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Wellness: why is it the new four-letter word?

Diet culture takes a lot away from us. Let's not let them take away the words we use to describe the nutrition community, too.

Down to Earth Nutrition, LLC's tagline and secondary mark/logo; "Sustainable nutrition for lifelong wellness"

What's the issue with wellness?

Nothing. There is nothing wrong with wellness. The issue is that "diet culture" has taken a term like wellness and has turned it against the nutrition community in which it is supposed to be used.

This dawned on me when I read the book Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD. She perfectly explained that diet culture got to work rebranding some of the nutrition community's often-used terms, such as health, wellness, lifestyle change, etc.

The fact that diet companies are rebranding themselves into wellness companies instead of diets and weight loss fads is just manipulative and gross. But, they are smart. They are realizing people are getting sick of going on diets (maybe because they don't work? Just a thought!) and the diet industry has to keep up their billion-dollar payday somehow ($80+ billion dollar payday, to be clear). Diets and trendy weight loss fads are essentially hiding behind wellness. This needs to stop.

It is very unfortunate that wellness is now synonymous with and is uttered with the same disgust as diet and diet culture. It's sad that as a dietitian, I feel a bit judged if I use the term wellness in my business or within my profession for fear of being aligned with diet culture instead of with my true values of evidence-based nutrition and practicing under a non-diet and Health at Every Size® framework.

What can we do about it?

I felt really upset and angry listening to this topic and to the disdain in the author's voice when she was explaining the "wellness culture" phenomenon. I understood what she meant and the annoyance she probably feels, and I 100% feel that diet culture stole this from us and that it is wrong. Personally, I don't think that talking about wellness in quotation marks will make diet culture change their ways. Nothing will make diet culture change their creepy ways, because $$$. Why would they change when the public continuously buys into their gimmicks?

What Registered Dietitians need to do is to educate the public about what the diet and weight loss industry is doing. To explain that diet culture is marketing themselves to what the customer wants to hear (dieting disguised as wellness so now it's new and better?), but that does not mean that the customer will walk away with anything different (dieting is dieting; it didn't work then and it won't work now). Food restriction, low self-esteem, and a feeling of failure is the end result of dieting no matter what it calls itself.

Taking Back Wellness

As dietitians and clients of dietitians, I believe that we need to take back wellness. How? Here are my thoughts:

  • Start using wellness as it is intended to be used, as a positive attribute.

  • Stop using wellness as a four-letter word and in place of "diet", "diet industry", "diet culture", etc. Call diets what they are, and leave wellness out of it.

  • Define wellness on social media so the public is aware. From Oxford, "the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal."

  • Check out Health at Every Size® at the Association for Size Diversity and Health.

  • Check out @redefining_wellness on Instagram! An anti-diet community.

  • Use #wellness and then tag your own practice or your dietitian's practice. Make sure they are connected so others see!

I am always open to more suggestions and ideas and I hope we can keep wellness within the nutrition community, and not let the diet industry take any more from us.

Sustainable Nutrition for Lifelong Wellness

Down to Earth Nutrition's tagline is Sustainable Nutrition for Lifelong Wellness™. This tagline was created with the morals and values I wanted to make sure were evident in my practice. Sustainable nutrition meaning learning about food, nutrition and eating and utilizing this newfound knowledge and skill in a way that sustains you in an flexible, longterm way - i.e. never a diet.

Lifelong wellness being the process of maintaining your wellness and well-being over a lifetime through self-care, movement that you enjoy, taking care of your physical and mental health, and of course flexible nutrition.

At Down to Earth Nutrition, wellness is important, and it will never be used in quotation marks.

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