Clash of the Wellness Warriors and Health Professionals

“Wellness is more than just an obsession today. It’s a moral demand … when health becomes an ideology, the failure to conform becomes a stigma.” – Carl Cederstrom and Andre Spicer

We all have that friend that counts calories, keeps a food journal, is always on the hunt for the new super food (hello kale, chia seeds and goji berries), and hashtagging every meal with #cleaneating #doyouevenlift? #datass… And whilst we all roll our eyes at their weird obsession with green smoothies and kale (I’ve tried it, it’s disgusting), there’s this tiny part of us that thinks ‘damn, she’s doing well,’ as we look at ourselves in the mirror and rethink our indulgence in a block of chocolate.

If we follow  food personalities and food bloggers on TV, cook books and instagram… then eating better, makes you a better person. And not only a better person, but better looking from the inside out. Apparently ‘fit is the new sexy’ (Kayla Itsines) and ‘eating veggies, not animals’ (Emily Hunt) is the new way to eat food. Whilst I’m a big believer in promoting a healthy lifestyle, I believe it’s important to be critical of the way that these ‘healthy lifestyles’ are marketed at us and ‘others,’ and question the legitimacy of bold claims made.

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Pete Evans, an Australian chef and TV personality who is a walking advertisement for the Paleo Way. He is a guest chef on My Kitchen Rules and is widely recognised throughout Australia and is reaching international audiences. Evans claims that his Paleo diet can ‘cure cancer and autism’ (Robinson, 2014). He also created a recipe baby formula (Paleo of course), which was high in Vitamin A which can cause serious illness, even death (Dieticians Association of Australia). 

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Pete Evans flaunting his Paleo is the new black shirt. Source

Evans is a chef. Not a dietician, nutritionist or scientist, however the claims he makes appeal to people with little hope left. Neuroscienctist and science writer, Dr Sarah McKay says that ‘”wellness” has been hijacked by pseudoscience’ and suggests that health professionals need to find a better way to connect with the public. (Randles, 2015) Perhaps this is a positive step in the right direction to promote efficient, safe health practices. Mansberg suggests that health professionals should ‘step up and provide better information to the public so Australians can make truly informed choices, before anyone else dies a preventable death using alternative medicines’ (2015).

Kayla Itsines. Source
Kayla Itsines. Source

There are many female ‘Wellness Warriors’ who dominate Instagram and have immense influence over their followers. Kayla Itsines is a Wellness Warrior who has over 3.5million followers on Instagram, promoting health, strength and fitness through her transformational ebooks. She sells the idea that if you work out, eat healthy, and post your progress shots on Instagram, that makes you a good person. And more than a good person, but that you’ll be happy, positive, get more out of life and embrace the full Wellness Warrior lifestyle.

‘The wellness blogger is, crucially, photogenic and young, which is why “wellness” looks so much more desirable than it did a decade ago,’ they tell us to ‘eat like me, look like me.’ (The Guardian, 2015). It’s a desirable lifestyle, but failing to conform to these ideals, can reinforce insecurities people may already have. As one physiotherapist has said, an increasing amount of teenage girls have adopted her programs, which is concerning due to the affects on self confidence, self worth and belonging (Wescombe, 2015). Lauren McGukin (a spokesperson for Dieticians Association Australia) says that the Wellness Warrior can be ‘dangerous and promote an unhealthy lifestyle do to their extreme nature.’

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In the world of the Wellness Revolution, power and influence is everything. Perhaps medical professionals can learn something from the Wellness Warriors because they certainly do have a lot of attention. But maybe the Wellness Warriors should leave the medical advice to the medical professionals (ahem, Pete Evans). I believe that it would be much more beneficial for Wellness Warriors to actually promote, being well. This means being happy in your skin, focusing not only on physical wellness but also emotional wellness. This way, the over arching message from both medical professionals and Wellness Warriors of ‘living a healthy lifestyle’ could be addressed more effectively without excluding anyone because you can’t reach an unrealistic goal.

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References

Carty, S 2015 ‘As health professionals call #fitspo stars ‘dangerous’ and warn ‘people should not trust them’, we ask: Are wellness bloggers doing followers more harm than good?’ Daily Mail Australia, 22 March, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3001594/As-health-professionals-call-fitspo-stars-dangerous-warn-people-not-trust-ask-wellness-bloggers-doing-followers-harm-good.html

Mansberg, G 2015, ‘Dr Ginni Mansberg: The Medical Profession has a problem’, News.com.au, 11 March, http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/dr-ginni-mansberg-the-medical-profession-has-a-problem/story-fneuzlbd-1227258347242

The Guardian, 2015 ‘Green is the new black: the unstoppable rise of the healthy eating guru’ The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/27/new-wellness-bloggers-food-drink-hadley-freeman

Robinson, A 2014 ‘Pete Evans says a Paleo can prevent autism. He’s wrong’, Essential Baby, October 12, http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/wellbeing/mind-and-body/pete-evans-says-a-paleo-diet-can-prevent-autism-hes-wrong-20141012-115356.html

Wescombe, S 2015 ‘ 5 Reasons not to let your teenage daughter do the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide program’, Happy Physio, 25 July, http://happyphysio.com.au/5-reasons-not-to-let-your-teenage-daughter-do-the-kayla-itsines-bikini-body-guide-program/

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