Commodified Wellness: the power of perceived wellbeing

Introduction

The so-called information age in which we live rests on a shifting foundation of unscientific likes, tweets, shares, and selfies. Mastering the art of a flawless social media presence in a culture teeming with visual endorsements and growing narcissism looks a lot like a toned body, presumably from regular yoga classes, natural glowing skin, fuelled primarily by organic vegetables and green juices… lots of green juices. Despite the collective panics over obesity epidemics and political campaigns against junk food in schools, discourses surrounding health and wellness are capturing North America’s attention, and have managed to ease their way back into the societal spotlight. Eating vegetables, being active, and getting enough fibre into one’s diet is no longer a cause to be championed by concerned mothers worldwide; instead it has become the trendiest hobby of the elite. This essay will analyze the recent surge in vegetables’ popularity and the willingness of North Americans to spend excess money on immaterial expenditures such as health and fitness regardless of economic standing. As human communication continues to move predominantly into online formats, there is an increase of information both created by and accessible to the public. Since the early 2000’s, social media has ushered in an age of communication from the masses to the masses, otherwise known as the rise of “user generated content” (Manovich, 2009, p. 319). But only recently has this trend exploded into the health and wellness sphere. Self-proclaimed wellness coaches and seemingly flawless fitness “experts” dominate social media platforms, boasting sponsorship for everything health related, from the newest assortment of high-speed blenders to the most muscle-inducing variety of protein powder. Additionally, anxiety for the average consumer regarding their personal health has risen with new societal expectations, information, and standards (Biltekoff, 2010, p. 177). New media technologies have disintegrated the simple clear categories of healthy or unhealthy. Instead, new diets, so-called “superfoods”, and studies revealing more and more potentially cancer-causing agents, are constantly being proliferated online and influencing buying habits. As audiences become increasingly reachable through a variety of social-media platforms, the inability to see past the carefully and artfully curated images that are associated with public health and wellness are only bolstering the purchasing power associated with this trend. In this essay I will demonstrate the ways by which social media websites, such as Instagram and food blogs have contributed to the commodification of the word “wellness” and its subsequent consequences on everyday individuals.

Commodification

Through online advertising there has been a commodification of making healthy choices. Purchasing is linked to wellness, which is linked to happiness and an unrealistic image of the “good life” (Jhally, 1990, p. 248). This image of health and wellness has been well crafted in the media as something easily attainable, if one can merely afford the asking price. Jhally (1990) notes that as radio and then television began to integrate advertising, they ushered in an era characterized by the domination of “imagistic” advertising (p. 247). In recent years, the growing popularity of social media and other online social platforms has magnified the shift towards more visual forms of communication. Drawing from Kenneth Burke’s dramaturgical model, social media has become the predominant stage from which social interaction takes place. And, as online media such as Instagram and food blogs have gained popularity, so have the number of unavoidable advertisements that consumers are bombarded with on a daily, or more accurately, hourly basis. Health and wellness “experts” who lead social media circles subtly blend personal, upbeat, health advice with casual product placements. According to Freeman (2016) these social media authorities or “wellness gurus” acquire “lucrative endorsements from health food brands, exercise equipment makers and spas,” which are then conveniently promoted through their online blogs and social media. Freeman (2016) argues that for the successful health guru, “Publishers cannot give them book deals fast enough, and bestseller lists in the UK, Australia and US are filled with volumes on wellness, which mix recipes with vague nutritional advice and, of course, many, many photos” (n.p.). Taken in an online context, it is increasingly difficult for consumers to differentiate between reality and advertisements, and the lines have become blurred between what the personal and the public sphere.

Jhally (1990) contends that advertising does not merely create values out of thin air, rather it draws upon and redirects interests that the mainstream culture already shares (p. 248). In other words, health is not trendy because of its predominant role in social media; health has been a pillar of societal values for many years. Instead, social media has reshaped the concept of health into a commodifiable good by repackaging consumer’s desires for luxury goods and selling them back. In the act of subtly reselling desires, “…goods are knitted into the fabric of social life and cultural significance” (Jhally, 1990, p. 248). As the wellness trend has integrated into mainstream society, physical goods have become less culturally significant than healthy experiences, and these healthy experiences have developed their own niche place in the luxury goods market. Seo & Buchanan-Oliver (2015) argue that luxury products require more than high quality and distinctive design, they must also “convey a particular symbolic meaning; a story behind the product that can be linked to the consumer’s perception of luxury” (n.p.). They argue that, “Status-seeking consumers use luxury brands to achieve desired impressions on others…” (Seo & Buchanan-Oliver, 2015, n.p.). As healthy activities have become the newest luxury status symbols, social media has increasingly become the means by which they are sold. Phelan (2015) argues that following the economic recession of 2008, a phenomenon known as “stealth wealth” ushered in an era in which luxury consumers began to purchase goods that highlighted their wealth more discretely. Luxury brands that subtly promoted their labels, such as Celine and The Row, became increasingly popular as they allowed consumers a less conspicuous form of consumption. According to Atwal & Williams (2009) the baby boom generation’s passion for “self -indulgence” combined with an “iconoclastic world view” have transformed the luxury market from the old conspicuous consumption model to a new individualistic consumption, “…driven by new needs and desires for experiences” (p. 340). Stein (2013) defines the millennial generation by their collective desire for new experiences rather than new goods (n.p.). Notably, in the past five years “stealth wealth” purchases have shifted from traditional material goods to status-signifying experiences (Phelan, 2015, n.p.).

The 1990’s brought with it a dramatic change in the luxury brand industry. According to Seo & Buchanan-Oliver, (2015) the focus of the market evolved from being purely about design and production to being “brand driven” (n.p.). This change in time coincides perfectly with Manovich’s (2009) development of the Web 2.0, and a shift in online environments from publishing to communicating (p. 319). As companies started to focus on building their own brands, individuals began to engage with the Internet in new ways, and the ability for anyone to create and disseminate information was sparked. The nature of marketing continues to change as, “Luxury brand web sites and internet shopping make it possible for consumers to interact with each other via website communities and virtual clubs…” (Seo & Buchanan-Oliver, 2015, n.p.). Luxury brands and the goods and services they sell have shifted in scope and meaning over time. These changes stem from a shift in marketing, from traditional to experiential. According to Atwal & Williams (2009) “new luxury” and the “luxurification of society” reorients traditional luxury goods as more attainable for middle- market consumers (p. 339). Additionally, luxury goods must become more than mere products or services, and in order to distinguish themselves, “Businesses must facilitate the enhancement of a seamless total experience for consumers…”(p. 341). This focus on drawing in consumers with a total experience has led companies to amplify the essence of products “…into a set of tangible, physical and interactive experiences that reinforce the offer” (Atwal & Williams, 2009, p. 341). When considering this fascination with purchasing experiences and the growth of user generated content in online sharing communities, it is no surprise that many social-media users tend to subtly flaunt their stealth wealth (Manovich, 2009, p. 319). In the online world, consumers who may hesitate to post an image of an outrageously expensive new car may think less of posting the quick snapshot of themselves on the way to a pricey spin or yoga class.

New media technologies are credited with aiding in a new marketing scheme of experiential marketing, particularly the rise of the Internet. This ties into the concepts behind the Uses and Gratifications theory, as experiential marketing focuses on an audience’s four “experiential zones,” namely: entertainment, education, escapist and aesthetic, further exemplifying that media is used for a variety of reasons by different consumers (Atwal & Williams, 2009, p. 342). Businesses have been quick to capitalize on these notions and trends. Popular new businesses create social media pages dedicated to creating and promoting their individual brand, and the fitness world is no exception. New spin and yoga studios post photos of smiling, sweaty participants glowing with the self-validation of completing another $30 workout. Preferably these photos are staged in front of an image promoting the company’s brand, wearing their logo, or perhaps while holding an organic, cold-pressed juice, conveniently sold at the front desk. Jhally (1990) argues that this particular “commodity image-system” provides self-validation for consumers based on what they have rather than who they are (p. 248). This creates a confusing dichotomy for the average consumer, as traditionally health and wellness have been based off the aim of self-improvement (Biltekoff, 2002, p. 62). Yet, the current image-based system argues that one is not self-improved without the correct gym membership, name brand workout attire, or regular trips to the organic juicery. Further proving Jhally’s (1990) point that our commodity based system creates an “’ensemble of satisfactions and dissatisfactions” in turn leading consumers to greater amounts of uncertainty and confusion (p. 248).

One reason behind this cultural acceptance of online experience bragging is that the purchasing of these products has become a predominantly physiological game. Seo & Buchanan-Oliver (2015) note that the most successful luxury products are characterized by their focus on “brand building,” which actually takes precedence over the products themselves. They argue that, “This is particularly important for the luxury industry, because in purchasing decisions their consumers are driven by social and psychological needs, such as the enhancement of self- or social esteem” (n.p.). In the wellness industry, there are ever- increasing expectations placed on fitness facilities and classes to uniquely brand themselves. Phelan (2015) argues that the green juice, “…is a display of wealth, discipline, and responsibility—all of which, taken together, reflect and express status” (n.p.). The emphasis on good-for-you experiences over physical possessions makes wellness a seemingly more admirable commodity to purchase. According to Phelan, (2015) “When you spend big bucks on experiences that supposedly are good for you, there seems to be less guilt than when it is just a physical luxury item” (n.p.). Regardless of the fact that a regular spin class attendee will spend approximately $30 per experience, the online presentation is not viewed in the same light as purchasing a product. Money is being spent in both scenarios, but one form of bragging has been marketed as more culturally appropriate than the other. In this sense, luxury branding of fitness and health experiences have grown to become the most common form of inconspicuously conspicuous consumption, for which consumers are willing to pay a dear price.

The domestic science movement, although known mainly for its instruction of young women in all manners of being proper housewives, was also formative in the development of the status quo regarding private life and eating habits. According to Biltekoff, (2002) society’s current social order is a direct result of the domestic science movement, resulting in social inequalities created in the past that have not dissipated over time (p. 64). As the domestic sciences gathered momentum, a critique arose of the poorer social classes for their inability to grasp that food’s nutritional content mattered more than its cost. Domestic scientists assigned the “deviant” title to those who indulged in “improper food” and “who did not share the middle class value of self restraint” (p. 67). This elitist viewpoint ignored lower class’s economic situations and simultaneously spread the idea that health and wellness are directly correlated with moral superiority. Phelan (2015) notes that despite the new popular rise in health, the combination of high inequality and spiking obesity rates among those with lower-incomes still begets feelings of supremacy among those that can afford to participate in the wellness trend. “Not that shopping at Whole Foods and going to spin classes make you morally superior, but they won’t likely make you look or feel bad in the company of the less fortunate”. Biltekoff (2010) notes that this moral superiority is compounded by the fact that most individuals associate a healthy lifestyle with virtue. (p. 176) Health has become an “…increasingly significant marker of self-control and responsibility”(p. 104). Those who can afford health and wellness, as the media is packaging it, are viewed both by themselves and those around them as socially elite. This supports the concept of what Jhally (1990) calls “audience partipulation, ” in which audiences participate in their own manipulation (p. 248). Consumers are literally buying into the commodity of health and wellness, and in doing so are continuing to add to the phenomenon. In this way, health has become the newest and most subversive form of conspicuous consumption, providing the financially elite with overall feelings of wellbeing and supremacy, and simultaneously shaming the impoverished with feelings of constant inadequacy. Hegemony remains unshaken, although it shows itself in a different way. Modern day moral superiority is not gained through enlightenment or education, it simply involves sipping on a green smoothie, provided there is an Instagram photo posted online to prove it happened.

 

Sexualization

As most consumers are aware, products do not sell themselves, and neither do advertisements alone. The commodification of health and wellness would not be possible without the creation of the sexy health guru. As previously noted, the rise of the domestic sciences in North America not only brought about a new social order, but also the acceptability of the highly sexualized female. Biltekoff (2002) contends that the domestic science movement shifted the “modern relationship between eating and the self… from the male world of nutritional science to the female world of domestic science” (p. 64). This philosophy became increasingly integrated into mainstream culture as is was “diffused through home economics courses in schools and universities, as well as through books, magazines, cookbooks and partnerships with large food manufacturers” (p. 64). Females have long been associated with the kitchen and the home, but through the incorporation of social media and online content, the use of the female form to commodify wellness has become commonplace.

Social media is freely able to capitalize off of unclear boundaries and regulations regarding sexual content, lines that have in the past held the advertising industry in check, to a degree. As audiences buy into the wellness trend they also buy into the wellness visuals. It takes very little to understand why health and wellness have surged in recent popularity as they capitalize off of and exploit “imagistic modes” of advertising. The mantra “sex sells” has long become regarded as fact, and as Jhally (1990) contends, “It is little wonder then that representations involving sexuality figure so prominently (as in the case of regular product advertising)” (p. 249). Seo & Buchanan-Oliver (2015) express the power of visual media by asserting that it “defines consumers’ worlds by sketching images in their minds” (n.p.). Advertising enables the shift of these images from consumer’s dreams to their expectations of reality. This powerful image culture helps explains the recent development of a new profession, or what Freeman (2016) characterizes as the “wellness blogger.” A wellness blogger is typically a beautiful young woman that advises anywhere from thousands to millions of online followers on today’s food and health industry. “Eat like me, look like me, is the message. Typical photo poses include sitting on a beach lounger in a bikini while drinking from a coconut, or reclining in a rustic kitchen in skinny jeans, a cute porcelain bowl of vegetables in one hand” (Freeman, 2016, n.p.). No qualifications are required for the wellness blogger aside from her loyal online following, bold nutrition claims, and a tanned and toned body to prove the efficacy of such claims. Freeman (2016) lists Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Blake Lively, and even Pippa Middleton as among the throngs of young celebrities boasting personal health websites, cookbooks, and new diets, with no nutritional qualifications aside from “a lifetime of eating” (n.p.) The extent to which the health guru’s advice is heeded is largely based off of her online popularity and following, arguably without any concern for scientific or scholastic qualifications. Most of these gurus admit to their lack of formal training, yet at the same time continue to write massively popular blogs, books, and produce online content disseminating their own personal health views. Paul McArdle of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) cautions the general public’s open acceptance of these sexy nutritionists. He argues, “The word nutritionist has no legal meaning – anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, and if you are a member of the public, you have no protection from rogue advice” (Freeman, 2016, n.p.). The wellness blogger has become the most effective form of unsolicited health advice in the modern society, provided she uses her physical beauty to promote her scientific claims.

Most online wellness gurus also work to maintain and propagate a patriarchal society by preserving the traditional stigmas attached to females in the fitness industry. They do this by leveraging the ideal lifestyle of health as the primary indicator of a modern and empowered woman. When it comes to health-based advertising and females, Heinecken (2013) argues that most advertisements are “typified by the Nike slogan “just do it” and capitalize off of feminist discourses of “…individual choice, determination, upward mobility” (p. 30). By framing health and wellness in this light, females who aren’t actively pursuing healthy wholesome lifestyles are therefore not seen as modern, autonomous, or empowered. Heinecken (2013) concedes that self-improvement is a standard goal of all athletic pursuits, but contends that the intense focus on individual ability, “…suggests that women can do whatever they commit effort to doing regardless of political or economic circumstances” (p. 36). There is an unrealistic image being crafted by social media that one must look, act, and behave as the ideal female in advertisements or online blogs does, notions which are actively working to set feminism backwards. If one does not possess the means or ability to attend weekly hot yoga or spin classes and cook with only organic vegetables, guilt, fear, and anxiety will flourish. This obsession with personal responsibility for health creates a culture where fitness is driven by fear and guilt. Women’s behaviour is shaped into socially acceptable ways of being, crafted by the powers that be, namely social media. One of the many problems this system creates is the fact that it puts women in constant state of “self-surveillance,” where “doing battle” with one’s body has become the new social norm (Heinecken, 2013, p. 36).

This modern form of behaviour manipulation strongly correlates with the Foucauldian-inspired concept of governmentality. This way of governing arose in the 16th century and marked a distinct shift from traditional command and obedience, to attempting to shape citizens conduct. In this form of society, “…the governed themselves are understood to be self-governing” (Curran, 2016, p. 31). Self-governing behaviors are described as “techniques of subjectivity,” which have, “magnified the social power of contemporary forms of expertise” (Curran, 2016, p. 33). In other words, the more that individuals monitor and alter their behaviour to what is deemed socially acceptable, the more power is given to these modern forms of expertise. Rose (1990) argues that modern power forms offer criteria of how to adjust ourselves, “…in order to achieve happiness, wisdom, health, and fulfillment” (p. 10). The artfully curated, seemingly perfect lives promoted on Instagram, food blogs, and online health “experts” recipe books are magnifying techniques of subjectivity. With ever-increasing standards, women and men alike are self-monitoring their lives in order to comply with social media’s implied images of normative health. Stein (2013) notes that the millennial generation is in the “era of the quantified self” where new technologies that track and record daily movement and accomplishments, such as the FitBit, have become commonplace (n.p.). Foucault’s image of the panopticon, a place where one is potentially under constant observation, paints a very accurate picture of modern life engaged with social media. Images of perfectly curated wellness lifestyles barrage the average consumer of social media on a daily basis, and a building expectation to post equivalently flawless lifestyle photos arises. This constant socialization and influence by the media blurs the lines between individual goals and the marketed form of happiness that advertising sells. According to Rose, (1990) citizens are, “…solicited into a kind of alliance between personal objectives and ambitions and institutionally or socially prized goals or activities” (p. 10). Overall health and wellbeing may be a personal objective, but the more luxurious forms are valued for their high societal standpoint. Another hallmark of governmentality is that it produces individuals who are “free to choose” amidst a plethora of criteria offered to us (Rose, 1990, p. 4). Diets, exercise regimens, and new studies revealing more unhealthy additives to avoid plague consumers with a growing sense of dread, that one will never truly measure up to the media-inscribed version of perfect health. There are too many options available now for consumers to possibly feel confident picking just one. And one of the most predominant issues is that these choices have become too abundant, too extreme, and too much for the average consumer to handle.

Anxiety

Anxiety surrounding food and health is not a new phenomenon, and tensions have long existed regarding individuals’ associations with food. According to Biltekoff (2010) most humans are torn between the desire for novelty and a fear of change and newness; this “fundamentally ambivalent relationship with food” produces constant uneasiness (p. 174). On top of this pre-existing anxiety, society continues to create and propagate fluctuating food rules, which define certain foods and behaviors as bad or good, healthy and unhealthy. Humanity is irreversibly “immersed in the symbolic nuances of food,” in other words eating has become just as much about the mind as it is about the mouth (Beardsworth & Keil, 1997). According to Biltekoff, (2010) there exists a highly prevalent “pleasure-health paradox,” by which consumers battle between “breaking the rules” to indulge in treats, yet still idolize the goal of “self denial” (176). As the trend of wellness continues to rise in societal prominence, these food rules multiply exponentially as the technology by which they are spread becomes increasingly mainstream. Marshall McLuhan contended that we are living in an age of ever-increasing anxiety, disseminated through media technologies that are transforming our relationship with the world. McLuhan (1964) argued that new media and technologies are the means by which we “amplify and extend ourselves” and our consciousness (p. 76). Therefore, Instagram, blogs, and other media technologies are actually magnifying the underlying anxiety that defines humanity. McLuhan contended that the overarching goal of advertising in the media is to create a certain level of “programmed harmony” within society, in which all our aspirations, goals, and impulses are shaped by the media we consume. The harmony that is being programmed is one of anxiety and fear, in which failing to maintain a healthy body is equated to social catastrophe.

As consumers engage with social media and peruse the Internet searching for dietary advice, they are faced with an overwhelmingly wide range of suggestions. Biltekoff (2010) points out that food decisions are increasingly becoming individualistic rather than social decisions, placing a greater amount of stress and anxiety on consumers. More and more individuals turn to the ease of the Internet and other literature for advice from self-titled “experts” rather than individuals they know personally. According to Biltekoff, (2010) “The recent popularity of books telling people how to navigate the complex world of dietary choice certainly attests to the fact that many consumers are scared, confused, and conflicted” (p. 177). Health-driven society is “reflexive”, in other words, the more consumers demand information, the more information the media provides. This reflexivity is referred to by sociologists such as Anthony Giddens as the double hermeneutic. Giddens (1990) argues that social-scientific knowledge becomes embedded in everyday knowledge, and actually begins to affect the entity itself (p. 40-41). More simply put, as Google searches for the most effective diets or quickest exercise to shed body fat increase, the response is quickly met with an abundance of new material and information.

With the increasing reliance on outside forms of media for information, the media is faced with the pressure to simplify and promote memorable advice. As a result, certain foods have been elevated with the status of ‘pure’ and ‘wholesome’ while others are scorned with the fear surrounding additives and other dirty words. Biltekoff (2010) argues that the promotion of certain ‘superfoods,’ specific nutrients, and drastic diets are only adding to a growing sense of “health risk” for consumers and their overwhelming amount of choices. She contends that, “Am I getting enough antioxidants?” was not an issue that most people worried about before products bearing antioxidant health claims hit the shelves” (p. 105). Andrews (2016) criticises the health trend for its increase in capitalization and use of “buzzwords” with no universal definition and no nutritional basis, such as “clean” and “dietary detox” (n.p.). He argues that many health fads, specifically the notion of a juice cleanse (pumping nothing but litres of compressed veggies into one’s system for a few days) are not based off of scientific reasoning. Consumers choose to “detox” their systems from perceived toxins, but according to Andrews, (2016) “In the natural world, it is not as simple as “toxic” vs. “nontoxic” (n.p.). He counteracts the trendy juice cleanse by arguing that almost everything humans consume has some level of toxicity, and some happen to beneficial and therefore shouldn’t be avoided. False information surrounding health kicks, such as the celebrated juice cleanse, confirm the increase in food-related anxieties, specifically those without a solid scientific basis. As Paul McArdle accurately described, many modern food bloggers come from backgrounds with no scientific training. And although they are not held in high regard in the academic world, they have effectively created their own cult followings by presenting new diets and secrets on how to convert to a healthier lifestyle. McArdle, of the BDA, maintains that health advice has not changed with time despite what the trends and fads make consumers believe. “We’ve been saying the same things for years. But people want to hear stuff that is different, sexy and new” (Freeman, 2016). McArdle classifies the recent societal hate campaign against gluten as one evident example of sexy and new misinformation. Adding that despite the rise in people claiming intolerance to wheat and gluten, the figures of those actually affected by the proteins are shockingly low. Consumers are not intentionally seeking false information, rather they are simply bombarded with it on a daily basis through online environments.

In keeping with the perspective that consumers are seeking new diet information, under the misconception that there is new information available, there has also been a push in the media towards consuming more natural and unprocessed foods. New diets that focus on eating food in its most natural state, or cutting out animal products altogether, are steadily gaining popularity, evidenced in veganism, raw, or paleo diets. Raw diets focus on eating uncooked and unprocessed foods. Paleo diets are based on types of foods presumably eaten by early humans, excluding dairy, grains, and processed foods. Shifting dietary choices are a reflection of the “reidentification of foods” that occurs through excessive detailed labeling, such as organic or fair trade, with “guarantees of purity and quality” (Biltekoff, 2010, p. 178). New emerging diets have garnered recent popularity, and tend to direct consumers towards higher price tags that boast of organic goods with no GMO’s and no added sugar. It is no longer healthy enough to merely eat vegetables, because according to some online sources, if those vegetables aren’t organically grown then they could very well be killing you slowly. Biltekoff (2010) argues that the correlation between health and nature is “cultural and symbolic, not scientific and factual,” developed by a presumed “health halo” leveraged by food marketers to create a desire to purchase specific products over others (p.176). This health halo is clearly evidenced though advertising, being more concerned with presenting images of audience’s desires and motivations than actual products (McLuhan, 1964, p. 250). The desire for a fit body and the motivation to eat healthy presents a window of opportunity for control by the media. Truthfully, processing actually removes many natural occurring toxins in foods we consume and many “totally natural” fruits and vegetables are grown through the use of chemicals (Biltkoff, 2010, p. 176). The reality is that most marketing actually obscures facts in order to capitalize off of consumer anxieties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, social media and online communication are working to sell a commodified form of health and wellness. This process of commodification has been established by a combination of events. Firstly, by capitalizing off of pre-existing social values, subtle advertising has progressively begun to dominate the online public stage, reaching consumers from virtually anywhere. Media technologies also serve to illuminate the growing wellness gap, and sell the idea that health is only attainable for the financially elite. Additionally, through the continued sexualization of females and the perpetuated associations with women and the kitchen, health advice is being catered to the male gaze, bought and sold purely for the packaging. Women with no scientific or nutritional training are leading the sales in cookbooks and recommending new diets, largely due to their prolific online followings. And lastly, food blogs, Instagram, and other wellness websites are contributing to an ever-increasing list of consumer fears and anxieties surrounding health. The rise in the wellness trend is a symptom of a large-scale societal disease. Citizens are increasingly becoming regulators of their own lives, shaping and adjusting themselves to match ideals of health dictated by fictional advertising and photo shopped images. Should these trends continue, most of the genuine truths about nutrition will be lost behind a barrage of more marketable advice. In nutritional terms, long-term health is not sustained by means of restrictive diets, juice cleanses, or even attendance of whatever the new fitness trend of the month is. For North Americans, a lot of the nutrition advice that is flashy and trendy is also not easily sustainable with changing lifestyles or lowered income, and consumer’s long-term health is not addressed. Globally speaking, the wellness trend may show to be even more detrimental. Instead of focusing on some of the current largest health issues, such as universal access to safe water and education about basic sanitation, we are concerned with small-scale individual fixes. Whether or not one has a six-pack of protruding abs or starts every morning with a green juice are individualistic goals, steadily replacing a global consciousness and concern for those with more rudimentary and urgent health needs. Media is narrowing the societal gaze to issues that are individual rather than systemic, contributing to a society unconcerned by the larger-scale or long-term picture.

Truthfully, health is not as elusive as modern media elevate it to be, and it need not be overcomplicated or overpriced. As Andrews (2016) argues, the best way to improve our overall health and functioning is simply by cutting down on excess processed fats, sugars, and calories and listening to “body cues” (n.p.). There is no need, according to Andrews, (2016) for that “magical juice cleanse” that the media paints as the holy grail of health and wellness (n.p.). In order to combat the problematic approach of the trend of wellness, individuals must simply learn to look to themselves for their own advice. Cutting out unprofessional, under-researched, and unfounded health claims that the Internet promotes is a simple and effective first step in one’s journey to a truly healthy lifestyle. To put it bluntly, there is nothing overtly wrong with pursuing a healthier life, but society as a whole would do well to consume a lot more gluten and a lot less media.

 

 

 

 

References

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