Is the “Wellness” Industry Just Diet Culture in Disguise?

wellness industry is diet culture

The idea of “wellness” is just about everywhere. It encompasses everything from detoxes and cleanses to the trendiest of workout programs or even crystal healing. But is this just another facet of diet culture, set on the exploitation and creating of insecurities?

Defining Diet Culture

Your eating habits have probably been ruled by diet culture longer than you realize.

Diet culture is the idea that thinner is better, healthier, and once you reach a certain weight the rest of your life will fall into place. It thrives on insecurities while simultaneously develops them.

This ideology promotes restriction. Words such as “cheating” become associated with ways of eating and you’re meant to feel shame for “indulging” in foods or habits that are completely normal.

Diet culture is so much more than just being on an actual diet.

As diets become increasingly obsolete due to the widespread realization that they simply don’t work, the industry, and ideologies accompanying it, are attempting to rebrand themselves.

Where the Wellness Industry Fits In

I’ve recently noticed many individuals and companies on social media in particular, promoting lifestyles that almost mirror diet culture. The only difference is, they fall underneath the label of “wellness.”

Some common wellness trends include: elimination diets, cleanses, detoxes, and all sorts of fasting.

Do you see the pattern here? All of these things are the same: restriction. And what do you often see accompanying these practices? Young, thin, and white women. Sound familiar?

Even the idea of “clean eating” emphasizes restriction.

Now, I know some individuals who suffer from digestive disorders or different health issues can actually benefit from some of the above practices. Even healthy individuals truly feel better when they fast intermittently or enjoy juice cleanses and that’s great!

But I’ve seen, and personally experienced, so many instances where people restrict themselves in these ways and health is the last thing on their mind. They become malnourished, fatigued, and miserable in the name of weight-loss and achieving the aesthetic of wellness. Excessive restriction deeply damages your physical and mental health.

The worst component of this industry is that it positions itself under the guise of legitimate health, making it possibly even more damaging than the conventional diet culture we all know and loathe.

Wellness industry is diet culture
Image via Scoop Nutrition

Convinced of “Health”

In 1998, the term “orthorexia” first came about. This is the sneakiest of eating disorders because those who have it are fully convinced they’re pursuing the healthiest of ways.

With traditional diets that had overly-processed, low-calorie foods, it was easy to identify they weren’t really that “healthy.” However with these practices like juice cleanses and water fasting, it becomes a bit more complicated.

The idea of eating the most pure diet becomes an obsession for some, and takes over their entire lives.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the warning signs of orthorexia include:

  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
  • Body image concerns may or may not be present

What Wellness Can Be

Although many instances of “wellness” are destructive, it doesn’t have to be that way. Wellness is actually an ideal that we all should subscribe to.

True wellness means taking care of your body and mind in equal measure. It emphasizes the mind-body connection and really does encapsulate every aspect of health.

An example I like to give to distinguish between pursuing true wellness and diet culture wellness is the idea that eating a slice of pizza can be just as unhealthy (or healthy) as eating an apple or carrot all depending on your mindset around it.

Acting in accordance to true wellness is choosing whatever foods you know honor your body AND mind. Some days you reach for a slice of pizza, some days you don’t.

Wellness isn’t something that can be put into a formula or streamlined diet. It is different for everyone because we are all unique in our genetic makeup, lifestyles, and preferences.

Wellness industry is diet culture
Image via Purely Flourish

It’s Not All Bad

I’ve found tons of true wellness resources across the web that spread the virtues of physical and mental health. Not everything or everyone that labels themselves as a wellness brand is negative!

Just ensure that they uphold values of respecting the body and mind and nourishing both in whatever way suits the individual.

Once you know of the ways of diet culture, it’s really easy to spot and avoid.

Who Knows Better Than You?

Deep down, we all possess the ultimate guide to wellness: our intuition. You ultimately know physically and mentally what is best for you.

Wellness is an amazing concept we should all strive for each and every day. Tap into your natural signals. Exercise your body and mind and treat both with the immense respect that they deserve.

You exist in abundance and don’t let any fad diet regardless of what it labels itself as convince you otherwise.

Cover image via Breakthroughs in Care

Also published on Medium.