The Underside of Wellness
We assume that we work in a field that has appeal to anyone on this planet. Who doesn’t want to improve their health and wellness? What could possibly be bad about working towards this outcome?
Well, think again. Wherever there is a strong argument for one approach, there will be someone who argues against it! (Remember the fitness movement and the articles and books sending the message that “Exercise can kill”?)
Of course, freedom of speech, sharing ideas, playing devil’s advocate etc. are all good things so when I came across the following interview, I listened, (non judgmentally) and attempted to filter out the learning or awareness that came out of what Dr. Spicer had to say.
Dr Spicer was interviewed on Life Matters radio program and was promoting his book The Wellness Syndrome where sure enough, the main message was “Wellness is simply the latest obsession”. I will sum up Dr Spicer’s comments (and a bit of his rationale) and then counter them with a few of my own.
- Wellness has become something else to worry and feel guilty about (consider the bloggers whose daily routine is something we can never aspire to).
- Wellness trends are associated with abstinence and possibly self punishment.
- Wellness encourages too much self-obsession (think of all the ways we have of monitoring everything we do.
- Wellness behaviours are time stealers and take up huge amounts of our day.
- Corporate wellness programs are becoming a way of discriminating against new employees who are not fit and thin.
- Organisations are taking the view that a successful CEO must be able to run a marathon or climb a mountain and productivity and wellness are inaccurately linked.
- Pressure is being put on employees to train.
- Wellness is becoming a cult.
First, all the above points are referring to extremes.
“Bloggers who have huge followings and expound living the perfect, rigorous healthy life with rules around everything could well make people feel somewhat inadequate.”
My response – choose who you follow! We need to take some responsibility over what we expose ourselves to. What motivates that blogger? Are they boasting or helping?
“Wellness behaviours are cultish and like religious rituals.”
My response – anything taken to extremes can be sinister. If a ritual is a habit, then that sounds like a positive way of incorporating a few new ones into our daily routine. Becoming aware of what we do automatically is the first step to changing it.
“Corporate wellness has become a way of discriminating.”
My response – taken to extremes yes, but high energy that comes from being well is definitely associated with productivity. Anything that our society can do to encourage healthy behaviours as being the “norm” is a good thing. If an individual does not want to consider their health as important, go and find an organisastion who doesn’t care about this aspect of their employees’ lives.
Dr Spicer’s final comments are about the backlash that the wellness movement is having. “Dude food” is increasing where people can eat as much as they want and eat real, high fat meals.”
My respose – Hey, if that’s your choice, it’s your body.
“People are looking for meaning rather than happiness.”
My response – Agree (finally) – and we need to be. If we search for happiness, it will elude us. If we try and find meaning in our lives, the incidence of depression will decrease.
“The rise of neo-stocism – the belief that gains can only be made through pain and suffering and fight clubs, extreme work outs, tough mudders etc. are now becoming very popular.”
My response – there will always be people who want these things. Let everyone find what works for them.. There are plenty of softer “wellness” options out there!
In conclusion, I respect many of Dr. Spicer’s views but worry about the way people might interpret his message as encouraging a total lack of regard for whether we have healthy lifestyle habits and a continuation of the growth of lifestyle related illnesses.
At least we’re doing something to try and slow it down.