Walking the tightrope of wellness
Deccan Chronicle.| Swati Sharma
Health and wellness have turned into somewhat of a competition thanks to clever marketing and celebrity endorsements
In her Instagram post this week, the executive, Elise Loehnen, told her followers that her time at Goop had left her feeling like she was not in a healthy relationship with her body and that it had given her a 'distorted' take on her health. (By Arrangement)
A former high-profile executive at Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle and wellness brand Goop has publicly denounced the brand’s wellness culture as ‘toxic’. Though this appears to be part of corporate warfare, as she has gone on to promote the products of another wellness brand, the development did serve as a wake-up call to both influencers and medical professionals about the possible harm that the wellness industry can do by hyping the culture and promoting an obsession with ideal parameters of health.
In her Instagram post this week, the executive, Elise Loehnen, told her followers that her time at Goop had left her feeling like she was not in a healthy relationship with her body and that it had given her a "distorted" take on her health. She also said that it took her two years to reset her relationship with food, and now she eats "like a teenager... and [is] enjoying it."
The video has gone viral, and every news outlet is exploring this insider truth — that wellness can go too far and become ‘toxic’.
The $4.5trn wellness industry — the world of superfoods, juices, supplements, skincare routines, gyms, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, alternative medicine, holistic anything — has never been so seductive as during these pandemic times.
Vandana Luthra, entrepreneur and the founder of VLCC Health Care Ltd., says, "Lives are super busy nowadays, and people have started moving towards wellness brands due to endorsements by celebrities. Most brands offer quick-fix solutions for weight loss, muscle building and so on. Health and wellness have become an obsession for almost all age groups but only a very few are aware of the holistic approach to wellness." But often, after all the macro-balancing, carb-cycling, intermittent fasting, high-intensity interval training, keto, and water fasting, we fail to attain the ‘Holy Grail of Health’. "Health is not simply absence of disease but the physical, mental and social wellbeing of an individual, as per the World Health Organisation. I would also add spiritual health to the list. Today’s wellness industry is focused only on looks, shape and size. Social and mental wellbeing are missed out. I would say ill-health is the fallout of concentrating only on physical attributes."
Moreover, the wellness industry is concerned only with profits," says Dr J Anish Anand, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals.
The toxic wellness culture on social media and disseminated by multinational companies can skew perceptions of what it means to be well, believes wellness and fitness expert Poonam Duneja, founder NutrifybyPoonam.
"Health is important to lead a quality life but not to the extent that you sabotage your relationship with yourself. Good diet and exercise are important. But going to extremes to look a certain way at the expense of your emotional and mental health, putting every inch of yourself under a microscope all the time, and scrutinizing every bite of food you take, sabotages your inner peace," she says.
Health and wellness have turned into somewhat of a competition thanks to clever marketing and celebrity endorsements. There has always been a dark side to wellness. "Cultivate a healthy relationship with your curves. You have to be at peace with what your body has been through during testing times, emotional turmoil, and ups and downs," says Poonam.
"True wellness is simple living as propounded by our forefathers. Today’s wellness industry projects incompleteness in us or a feeling of inferiority and implies that the industry can make us perfect, which I feel is not correct," says Dr Anand.
He clarifies that this is not to take away from the benefits of traditional and modern medicine which have been scientifically proven to heal. "It is only the rampant commercialisation of wellness which is harmful that is being condemned," he says.
Vandana says, "The digital world has enabled the creation of a lot of wellness content. This takes the form of a broad spectrum of Do’s and Don’t’s. Ultimately it is for the individual to sift through these, and make informed choices. Fads don’t help."
The bedrock of wellness is healthy, balanced nutrition and an active lifestyle. Irrespective of fads and ever-changing wellness trends, nutrition and physical activity regimen are constants.
The mind matters too
To begin with, we have to realize that to have a healthy relationship with the body, we have to understand what we have been eating since childhood, what our families have been feeding us. Changing everything completely is definitely toxic. When we compare ourselves with others, and see them following something we don’t, there is pressure. There is no end to it. Be mindful, as such comparisons involve mental health. Check what kind of people you are hanging out with, what kind of content you're watching. Do some mindful practices like meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Check your stress levels.
— Arouba Kabir, Mental Health Counsellor &
Founder, Enso Wellness
Don’t cross the line
It’s a complex tightrope that the whole world is walking. On one hand it’s important to look great but on the other hand there is a line you need to follow but not cross. You need to think how many liberties you can take to better yourself in terms of looks. Claims by renowned wellness companies to make you look better seems too good to resist. I have seen intelligent people switch off their common sense and blindly believe in the written word. This generation loves to experiment when it comes to looking better. Nothing wrong with that, but the criteria should be discipline.
— Aarti Surendranath, Content Producer, Influencer, Actor, Animal Welfare Activist