BY: Aleks Zavlunova

4 Toxic Messages Perpetuated by Wellness Culture Plus Tips to Follow Instead

Learn a healthier approach to wellness 

With more and more people taking control of their health through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, it is no surprise that the health and wellness industry is booming. While most people who work in this space have good intentions, there is some advice that can be less helpful than intended. For some, this advice can cause confusion or overwhelm, leading them to feel stuck or give up on their goals of a healthier life altogether. 

Here are some common messages you might have come across, including why they may not be helpful for you and what you can try instead to make lasting changes and achieve your personal health goals. 

1. Toxic “tip”: If it were important to you, you’d find a way

What to do instead: Try your best with what you have

There are many who promote the idea that if you wanted it bad enough, you would figure it out, make the necessary sacrifices, and do whatever it takes to achieve the desired outcome. Unfortunately, that’s not how change works. There are so many factors and variables involved when it comes to not only making changes but sticking to them long enough for it to become a lifestyle. Our learning history, trauma, conditioned beliefs, and socioeconomic, sociocultural, and psycho-emotional factors are just some of the variables to consider when talking about change. It’s not as simple as finding a way to achieve your goals no matter what!

A better alternative might be: “I will do my best with what I have at the moment.” With this in mind, it is easier not to succumb to the pressure of standards set by social media “gurus” and instead give yourself the time to practice patience, self-compassion, and self-love by allowing yourself to do what you can in the current moment. 

2. Toxic “tip”: It’s meant to be hard

What to do instead: Show yourself compassion and grace

The idea that change is meant to be hard (or everyone would do it) only promotes another limiting belief. While some use it as motivation to encourage people that they “can do hard things,” for many, it becomes a crutch when they are not succeeding at the desired change. The more you tell yourself that something is hard, the harder it will be. The way we talk about things and ourselves greatly impacts our perception. While it is okay to acknowledge that new things can feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and even frustrating, it is important that we don’t latch on to the idea that change has to be hard in order for it to occur. 

Rather than telling yourself that something is hard, practice adding a redirect to your statement. For example, “Exercising is hard, but I know that I can do it, and it will get better over time.” “Eating healthier is hard, but I have a long history to unlearn, and that will take some time.” 

In both of these examples, you acknowledge that something may be difficult, but you are showing yourself grace and compassion as you go through the (un)learning process. 

3. Toxic “tip”: Eat less, move more

What to do instead: Create an individualized diet and exercise plan for yourself

Often given as advice by the diet and fitness industry for getting healthy, this is an oversimplified and over-generalized statement.  While calories consumed and movement play a great role in weight management, this statement does a great disservice to those who are already watching what they eat and are exercising. For many individuals, it’s not always the quantity of the food they consume but rather making adjustments to specific variables. In addition, for individuals who are exercising regularly, moving more might not be the answer. Instead, they might need to modify the ways in which they move, adding more rest days for recovery or adjusting their strength training routine. 

Before you decide to “eat less and move more,” make sure that you are eating a sufficient amount of protein, carbs, and fats. Practice being more mindful during meals and snack times, and get a better understanding of what and how much you’re currently eating. Then you can make an informed decision whether to reduce your caloric intake, increase your activity level, or simply make minor adjustments. 

4. Toxic “tip”: Just be consistent

What to do instead: Decide what you are realistically capable of doing regularly

Consistency is crucial when we are looking to make long-lasting changes, regardless of our goals. However, this piece of advice is rarely followed by an explanation of what it means to be consistent. The problem is that “consistency” is different for everyone and changes over time. And thus, people often mistake “consistent” with “constant” or “daily,” resulting in them “failing” because it is unattainable to them in their current ability. 

Consistent means that you are able to do something regularly. Being consistent in your exercise commitment may mean that you are able to allocate 30 min twice a week. Being consistent in your attempt to eat healthier may mean that you are going to eat home-prepared meals four times a week while reducing the amount of take-out or eating out. Both of these can change when you either have more time, a stronger foundation of your skills, or your ability to execute with ease. Only you can decide what you are realistically capable of. Determine what that is, and increase it over time. 

You are worthy of the life you want to create

While there is well-meaning advice coming from the health and wellness industry, it is important to understand and remember that everything is nuanced. Everyone does not have the same 24 hours in a day, nor the skillset, accessibility, or physical ability to do what is often recommended by wellness culture. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by assessing how a piece of advice can fit into your lifestyle. Change can be simple and possible with the right mindset, skills, and tools. A healthy life and body are available to you, and you are worthy of the life you want to create. 

Aleks Zavlunova is a Licensed Behavior Therapist and Personal Development coach who specializes in Holistic Behavioral Health- a system she created that combines principles of Behavioral Psychology with other philosophies and practices of mental, physical, and spiritual health to teach you the skills you need to unlearn your self-destructive patterns, break through conditioned beliefs, stop engaging in self-sabotaging and people-pleasing behaviors, and replace them with practices of self-love, self-compassion, healing and growth.

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