I’m going to start by saying, this is an opinion piece. I wanted to put into my own words why I push the idea of balance so very strongly, rather than rigid rules and restrictions. It is something I have become incredibly passionate about, and – to be honest – rather enraged; ‘wellness’ can cause more harm than good.
The world is full of beautiful people, and it is not the advent of social media that is all to blame for our obsession with looking a certain way. Hey, we had access to plenty of ‘health inspiration’ last century too. Celebrities, sports idols, all those scantily clad dancers on our early morning RAGE binges – and a generation of kids wanting to be just like them.
While this is just harmless entertainment for most, as a young, impressionable girl with relatively poor self-esteem, one can get some pretty warped ideas on how to achieve that ‘perfection’, like not eating. Thankfully, I grew up in a household where good food was valued, my parents cooked and we ate together, and my brother and I learned the value of nourishing our bodies properly – and that included salad as well as ice cream!
Fast forward to uni and moving out of that safe, supportive environment, and things got a little trickier. White rice and chicken were the staples (along with a jug of beer here and there), I took up running, and freaked out if the scales looked like they were going to hit anywhere near 48kg. I thought I was ‘healthy’, but in hindsight, I was far from it. Not mentally, and not physically.
I eventually moved on, got a job and so actually had more money for things like food. I met my husband and we settled into comfort. But, in the background, there was always this little nag. When life got difficult, the one thing I could control was what I ate, and later, how much I exercised. That nag is still there sometimes and it can be hard to push away.
Then came the next, and most recent hurdle. Chronic illness.
It must have been my fault I got this thing, and dammit I am going to fix it.
Enter the new wave of diet culture, known as ‘wellness’ or in chronic illness circles, ‘healing yourself’. If you do this protocol properly, you will solve all your problems – but don’t mess it up. Oh my goodness, the pressure! The number of things I have tried, researched extensively and ‘failed’ at over the past couple of years blows my mind. As it turns out, I was also misdiagnosed for most of that time, which only added to the frustration.
Even as a trained, educated professional, the rhetoric was compelling and I fell into all the traps. Yes, I have found certain foods make me feel worse and I have learned a fair bit, but the striving for perfection and the feeling of total and utter disillusionment and despair every time I had another bad day took its toll – on myself as well as my family.
As a coach and as a member of a growing and very vocal community of chronic illness sufferers, it pains me incredibly how wrapped up in hope people become, only to be torn down when whatever miracle cure they pinned their lives on leaves them depleted. These people, like me, are desperate, and the messiahs of ‘wellness’ and ‘healing’ culture prey on the weak for their own gain. Buy this, do this, take this….and you will be complete.
The same goes for body image too. There’s no shortage of quick fixes, multi-level-marketing schemes and magic potions on offer for those looking to fulfil themselves in a quest to look or perform a certain way. If this is you, I ask that you take a step back for a moment and ask yourself why you want to put yourself through the deprivation, stress, mental fatigue and pressure in the first place. I hope it is a bloody good reason. Let me be clear here, however, there is NOTHING INHERENTLY WRONG with setting a weight-loss goal, what I implore you to consider is the methods of attaining that goal.
Please. Don’t strive for perfection, that is as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; you get close, and it vanishes. Find balance, the joy in simple things, and a relaxed attitude that nourishes not only your body but your mind and soul. Eat the cake if it makes you feel good.
That is true wellness.