Is Wellness Only for the Privileged?

One woman's journey to self discovery, and the lack of diversity she discovered in a healing world that is meant to be for everyone.

Have you ever felt excluded walking into a yoga studio? Invisible when seeking guidance from a health care professional? Does a breath work class sound too out there? What about discovering your human design?

I walk around this earth in a thin, white, cisgender, able body; I am privileged. I’ve never experienced any elongated gazes because of my race, I don’t know what it’s like to have people judge me because of my size, and I have the actual time to spend learning about any silly sounding self discovery outlets that exist.

When I first began my healing journey, like really dove into it, I followed in the footsteps of those I admired. Instagram was my guide, and I used the hell out of it. Following other white women who lived on islands, promoting a plant based lifestyle, and eating perfectly curated smoothie bowls, all while surfing during their spare time. I watched every woman who shared her 18 topping avocado toast, soul cycle besties photos, and perfectly insta worthy lives with passionate envy. So this is what health looks like, right?

To me, wellness was an image, not a feeling, and I would do anything to look like I had it.

So I joined another online fitness app to drop a few extra sizes, propelled my eating disorder by obsessing over food again, and binge drank when the restrictions became too overwhelming. It was a strange time. I was also going to a health coaching school, gaining a well rounded education about nutrition, yet I couldn’t see how I was repeating old destructive behaviour patterns disguised as healthy living.

I even joined a network marketing company promoting health and well-being. The people were cool (still friends with some of them now), and the product itself is something I even use today. However, the lack of inclusivity didn’t sit well with me (unrealised at the time), so I eventually left.

I then moved back to Los Angeles, after traveling around for half a year, and found myself living in a “wellness” community living space. However, the wellness aspect seemed far from diverse. As I watched the (well intentioned) wellness influencers cater their services to the young and the privileged, I realised I was just as guilty.

My entire premise of health and well being was based off of privilege. I believed having the capability to afford cute workout gear, drink $8 matcha lates, and shop locally grown produce meant I was an example to be followed.

Only when I began to accept my sexuality, did I understand this whole outsider looking in phenomenon. I realised being queer was something to be loud and proud about, and I realised there was some serious lacking of representation within the wellness world. I soon woke up to the shocking reality of how exclusive the healing community is to every other minority.

Where were all the fat, queer, transgender, disabled, and BIPOC wellness influencers at?

So I diversified my feed. I kept learning about our diet culture and how misleading it all is. I followed more and more accounts of people who didn’t fit into the ideal. I discovered that promoting a lifestyle based off of image was more damaging that I realised. Who was I even trying to speak to? Who were the people I followed speaking to? The single parent worried about rent and keeping food on the table could care less about a $30 astrology class. The disable bodied person gains nothing from the wellness expert who only promotes able bodied movement advice. Do transgender people really feel welcome in a yoga studio filled with only white clientele and employees? Where is the diversity? Even first hand witnessing fat phobia within the healthcare field; the lack of representation seems to be everywhere.

What do we do about it?

If you are a wellness influencer, diversify your advice. Understand that if you lack inclusivity, you are being more harmful than helpful. Telling someone who actually needs to speak to a therapist, to just “think positive,” can be very damaging. Encouraging another to restrict their food choices can promote eating disorder behaviours. And not understanding your influence, no matter how big or small, is irresponsible if used recklessly.

If you are someone seeking guidance, pay attention to who you’re listening to. Who are they actually speaking to? Are they inclusive in their approach? Do you feel represented in their practices and advice? Do you actually feel heard?

As we talk about the injustices in the world, we create a ripple effect of change. Toxic wellness has been seeping into our every day lives, but we don’t have to listen to it anymore. The diversity in the health community is only growing, and we have to keep speaking up about it.

The only way to create change is to bring awareness, and this post is just to get you thinking.

Do you agree with this? Will you share this with others to keep the conversation alive?

Photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash