A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by Jessica Knoll called “Smash the Wellness Industry.” Knoll argues that “wellness” is just dieting in disguise—”…wellness also contributes to the insulting cultural subtext that women cannot be trusted to make decisions when it comes to our own bodies, even when it comes to nourishing them. We must adhere to some sort of ‘program’ or we will go off the rails.”
Think about the last time you were out to eat with a friend. Did the topic of body image come up in conversation? Maybe your friend mentioned her new exercise plan. Maybe she expressed her dissatisfaction with her weight.
Maybe you were the one who brought it up.
You’re not alone. Women are much more likely to discuss their bodies than men—how they look, how they don’t measure up, how they should “do better.” It seems as though every decision we make is based on this concept of “wellness.”
So, let’s define “wellness,” shall we? According to Merriam-Webster, wellness is the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy, there is a line…and the wellness industry crossed it years ago (think: Whole30, Keto, 13-day cleanses, elimination diet).
What we consider “wellness” isn’t really wellness at all. Instead, Jessica Knoll describes it as “a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems,” she continues, “But at its core, ‘wellness’ is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.”
But if wellness isn’t the answer, then what is?
Enter: intuitive eating, a phrase which Knoll describes as “a return to the innate wisdom we had as babies — about when to stop eating, what tastes good and how it makes our bodies feel.” Not only that, but intuitive eating helps you accept how your body looks once you stop restricting food (even if that version of your body is larger than you prefer).
If you’re anywhere on social media, you’ve probably heard about intuitive eating. Although it’s been around for decades, intuitive eating is gaining popularity in the midst of the patriarchal beauty standard.
In her conclusion, Knoll references the Bechdel test for film—the idea is that the film must satisfy three requirements to pass: (1) feature at least two women who (2) talk to each other about (3) something other than a man. In 2019, Knoll challenges women to try out a new kind of test—where women can gather without mentioning our bodies and instead, discuss ideas, strategies, and plans to take up more space in this world where our thoughts and opinions are needed.
What are your thoughts on the wellness industry? Do you partake in intuitive eating? Leave a comment below!