When Holistic Health Stops Being Holistic

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When you think of Holistic Wellness, what comes to mind? Do cleanses, detoxes, 30 days of no sugar challenges, the avoidance of meat, dairy, or grains come to mind? Does a strict vegan perusing Whole Foods come to mind? How about someone at a birthday party telling everyone why the cake is inflammatory and not something our ancestors would have eaten years ago..

I personally used to have “lover of all things holistic wellness” in my Instagram bio for over a year. I loved the idea of listening to wellness podcasts and books to learn how to “bio-hack” my body (unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was trying to hack it to perfection). Is it really wellness when eating non-organic vegetables makes you feel guilty because you watched a documentary on GMO’s?

That doesn't really seem like total health to me. You may be thinking that this is the kind of wellness our country needs right now. Believe me, I thought so too. I’ve read the studies on gluten's effects on the brain, on dairy, inflammation and bone health, and I see what the current state of our food industry looks like (eek). I’m not saying we should disregard wellness at all costs, because that’s not respecting our bodies either.

As someone studying nutrition to become a registered dietitian, I love the idea of nourishing foods. I just think we need to rethink what wellness actually is - specifically Holistic Wellness. Disordered eating habits, obsessive tendencies, and poor mental health can be so easily hidden by "clean eating" and Holistic Wellness.

The word holistic means pertaining to all aspects, but our culture views health + wellness in a black and white lens such as what you look like (size), what you eat (good vs. bad), and what you do at the gym (more = better).


Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity -The World Health Organization

Our culture is forgetting about the mental and emotional part of our well-being. Sure, yoga and meditation have become more popular, which I think is awesome, but there needs to be more talk about mental health in all aspects.

For example, one time I saw a Wellness practitioner post on social media how ridiculous this pie was at his Easter family get together. He stated how much sugar was in it, why it wasn’t worth it, and how he was the only one to opt out for dessert. In this case, I believe health is enjoying the slice of pie in the company of the people you love. Enjoying it’s delicious homemade taste while spending quality time with family, and knowing that once slice of pie doesn’t make you “unhealthy,” and it doesn’t make you any less of a "wellness expert."

I truly believe the guilt and anxiety around food will affect you more than any refined carbohydrate will.
 

Exercise:

I pass by this sign on the way to work every day that states “better sore than sorry.” I get what the gym's intentions are, but it's a great example of how we tend to view exercise. We hate going to the gym, force ourselves to do grueling workouts, and deem someone healthy if they workout a lot.

What if we asked why someone exercises? Are they forcing themselves to do something for the sake of body image, or because they feel like they need to? That's not healthy to me, and can actually do more harm to your body (cortisol and over exercising) than benefit it.

Moving our bodies often in ways that bring us joy will give us the greatest reward exercise can give. Mentally and physically.
 

Non-Toxic Lifestyles:

Non-toxic lifestyles are an increasingly popular area of wellness. From beauty products, to cleaning products, to plastics, to well, pretty much anything under the sun that's man-made.

It's great to inform yourself of the ways we encounter toxins on a daily basis, but it's also important to realize for you to truly live a non-toxic lifestyle in 2017 may 1- not be financially feasible and 2- mean you live in a bubble.

Just like food, "toxicity" is all about balance. For example, most days I use natural deodorant. But on hot days or special occasions you betta believe you'll catch me using the aluminum-filled stick.

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Wellness Superiority:

In many instances, I think wellness is closely tied to feeling superior. I know it sounds out there, but we all know those people who make comments about what you're eating, or why their own food is the "better" option.

Even on social media, it's like, how can I make this the best by being the utmost "cleanest" version? It's going to be gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar free, vegan, etc. etc. Sometimes I'm like, I swear air is literally the only ingredient left after that list of what it's not! Many times we see ourselves as good, smart, or even superior for what we eat. It's almost as if our choices reflect how much we know about health.

Just remember- drinking green smoothies, eating kale salads, and avoiding cookies makes you no better or worse a person or health practitioner.

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So there you have it. That's my little rant on how our view on Holistic Wellness can be skewed. The next time you choose to partake in something for your health, take a second to ask yourself why you're doing it.

Are you eating a big salad because you feel like you should, or because it makes you feel good.

Are you exercising because you want to move your body and de-stress, or because you ate too much.

Being 100% clean in your eating and lifestyle habits is unrealistic, which is why we need to focus more on balance when it comes to health. This is the true meaning of holistic.

Eating well and moving well are important, but so are our thoughts. Nourish your body, but don't forget to nourish your brain! (with lots of lovey-dovey self-love and self-care of course)

Xoxo,

Alex