The Recovery Myth, Part Four: “What Does Recovery Mean To You?” 7 Warrior Women on Living The New Normal

The Recovery Myth, Part Four: “What Does Recovery Mean To You?” 7 Warrior Women on Living The New Normal

Body Community Motivation + Inspiration The Recovery Myth

I am so proud to bring you THE RECOVERY MYTH: a four-part miniseries by WANT sharing real-life stories, smashing open misconceptions, and shining a light on what recovery from an eating/body-related disorder or addiction REALLY looks like.

I’m talking to experts, healers, and real-life recoverees answering some of the top recurring questions I’ve gotten from you over the last few years. Not just questions about recovery itself, but about the befores, the durings, the afters, and all the in-betweens that can sometimes seem like you imagined them.

To be clear: the point of The Recovery Myth is NOT to prescribe a roadmap or provide a neat-and-tidy picture of what recovery looks like. The point is to dispel myths surrounding recovery and gain multiple perspectives to provide a more inclusive, holistic, and ultimately helpful view of what it looks like to go from the darkness into the light.

In Part Onewe debunked the seven biggest myths and misunderstandings surrounding recovery (read listen here). In Part Two, I talked to actor, host, blogger, and activist Lynn Chen all about navigating recovery in the midst of social media pressures, food intolerances, and a #bodypos world that sends mixed messages (listen here). And in Part Three, I spoke with healer and founder of Breathwork For Recovery Nathaniel V. Dust all about processing trauma, rewiring behavioral patterns, toxic relationships, and alternative forms of therapy you might not ever have known existed (listen here).

Recovery is an opportunity to show up for yourself in a profound, permanent way - @pureleighliving Click To Tweet

For the final installment of The Recovery Myth, I polled a group of healers, experts, activists, and warrior women (all who have experienced an eating disorder) and asked them one simple question:

What does recovery mean to you?

The answers to this question were just as varied as the women who answered it, but every person touched on one common thing: it’s a lot more complex than just a before and after shot.

Here’s what they said:

Recovery isn’t so much about getting back to normal as it is about the process of creating a new normal. No one formula works for everyone, and no one path is linear.

Recovery isn’t always obvious – because the real healing happens in parts of your head and heart that no one can see. Learning to create a new normal in life also means creating a new normal when it comes to how you deal with discomfort. The hardest part of recovery isn’t necessarily when you’re first learning how to stay away from or replace the behaviors you once had: the hardest part of recovery can be when you think you’re on the right path and then get sneak-attacked by something you didn’t realize was a trigger. That’s why it’s called a trigger – you don’t see it coming and it hits. FAST.

The recovery dance can feel like a risky one. Triggers everywhere. And not a lot to trust. But then again, building trust often times feels like the riskiest feeling of all. And just like building trust in a friendship or romance, the biggest risks reap the biggest rewards.

To be “recovered,” by society’s standards, insinuates being saved by something or someone. And let me be clear: YOU NEED TO ASK FOR HELP. Call. Text. Reach out. Book the appointment. Have someone book it for you. Just involve others. Humans are community-driven creatures. We need each other, in our highest highs and lowest lows.

But no matter how much therapy you go to, treatment you have, or self-help books you read, the only person who can truly save you…is you. Recovery is a choice that comes about with a lot of support, but is spurred into action when you finally say no to your crutches and YES to your capabilities. Recovery is becoming the you YOU know you’re meant to be.

-Katie Horwitch, founder of WANT: Women Against Negative Talk

To me recovery is self-awareness. It’s having the courage to really examine my [body image & food]  thoughts, choices, behaviors and get honest about what the intention behind them is and trying to make the best choice in each moment. For the most part I know what is the most recovered thing to think or do or eat but making that choice again and again each day is where some challenge comes in. I think of  recovery as flexible – it ebbs and flows but more and more each day I lean more towards self-awareness and getting honest about the intentions behind my actions.

Katie Dalebout, host of The Let It Out Podcast

To answer the question of what recovery means to me, it means living my life by a set of principles that were outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, from living with honesty to making amends to trusting in a higher power. I live by those prinicipals in all areas of my life (my food/body, relationships, work, etc) as though my life depended on it – because it does. What I learned when I attended OA was that I have a physical allergy to certain types of food/behaviors and that once I start eating that food or doing that behavior (purging) it is impossible for me to stop. My body and mind are different from other people who do not suffer with the same allergy. I learned that abstaining from those things will give me great freedom. And the only way to abstain and be free is to work a day at a time on what the true problem is: it’s not food, but rather an inability to cope with life.

Food was my solution to my problems and I have since found a new solution: I learned that my illness is never cured but can be arrested on a daily basis if I’m willing to do the work. I have developed a relationship with something outside of myself and I live my life (or try to on a daily basis) to be of service to others. I believe in being honest and looking within myself instead of outside myself at what is wrong with others. I owe my life and everything amazing I have today to the 12 steps. My husband, my family, my job, my changed outlook on life. Through this I have freedom from food obsession, body obsession and can enjoy the deep meaningful things in my life.

-S., WANT reader

Recovery means an internal healing. Recovery is an everyday commitment of introspection, acceptance and a willingness to be vulnerable with the unveiling of your true self.

Recovery is a choice. Recovery is your opportunity to show up for yourself in a profound and permanent way. How you accept yourself, present yourself, and care for yourself is a blessing and a much sweeter blessing when you are confronted with the negative self talk and comfort of falling back into self-sabotaging habits. Every moment you choose your health and your happiness over your past demons you are living your recovery. Take the wins.

-Angela Leigh, wellness + behavioral coach

Recovery is not just the absence of a thought or behavior. It’s putting together a toolbox that will help you get through each and every day without going absolutely bonkers.

-Lynn Chen, actress, blogger + activist

Recovery means freedom. I have the freedom to take chances and risks, experience complete bliss as well as struggle and sadness. The freedom to live life in every moment and in every emotion without the need nor the desire to numb out and resort back to the harmful behaviors my eating disorder once had me trapped in. I am free to bravely live my life in all its glorious beauty and strife  – no hiding in shame and no apologies for my authenticity.
 
`

 

To me, recovery means not having to think about recovery. I got to a point in my recovery when my life was all about recovery — being in it, staying in it, being accountable for it, performing it, etc. I was all about talking about food, posting about nutrition, thinking about my body, reaffirming my body image…it got to the point when I was “so recovered” that my entire identity was recovery.

And so I stopped “recovering” — because I was already recovered. And I went out and tried “discovery” instead. I found interests that brought me outside of the kitchen and the gym and off of social media. I continued to be recovered (not falling back into disordered habits, patterns, mindsets, or behaviors), but I just used all of the extra time I got by not thinking about food or my body to go out and do something fun with my life.

Everyone’s discovery will look different — because no two people have exactly the same interests — which makes it much harder to be prescriptive about than recovery. But you have to go out and try and not be afraid to fail. There’s no wasted time in discovery, even if the thing you try isn’t something you want to do again.

It’s a learning process in which you get to fully come into your own.

– Kaila Prins, body positive wellness coach and founder of Performing Woman

Discovery is a learning process in which you get to fully come into your own - @performingwoman Click To Tweet


WANT YOURSELF:

Now I’d love to hear from you: what does recovery mean to YOU?

Let me know by adding your answer to the mix in the comments – because each of us experience recovery differently, and each of us have a lesson to share. I’ll be featuring some of my favorite answers in the final WANTcast episode of The Recovery Myth.

Can’t wait to hear from you!


Know someone who might need this miniseries? Forward it along and let them know you care.

Know someone who might be able to contribute something unique to the conversation in the next round of this miniseries? I’d LOVE to meet them. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS GONE THROUGH AN ED/ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE (**AND HAVE SUCCESSFULLY RECOVERED), OR ARE AN EXPERT IN THE FIELD, shoot me an email at katie@womenagainstnegativetalk.com and we can get to talking.


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WANTcast 037: Thinking Out Loud: On Finding Your Limits, Shifting Social Media, #WellnessRealness, Building Structure, Wedding Planning, and More

WANTcast 037: Thinking Out Loud: On Finding Your Limits, Shifting Social Media, #WellnessRealness, Building Structure, Wedding Planning, and More

Community the WANTcast Work

Possibly the longest episode title ever – and it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Taking a wee pause from The Recovery Myth miniseries right now to do some Thinking Out Loud. This episode, something new for me, has no script, outline, or even single subject matter. It’s a mishmosh of some of the biggest things on my brain and the deepest dives I’ve been doing lately.

 

at Lovely Bride in Tribeca picking up my wedding dress

Inspired by THIS Instagram post, I realized that sometimes the best coversations are long, rambling, multifaceted, and hit everyone in different ways.

In this episode we get down ‘n dirty about:

-Wedding planning and how what people say it’s like is actually NOT the case for me

-Figuring out your limitations so you don’t crash and burn

-A Cheryl Strayed Q+A that changed the way I view the way I work

-My theory about the social media landscape shift

-Some real talk on the real wellness industry

-Tiny tweaks, tricks, and tips to create structure and reclaim your day

…and more!


Listen in iTunes | Play in new window | Download | Support the pod by shopping on Amazon via this link

If it works for you, it works. Click To Tweet

Show Notes:
THE GOOD WORD: WANT’s weekly newsletter/love note
Cheryl Strayed: Love, Life and Lessons Learned in “Wild”
Another interview series I binged on over the weekend (spoiler: Brené Brown interviewing Oprah, Liz Gilbert, etc)
Instructor pals of mine whose classes I’ve been loving here in NYC:
Gerren LilesAndrew SlaneMary HorneNikki BucksSarah Girard
Do Not Disturb on iPhone and Android

Like this episode? Leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!

WANTcast 033: On Cool Girls, Wellness Experiments, and Finding Answers (Without Blowing Your Budget) w/ Phoebe Lapine

WANTcast 033: On Cool Girls, Wellness Experiments, and Finding Answers (Without Blowing Your Budget) w/ Phoebe Lapine

the WANTcast

Today’s guest is Phoebe Lapine, food and health writer, gluten-free chef, wellness personality, culinary instructor, and speaker here in NYC. On her award-winning blog, Feed Me Phoebe, she shares recipes for healthy comfort food and insights about balanced lifestyle choices beyond what’s on your plate. Her newly released book, The Wellness Project, chronicles her journey with Hashimotos Thyroiditis and how she finally found the middle ground between health and hedonism by making one lifestyle change, one month at a time.

You have to be ready to look at your life + lay the bricks for a new way of living -@phoebelapine Click To Tweet

I have got to say that I was on a little reading freeze for a few months – I know – not ideal – and when I received Phoebe’s book I literally read about 150 pages in one sitting. Not only is she such a personal, down-to-earth writer, but she truly makes each chapter, or wellness experiment, so accessible for anyone no matter where they are on their health and happiness journey.

In this episode we talk about why getting a diagnosis by a doctor is only a small part of the equation, fighting for answers without blowing your entire paycheck, the “cool girl” trope in society, living up to other people’s expectations of you and SO MUCH more. Phoebe and I met through a mutual friend (shout out to Leslie!) a couple months ago, and I am so happy to be introducing you to her today.

phoebe lapine

WANT Phoebe:

Listen on iTunes | Play in new window | Download | Support the pod by shopping on Amazon via this link

Show Notes:
Feed Me Phoebe
The Wellness Project
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
The Wellness Project Tour
The National Gourmet Institute Dinner (scroll down – get tickets!)
All of Phoebe’s Stews

This week’s WANTcast is sponsored by GOOD: A Wellness Festival. GOOD is an all-day event created to ignite your passion for wellness and inspire you to achieve your GOOD life. I’ll be speaking at and MCing GOOD in Los Angeles on February 3rd, 2017 – use code WANT10 to snag $10 off your ticket. I can’t wait to see you there!


 Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes (the more reviews, the more people can hear these stories and lessons), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!

 

Aspiration, Inspiration: GOOD + My Relationship With Wellness.

Aspiration, Inspiration: GOOD + My Relationship With Wellness.

Body Community Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

I don’t often post about the events I do or the places I speak. I feel like, for me, it borders on self-indulgent and sets a precedent that I’ll write something about every event I do or place I speak. But I do like sharing with you the ones that spark something new inside me…the ones where I can sense a shift happening. The ones that offer up more than just a recap and some fun photos. The ones that blow my mind.

This weekend, I had the immense honor of speaking at The GOOD Festival, an all-day wellness festival in Philly for anyone wanting to live well and “make choices that are in alignment with their body, their career, and their lives.” Basically, the GOODfest focused on all of the things I love about the wellness industry: the community, the curiosity, and the small choices that end up making a big difference in the long run.

But I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t love everything. A couple years ago, I felt my relationship with the “wellness” community starting to shift. Because wellness was shifting as well. And I didn’t really like much of what I was seeing: elitism, ego, judgement, and a focus on the external WHATs instead of the internal WHYs. Leaders and “gurus” encouraginig spiritual bypass, the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with hard things, was becoming just as if not more common than encouraging spiritual growth.

I felt torn. The wellness world had introduced me to some of my very dearest friends, launched my career, and helped me realize my through line. Heck, if it hadn’t been for the wellness world, I would have never started sharing my writing publicly or be even close to the person I am today (fun fact: my first blogs and first freelance jobs circa 2008 were all in what’s now considered the wellness realm). I owed so much of who I was to the wellness community – and yet I felt like I was watching a genuine and loving best friend get lured in by a Mean Girls-esque squad of crystal-carrying, sage-burning, side-eyeing Regina Georges. All aspiration on the outside and very little inspiration on the inside.

It broke my heart.

~

I’ve been very vocal about ways I feel the wellness world can shift, and every single WANT Woman that’s been featured on the site or the podcast is a shining example of what wellness can be if we lean into the parts of us that make us unique and let them lead the way. Literally, every single one of them. 

But still. It’s so easy to get caught up in the parade and charade of the opposite end of the spectrum when you’re scrolling through Instagram or reading an article and then all of the sudden it’s 12:42am and you’re paralyzed by fear that you’re not only doing everything wrong, but that your idea of what leadership means in the wellness world is no longer relevant.


One of the reasons GOOD was such a reaffirming experience for me was that it reminded me why I fell in love with wellness in the first place. Wellness, after all, isn’t just about the “well.” It’s not just about the adjective – or rather, the noun we’ve created from the adjective.

It’s about the verb – the “LIVING” part of living well.

“Well” is subjective. We cannot possibly know if what works for one person will work for someone else.

 

But living? Living is action. Living is experience-oriented.
And living well is…well, it’s moving forward fearlessly into the you you know you’re meant to be.

 

The GOODfest team blew me (and everyone else there, ps) away with their thoughtfulness and attention to detail. They’d carefully curated the day to reflect their mission and their values, and it showed in not just every single speaker and sponsor, but in all 300+ people who chose to spend their day with us. Deep conversations happened within a matter of seconds – real, no-bs, walls-down conversations – and each time a speaker walked onstage it was like they were being greeted by a room full of old pals.

Speaking of the speakers – the SPEAKERS! Oh my god the speakers. Being a part of this group was a dream come true. Some people were old friends (Jessica Murnane, Katie Dalebout, Jordan Younger), some were new friends (Gianne Doherty, Kristin McGee, Cassandra Bodzak, Sara DiVello, Kimmie Smith), and some I met specifically because we were both speaking at the GOODfest and then one month later we were the best of travel buddies (hi, Talia Pollock). In an industry that can sometimes seem so cliquey and elite, the GOODfest was anything but. It revived my love for wellness; for how *I* view living well. Which is all about being proactive, not reactive, when it comes to how you want to feel. All-around. Mind, body, soul.


Living well is about being proactive, not reactive, when it comes to how you want to feel. - @katiehorwitch Click To Tweet

This post is obviously about the wellness world, but I think this disconnect between aspiration and inspiration applies across industries and even life stages. Maybe your thing is fashion. Maybe it’s academica. Maybe it’s music. Maybe you’re just starting a family, or have been single for a while, or are just about to graduate college or enter empty-nestville. There are so many opportunities for us to doubt that what we’re doing is right or where we are is where we’re supposed to be (yes, social media is a big way we can get triggered into self-doubt).

But what the GOODfest reminded me is that those people who seem to have everything perfectly manicured and are “too cool to care” are in the minority. WE are in the majority. Side by side. No one has it all figured out, but if we join forces in our curiosity, we can explore the options together.

And that’s what I love about wellness: I love the CONNECTION. The community. The willingness to open up and move forward fearlessly…on the same team. We might not know anywhere near everything, but each of us knows something – and when we all work together to both hear and be heard, we’ve got a whole damn lot of options on the table.

Thank you Kate, Jess, Jen, Sienna, Brea, and the rest of the GOOD team for creating a space for women to unlock themselves and fully exhale. To my fellow speakers, I adore every single one of you and am honored to have been in your presence.



When we all work together to both hear + be heard, we've got a whole lot of options on the table. - @katiehorwitch Click To Tweet


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WANTcast 029: On Being Healthy-ish + Building A Brand (And Life) With Lasting, Long-Term Value with Derek Flanzraich of Greatist

WANTcast 029: On Being Healthy-ish + Building A Brand (And Life) With Lasting, Long-Term Value with Derek Flanzraich of Greatist

Body Community the WANTcast Work

Do you ever feel like everyone else is running circles around you while you’re walking through quicksand toward success?

If you’re like me, you’re probably nodding your head vigorously, right? I thought so. Whether it’s business success, achieving that ever-elusive “healthy lifestyle,” or making an impact in the world, the pressure to perform is real.

A lot of times I find myself all tied up in mixed messages: one day someone’s telling me to do what works for me, the next day they’re telling me a $500 supplement is the answer to all my problems. One day I’m encouraged to go slow and steady, the next I’m being sold a recipe for overnight success. My life naturally ebbs and flows – sometimes I’m in periods of fast growth and rapid success, but most of the time it’s about those small shifts or baby steps.

So when  websites, blogs, celebrities, influencers, etc etc etc etc tell me one thing but show me another, it can begin to feel like there’s this pressure to keep up. Especially in the “health and wellness” space.

The one site I have always turned to for no-bs advice that actually works for me and respects who I am is Greatist. It’s a website and media company that truly talks the walk and walks the talk of living a healthy, happy life in a realistic, authentic, true-to-you way. Have a little too much to drink this weekend? That’s cool, we’ll help you feel better. No time for a workout today – like, really, no time? Don’t stress about it. Having trouble at work or making friends as an adult? We feel you. Greatist never judges, has always “been there too,” and never pretends like we need to overhaul our life to make it what we want it to be.

I’ve been die-hard obsessed with Greatist since they launched in 2011 – you’ll hear more about why in today’s episode. I know a lot of brands say they’re all about balance and staying true to yourself…but Greatist is one of the only ones that actually means what they say. It’s not about being the healthiest all the time, it’s about being healthy-ish. And as today’s WANTcast guest told me, it’s not about being the greatest all the time. It’s about working on greatness like an artist works on art. It’s about being a great-ist.

Just like an artist works on art, a greatist can work on being great. -@derekflanz, @greatist Click To Tweet

Derek Flanzraich is an entrepreneur on a mission to give everyone a healthyish attitude. He is the CEO & Founder of Greatist, a next-generation media startup working to make healthy living cool and build the first truly trusted healthy living brand for this generation. Derek’s been building brands and organizations that last since his dog-walking business at 10 years old, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes to create something with long-term value and meaning.

I love our conversation so much. In this episode, Derek and I talk about building a brand that lasts, taking hits and making compromises, and the gaping hole in the health and wellness industry that led Derek to found Greatist. We also talk about the state of masculinity, the future of gender neutrality, the three things anyone can do to live a “healthy-ish” life, and why health and wellness can’t just begin and end with food or exercise.

We had a blast together – he is truly a WANT Man through and through. So down to earth, so genuine, and so the embodiment of this brand he’s created. I mean, anyone that can play Drake-related games with me and not think I’m a crazy person is an A+ human being in my book. Don’t ask. Just take a listen.

WANT DEREK:

Listen in iTunes | Play in new window | Download | Support the WANTcast by shopping on Amazon via this link

Show Notes:
Greatist
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Derek on Twitter
Derek on IG
Greatist Messenger
I Tried to Quit Diet Soda 4 Times. Here’s What Finally Changed My Ways
ACLU

Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes (the more reviews, the more Derek’s message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!

This Too Shall (Not) Pass: An Open Letter To The Wellness Industry

This Too Shall (Not) Pass: An Open Letter To The Wellness Industry

Community Motivation + Inspiration

When I was twenty one, I made one of the best decisions of my life – a decision I can trace almost everything good in my life back to, from my friendships to my career to my fiancé to my self image. I got certified to teach indoor cycling.

My decision wasn’t so much about my love of fitness as it was my love of how fitness fit into my life at the time. I decided to get my indoor cycling instructor certification for three reasons: One, as a musical theatre actor, I knew I could have a side job wherever my “real” job took me. Two, I wanted to curate a stellar experience I felt was lacking. The classes at my gym played EDM remixes of Broadway musicals, and that was just not okay on so many levels.

And three? I was struggling. I was struggling to learn to love myself, to make peace with a world that seemed to tell me that investing in self-love was selfish and crude. It wasn’t cool yet to become a fitness instructor, and spouting off terms like “athleisure” and “reishi” might as well have been speaking Klingon. The fact that I stuffed spinach into my smoothies was weird enough as is. Now I was venturing into the even weirder world of self-improvement.

But I was fiercely determined to love myself and sort my mess out – and slowly started to notice that I wasn’t the only one. I would side-glance at the people around me, both in and out of the gym, and could tell they were struggling too. How was it that we were so devoted to this idea of “health and wellness,” yet none of us looked like we were healthy or well in any respect?

The dance club remixes kept thumping, the aggressive cueing kept coming, and I knew in my heart the conversation needed to change.

~

The world has changed a lot since 2007, and so has the wellness industry. No longer is it “weird” to stuff your smoothies with mushrooms and herbs; no longer is it taboo to wear workout clothes to a brunch date. Being a yoga teacher has been named one of the top 100 job opportunities in America. Flower crowns – do I need to say more? It’s now officially hip to be green.

One thing stays the same, though: when asked, almost anyone who is anyone in the wellness industry will say their goal is to inspire others and help change lives for the better.

So here we are. A time in which so many are feeling legitimately terrified for their lives or the lives of their loved ones. For them, it’s not just about job security or economics. It’s not just about the environment (although I do suggest watching Before The Flood, like, ASAP.). This is about the actual safety – and go figure, health and wellness – of human beings. As a woman, as a religious minority, as a citizen of this country, made up of such a diverse quilt of cultures and races and religions and gender identities and backgrounds – I am horribly, borderline-irrevocably, afraid.

Sometimes my fear makes me want to stay inside all day and ignore anything going on outside the walls of my tiny, inviting apartment complex. And yet I, along with so many of my incredible and inspirational colleagues, still get up every morning and do the work we have done every single day we’ve been in this profession. We show up. We witness struggle. We show people how to love – not just others, but themselves.

We show up. We witness struggle. We show people how to love – not just others, but themselves. Click To Tweet

I’m really lucky in that most of the people I know are empathetic to their core and unafraid to dance around the details. But I’ve noticed something interesting: some of the people who are the most peace-promoting in profession are glossing over peace-threatening issues in practice. They focus on proclaiming that now more than ever is the time to be the “kindest people we know” and just wait it out. “This too shall pass,” people have told me.This too shall pass. The words hit me like a kettlebell in the stomach.

Of course I agree that now more than ever is the time to be the “kindest people we know.” But I’d like to suggest that times like these call for way more than just the standard human decency we should all be striving for day after day. Times like these call for us to make actual, tangible changes in our day-to-day lives – seemingly small changes that make a huge impact in the long run. Kind of like diet or fitness. Kind of like any wellness practice.

We can encourage people to meditate. We can educate them on the benefits of sleep and yoga, even methods like bullet journaling and affirmations to manage their feelings. But beyond emotional healing and stress mitigation and telling people to be the kindest people they know, what else is there?

Turns out, a whole freaking lot.

~

As leaders in the wellness industry, we have a rare and vital opportunity to reach people at their most vulnerable. In fitness, that opportunity comes during moments of hard exertion, or sometimes in the moments of standing firm and staying still. In nutrition, it comes while helping people with one of the most personal things they can do: eat. In holistic and functional medicine, the opportunity lies in exploring the literal aches and pains of the mind and body. And the list goes on: crystal healing, dosha balancing, sensory depravation, etc etc etc. Wellness is about so much more than images of flower crowns and  yoga poses (and don’t get me wrong, I love a good flower crown and yoga pose): people come to us to sort through their struggles, tame their anxieties, and just generally feel better in a consumerist and reactive world that would rather they feel worse. Our jobs are more important now, in this politically charged and divisive time, than they’ve ever been.

We’re lucky that the people who are seeking out wellness-related products, services, communities, or “influencers” are already halfway there when it comes to an inclusive, bold, and proactive mindset. They already know they can be the change they wish to see in the world, and they already know that it’s those tiny-but-mighty tweaks to routine that are the gateway to being that change. Whether it’s meditation or movement, a cardio class or crystals, wellness-minded folks come to us ready to strip themselves of their pretenses and shed what they don’t need anymore in order to start anew. That requires an immense level of vulnerability, which is something we cannot take lightly. Not ever, but particularly not now.

Here’s where I propose we start…

• We must be cognizant of the language we use right now more than ever. Our words can be triggering – shameful even. In fitness, for example, creating a “beginner vs. advanced” mentality between students instead of meeting them where they’re at can make someone feel ashamed of their abilities, or resentful of their body’s limitations. Our students, readers, clients, and followers come to us baring their most vulnerable selves in the heat of the moment. Things like sweating at a high intensity, lying still with closed eyes, being open to alternative ways of living…those are vulnerable things to do! The language we use during these vulnerable moments – which are made even more fragile by the current political climate – can close someone off, open someone up, or even change the course of someone’s life.

We have a responsibility to use language that not only uplifts – that should be a given – but softly urges people to be proactive way after they leave their class, complete their session, end their meal, or finish their daily reads. We must urge them to be proactive, not reactive in their choices. We must not only help them feel powerful, but help them realize that feeling power is only productive if you DO something meaningful with it. We must remind them that even though they might have come into the room alone, they are surrounded by a team that has got their back – and they have the opportunity to do the same for others in turn.

• We must show a wide range of images of what it physically looks like to live well. Wellness has been popularized by the image of a lithe, privileged, upper-class white woman. I remember speaking to an editorial team about this once and urging them to publish more diverse images on their channels. They argued that mostly white women ran their platforms, so it only made sense these would be the images they gravitated toward. It “wasn’t ideal,” but it was “just the way things were.”

THIS IS NOT A SUFFICIENT ANSWER.

We must, must, MUST NOT loop wellness into a bubble of white privilege for only the size-2-and-under set. We must, must, MUST show more diverse images in our publications and use more diverse models as the face of our products. And we must, must, MUST not bill these instances as special occasions or campaigns, because the second we do that is the second we reinforce the idea of “the other.” From body image to skin color, men and women now more than ever need to actually see that wellness is for everyone and know that they are part of the rule, not the exception.

• We must provide people with a wide variety of ways to live well that can work for any lifestyle – not just the wealthy and socially/culturally privileged. Most of us aren’t living the life of the “wellness high society,” as I like to call them: people who can afford multiple holistic treatments per week, buy thousands of dollars of special powders and supplements to live their best life, and have transformed their backyards into what are basically small farms (or even have backyards to begin with!). I’m not against any of these things, for the record – they’re just not realistic for the majority of people out there, whether in a big city in Los Angeles or a small town almost entirely off the grid. In our practices and preachings (although I’m using that term figuratively; hopefully no one’s “preaching at” anyone), we’ve got to take into account the entirety of the human experience and not just the bubbles that look like the ones in which we live. We must use not only the words and the images that are inclusive and encouraging, but the call-to-ACTIONS that not only take all kinds of high highs and low lows into account, but above all else promote being proactive, not reactive; inclusive, not exclusive. We must seek out, actively seek out, viewpoints other than our own, because we all know that living truly WELL in body, mind, and spirit means not assuming that one way is the right way for all times and for all people. Living well is about finding what works for you. And in order to help people find what works for them, we must show, time and time again, that there is more than one option.

• We must use our art as activism. If you’re in the wellness industry, chances are you’re using some sort of artistry to build your business. Writing. Cooking. Speaking. Healing. Teaching. So many ways in which wellness and creativity intersect – and so many ways you can get creative when it comes to promoting change. Behind the scenes, you can be writing letters and making calls to your government officials. Or better yet, why not host a letter writing evening and mix in whatever you do – yoga, bootcamp-style fitness class, meditation, natural beauty demos – to give the night a personal touch and fun flair, then donate proceeds to a cause you care about? Maybe you can publicly use/promote businesses led by women and minorities. If you’re a writer, you can be writing poetry or op-eds or interviews or essays and and share them on social media or your blog or even Medium if you’re a bit shy about posting personal things directly on your platform. You can listen to podcasts that talk about diverse issues, and use them as inspiration for your next project. Maybe it’s as simple as admitting you don’t know about certain issues or experiences, and then seeking out another artist or person in your field to help educate your community on those issues or experiences. Both art and activism are made even more powerful when there’s collaboration involved.

~

Contrary to popular belief, activism isn’t always loud and in-your-face. Activism isn’t always protests or rallies. And if your brand of activism doesn’t fall into one of those two categories – or makes its impact on the mat instead of in the street – I am here to reassure you: it is still activism.

Some environments will allow for more “activism” than others. Sometimes special events are the way to go (for fitness classes, perhaps), sometimes the topics at hand call for immediate and direct attention on the regular (meditation, maybe), sometimes it’s best to choose one issue and hone in (say, when you’re devising an editorial calendar or working with other companies). It’s all about the brand you’re choosing to build. Everyone and every avenue is different. The important thing to remember is that if we stand for everything, we stand for nothing. Seeing all sides of a situation is important and is one thing, but not standing up for the values you hold to be true is another – no matter who you are or what you value. I’m not suggesting we ridicule our readers or force our political opinions on our followers. None of that ever works – and probably isn’t the best idea when part of our job description is to help people (anyone) live well. We can, however, actively seek out ways to speak inclusively and build empathy. Most of us already do. Now it’s time to kick it into overdrive. When we help others tap into (and act upon) their very human, but oft ignored, innate empathetic sensors – we all win.

When we help others tap into (and act upon) their innate empathetic sensors, we all win. Click To Tweet

Whether you are a writer, an instructor, a teacher, a healer, a doula, a nutritionist, a designer, a marketing whiz, a CFO, a juice company, a minimalist guru, a wellness center staff member, a yoga studio owner, a chef, a sound bath master, a meditation guide, an actor, a “personality,” or simply just someone who preaches the wellness gospel to your own inner circle – this too shall not pass.

Right now is the time to take action.

Right now is the time to do things differently.

We say that our goal is to inspire others, to help change people’s lives for the better so they can truly live well. Right now, more than ever, is the time to make that happen.

 

 



WANT Yourself:

These are only a few thoughts on how we can be of service in the wellness industry. But what about you?

Whether you’re a teacher/professional or a devotee, what are some ways you’ve found your brand of activism under the umbrella of wellness? Share this post, or leave a comment below – I would LOVE to hear. You might inspire another reader to make change happen in their own way.

(p.s. – thank you for the difference you make!)