Wellness is New Age for the Instagram era
May 6, 2015 5:52 PM   Subscribe

"Wellness is New Age for the Instagram era. Amethysts and incense have been replaced with kale and balayage; tie-dye and velvet with bamboo cotton and designer yoga pants. It’s the alternative lifestyle but with better design. It is a movement defined by its minimalist, feminine aesthetic – pastel homewares, bright vegetable smoothies, slim legs in clean, expensive exercise wear. It’s not really about health – health does not have to be beautiful, thin and tidy in designer crop tops, but wellness does. It’s an aesthetic of wealth, a sort of gentle, palatable capitalism. There’s a dizziness to its beauty: it is light, weightless, transcendent. It probably feels this way thanks to the restricted calories as much as the calm from appropriated Eastern meditation."

"Aesthetically, conventional medicine does not “work”. Actual medical medicine doesn’t make the best Instagram subject. Medicine uses copious packaging and leaves unattractive bits of aluminium on your minimalist timber bedside table. It is made with chemicals that have long, indecipherable names with numbers that just don’t sound organic. Medicine is administered in cold, sterile environments, with walls painted in ugly sedated hues and smells like disinfectant."

On Belle Gibson, Jess Ainscough, and the Inherent Bullshit Of The Wellness Aesthetic.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (55 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this article complaining about interior design, or "alternative medicine"?
posted by thelonius at 6:03 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's weird that somewhere out on the East Coast kale is thought of as something that goes with the word "minimal" and "pastel." Here in Wisconsin, kale is something you buy from a filthy-handed hippie at the farmer's market.
posted by escabeche at 6:11 PM on May 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


I think it's about how "alternative medicine" makes itself appealing with pictures of beautiful people in beautiful settings doing healthy things. Which is merely annoying, unless you use it to fight cancer, in which case it's fatal.

"Wellness" programs are big in health insurance right now, and most of what I know about them, from working in health insurance, is that the ROI on them (i.e., people showing signs of improved health) is nearly nonexistent.
posted by emjaybee at 6:12 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a little concerned that the author has conflated many of the people who can afford the sort of conspicuous consumption that buys you kale smoothies and Lululemon yoga pants with the cultivated ignorance of the people you expect to be anti-vaxxers and their like.

There is plenty of room between conscious lifestyle design and willful disregard for modern medicine.
posted by 27kjmm at 6:13 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think it's about how "alternative medicine" makes itself appealing with pictures of beautiful people in beautiful settings doing healthy things.

This is also the visual aesthetic of Kaiser Permanente and every other sterile corporate healthcare provider, fwiw
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:16 PM on May 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's weird that somewhere out on the East Coast kale is thought of as something that goes with the word "minimal" and "pastel." Here in Wisconsin, kale is something you buy from a filthy-handed hippie at the farmer's market.

I know David Brooks is little-liked around these parts, but he perfectly dissected the intersection of the two in his book Bobos in Paradise.


I'm a little concerned that the author has conflated many of the people who can afford the sort of conspicuous consumption that buys you kale smoothies and Lululemon yoga pants with the cultivated ignorance of the people you expect to be anti-vaxxers and their like.

That's because, in the context she's writing, that that is true: A report from the National Health Performance Authority last year showed some of Australia’s lowest vaccination rates were in wealthy Sydney suburbs including Mosman, Manly, the inner city and the eastern suburbs — although the Richmond Valley area of North-Eastern NSW has one of the highest rates of vaccination objection in the country.

I think you can't easily disentangle alternative medicine from aesthetics, since it seems to me that what you believe is partly a function of what other people in your social group believe. And 'wellness' always struck me as a bullshit word - this article helps to articulate why. I just like treating it as its own separate aesthetic, like steampunk or normcore, which perhaps suggests a method of attack that's might be more effective than just statistics and charts.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:20 PM on May 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Wellness" programs are big in health insurance right now, and most of what I know about them, from working in health insurance, is that the ROI on them (i.e., people showing signs of improved health) is nearly nonexistent.
Oh no! I really don't want them to go out of favor, because I really value my half-price gym membership courtesy of my workplace wellness program.

I don't know. I feel like a lot of women embrace the aesthetic and the saner lifestyle claims without ever becoming an anti-vaxxer or believing that coffee enemas cure cancer. And this does sort of feel like another instance in which women are going to be judged no matter what we do, and you might as well say fuck it and do what works for you. I like my yoga pants, and I feel better when I go to Pilates class and eat lots of veggies, even though I know I may still get cancer, and if you think that's bullshit then that's ok, because I didn't actually ask for your opinion.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:42 PM on May 6, 2015 [51 favorites]


There's a fellow who writes the alternative healing column for the local newsweekly. Has for decades. And the entire time, he has looked like a recently unearthed mummy.

I'd only put him on my intagram if my instagram was horror-themed.
posted by maxsparber at 6:44 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh no! I really don't want them to go out of favor

Me neither! I love that my mom can go to Chi Gung, sponsored by Kaiser. They have yoga and meditation and a ton of other "wellness" programs that I think are awesome.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:46 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think this piece actually helps to explain much -- I would have found it intriguing if it had gone more into the idea that "wellness" is a "privileged performance," but honing in on the most extreme examples -- people eating clay and taking coffee enemas to cure cancer -- just sounds ranty and doesn't really get at the all-pervasive ubiquity of the word and its attendant meanings that suffuse modern culture.
posted by blucevalo at 6:48 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


My mother had breast cancer, 25 years ago. After she recovered from surgery, we went to meet the oncologist who was going to do the chemo stage. He laid out our options, and he started with - "you could do nothing". That shocked me at the time, but eventually I came to understand that it is indeed an option. I'm not much in the mood to judge someone who decided to take their chances with coffee enemas rather than undergo amputation of an arm and shoulder, and who lived for 7 years.
posted by thelonius at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Cool. So we have a movement based on mindfulness, based on being considerate of the shit you decide to put in you or consume or engage with, based on exercise that doesn't follow the testosterone-fueled logic of a gym, based on attempting to make intelligent decisions, and of course it's a bullshit style movement. Of course, the reflexive knee-jerk sneering at "aesthetic" and at making things look good is itself attacking yet another traditionally feminine field, because what could be less "real" than thinking about the way things look and feel?

Instagram as an aesthetic is fairly shallow, a lot of the "leftist" attitudes of the modern quote-hipster-unquote movement are rooted in naivete and generally involve lots of people mouthing attitudes they haven't fully internalized or understood, and designers piss me the hell off, despite my sometimes working in the field myself. But that's what happens when a culture gains ground. People who've valued a thing for a while get irked at how many newcomers suddenly give a shit, and those newcomers dilute the surrounding culture while simultaneously failing to fully grasp it as an identity or way of being, but ultimately if what you value is the thing itself, that shouldn't fucking matter. Your choices have been vindicated! Good job! Hooray!

On the flip side, meanwhile, are the people who refuse to engage with that culture, for whom any seeming joy to be found in a thing can only be posturing, any seeming meaning can only be the ignorance of somebody who hasn't seen the clothesless emperor. For these people, the increasing size of a movement is only proof that it was a con after all, because look at these suckers!, and there's no possible way that somebody might engage with that movement earnestly, because either they're ignorant dilettantes or they're full-blown brainwashed. It's all an excuse to sneer, to prove oneself superior over a group of people who are perceived as considering themselves to be superior despite no supporting evidence, save perhaps a bit of irritating eagerness and enthusiasm.

As somebody with a bit of an eccentric palette and a series of idiosyncratic enthusiasms, I understand this irritation. People who don't have the time, passion, or motivation to develop tastes and interests purely of their own self-propulsion kind of bother me, mainly because those are all the ways I like to engage with people and I dislike not having that common ground. But so the fuck what? There're a lot of ways to live a happy life, and I doubt the people doing yoga and eating kale will regret their decisions to do so ten years down the line. Not everybody has to live life as I've mandated they ought, and thank God I don't have to live by their mandations either. Live and let live.

Articles like this, which pretend to be cultural analyses but are really just excuses for a person to justify their personal grudges at the expense of a world of people who've never heard of them, are the ugliest sort of wounded snobbery. They accuse a group of people of having all the shortcomings clearly evident in the authors themselves. The conflation of kale-eating with cancer-denying is the flimsiest of excuses — the push towards alternative medicines and woo thinking is a problem, but the author is barely concerned with discussing this. She's looking to shit on a lifestyle and a culture, using the crazies as an excuse to justify her lazy, self-centered condemnations. I don't even like the lifestyle/culture in question, and reading this made me want to shove a bunch of kale in a mason jar and use it as a yoga block. Eurgh to it all, I say.
posted by rorgy at 7:08 PM on May 6, 2015 [53 favorites]


You misunderstand. I love Instagram- I post to it constantly. Which is where I see this stuff. And I like various aesthetics, choosing them, switching between them. I think by calling 'wellness' and its associated tropes an 'aesthetic' on the same level as snackwave or whatever we can start to disentangle it from its sense of moral superiority. There's so much woo - the anti-'toxin' movement, anti-GMOs, Food Babe, Doctor Oz - that's bound up in this idea of natural = good = healthy that leads people to very unhealthy outcomes.

This just props up the organic food industry. Eat food because it tastes good, not because it'll cleanse you of the non-healing toxins.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:24 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Wellness" programs are big in health insurance right now, and most of what I know about them, from working in health insurance, is that the ROI on them (i.e., people showing signs of improved health) is nearly nonexistent.

My unit is studying the importance of wellness programs (along with other benefits or accommodations) to employees with chronic conditions and disabilities. Maybe we'll find an effect on health, maybe we won't. (Science is fun).
posted by jb at 7:27 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Articles like this, which pretend to be cultural analyses but are really just excuses for a person to justify their personal grudges at the expense of a world of people who've never heard of them, are the ugliest sort of wounded snobbery

Banish pieces like these and the internet would be nothing but cats, bacon, and ebay.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:28 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


@octobersurprise: And what would be wrong with that, exactly?
posted by old_growler at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


This shit bothers me the most with "clean eating." What exactly constitutes "clean" is never very clear. There are commonsense elements, like lots of fresh vegetables and no commercial snack foods. But then there's a lot of other stuff that has a lot more to do with aesthetic ideas of what is "pure" than with actual nutrition. The whole idea that eating gluten-free is automatically healthier, even for people with no allergies or sensitivities, for example. Or avoiding peanuts, as if the fact that other people have allergies to them make them automatically suspect. There's a weird, self-denying glee in cutting out groups of ingredients. And I think one reason that juicing has caught on is simply that women aren't made to feel guilty, un-femininely embodied, about drinking a liquid the way they are about eating food. You can carry a bottle of green juice into the yoga studio as one more lifestyle accessory, like lululemon leggings -- the nutritionally equivalent salad doesn't fill the same visual space.

Also, some stuff just doesn't make sense.
"Clean": sweet potatoes. Not "clean": white potatoes.
"Clean": agave nectar. Not "clean": corn syrup. (The kind you buy in a bottle for home cooking is not high-fructose.)
"Clean": steaming vegetables; using oils in salad dressings. Not "clean": sauteeing vegetables in those same oils.

But most importantly, there's a creepy morality surrounding it all. It draws on the old idea of self-denial in a good cause being virtuous, except here the only cause is your own body. (How many times have you heard that exact word, "virtuous," used to describe food? Or "sinful"?) Healthy habits = virtue, health = virtue, an attractive, athletic, toned body = virtue. The phrase "clean eating" is awful -- if some foods are not just healthy but "clean," others are not just unhealthy but dirty. Fuck that. Obviously you can eat in a healthy way or an unhealthy way, but "toxins" do not exist, it all gets processed into energy and used up in short order, and it's all coming out the same end anyway. Nobody needs another way to persecute themselves over their purity, naturalness and cleanliness -- but especially not women.
posted by ostro at 7:31 PM on May 6, 2015 [45 favorites]


There's the kind of "wellness" method advocated by your health insurance, which consists of "eat as healthy as you can, get some exercise in, and get regular checkups instead of waiting to see a doctor until you're way sick with something we could have taken care of in two days if you'd had a regular exam."

Them there's the kind of "wellness" that involves things like vaginal steam cleaning with mugwort tea.

....I trust the former kind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 PM on May 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


based on exercise that doesn't follow the testosterone-fueled logic of a gym

Have you actually been to a gym recently, or are you basing this on what you know about Gold's Gym-style bodybuilder culture? I spent years avoiding them because I didn't want anything to do with testosterone-fueled anything, and when a friend finally dragged me to the YMCA...it was full of awkward teenagers and frumpy moms and dads and grandparents, but they were normal, frumpy people who were interested in fitness in some way. It was a revelation. And for the intervening decade, I've never had any trouble finding gyms where I feel completely welcome as a non-competitive, non-macho, but also non-yoga-doing person--and recently I was almost tempted away from my current gym (which is full of 60-year-old physicians) by the news about Planet Fitness's transgender-inclusive locker policy. (And *ahem* the $10/month membership. I swear I'm not a shill)
posted by pullayup at 7:38 PM on May 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


And what would be wrong with that, exactly?

Indeed.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:41 PM on May 6, 2015


I feel like a lot of women embrace the aesthetic and the saner lifestyle claims without ever becoming an anti-vaxxer or believing that coffee enemas cure cancer. And this does sort of feel like another instance in which women are going to be judged no matter what we do, and you might as well say fuck it and do what works for you. I like my yoga pants, and I feel better when I go to Pilates class and eat lots of veggies, even though I know I may still get cancer, and if you think that's bullshit then that's ok, because I didn't actually ask for your opinion.

This! I know a lot of young women who are into "wellness" and hashtag the shit out of their new-workout-outfit Instagram posts and none of them are into coffee enemas or fake cancer-curing b.s. They just like nice outfits, feeling strong and healthy, and waking up fucking early to Instagram the sunrise and workout before class. They like vegetables and don't like gluten (which, by the way, avoiding bread and carbs is like the main weight loss advice on Metafilter too). They like smoothies and juicing because they are the rare thing that tastes good, is fun to eat, and is considered good for you. (Though the low-carb set are not as big on either.)

But then there's a lot of other stuff that has a lot more to do with aesthetic ideas of what is "pure" than with actual nutrition. The whole idea that eating gluten-free is automatically healthier, even for people with no allergies or sensitivities, for example. Or avoiding peanuts, as if the fact that other people have allergies to them make them automatically suspect. There's a weird, self-denying glee in cutting out groups of ingredients.

When I don't eat wheat and cheese I don't get constipated, I don't feel as bloated, I feel "lighter" and more energetic. This doesn't mean it's the One True Way, but I get why it's caught on as a feminine aesthetic (plus the weight loss benefits). Likewise peanuts-- I have no documented nut allergies, but when I actually eat peanuts straight-up, I get kind of icky feeling-- so I can see how people have taken this "gluten and peanuts are bad" stance. I think it's kind of woo, but it's also not totally the pleasure of self-abnegation. It's a "listening to your body" thing and I can see how people draw the conclusion that wheat and peanuts are bad for them based on the way they feel. It's not scientific, but it's also not totally like superstitious nonsense.
posted by easter queen at 7:42 PM on May 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I lump this article in with the recent Carles post deriding rich people who make cute baby shower invitations. Is consumption a wonderful thing? No. Do we pretty much all do it and take pleasure in it in some way or another, and just choose to make fun of the people who do it in the most silly/feminine/"frivolous" ways, the woman-y type people who are, sin of sins, trying too hard in public? (Much as we deride men who care about fashion and metrosexuals and whoever else.)
posted by easter queen at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


While looking at some clean-eating stuff online, I stumbled on Buzzfeed's recent 2-week "clean eating challenge." Looked pretty reasonable, if not something I would ever actually want to do. (I like pasta.) Then I looked at the total daily calorie counts in tiny, tiny type at the end of each day's worth of recipes.

1,341 calories. 1,457 calories. 1,338 calories. 1,324 calories.

For most women, THAT IS A WEIGHT-LOSS DIET. No mention of weight loss on the main page for this diet (because given these numbers, that's what it is), just an assumption that this is the appropriate number of calories for a woman, just your standard woman who happens to read Buzzfeed, to be eating per day. JESUS H. CHRIST.
posted by ostro at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


The lack of substance in the wellness movement could be forgiven if all it offered was its pleasant aesthetics, if it was just another style, like normcore or health goth.

For a lot of people, that's exactly what it is. Yoga clothes are cute and comfortable, working out makes me feel good, quinoa is tasty. I'm not trying to "detox" or cure anyone's cancer here.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:30 PM on May 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


The nicest people I've met in my twenty years of gym going are the super buff weightlifter types.
posted by winna at 8:33 PM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


There is definitely an element of upper class posturing involved in the whole conspicuous wellness movement that has created a reasonable pushback. Also a bunch of placebo effect with regards to gluten et al.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:34 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


For most women, THAT IS A WEIGHT-LOSS DIET.

Uncooly enough, 1300-1400 calories a day is for me a weight maintenance diet. I am interested in how many women would lose weight on that many calories (seriously curious, no snark intended).

I get your point for sure, and I think they maybe chose that range knowing that people aren't really interested in "clean eating" unless there is a weight loss/low weight maintenance component. If it was a very healthy diet that clocked in at 1800 cals. a day, people would be going "wow very interesting so health very cl-- ah never mind."
posted by easter queen at 8:36 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also a bunch of placebo effect with regards to gluten et al.

Last thing I will say about gluten, but try cutting out gluten and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables (and not very much cheese) for awhile. You will be regular as an Italian train schedule under Mussolini. (Ok, historically inaccurate example... )

There can be a placebo effect, naturally, but when I eat low carb my digestion is really... impeccable. Everything is changed. Everything. In ways I won't describe in polite company. I assume it's because more fiber and less cramming refined bread products down your gullet just helps things move along.

There was a post here on the Green once by a night owl type asking how to do high-energy workouts in the early morning when you just don't have the focus and intensity you do at night. One person's advice was... take a shit in the morning before your workout. And it's true! Makes you feel light as a freakin' feather. No wonder there is so much woo about "colon cleanses" and gluten-free, because people don't like being full of shit. (Though some might call that a paradox.)
posted by easter queen at 8:41 PM on May 6, 2015


Uncooly enough, 1300-1400 calories a day is for me a weight maintenance diet. I am interested in how many women would lose weight on that many calories (seriously curious, no snark intended).

I'm a dude (210lb currently) and my maintenance is 1800-2000 with a weight loss target of 1600. I've tried a lot things over the past 20 years, but calorie restriction (of a vaguely atkins-y bent) plus regimented workouts has been the only solid option.

American food has a lot of useless calories. If it wasn't the blue, I recall seeing elsewhere that low calorie diets correlated positively to longevity in some cultures. I love bread, but I do not delude myself about it's nutritional value.
posted by 99_ at 8:46 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Very very lastly, I have a bad/sour stomach and take antacids every day. Before I started taking medication, I was really careful about what I ate because eating the wrong thing (or overeating) could ruin my entire day. I was basically "eating clean" for a year or so while trying a lot of different diets to see what I could handle, and not fully having a grasp on the fact that it was my stomach that was making me so unhappy and sick. I stopped drinking any caffeine or alcohol and thought I was just getting older and couldn't handle those things (no coffee, no rich foods, no beer, definitely no liquor) anymore.

Then I started antacids... and now I can eat whatever I want! I feel 10 years younger. Before, to feel this good, I had to make a lot of sacrifices in what I could eat. My doctor actually prescribed me antidepressants and antacids at the same time, citing the effects of anxiety on the gut and/or the gut on anxiety.

Some people who dedicate themselves to trendy diets love the self-abnegation part (for their own reasons), and some people have everyday illnesses (heartburn, indigestion, mild depression, other gut-related things) and don't really know it. I have always been skeptical of food fads (eating egg yolks all my life, thank you) so I was never a person claiming a "gluten allergy" or anything, and I can see how the pathology of the whole thing is annoying, but I also think solely chalking it up to placebo and attention-seeking is kind of wrongish. (And that maybe attention-seeking when medical professionals are just shrugging at you makes a bit of sense, if misdirected.)
posted by easter queen at 8:51 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The medical office at the Apple campus is called a "wellness center."
posted by Apocryphon at 8:55 PM on May 6, 2015


I think it's about how "alternative medicine" makes itself appealing with pictures of beautiful people in beautiful settings doing healthy things.

Attractive white people. Because at heart the wellness movement is fascist.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:24 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really need to weigh in on the gluten thing here. I totally appreciate that some people who make a change in their diet find some kind of mood benefit, or 'feel' better. They may even 'be' better, if the statistical significance of that is more than what you would find by paying attention to what you eat anyway.

But the current 'gluten free' fad, which almost universally means 'wheat free' rather than 'removing all traces of cereal gluten from your diet and environment' has actually made things significantly more dangerous for coeliacs - people for whom the difference between soy sauce and tamari sauce manufacturing processes can mean a night in hospital.

Pressure from 'health food' companies to change legislative definitions of safe gluten levels means that - in Australia at least - many foods can be labelled 'gluten free' without actually being so. Did you know that wheat flour can be used as an anti-caking agent for powder flavourings (like on crisps) without being listed as a gluten risk? Worse, the direct equation of 'gluten free' with 'wheat free' means that in many cafes and restaurants here, rye and spelt breads are offered as 'gluten free' alternatives, because staff simply don't know that gluten is actually a poisonous irritant to some people, and not just a lifestyle choice. I've been told that tabbouleh is gluten free, and when i pointed out the grains in it were wheat I was told "Oh, no, that's Burghul".

My brother was diagnosed as a coeliac in country Victoria in about 1985, when gluten free food was something that had to be ordered by mail, and every meal had to be carefully vetted for contaminants. In the 30 years since, we reached a kind of equilibrium of understanding, where certified gluten-free products could be bought from supermarkets, and a number of specialist cafes were available (as well as more 'traditional' establishments, like Indian or Mexican restaurants, where dishes without gluten are identifiable) Since wheat-free wellness programs exploded about 5 years ago, it's actually getting a lot harder to find stuff for sibling7 to eat when we hang out. So, with the utmost respect, if you can eat a slice of bread and not actually die you're not gluten intolerant, and I have an army of people who can shit blood to prove it.

So can Caroline Quentin (Apologies for Daily Mail link...)
posted by prismatic7 at 10:53 PM on May 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


Wasn't John Harvey Kellogg the original wellness guy? I don't think he invented the term wellness but he certainly used it, and his focus on vegetarianism, enemas, calisthenics etc. at his sanitarium definitely fits. Did anybody see the film The Road to Wellville?
Dr. Kellogg: Take Mr. Lightbody immediately to the yogurt room and give him fifteen gallons!

William Lightbody: Oh no, no, I can't eat 15 gallons of yogurt!

Dr. Kellogg: Oh, it's not going in THAT end, Mr. Lightbody!
posted by kersplunk at 2:10 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Easter Queen, I would lose weight on under 1500K. I'm 5'5" and just wandered back up to 135lbs from 128lbs. I am happy about this since I'm fighting disordered eating.
posted by Phalene at 2:56 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I think if you look at the actual things some wellness-minded people do (gluten-free, only eating organic, whatever) you'll find people who do them because it works for them best. The thing that actually seems to set most people's teeth on edge is when people BOAST about it. The majority of yoga fans just...do yoga, without filling their Instagram feed with selfies of themselves in crane pose or shots of their new mat or images photoshopped with Pema Chodron quotes or whatever.

It's the "look at how healthy my lifestyle is, everyone" boasting that puts people off, not the lifestyle itself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:49 AM on May 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's just the same old (centuries old) bourgeois obsession with self control, conjoined to a more modern fear of contamination, wrapped up in a bow of scientific illiteracy.

In that sense it's nothing new. But it's got nothing to do with biophysical health and everything to do with repression, neuroses, and anxieties typical of 21st century high bourgeois culture, at once terrified of germs and chemicals.

It's a bad place to be, but Whole Foods exists to cater to it.
posted by spitbull at 4:33 AM on May 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


Don't forget the sparkly tinsel of tech-enabled exhibitionism.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:28 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


A lot of human cultures have had this kind of folk medicine; people have always come up with weird complicated diets and rituals that they believe enhance their vital energy.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:34 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the complaints about CrossFit. My CrossFit experience was a pleasant, ordinary experience of working out with friendly, motivated people of various backgrounds. People choose to complain about an idealized stereotype, however, because why complain about the unremarkable majority?
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:43 AM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Attractive white people. Because at heart the wellness movement is fascist.

The German kind or the Italian kind? Because I'm trying to cut out pasta.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:49 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


The fun thing about most "bamboo" fabrics is that they're just rayon that uses bamboo as a cellulose feedstock. It's still a highly industrialized process where you basically dissolve the bamboo with solvents and reform it into weaveable fibers.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:06 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Wellness" is what your insurance will cover for your annual check-up at your doc. "Health" is an out-of-pocket expense, applied to your deductible.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:10 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


octobersurprise, schnitzel is no better!
posted by spitbull at 6:11 AM on May 7, 2015


Weird food fact according to Robert Graves. The reason the Pythagoreans did not eat beans is because pure souled people reincarnated as beans and could be reincarnated human again if a woman ate the bean and birthed. It was only the males who were not supposed to eat beans.
posted by bukvich at 6:20 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am one of those "wellness" practitioners. Using a combination of traditional Chinese medical massage techniques, movement therapy, and mindfulness practice I have helped old women who needed help walking into my office hop off and walk out of their own volition; helped cancer patients understand the changes in their body and self identity after their (allopathic) treatments, and helped many many individuals recovery from injuries they didn't believe would heal. Placebo? Possibly, but if it is it's an extremely effective one - I consistently am told I'm more helpful to my clients than physical therapists, other massage therapists, and podiatrists (ankle and lower leg dysfunction is one of my specialties)

Articles like this strike me as invalidating to the experience that I have had as a practitioner, as well as pushing people who might have been curious about what the fuss is about to avoid it simply based on stereotypes. It's very sad because American culture struggles with health because it is an intangible thing when you have it, and only becomes tangible when it's lost. The American way though, is to value tangible things over the intangible, making finding healthy habits difficult for some, and those are the individuals who, from my experience, find themselves immersed in the stereotypes that the author and many of the commentors here are raging against.

I've also had to derail my fair share of individuals who believe that allthings alternative medicine are a panacaea for all things dysfunctional within the human body, and that's when I see stuff like gerston therapy touted - in all of those cases, I argue using science and am usually greeted by logical fallacies. Some things are extremely effective - prolotherapy for instance, but other things definitely fall into the stereotypes this author is raging against.

A lot of people have commented about the gluten free hype, and although I am not legally able to give dietary advice to clients - when I am asked, I tell people the following:
  • write down everything you eat for at least one week. If it goes in your mouth, put it on the paper.

  • if after that time, the answer isn't obvious to you after reading over what you've had to eat, go see a naturopath/dietitian/md trained in dietary analysis (most MD's get a whopping 23.9 hours on average of training in nutrition compared to the 25 hours recommended by the National Academy of Sciences).


  • My experience (warning - anecdote) is that after following my own advice, gluten was the only allergen in my diet and as soon as I eliminated it, most of the health issues I struggled with vanished, and now I am a well individual helping others discover what it's so awesome.

    As far as a design aesthetic, I am constantly astounded by how many people fall prey to pretty pictures and as soon as I read whatever text is with is (pointing out logical fallacies on the way) those pretty pictures suddenly seem to fall short of reality.
    posted by thebotanyofsouls at 8:48 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


    For what it's worth, I recently went to the local urgent care place because I had a chest cold that was not playing nicely with my seasonal allergies, and the PA there recommended that I try paleo. I was sort of taken aback, to be honest. I have nothing against paleo, except that I don't want to follow a diet that forbids almost everything that is delicious, but I don't think there's evidence that eating paleo is going to help with my asthma, and I like my medical providers to give me evidence-based medical advice!

    Of course, the whole paleo/ crossfit thing is coded male, so it's not going to come in for nearly as much derision as some woman doing yoga and avoiding gluten will.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:08 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


    People choose to complain about an idealized stereotype, however, because why complain about the unremarkable majority?

    Heck, people do it with religion, why not something else?
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on May 7, 2015


    I watch someone I know and adore, work in financial marketing, makes nice under inordinate (normal for business,) stress. She is a 200% team player, works at least three other gigs besides being a parent. She eats carefully, does yoga to mitigate stress and own her demeanor.

    This seems a purely hateful thread to me. How many ways do women have to pretzelize themselves to get it right?
    posted by Oyéah at 9:32 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


    For me the take home is that this is an authenticity movement continuous with authenticity movements of previous decades, and, as such, an orientation within consumer culture that frequently pretends to be standing outside of it in a conspicuously glowing way. Which is not necessarily, y'know, evil, but is bullshit, like the lady says. Resolved: kale is a form of bling for wholesome and authentical persons like the Gwyneth. Which also shouldn't bother anybody at all who really likes eating the stuff and is convinced of the health benefits or whatever. But there really is an illusion of simplicity and "realness" about the whole business, and that's kinda worth poking sharp things at a little bit, so, yeah, brava!
    posted by batfish at 5:02 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Attractive white people. Because at heart the wellness movement is fascist.

    it's a cool sounding word for sure but i don't know that deploying it at every opportunity is really doing you any favors
    posted by invitapriore at 5:57 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Attractive white people. Because at heart the wellness movement is fascist.

    Howso? Or were you snarking?
    posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:12 PM on May 7, 2015


    The word wellness, as currently used, is code for woo. I'm wearing a Fitbit and just finished a Whole30, so I get the healthy lifestyle thing. That's great! I am all for it. Instagram away in your yoga pants that you actually do yoga in! But "wellness," that's anti-science bullshit. Wellness is Belle Gibson. That's just what the word is now. It is unfair, though, that a particularly female-based segment of healthy living is getting swept up into the wellness umbrella, because it's really two different things.
    posted by Ruki at 6:17 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Attractive white people. Because at heart the wellness movement is fascist.

    Howso? Or were you snarking?


    You know who else was obsessed with nature, pre-Christian religion, vegetarianism, physical health, the cult of the perfect body, and not smoking?

    The Bullshit Hypocrisy of "All-Natural" Foods
    posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:42 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Madame Blavatsky?
    posted by batfish at 7:17 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


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