As I have spent the past year delving deeper into wellness, mentoring and health as I begin a new company I have come across – or maybe just more attuned to – more and more negative articles about “the wellness industry,” and while I relate to many of the issues brought up and always try to encourage conversation, I feel compelled to respond and share my experiences.
I am not by any means a “wellness expert,” but I have been focused on health and wellness most of my life – first in my teens as a competitive figure skater, and now more than ever as a 40-something woman trying to shove too much into each day, working full time and starting a consulting business. I think there are four things to focus on when reading articles, watching television or online content about diets/fitness/wellness.
First, resist the urge to give in to the easy answer: “just throw it all out!”
There is no “wellness industry” but the diet and fitness industry’s co-opting of the trends toward health, wellness and biohacking that have become more mainstream in the past decade. It is the same issue as what happened in the early 2000s when companies saw that people wanted environmentally-friendly products, and instead of making environmentally-friendly products, they became guilty of “green washing” – taking out a few chemicals, slapping on a white or green label with flowers floating across and declaring it a “green.” Ta-da! But, without going through the actual expense of helping the planet or humans.
The same phenonmenon is now happening with wellness. As the diet-fitness industrial complex sees people wanting a more natural and holistic path to health and wellness, they too have co-opted the terms and formulas but only removed one or two chemicals…what do we call this? “Well-washing” maybe.
It is easy to be drawn in to it and find yourself nodding along knowingly and calling for an end to it all.
Secondly – the person committed to health and wellness should research and base decisions on science. Nutritional needs vary for each of us because we are all unique. Be wary of diets claiming it will work for everyone. And don’t forget that an important part of science is experiments – add and remove foods to find the right balance for you. This is the trend with specialized medicine – nutrition and exercise should be no different.
This leads to the third thing to remember – true health and wellness is about the individual. Are there calorie dense and delicious foods we should all avoid or enjoy only very sparingly? Of course. Research studies have shown sugar and cocaine have similar affects on the human brain. Transfats and fried foods lead to a host of health issues. I myself have hybridized a couple of similar diet plans that work best for me and my specific DNA, body type and health issues. It’s been a journey of almost 30 years. I am still refining and learning with each new day because science and medicine are learning and reporting new things every day. We should be excited that we live in an age with access to information and the ability to control our health and wellbeing in ways previous generations could never have dreamed of.
And lastly, it is so important to find community and alignment and look at the big picture of what you want in life. Find a “wellness community” of individuals committed to learning from dieticians, nutritionists, biohackers, scientists and others who realize that optimal health is a journey. Wellness is more than just calories and a list of eat this but not that. It is exercise – different types of exercise to keep your muscles and bones learning as well. It is reading, listening to podcasts, spending time with family and friends – in real life and not on a screen – to keep your brain resilient and strong. It is trying new things, gaining new experiences and constantly blending a myriad of these things together into a full and productive life that keeps you, and most importantly your brain, young and healthy.
Focus on alignment. I work with clients showing them how to optimize their life or business. Alignment can be an ethereal thing to achieve and maintain. Alignment means a full toolkit – food, exercise, acupuncture, massage, yoga, and even indulging in the good food and drinks once and awhile with your loved ones. Because, true wellness is being aligned with food, exercise, meditation or prayer practice, gratitude practice and your community (we like to call it your tribe) so that you can step back and focus on life as one beautiful painting – not just focusing on individual colors or shapes, unable to discern what you are seeing.
What changed me and my health was basing my habits and routines on solid science and putting my insatiable appetite toward learning new things instead of eating everything in sight…along with prayerful meditation, gratitude and acupuncture. (I’m still a hostile participant when dragged into yoga…but I do it occasionally to stay flexible and keep my muscles and brain on their toes.)
Alignment allows you to look at the various diets and nutritional “quirks” around the table and say “isn’t it a wonderful time to be alive and in a country where our different needs are not only met but respected and celebrated!” What I hope for and I am working towards is a country teaching our children wellness, nutrition and health in a science-based, easily understood way from kindergarten on through high school. A society giving people the tools they need including and especially access to fresh foods to be whole, successful, happy and content human beings and citizens.