Sunday Feature: My Sister Chelsey Shares her Thoughts on Wellness

Another Sunday, another feature. Today, my sister Chelsey is sharing her thoughts on the wellness industry. I was so excited when she brought this idea to me. Chels is a nutritionist who is super passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle without limiting herself. She has seen first hand the effects that the extreme dieting culture can have on people. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding this diagnosis (naturally) and she helped relieve a lot of that for me by creating meal plans that were realistic for my lifestyle. She is smart and super passionate about this stuff so I really value her opinion on this topic. Keep reading because you are going to learn so much! And show her lots of love on instagram @clomenn. She shares lots of cute pics of her pup Finn who helped write this post.

When Britt asked me to write for her blog, I had a bunch of ideas rush through me…(i.e. how my dog helped me get over heartbreak, city life in a small studio apartment, managing relationships in adulthood, spirituality, etc). But something kept nudging me to talk about a topic that felt important and relevant in today’s world. Wellness.

I got into nutrition because of my love of food and the science behind what we eat. Never once did I think my educational background would bring me an opportunity to work with a population of people suffering from eating disorders. After working with eating disorders for the past year, I’ve been able to view the wellness industry through a set of new lens. It’s made me think about diet culture and in my opinion, what the wellness industry gets wrong. 

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry is a $4.2 trillion dollar market worldwide. Specifically the sectors “healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss” make up $702 billion of that market (second to beauty and skincare).  We’ve shifted to a new culture of dieting and focusing more on wellness which feels a lot less intimidating. It steers people away from having to follow any sort of strict diet plan and makes you feel like you hold the power within yourself to be well IF you do the right things.

There’s this narrative that strong is the new skinny and we can achieve wellness through clean eating, green juices and yoga poses. However, there is still this undertone of fear and avoidance. Fear of sugar, fat and ‘bad’ carbs. I now see how information gets misconstrued and how worry drives so many of the wellness marketing ploys. Gmo free, organic, hormone free, healthy carbs, good fats, …remember when we didn't overthink our food choices?

People obsess over the latest diet trends and become afraid of certain foods because they are labeled unhealthy. I’ve seen how this obsession, fear and restriction can manifest into orthorexia (obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet) and other eating disorders. Food rules develop, positive memories around food fade away and this diet mentality begins to creep into all parts of your life. In today’s social media world everyone is an expert but that can be a slippery slope when modeling healthy wellness. When searching the hashtag #wellness on Instagram, the main themes in pictures that I saw were selfies while working out, hundreds of variations of Acai bowls, yoga poses, juice cleanses and countless products that promise results. These images did not feel diverse, inclusive or paint the whole picture in my opinion.  

Let me just say- I am all about internal wellness. I love avocado toast and wheatgrass shots as much as the next person but I also believe all foods fit. Wellness is not always about being thinner with better skin, less anxiety and more energy. Wellness can look like a glass of Kombucha but it can also look like a pizza and ice cream night with your friends. It can be doing HIIT training at the gym because you love your body or taking a mindful nature walk with your dog and connecting with the earth. It’s deep conversations with someone you love. It's taking a few inhales and exhales to get through your anxiety. It looks different for every single one of us and is all about balance.

I once read “I wonder how many industries would go out of business if women woke up tomorrow and decided they loved their bodies”. This quote hit me hard and made me think about so many aspects of my life and the kind of world I want to live in. I’m not always kind to myself. I don’t appreciate what my body gets me through every single day. I am human. But I think wellness is learning what feeds your mind and soul; and discovering that part of your journey is a beautiful thing.

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