Dear Wellness Warrior…
I have been watching the phenomenon that is “wellness” spiral into something that has become contradictory to its original definition. In a world where online celebrity and pseudoscience reign, trust seems to be granted unconditionally to any self dubbed “wellness guru” with a high follower count on social media. The credibility of qualified fitness and nutrition professionals has been diluted by easily accessible online food and fitness stars, who’s follower numbers seem to count for more than actual expertise.
I work in both the dance and fitness industries in London, where a gradual alignment of these worlds has become increasingly apparent. Issues that were once more traditionally prominent in the dance world are regrettably spilling over into the realms of fitness aboard the almighty wellness wagon – a devastating deterioration of body image and increasingly unhealthy relationships with food.
As a professional dancer now coaching ballerinas at the Royal Ballet School, my responsibility to preserve positive body image and deliver guidance in effective practice is constant. The journey to attaining an industry set standard of both physical and technical perfection is often riddled with self-criticism and insecurity. As someone who has experienced this journey first hand, I now strive to be a reliable figure of support, motivation and knowledge to those who place their trust in me.
Outwith the realm of dance, my role as a personal trainer runs parallel to these responsibilities. It is here that I have seen a growing trend of individuals suffering from deep-set insecurities about their bodies, and often an equally confused relationship with food and fitness. Many of them come to me having previously placed their trust in a misconstrued version of “wellness”. In short, they would buy into exquisitely marketed “superfoods” and “one size fits all” fitness programmes, in a bid to achieve optimal health and a flawless physique. This falsely labeled lifestyle revolves around ideals including bikini bodies, detox, and the grave association of restrictive behaviour with purity. These are dangerous practices disguised in photogenic campaigns, and would not be advocated by any qualified professional. Regrettably, the mission to achieve “wellness” mutes any sense of judgement or questioning of validity, as society increasingly buys into unfounded claims and irresponsible advertising.
Whilst visually dominant networks like Instagram can be a great source of inspiration and guidance for people throughout their fitness journeys, I strongly believe that this medium exists as a double-edged sword. I have no doubt that unqualified influencers blindly preaching #fitspo and #eatclean via images of sixpacks and detox teas are contributing to the rise of negative body image and disorder eating.
I consider my social media accounts as an extension of my professional existence, and therefore feel responsible for the message I portray and the impact that my posts may have on others. People place their trust in me for guidance in the virtual world, much as they do in the real world. I don’t send clients photos of my abs in my underwear, so why should I post them on social media? I would never tell clients to cook all their meals in coconut oil, so why would I agree to promote such a message virtually? I train each client differently according to their needs, so why would I sell a “one size fits all” fitness programme for people to purchase online?
For me, the bottom line is this; true professionals don’t compromise their integrity. I call for those who preach “wellness” to remain true to its definition – a state of good physical and mental health. This leaves no room for deceptive marketing, uneducated advice, or indeed the abuse of power we see being exploited on social media on a daily basis.
In the meantime, if you’re reading this and subsequently re-evaluating the company you keep on social media, consider the following:
Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it.
Google “what is the function of the liver?”