When Wellness Goes Wrong

Millennials have been dubbed the "wellness generation." Never in history has there been a group of people so concerned with their overall physical and psychological well being. We eat avocado on brown toast, regularly go to the gym, and spend hours on blogs, reading about how we should improve our lifestyles. 

Wellness, however, can go wrong. In our pursuit for the perfect diet or the ideal body, we wind up in a far worse place than we started. And it can lead to serious distress further down the road. 


The Problem With Food

If we're honest, the vast majority of us eat a less-than-perfect diet. Ice cream has a nasty habit of making an appearance on a Friday evening when we're lazing in front of the TV. And there's the enduring allure of the local takeaway. Sometimes we can't help ourselves. 

The recognition that the food environment, however, has led to an interest in the concept of "clean eating." This idea is fundamentally nothing new. People have been stripping their diets back to the basics ever since biblical times. But the propensity to abuse it is even greater in the modern era. 

Ideally, we should be eating something that looks like a traditional Meditterean diet - lots of veggies, whole grains and beans. And less meat, sugar and junk. When you eat that way, you invariably feel better, look healthier, and lose weight. It sounds perfect for achieving your wellness goals. 

Unfortunately, though, clean eating has a dark side. People can get so wrapped up in worrying about what's in their food that it leads to feelings of anxiety and panic. They fear that if they eat anything that might be non-organic or non-kosher, it will permanently damage their bodies in some way, even though it won't. Social occasions suddenly become a source of consternation. People find themselves reneging on attending events, just because they're worried about the food. 

You don't need an expert to tell you that this sort of approach isn't wellness promoting. Social gatherings are fundamental to personal wellbeing. Avoiding them because you're worried about the dishes that might be on the buffet is evidence that you've taken the concept too far. Clean eating is great, but only to the point where it contributes positively to your life. You want to feel healthier and more energetic. You don't want to feel worried that you might have to eat something that fails to meet ideal standards. 

Wellness, therefore, can go wrong if you obsess over every minute detail of the food you consume. Eating should feel natural and uplifting. If it is a source of panic or fear, then that's evidence that you've taken things too far. 

The Problem With Exercise

Researchers have substantial evidence that exercise is good for us. It causes changes in the body that bolster us against disease and keep us sickness-free for longer.  But, like diet, you can take exercise too far. Working out every day to the extreme eventually leaves you looking and feeling exhausted. If you take too much exercise, you don't give your body the time that it needs to recover, and you wind up with injuries and other problems. 

Even walking long distances every day to get your 10,000 steps can cause problems. Many people, for instance, get cracked heels because they don't allow their feet sufficient time to recover. 

It is important to note that the benefits of exercise come from both the intensity and the recovery. Some of the healthiest and most energetic people in the world work out just three times a week. They do this because they understand that quality is more important than quantity. The better they exercise, the more results they will see. 

Exercise can also become a source of addiction because of how it affects brain chemistry. Running, for instance, releases many of the same opiate-like substances you find in street drugs. Granted, it is better than most dependencies, but it can still lead to problems if you're always seeking that high. 

At its root, wellness is about stripping your life of the things that are holding you back and replacing them with wholesome alternatives. But there's an optimal level of intervention. You want to eat SOME healthy food, but you don't want it to dominate your life. Likewise, you want to take SOME exercise, but it shouldn't leave you feeling exhausted and drained. 

Often, sustainable wellness is about taking baby steps. Perhaps you'll commit to a twenty-minute cycle ride every other day or cut out cookies.

Whatever is it, do it in moderation.

Elyse

Statement: Nothing to Disclose

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