Smash the Wellness Industry

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/opinion/sunday/women-dieting-wellness.html

Why are so many smart women falling for its harmful, pseudoscientific claims?

By Jessica Knoll
June 8, 2019

A few months ago, I had lunch with the writer behind one of my favorite movies of the year, the agent who made the deal and the producer who packaged the project. I wanted to hear all about the process and perhaps find an opportunity to collaborate. When the server came to take our order, I flashed to that scene in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” when Mira Sorvino walks into a diner in a striped skirt suit and asks the waitress, “Do you have some sort of businesswomen’s special?”

Had there been any sort of businesswomen’s special that day, our group probably couldn’t have ordered it. Someone was slogging through the Whole30 program, someone had eliminated dairy, and someone else was simply trying to be “good” after a “bad” weekend. The producer said it didn’t matter how “good” she was. She had lost the baby weight and though she may look tolerable in clothes, under the Spanx her stomach was a horror show. The writer said she had so much cellulite on her thighs she looked diseased. I gazed around the restaurant, longingly, wondering what the men eating cheeseburgers were talking about.

At one time, I too would gleefully have torn myself apart. I despised my body, and my devotion to changing it amounted to years of unpaid labor, starting with a bout of bulimia in high school. In preparation for my wedding, I worked out twice a day on 800 calories. From there I moved on to counting macros, replacing rice with cauliflower pellets, 13-day cleanses, intermittent fasting and an elimination diet that barred sugar, dairy and nightshades like potatoes.

Every new regimen ended in the same violent binge. I’d wait for my husband to go to bed so that I could obliterate the pantry without him asking, “Are you O.K.?” For the next few days, I would throw myself on the altar of “clean eating,” only to start the cycle all over again.

I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear “wellness.” This was before I could recognize wellness culture for what it was — 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. 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.

Almost three years ago, I moved to Los Angeles from New York. After death and divorce, moving is supposed to be the most stressful thing you can go through, and eating became my salve. I had a second book and a screenplay due, a new city to explore and friends to make, but I could hardly focus on any of that for how crazy I felt around food. So I did a desperate thing. I searched “intuitive eating” online.

Thanks to a stint at a health magazine, I had a glancing understanding of the philosophy, which encourages 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. I might have sought it out sooner if not for the part where you learn to accept how your body looks once you stop restricting food, even if that version of your body is larger than you would like.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/opinion/sunday/women-dieting-wellness.html

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