Are We Approaching Wellness from a Healthy Place?

Gab Dolceamore is an anal-retentive Bohemian finding peace through a balanced lifestyle that is eco and health conscious. When she is not working in advertising, creating macrame masterpieces, practicing yoga, or cheering on her Vitamix, she can be found blogging about her minimalist millennial lifestyle on New Age Nesting. 

I’m asking for a friend.

Actually, I’m the friend.

This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately. Am I approaching wellness from a healthy place? I recently noticed a very interesting and worrisome shift in myself since joining into this community -- how influenced I have become – and it made me want to evaluate what I’m doing here, if I’m here for the right reasons, and, most importantly, whether I am picking up any alarming habits in trying so hard to live so healthful.

As women, we are key targets for marketing and advertising. Did you know that wellness is the fastest growing industry in the United States right now? We’re doing that. It’s even more egregious with social media because those marketing messages are coming from the sincere mouths of women just like ourselves. As I aimlessly swipe I am being influenced and cajoled into trying new a product because someone I admire, and who talks directly to me daily, loves this new thing and thinks I should try it. And I do, because I don’t want to disappoint her. And because I think that maybe this thing could get me a little closer to achieving her level of happiness and beauty.

Recently, I purchased a supplement that I had seen on so many Instagram feeds it was becoming very hard to ignore. So many smart and beautiful women were talking about how great it made them feel and how easy it was to integrate into their daily routines. They made those routines look so pretty and indulgent, I couldn’t wait to try. I needed to try. So I did. And something felt off at first.

When I checked the bottle for ingredients, I didn’t need to get farther than the front label to find what was awry. The bottle proudly stated that it was made from animals. In fact, there was a cute little illustration of an animal on the label. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except I’ve been a dedicated vegetarian for nearly ten years. What was most alarming was that I hadn’t previously read the label, let alone stalked the website, to find out what it was made of, like I do everything else I put in my body.

What was even more alarming was realizing how blindly I had followed someone’s lead in an attempt to feel like I belonged. I have never been a follower – not in school as a child, or in a sorority as a young woman, or as an adult in the work force. I have always preferred to go off the beaten path and pave my own way, cool with doing my own thing alone if no one else was interested. I don’t usually need anyone’s approval, and I surely don’t follow orders.

So here I am, not only following the in-crowd, but without regard for my personal values. How could I have been so manipulated by trends and advertising? I am an advertiser – of all people, I should be immune to its holds.

The realization stopped me in my tracks. I was pretty disgusted with myself, and ashamed, something I never thought wellness should make me feel. I started at the beginning… what attracted me to the wellness community?

The more I look around at the digital health community, the more I realize that most of us found wellness from a place of imbalance. I’ve adopted most of my wellness practices – eating clean, meditating, yoga – to curb my depression and anxiety. All of these practices help me find balance as well as steer clear from triggers like sugar, caffeine, and sleep deprivation, without the need for prescription drugs (which there is nothing wrong with, but I was tired of living with the side effects.) Despite all my best efforts, I still suffer from panic attacks and bouts of depression. It makes me wonder how many other people are still battling their demons and imbalances while posting their smoothie bowls and meditation selfies?

We all do a great job sharing success stories of overcoming serious disorders through healthy practices, but if I’m still living with mine, there should be plenty other women still working on theirs. I’m afraid sometimes because it doesn’t seem to fit into the brand of wellness to show myself in my most unwell state. Am I being selfish, or too precious by keeping this under wraps? Or, even worse, inauthentic? Could I help someone else reach a higher level of wellness by exposing my current imbalances?

At times I find myself using wellness to channel my anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. To define (womansplain) OCD is when someone uses compulsive behaviors or actions to try to calm the obsessive, anxious thoughts they are having. Sometimes, when I’m having my obsessive thoughts (no need for details, they’re for me) I clean out bad food and plastic containers, and plan for healthy habits and meals – usually by making dozens of lists. I purge my closets and cabinets, and surfaces. And viola! There’s an Instagram-worthy minimalist lifestyle!

Is that actually a bad thing? I’m not causing myself or anyone else harm. I’m actually easing the pain of having a mind that sends me places I don’t need to be. But I’ve heard stories of women within the wellness community developing disorders from their obsession with eating healthy and working out, and there is always the danger of those compulsive behaviors becoming a distraction to daily life. Should I be worried that my compulsion, albeit for healthy habits, will eventually tip the scale into an unhealthy place?

While I can only attempt to answer these questions for myself, this recent revelation got me really pondering my motives for wellness and considering whether my new healthy habits are actually healthy. I evaluated each habit and reflected on the things I do, why I do them, and how they have changed me. I thought long and hard about the changes I have made to my diet, how I have reduced the amount of chemicals in our home, my yoga practice and fitness goals, my journey in meditation and intention-setting, how acupuncture has changed my physical and mental health, and my dedication to self care. Gladly, I couldn’t find any reason to be ashamed or alarmed at what I was doing.

The good in my life created from trying to find balance, as influenced by community, outweighs any moments of concern. In fact, I may be more aware of these moments because of the consciousness I am achieving through wellness. Just kidding, that’s definitely the anxiety, but wellness has taught me how to pause, healthily reflect, and move forward with intention.

We hear a lot from our favorite influencers that what works for them might not work for everyone. This is even more reason to make a habit of taking pause to become more aware of why we do what we do. There is a lot of information out there on how to be better, written and posted by beautiful faces who live picturesque lives. Make sure you’re working to be a better you, not the face you see in your feed.

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Jessica Baumgardner