Charcoal, Chaga and Clean Living: Is #Wellness just a bunch of BS?
Well. Now that I’ve got your attention…get ready for a bit of a longer read!
I’ve been a health food (now: wellness) girl for longer than I have been a registered dietitian. I would nag my mom to drive me to the health food store so I could browse the aisles (Thanks mom!! Look, it was all worth it!!).
I still remember my first supplement purchase. It was a mysterious can of Greens+ …that tasted kind of awful…but actually made me feel pretty good. Then, I discovered the work of Andrew Weil and I was hooked. The rest, as they typically say, is history.
Except that I never would have imagined all these years later how mainstreamed wellness is.
Its patron saint is Gwyneth, queen of Goop, and the army of blogs and Instagram accounts featuring picture perfect smoothie bowls and #blessed bodies frolicking in the waves in Bali.
And as the mighty rise, so does the inevitable backlash.
Stars are being made of those in the anti-Goop army. And as a dietitian, I really don’t like what a free-for-all wellness information is. I’m not arrogant enough to think that only a dietitian or a doctor can support healing…but these days, anybody with enough followers can say absolutely anything – even if it’s potentially dangerous – and we’ll buy in if the image is glossy enough.
Charcoal is a great example of this. It looks so damn cool, and it’s backed by a bit of science. Because it absorbs things like a sponge, it’s used in large amounts to help clear out the digestive tract in emergency medical situations. So it makes sense that we should use it to help us remove toxins from the gut, yes? Except that we often ignore that effective natural approaches also have side effects, like, you could unwittingly rob your body of nutrients at best...or render any medications or supplements you’re taking useless at worst. And that tiny bit of charcoal sprinkled into a lemonade? Not gonna do anything but lighten your wallet and garner a bunch of likes.
The other challenge I have is that overwhelmingly, #wellness seems like a playground for only the most privileged in our society.
When #wellness becomes elitist and exclusive, we have totally lost touch with what the whole purpose of true wellness.
In case you think I am turning my back on my tribe…that isn’t the case at all. I simply want us all to be more conscious of the images and information we are receiving because of how far down the internet rabbit hole we’ve gone.
Now is the part where I talk about why this #wellness stuff is so very necessary.
As a dietitian who was schooled at the height of nutritionism, I feel like I understand 100% how we got here. As the famous Wayne Roberts quote goes, “we have a health care system that doesn’t care about food, and a food system that doesn’t care about health.”
For me, wellness was a rejection of what I felt was potentially harmful traditionalism in allopathic medicine. I knew that food had the power to heal and yet the medical system seemed to totally dismiss any talk of any connection between food and disease. I still remember one very renowned obesity medicine expert exclaiming, “Nutrition doesn’t work for obesity.” Like, are you kidding me?
Supplements were disregarded, even though there is a solid evidence base for many (but definitely not all). And everything without conclusive evidence (read: most of nutrition and supplementation) was labelled ‘not evidence-based’. So, allopathic health professionals created a vacuum for the internet wild of wellness to grow. And grow it did: the groundswell of wellness online, in integrative clinics and even cold-pressed juice bars now practically worldwide has created a conscious shift in how we make the connection between our lifestyles and our health. And we need it now more than ever.
We work more – and demand more – of ourselves than ever before. I’m not really so sure it’s a good idea…but that’s where we’re at. The reason your grandpa could eat steak and potatoes, smoke and live to 100? He ate real (probably organic) food, wasn’t stressed and did manual labour.
Living a more plant-centred life, making time for meditation and nature, and yes, taking your supplements, is modern life survival.
It’s also a rejection of the idea that illness is inevitable. Just because it’s common to have diabetes doesn’t mean it’s normal. It’s a product of our messed up food system. And science has evolved to the point where we know how to live better.
I think we are at a point where we are ready for wellness to mature.
We need to be more inclusive. Wellness is not the exclusive domain of those who can attend luxury wellness retreats.
We need to understand the current state of science…but remained open-minded until the science catches up with the complexities of lifestyle medicine. We need to understand that you can, actually heal yourself. I’ve seen it with my clients. So many of you have experienced it.
Living a truly wellness-focused life is about eating real food. Tons of plants. Moving your body and making space for stress-reduction and sleep. You can do that on a tiny budget…or a big one.
The future of wellness and integrative medicine is about understanding the physiology of the body and the functional attributes of the foods we eat…and the information they send our cells. Not an outright rejection of the amazing advances of modern medicine, nor a dismissal of the wisdom of traditional knowledge.
My wish is that the line between allopathic and alternative dissolves until we keep only the best, most evidence-informed, effective marriage of practices that bring true health.
It is what I aim to be…and everyday I will strive to better serve you.
Here’s to a more evolved #wellnessarmy,