The Dangers of the "Health and Wellness" Diet

Never miss a Monday. Don’t eat less; eat right. The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen. In today’s world of health blogs and social media, it seems that we are constantly being bombarded with “motivational” quotes and phrases that are supposed to inspire us to eat healthy or workout. If it’s not the motivation quotes, it’s the Instagram pictures of the “perfect” lunch bowl that some ~influencer~ posted of kale, quinoa and sweet potato, accompanied by the caption, “just whipped up something super simple for lunch!”  The fat-phobic, thin obsessed diet culture that we live in seems to always be promoting the next best diet or lifestyle trend that we need to be following. Diets first became popular in the 19th century, and since then, have taken on many different forms. And while the days of fad dieting - like liquid diets or cotton ball-tissue paper diets (yup, that was a thing)- may be in the past, they seem to have been replaced by one that is advertised as a “lifestyle.” Beware: The “Health and Wellness” diet. 

 

According to dietician Christy Harrison, who you can learn more about here (https://christyharrison.com/), the “Wellness Diet” is the phrase for, “...the sneaky, modern guise of diet culture that’s supposedly about ‘wellness’ but is actually about performing a rarefied, perfectionistic, discriminatory idea of what health is supposed to look like.” 

It’s marketed as a “lifestyle,” with various recipes, exercises and mantras that will supposedly improve your life and make you “healthy”. It’s the idea that there is a “right” way to eat, and that eating this specific way is in someway superior to all other types of eating. Despite it being marketed as a “lifestyle,” it still inherently promotes diet culture; this is anything that promotes the idea that there is a “right” way to eat and holds thin bodies up as the only acceptable body, while shunning bodies that don’t fit this standard.  However, because the word “diet” has become somewhat demonized in our culture, diet culture has to shift - to disguise itself as “health.” 

 

It’s also important to consider who is promoting the Health and Wellness Diet. Generally, the face behind this diet fits a very specific demographic: thin, white and economically advantaged. In no way does this “lifestyle”  address the privilege that comes along with being able to live this way, or the fact that there are many people who simply cannot afford this lifestyle. The “Health and Wellness” Diet also promotes the idea that everything has to be “health-ified.” Constant blog posts suggesting the “Most Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies You’ll Ever Have (vegan/sugar/grain/dairy-free)”, or Instagram posts suggesting substituting cauliflower or zucchini for literally everything seem to be all the rage. While I personally do love some things that the Health and Wellness Diet promotes, like hot yoga or the occasional smoothie, there’s a difference between appreciating these things because they make you feel good, and obsessing over them - what the Health and Wellness Diet inherently does. By inadvertently suggesting that there is a “right” way to eat and a “right” way to be healthy, this supposed lifestyle is demonizing all other ways of living that don’t fit this mold. The obsession with being healthy, or taking health and wellness to the extreme can lead to disordered eating, if not tendencies of orthorexia-- the eating disorder classified as the obsession with eating healthy. 

 

I want to be clear: there’s nothing inherently wrong with the foods or products that the “Health and Wellness” Diet promotes. What is problematic is the promotion of these as the only way to be healthy. If you want to eat cauliflower mac and cheese or drink Kombucha everyday, be my guest. And if you want to eat (real!) chocolate chip cookies or not workout for a week, that’s okay too. The idea of what is “healthy” is entirely relative and should be about what works best for you and what makes you feel the best, not about what you see on social media.