My wellness journey has always been about putting my mental health and happiness first. I encourage wellness in others through simplicity, slow living and self-care.
But the wellness industry can come across as toxic and many start their journey for the wrong reasons.
This week I’m musing on the dark side of the wellness industry, as well as sharing more from my wellness journey to help inspire your own journey.
I recently watched the documentary, Bad Influencer on BBC about the disgraced wellness entrepreneur, Belle Gibson.
The 45-min movie described how Belle deceived people into thinking she cured her terminal brain cancer through healthy eating.
Belle gained a mass following of people who also had “incurable” illnesses and she slowly became their mentor.
She developed a healthy eating app, Whole Pantry, released a book under the same name and even won the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Female award.
Within 2 years it was proven that Belle had in fact faked the whole thing.
She never had cancer.
It was heartbreaking to hear about the lives of so many women who believed and followed Belle.
And the fact that they were holding on to the hope that if they ate “well” their illnesses would be cured.
But it also opened up my eyes to the dark side of the wellness industry.
Something that seems to be becoming more and more apparent.
The dark side of wellness in fiction
In Nine Perfect Strangers, a dark comedy by Lianne Moriarty, the bestselling author of Big Little Lies, nine optimistic but dysfunctional guests head to a wellness retreat to detox and “better” themselves.
Since its 2018 publication, the fiction book has now been turned into a Hulu Original miniseries starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy.
The TV show is eerie, chilling and terrifyingly real.
“He never ceased to be amazed by the obedience of people at these places. They allowed themselves to be dipped in mud, wrapped in plastic, starved and deprived, pricked and prodded, all in the name of transformation”lianne moriarty | nine perfect strangers
And Masha, Tranquillam House’s owner takes things to the extreme.
She starves her guests through fasting.
Gets them to dig their own graves.
And gives them microdoses of psychedelics so they can truly be transformed.
In the book, the retreat begins with “a period of silence lasting five days, during which there will be no talking, no touching, no reading, no writing, no eye contact with other guests or your own companions.”
But Masha wasn’t always a wellness guru. She was never properly trained.
Masha was once a high-flying CEO who was a workaholic until she had a near-death experience.
She explains to her guests that she died and was then reborn.
Reborn to take better care of herself.
And when she did, she created her own wellness retreat “transforming” individuals through the processes that worked for her.
And this is where the issue lies
You can’t help but question whether Masha has her guests’ best interests at heart or if she’s just doing it for the money like Belle Gibson.
As Christobel Hastings writes for Stylist Online, Nine Perfect Strangers is “a reminder that the wellness industry is pervaded by misinformation, commodification, and a lack of accountability in real life. Just look to social media for proof of that. It’s an industry that frequently elects leaders on the strength of a personal brand. Which perpetuates unattainable ideals around what a desirable body should be like. Which co-opts ancient medicines and practices and passes them off as an aspirational lifestyle. (And one that) prescribes quick tip advice in the place of individualised care. Which capitalises on individual malaise for personal gain.”
The global health & wellness industry is now worth over $4.5 trillion.
And like with most viral trends, a dark side soon develops.
I mean just look at social media.
It’s a great tool to build a community and gain traffic to your online business but it can also be extremely toxic and dangerous.
Even productivity, which is essential to our growth and gives us purpose has a dark side. Taken to the extreme and it promotes overworking and burnout.
And unfortunately, the wellness industry is not free from the dark side.
It likes to glorify being “well” a little too much and “what’s supposed to make us feel whole is actually preventing us from being our whole selves in an authentic way.”
There’s always a strive to be healthier, fitter and eat cleaner.
A lot of people end up becoming obsessed with what they eat and how much they exercise.
And this, in turn, makes them compete and compare themselves to others.
But wellness doesn’t have to be all about exercising twice a day and only eating rainbow-coloured foods.
It’s about how you feel inside.
What wellness means to me
For me, wellness is what I do to keep myself healthy and happy both inside and out.
I was overwhelmed with how the online female entrepreneur community follows an unsustainable hustle culture. Where working 18-hour days is the norm and rest is seen as lazy.
I wanted to break away from this dark culture and promote a healthy work-life balance.
One where productivity and self-care can work side by side and you don’t need to sacrifice one over the other.
My wellness journey is essentially about avoiding burnout, making more time for myself, adopting a slower pace to life and putting my mental health and happiness first.
It’s about practising self-love, gratitude and setting boundaries.
An insight into my own wellness journey
How I take care of my physical health
When it comes to being physically healthy I make sure I move my body every day.
Whether that is through yoga, exercise, walking or sex.
I like a nice slow workout and will not push myself if I don’t feel like it.
And I also LOVE my food.
Maybe it’s the Greek in me, but I can’t go out for dinner without ordering nibbles, a main, sides and a dessert.
However, now that I’m in my 30s my body is no longer as forgiving as it once was and so my weight fluctuates rather regularly.
It’s therefore so important for me to indulge but in moderation.
I will always allow myself a glass of wine (or two) in the evening and chocolate to sweeten my palette after dinner.
But in general, I try to stick to a meat-free diet during the week enjoying scrambled eggs, tomatoes, spinach and avocado for breakfast and a vegan ready meal from All Plants for dinner.
In a weekly All Plants box, you get 6 homemade meals that go straight in the oven from frozen. Each meal is entirely plant-based and includes all 5 of your daily fruit & veg portions. They are also only around 500 kcals per portion.
And the best bit? You can get £20 off your first order!
I also try to limit bread and white carbs during the week. This is the hardest thing as I love bread but it causes me to bloat easily.
But by the weekend it’s all about indulging.
Chicken burgers, steak and chips, pastrami bagels, pancakes with bacon, you name it, I’ll eat it!
How I take care of my mental health
I take care of my mental health by making sure I prioritise rest and schedule in time for self-care.
Self-care is now a non-negotiable for me and is part of my daily routine.
In fact, I enjoy it so much I do a bit of self-care every few hours.
I start my day off with a slow morning by ignoring my alarm, waking up naturally and reading for 30 mins.
It’s then time to head on a walk, either to the gym or to the park.
Once I’m back home I do a 20-min relaxing yoga stretch.
I then have a hot steaming shower, spend time cooking a healthy breakfast, maybe watch an episode of something and then get started with my daily tasks.
I’m also lucky as I get to design things for clients and design is literally my self-care!
It makes me feel calm and relaxed.
Throughout the day I take plenty of snack and fresh air breaks to keep my head clear and my belly happy.
I usually shut down by 7 pm and chill out with wine and a movie or with a jigsaw puzzle and Netflix series.
On weekends, I take off the whole of Saturday to recharge or socialise and take things easy on Sunday.
It’s important to note that I only include rituals in my routine that I enjoy, work for me and make me happy!
I might pride myself on being a wellness blogger but at the same time, I post A LOT of pictures on Instagram of bagels, scotch eggs and wine!
I love food and that is never going to change.
And this is what people tend to forget.
There is no right or wrong way to do wellness.
Your journey can be whatever you want it to be.
It doesn’t have to be about ditching the carbs, eating clean and doing yoga twice a day.
As long as you feel healthier and happier than you did the year before then I think you’re doing it right!
And don’t get so caught up in your transformation journey that you forget to have fun and actually live your life!
Until next week,
Let me leave you with this one last quote
“I believe that the journey of well-being, when done right, is relative, is transient and ever evolving. My journey may not necessarily be appropriate to be compared with yours, the depth or intensity of that journey will constantly be changing with time and will. If done correctly, it will keep growing with me. Most of all the journey never ends and each of our personalised journeys head in our own unique direction.
In the worlds of digital health and future technologies in which I play each day, I have come to realise that well-being is bigger than sickness and health, it cannot be defined by a clear set of boundary conditions or prescribed by a strict formula but is in the end a personalised journey of experimentation.
The beauty of this journey is that, should we wish, it can be a lifelong process of trial and error, learning and unlearning, fun and experimentation.”Dr Marcus Ranney
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