I feel comfortable hypothesizing (you know, because of my WebMD doctorate) that a good 60% of wellness initiatives are just smoke and mirrors designed to make participants feel like they’re making good decisions. It’s more about appearing well rather than being healthy. That’s definitely the approach my gym has taken this corona-season.
Before we continue, I’m currently using the gym. So I know I’m part of the problem. I also believe gyms can be safely used with the proper precautions. Now, I shouldn’t be shocked that a large corporate chain cares more about the bottom-line than its mission, but I guess the daily marketing blasts emailed during spring’s closures extolling a commitment to safety worked. Because the first time I went back to the gym in late August, I was genuinely shocked to find myself the only one there wearing a mask past the lobby. That’s how my gym skirted state guidelines. Initially, you only had to have a mask to enter, but once you swiped your membership card and an employee took your temperature without checking the results, you were free to de-mask. As you can imagine, very few people also adhered to the “keep 6 feet apart” guidelines a few computer-printed signs suggested you follow.
There’s a mask mandate now, but it still blows my mind that a brand synonymous with health and wellness so brazenly skirted guidelines meant to keep customers healthy. This only underscores my hypothesis that wellness is at its root about looking well, not being well. I’d love someone to change my mind, but there are just too many examples perpetuating my stance. Performance-enhancing drugs aren’t good for you. Neither is training to the point of exhaustion. Counting calories is often just an accepted way to have an eating disorder, and I’d love a writer more qualified than I to write a treatise about the type of person who wouldn’t deign to ingest GMOs but has a robust cocaine habit.
I have one gym shirt I don’t often employ because it hugs my body in ways that upset me anytime I walk past a mirror. I wore it one day in January and made the mistake of situating myself directly in front of a mirror for a series of exercises that let me watch my midsection fold in on itself over and over. It was jarring.
How did I rectify this? More cardio? Targeted ab workouts? Diet rehaul? God, no. I embarked on a 24-hour juice cleanse, hoping that whatever placebo effect I felt would make me feel well.
I think it worked.
The first juice was rough. It claimed to be kale, parsley, and celery, but all I tasted was celery, which I detest. And as someone who in the past has said multiple times that I’m never going to get into green juices, I felt like I was going against personal principles.
But as the day wore on, thankfully, the juice got better (well, the other celery-heavy offering was unpleasant, but I chugged that one with a pinched nose), and I’m as shocked as anyone to tell you that I didn’t feel any hungrier than usual.
Now, circling back to my initial wellness-hypothesis: will this lead me to be someone who only drinks fresh-pressed juices, becomes an evangelist for them, but spends all weekend at Asheville’s breweries destroying my liver and brain? I really hope so. How else does one become an influencer? How else does one embody our accepted iteration of wellness?