Toxic Wellness Culture: Why Over-Focusing on Health Is Keeping Us Sick
Do you feel like you’re chasing your tail with symptoms, supplements, protocols, and practitioners? Are you obsessed with health? I believe that many of us have unknowingly become part of Toxic Wellness Culture… and over-focusing on our health and symptoms is actually keeping us sick.
I never thought I’d be writing a post about freedom from toxic health and wellness culture. I’m a certified health coach who focuses on nourishing whole foods and natural remedies, for crying out loud!
I make my living off health and wellness.
Over the past couple of years, however, I have realized that many aspects of the “health and wellness” lifestyle are actually toxic. We have perpetuated food restriction, special diets, supplement protocols, and practitioner-hopping so much that they feel completely normal.
Got a rash? It’s probably food. Headaches? You probably need to see a functional doc. White spots on your fingernails? That’s a sign of nutrient deficiency and you better start a supplement protocol before things get really bad!
The answer to every symptom, it seems, lies in restricting more foods, and finding “the right” practitioner or “the right” supplement.
Worst of all are the chronic, mysterious health problems. We chase our tails around and around, trying various diets and food restrictions, hopping from naturopath to chiropractor, spending a gazillion dollars on supplements only to find ourselves right back where we started.
As I’ve dug deep, I’ve come to understand that the cycle of special diets and supplements and protocols is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It looks, feels, and sounds healthy and wonderful, but it’s actually perpetuating a cycle of illness — not wellness.
Turns out, the root of most of my own mysterious health issues wasn’t actually in my gut (as we’ve been led to believe) but in my mind.
There is NO Magic Pill (or diet or doctor)
Because I believed this or that was THE ANSWER to my riddles, I believed I had some control. Find the answer to the riddle, and it’ll fix the problem, I reasoned. And, why wouldn’t I?
Both in real life and online, I’ve surrounded myself with groups of people who believe, think, and act in the same way that I do! No one was challenging this mindset, therefore, I believed I was on the right track. Eventually, I’d find “the thing” that was the missing piece to my puzzle and BOOM! I’d find the Holy Grail of Health.
This toxic culture successfully manipulated me into believing that I am sick, that I should constantly chase symptoms, and that my body needs micro-managing in order to function properly.
Toxic wellness culture perpetuates the belief that, on their own, our bodies cannot self-regulate — that the Holy Grail of Health and Wellness is found in the next diet change, the next protocol, the next practitioner, and so on.
Toxic wellness culture has made health and wellness into a billion-dollar obsession and industry. Over-focusing on our health is actually making us sicker.
Health & Wellness Has Become an Obsession
We obsess over calories and macros. We obsess about portion size and the time of day we eat. Then, when those little things haven’t solved our problems, we obsess over lectins and heavy metals and food sensitivity testing and histamine-producing probiotic strains.
We obsess over acne, ridges on our fingernails, bumps, and the random sounds our bodies make. Every sensation must mean something, we figure.
Then, because we’re experiencing all of these very real things, we obsess over the best supplements or practitioners or protocols to be on to heal everything we’ve decided (with the culture’s help) is wrong with us.
We’ve convinced ourselves and others that all this obsessing is for our highest good. After all, it’s for our health and wellness.
What happens when, after all that macro-balancing, carb-cycling, intermittent fasting, high-intensity interval training, keto, and water fasting we haven’t attained “the Holy Grail of Health”?
When we’ve bought into every direct sales, multi-level marketing supplement, shake, and fitness program and the only thing that’s leaner is our bank account?
When we’ve invested in naturopaths and energy healers and functional medicine providers and chiropractors and we still feel sick, tired, and overweight?
Well, naturally, it means we haven’t done something right… right?
Probably, we just haven’t found “the answer” and must continue our quest for the Holy Grail of Health.
This is toxic wellness culture.
Our health is our greatest asset, so of course we want to protect it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating Real Food, breathing clean air, getting quality sleep, and moving your body. Yes, do those things!
However, toxic “health and wellness” culture is not those things.
Toxic wellness culture is this idea that true health and the answer to our mysterious problems are found in more practitioners, supplement protocols, detoxes, diet restrictions, cleanses, fasts, keto/paleo/vegan/whatever.
So, we’re stressed out about histamine, lectins, FODMAPs, heavy metals, stealth pathogens, mold, candida, and on and on and on.
I’m not saying that avoiding lectins, histamine, grains, dairy, or FODMAPs won’t help you feel better. Or that you might not actually have a stealth pathogen issue, mold issue, or heavy metal toxicity.
The point is…
Toxic wellness culture keeps us constantly chasing our tails for the answers to health and wellness.
Yesterday, it was heavy metals and candida. Today, it’s lectins and carbs. Tomorrow, it’ll be copper toxicity and histamines.
Personally, I’ve knocked on ALL the doors, convinced that the next thing was “the thing”.
Have you ever noticed that you never actually arrive??
Because it’s a carousel, we only ever go around and around. Then, we blame ourselves for never getting anywhere!
We Haven’t Found “It” Yet
Clearly, the answer is more of the same.
More supplements, more diet changes, more counting points, more practitioner visits, more rigorous exercise. More of all of the above, except carbs, right?
I don’t know why, but the answer always seems to be fewer carbs.
Around and around and around the carousel we go.
We do not have the patience to sit with our pain or discomfort, to tune in and truly listen to what our bodies are telling us. We believe we have to rush about to find our magic fix, and we are so busy looking for answers that we don’t see how we’re harming ourselves.
It’s very, very difficult to recognize something as harmful when you truly believe you’re doing it for your own good. In the name of health and wellness.
Toxic Wellness Culture
Your body has the magical superpower of being able to heal itself! Staying on the “health and wellness” carousel forces you to believe that you are sick. If you believe you are sick, then you ARE sick.
We have entered into toxic wellness culture when…
- We restrict entire food groups because we believe these foods to be the enemy.
- Our focus is on counting calories/points/carbs/macros or being keto/paleo/vegan instead of eating what makes us feel good.
- We exercise in ways that we hate.
- We believe that “the answer” for health exists out there somewhere and we just haven’t found it yet.
- A big portion of our time is spent researching health issues and how to fix them.
If you believe you are unhealthy, then you are unhealthy. No diet, practitioner, supplement, or exercise can change that.
Toxic wellness culture has taught us that our bodies require micro-management. That there is a thing — a protocol, practitioner, supplement, diet, or exercise — out there that will heal us and allow us to achieve the glowing, skinny, kale-eating goddess standard of health we all picture in our heads.
Because we cannot accept that our bodies are amazingly capable of self-regulating, we believe we must obsess, restrict, and control in order to make ourselves healthy.
Folks, our bodies do not need us to micro-manage them.
Are you ready to get off the carousel?
You’ve tackled your diet through intermittent fasting, carb-cycling, Trim Healthy Mama, macro-balancing, or low-fat. Then, you eliminated grains, gluten, dairy, beans, corn, soy, nuts, seeds, and/or nightshades.
You’ve bought into Plexus, Advocare, Thrive, and every other direct sales magic potion. Going paleo, going keto, going vegan, going grain-free, going gluten-free… you’ve gone everywhere.
You’ve tried various forms of rigorous exercise: running, cycling, high-intensity interval training, weight-lifting, Pilates, Barre, and more.
Moreover, you’ve hopped from practitioner to practitioner, doing protocol after protocol, getting more lab work, more applied kinesiology, more whatever.
And, if you’re honest, there’s likely been a hefty dose of guilt and shame involved in each of those steps you’ve taken to achieve the body and health that toxic wellness culture has held up as the standard.
Has being part of this culture stopped your obsession over your weight or your food or your health? Has it made you happier? Furthermore, has it decreased your stress or your symptoms? Have you achieved the vibrant, goddess-like state you’re picturing in your mind?
Has it made you love yourself or your body more?
If your honest answer is a resounding NO, then I have a 3-step program to freedom for you:
- Stop obsessing about your symptoms and health issues.
- Stop obsessing about weight, food, and exercise.
- Then, stop obsessing over supplements, practitioners, diet restrictions, and protocols.
Instead, picture, for a moment, a life where you…
Don’t count calories, macros, or points. In fact, you don’t count ANYTHING unless you’re counting how many days in a row you feel amazing.
Eat what you want, when you want. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.
Listen to your cravings. Enjoy dessert several times a week.
Stop doing the exercises you hate. Instead, move in ways that feel good like dancing, gardening, walking, hiking, or jumping on your kids’ trampoline.
Get off the carousel of chasing symptoms with supplements and practitioners and protocols. Rely on your own intuition to know what your body needs.
Above all, believe in your ability to listen to your body and give her what she wants, needs, and craves.
Nope… Let It Go!
I can hear you now… because I’ve been there, too:
“Yes, that’s all well and good, Lindsey, but I don’t feel comfortable in my body. I’m overweight or I feel slow or my joints ache or I have this rash or that digestive complaint. Are you saying I shouldn’t try to resolve these problems and heal?” you ask.
Nope, that’s NOT what I’m saying. At all.
You’re still focused on the problems, the symptoms.
Rather than seeing symptoms as your body’s miraculous way of communicating with you, you see them as something to be gotten rid of or fixed.
Sure, symptoms are uncomfortable, and we don’t like them. I’m not telling you to suck it up and get over it. It’s natural to want to help yourself feel better when you feel bad.
However, if you believe the answer to be outside of yourself, then you’re still trying to justify micro-managing your body as health and wellness.
This requires a complete paradigm shift. You must think in a completely different way than you’ve ever thought.
Shifting to a Whole New Paradigm
If your current paradigm is “I don’t have what I need to be well. It exists somewhere out there, and with enough research, money, and time, I’ll eventually find it and I can be well“, acknowledge it. You cannot move forward without knowing where you are.
Believing that your answer lies in the next practitioner, the next food restriction, the next blood test, or the next protocol is toxic wellness culture.
That doesn’t mean those things can’t serve us or be beneficial to us; they can be! Your desire to be well isn’t wrong. However, above all, we must know that everything we truly need to heal is found within, not without.
Stop focusing on the food, the supplements, and the symptoms. Focus only on loving yourself.
Make peace with where you are RIGHT NOW. Accept where you are. Accept the pain, the rash, whatever the symptoms are. Resistance creates suffering. By resisting what IS in your body, you create your own suffering.
Then, release the fears, expectations, and impossible standards of what you think health looks or feels like. Let go of the fear that “this is how I’ll always be” or “I’m resigned to live this way forever”. Let go of whatever picture you have in your head that your inner voice whispers, “You’ll never get there“.
Only when you have let go of your desire to control what is ultimately uncontrollable — your health — are you able to get off the carousel.
Love is unconditional. If you cannot love yourself in this moment, symptoms and all, you will not be able to love yourself even if you find that Holy Grail of Health.
Finally, when I say that the answer is within you, I mean that every event, situation, and trauma from your conception to this very moment has contributed to what you’re feeling and dealing with today.
Your Body Has Kept the Score
Our bodies keep the score of all of it — the car wreck your mom had when she was pregnant with you, your parents’ divorce when you were 3, the bully at school in 6th grade, the concussion you got playing football, the sexual assault you endured in college, the death of your best friend or grandparent or pet, your pregnancies and births.
Every round of antibiotics, every vaccine, every stressful event, every loss, grief, death, head injury, and emotional blow… your nervous system is the referee and your symptoms are your scorecard.
This is why you’ve chased your tail and have gotten nowhere. This is why you’ve spent money on practitioners and supplements and exercise equipment and don’t feel like your investments are paying off. It’s why your “fix” isn’t in the next MLM company, bottle of essential oils, or supplement.
Just knowing this kickstarts the paradigm shift. It sets you free from toxic wellness culture!
Where Do We Go From Here?
I haven’t arrived at the Holy Grail of Health because I’m no longer searching for it. Actually, I don’t believe it exists.
I don’t know what that answer is for you. If this is resonating at all, I encourage you to hold space for it, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Sit with it for a while. Maybe journal about it and see where your Higher Self takes you.
I’m not offering you any answers because I have none to give.
I can tell you where I’m at in my journey, though.
Certainly, I’ve had some positive shifts over the last couple of years. Yet, I also still experience some pretty rough symptoms (insomnia being the worst).
But, the difference is: I’m no longer obsessed and chasing my tail. I’ve stepped off the carousel of health and wellness.
The awakening of my Higher Self has meant that I recognize my humanity — my body will not last forever, and each of our bodies shows age, decline, and decay in different ways.
I still eat healthy… not because I’m trying to solve a puzzle but because I love nourishing foods. That won’t change. But, I eat many things that toxic wellness culture told me to restrict — like gluten!
I still visit doctors, take medication, and want to improve my hormone health. I’m even on a protocol for healing my autonomic nervous system.
But, I can sit with uncomfortable symptoms now, rather than fighting them or trying to fix them. Yes, I most definitely want to support my body in any way that I can, but it no longer feels like an obsession.
It feels natural, rather than forced now.
That awareness came from within me. I could not get off the carousel until I realized I was on it.
I adopted the paradigm of toxic wellness culture for far too long.
Now, I no longer hold the limiting belief that my healing or health lies outside of me.
The answer is acceptance of my humanity. It is listening to my intuition about anything and everything I put in or on my body. It is in accepting the present moment for what it is.
The answer is in loving myself, just as I am, symptoms and all, right now and forever.
I know there’s no magic pill, no quick fixes, no dietary restriction, no cleanse, and no practitioner that I need more than the inner peace that the answer, ultimately, lies within.
Does any of this resonate with you? Can you identify how toxic wellness culture has manipulated you into believing that health and healing are outside of yourself?
Disclaimer: The information and opinions in this post are for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. The information and opinions presented are not to be substituted for medical advice and care from a qualified health practitioner.