and natural trust in our bodies, and for a lot of women, eating “healthy” becomes a vicious cycle that results in failure.

“What we’ve been taught about ‘healthy eating’ is really problematic and not health-promoting at all. It’s generally restrictive, shaming and judgmental, and sets up a success/failure dichotomy,Ms Bergmann said.

I believe a crucial first step is unlearning the unhelpful messaging. No one food is inherently healthy or unhealthy, no one food guarantees health; food is not a moral issue.”

Ms Bergmann said intuitive eating is a skill set everyone can develop because it’s sustainable, flexible, and responsive to each persons own unique life habits.

“Intuitive eating serves as a lifelong practice that ensures enjoyment, self-care, and connection with the body,” she said.

Intuitive eating looks and feels different for each person; there is no one ‘right way’ to do it.” 

 

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