I don't want to be a health and wellness coach anymore. I'm over it. I've been feeling this way for about a year now and I've finally made the decision to close my doors.
Back in 2013, I was so happy to receive my certification after 4 long months of classes, an hour-long written test and a verbal assessment of my coaching skills with an experienced coach. I was ready to start helping people get healthy and lose weight. Back then, I thought those 2 things were one and the same.
Now I want to give it all up. And by 'it' I mean my association with the health and wellness industry. When I first started to get frustrated with health and wellness I thought it was because there had been some dramatic shift in the industry...that something had significantly changed since I hung out my shingle and started accepting clients.
After some reflection, I realize it's NOT the industry that’s changed, it's me. I'm the one who's different. Ever since I stopped selling weight loss, I've been angry and annoyed with the health and wellness scene. And the more I become aware of the gross inequalities in the US and around the world, the less interested I am in being a health and wellness coach.
The Unicorn Frappuccino scandal of 2017 is what helped send me over the edge. Many people who call themselves health and wellness professionals (e.g. coaches, nutritionists, fitness trainers) were quick to rant about the drink's 50+ grams of sugar, as if this was the first time Starbucks put syrup, milk and too much ice in a cup and charged $5.00 for it.
But the chorus of crickets from my Frapp-hating friends on major issues that impact health has been disappointing. Issues like:
the possibility of millions of Americans losing health insurance
lack of access to fresh food and clean water
racial and gender inequity
Surely these things are health-related? They affect a person's wellness, right? But sadly, these issues are rarely (if ever) addressed by leaders in our industry.
I can’t help but think that the health and wellness community doesn't really care about people's health or wellness. I say that based on the following observations about the current landscape:
1. It looks like diet culture wrapped in yoga pants and green smoothies. For the record, I love yoga pants and smoothies, but I hate how 'health and wellness' is synonymous with weight loss. Just like the diet industry, the wellness industry thrives and capitalizes on our intense fear of fatness and uses thin, pretty, white bodies to sell the idea that smaller is healthier. This narrow definition of health is harmful and dehumanizing.
2. It ignores real systems of oppression. If we really care about health, then we should care that people are impacted by systems that prevent adequate affordable housing, access to fresh food, clean water and medical care. When we ignore the role these factors play in people's lives, we send the message that you only deserve to be healthy if you have money, health insurance, and live within walking distance of a farmer's market. Instead of being self-righteous jerks, my fellow coaches, nutritionists, and even yoga instructors could be speaking out against and actively working to remove these barriers.
3. It equates health with morality. If you're not actively pursuing good health, there's something wrong with you. And if you happen to get sick, then you deserve it. Good physical and mental health, as defined in our society, aren't accessible to everyone, yet we use health as a requirement for worthiness.
We shouldn't have to pursue a certain standard of health to have our humanity respected and to be treated with dignity, but this is where we are.
So, if I don't want to be a part of the health and wellness community, what do I want instead?
I want individuals and marginalized groups to be empowered to define well-being for themselves and have the resources to create it.
I want to expand the definition of health and wellness to include things like racial and gender equity, adequate housing, and access to non-discriminatory health care.
I want to be part of a professional community that respects the complexity and messiness of being human.
That's the only kind of health and wellness I'm interested in right now.
I don't know what I'm going to do next or what I'll call myself. Maybe I’ll start a community of awakened health and wellness practitioners. God knows it's going to take a village to create the change we desperately need.