The issue with wellness that I’m taking aim at today is that it can be awfully shaming. Whether that judgment is coming from your doctor, an article or podcast or book, or a friend or loved one. We tend to make a lot of unkind judgments about other people’s health and it’s not helping anyone. Except maybe your ego, which loves to feel superior to others. Because when someone is shaming you, your energy becomes lower than a snake’s belly. And you’re not going to be inspired to do the work of taking care of yourself, you know? Let’s unpack this a bit.
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Any time you’re talking about shaming in regard to health you’ve got to start with fat shaming. With the whole calories in, calories out rationale that we’ve been fed over the years, it really puts the blame for any excess pounds on the individual. When we now know that there’s so much that goes into weight than that. For example, there are endocrine disrupting hormones in our food, water, and homes that can cue the body to store more fat.
There’s epigenetics, or the way your genes are expressed, that can make your body more prone to hold on to every calorie. And there’s research that suggests that if your parents or grandparents were stressed, your epigenetics will make it more likely that you will carry extra weight. Totally not your fault. Also, much of our food supply has been engineered to be addictive. And food manufacturers and restaurants spend billions every year on marketing their addictive products to you.
Basically, society has blamed individuals for their fatness and made judgments about their choices and their character which are unjust and untrue.
But it’s not just weight. If you get diagnosed with cancer, people may ask, oh what did you do?
I’ve even experienced and talked to others who have too a feeling of being disappointed in themselves because they got sick, or struggled with infertility, or gained weight.
Also, I have definitely noticed that people who are health-oriented can be very judgy of people who aren’t. I was talking to someone who had hosted a dinner party and was aghast when one of her guests asked for Diet Coke. I mean, listen, I don’t think anyone would argue that Diet Coke is great for your body but hey, you know, live and let live!
I’ve also heard things like, if people just took vitamin D we wouldn’t need Covid vaccines! When yes, vitamin D does help your immune system function, that is not in dispute. But not everyone has the knowledge or the wherewithal to track down a vitamin D supplement and take it every day. And that’s not a personal failing. Some people are just trying to make it through the day while facing systemic issues like poverty or food insecurity or working three jobs to try to pay for housing.
Here are some counterpoints
While yes, it is important to take care of yourself and there are a lot of things you can do to support yourself, the truth is, even if you did everything ‘right’ — which, as discussed yesterday, is impossible to do. You can and likely will still get sick, or gain weight, or what have you, at some point in your life. We all will. There are many many many things beyond our control.
You can hand sanitize till the cows come home and mask up everywhere and stay home as much as possible and still get Covid. And it’s not a personal failing. You can be super healthy and exercise and eat well and still have fibroids. Or meeting the criteria for being obese. Feeling down on yourself for your wellness woes doesn’t help because it makes you resistant to getting treatment and/or support.
There are hopeful things developing in response to wellness shaming
Particularly the whole body acceptance movement which advocates for being ok with your body. Whether that feels like joy and confidence or just not obsessing over it or using it to determine who good you feel about yourself. I, for one, am here for it! The fall before the pandemic I took my daughter to a Lizzo concert, and it was basically a body acceptance convention. She started off the concert wearing a full on gold lame choir robe, and after a minute or two she whipped it off to reveal a gold lame bathing suit. And I’ve never heard people scream that loud before. It was like the Beatles. The energy in that room was OFF the CHARTS!!
I think we all have moments–or maybe years or even a lifetime–of hating something about our body. And body acceptance is such a welcome counterfoil to that. I should point out that body acceptance came out of body positivity, which is yet another thing we can thank black women for, as they were the founders of it back in the 1960s.
The take away is:
Wellness is personal. We’re all doing our best, even when our best may not be all that great. And it’s really not anybody’s business to judge what anyone else does or does not do to take care of yourself. Live and let live.
So that means it’s important to notice when you’re starting to get judgy in your mind about someone else’s habits, and also when you are turning that judgment or shame toward yourself. Live and let live, and that goes for you, too. Remember that you can only do your best, and your best isn’t the same as anybody else’s best, and will change according to many circumstances–both external, like a pandemic or a stressful life event–and internal–like your mental health.