WHY ‘PERSONAL WELLNESS’ IS BETTER THAN ‘BETTERMENT’
The age of personal wellness is truly here. We have a $4.2 trillion dollar industry that continues to grow. Corporate wellness is exploding and even New Zealand is implementing a ‘wellbeing’ policy. It’s wonderful that the world is becoming more aligned to achieving ‘happiness’ rather than some statistical notion of ‘economic growth’ which to the average person is highly esoteric and conceptual.
That said, in an age where every man and his dog is pretending to be a ‘wellness expert’ or ‘guru’, the wellbeing market is becoming even more saturated and mixed messages are the norm. As a consumer, it is very confusing to read about what to eat and how to live your life, with so many conflicting messages being propagated.
Loaf of Bread: Poison or Pleasure?
I take the case of the simple loaf of bread. To some, ‘gluten’ is to be demonised, causing leaky-gut and IBS, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity amongst others. To others, it is salvation, with sourdough in particular known for its low GI and high probiotic qualities. Which is correct?
What about those ‘deadly nightshades’? I recently read that nightshades are bad for the thyroid. That means no more potatoes, peppers, aubergines or tomatoes. Salad will forever never be the same. But alas, potatoes and tomatoes have many health benefits!
The list goes on. Whether it be dairy, eggs, nuts or grains, everyone has an opinion and they want you to know about it. They want you to believe that by following their method, a healthy life is in reach.
That said, what I would know. I’m not medically qualified or trained in nutrition. The only thing I know is a little bit about yoga and what would yogis know! Well, what I do know is my own body, which they definitely don’t know. What I do know is that proper nutrition is eating right for your ‘type’. We are different after all.
For example, if you keep telling me to eat certain foods like chickpeas, I’m going to get IBS because for some reason I can’t digest them. That puts my falafel and hummus fetish to rest, despite them being full of ‘protein‘ and absolutely delicious.
If you keep telling me that eating sourdough is bad because it contains ‘gluten’ despite my body thriving on it, I’m going to go mad.
No more Wellness Advice Please
You see, that is what happens in the modern age of wellness. Everyone telling you how, what and when to eat. With so many different opinions, not all of them can be right.
Sure, there are some great tips out there, I’m known to share what I’ve learned out of my own experience, but the most important part of any wellness journey is self-inquiry. By self-inquiry I mean listening. That inquiry which is curious and open-minded, but doesn’t take everything that is genetically read or heard as gospel.
Where to next, you may ask? Is there a better way? Of course.
Welcome to ‘personal wellness‘. Welcome to an age where we are finding out what foods work for you and your body. It all starts with eating right for your blood type. That diet which acknowledges there are certain food groups which either react well with your own blood group or others that coagulate and cause digestive complaints. I know this diet has been criticised, but it works for me, on many levels. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence? Just like I don’t thrive on chickpeas. Or dairy, or that I prefer yoga as my exercise type (all predicted by my blood group). I’ve noted before that working out for your body type is the key.
Ayurveda, the ancient sister science to Yoga also recognises that by prescribing foods based on their unique constitution. Given our unique genetic make up, one man’s pleasure is another man’s poison.
Take my own case: I have been diagnosed with a condition called Kryptopyroluria, a genetic condition that causes depletion in the levels of B6, zinc and Omega 6. It can be corrected through appropriate supplementation targeting those deficiencies. When I don’t take my supplements, I become anxious and edgy. The difference between when I’m taking my vitamins and minerals and when I’m not, is startling.
My own personal wellness regime means that with diagnosis, and remedial action taken, I have seen my levels of anxiety and inner tension dramatically reduce, as evidenced by my test results. Some call this kind of work a myth, except that they are just slaves to big pharma and the allopathic wastelands of traditional western medicine.
It is thanks to this level of orthomolecular treatment that a positive change has occurred in my own wellbeing. Now, we are closer than ever to precisely identifying what foods are suited to people’s unique metabolism and tailoring diets accordingly. Personal wellness is really the key to finding that winning difference.
Telling me then what to eat based on advice given in a generic article or magazine is like trying to hit the bull’s eye in a darts contest blind folded. You may come close, but it’s likely that you are going to miss the mark. Worse still, you may miss the board altogether causing ‘collateral damage’.
My challenge therefore, is for wellness practitioners is to acknowledge that we are all different. Each and every one of us. Wellness advice needs to be targeted, personal and prescriptive. It needs to be functional and effective, not generic and hopelessly misguided.
‘Personal Wellness’ v ‘Betterment’?
That said, we need to tread a fine line between ‘personalised’ and ‘betterment’.
Increasingly, we have apps that monitor our every waking (and sleeping) hour. Our lives become ruled by how many steps we have taken or ‘hours’ we have slept, all at the whims of a device, which means more screen time. It also drives cultures where wellness becomes competitive, amongst peers, colleagues or ourselves, which is the antithesis of what a wellness routine is all about – being personal.
Take the response of one of my colleagues when I asked how many hours sleep she had the night before.
“6 hours, that’s what my Fitbit told me.”
She said after that mentioning she went to bed at 11PM and got up at 6AM.
How is your maths? I thought 7 would be the correct answer, but that’s not what ‘big data’ is telling you.
I have to ask, what good is this information? Sleeping well is a feeling. You know it, or you don’t. Do I really need an app to tell me how many hours I actually slept (notwithstanding the natural sleep cycles and periods in between)? The focus on sleep should be in quality, not quantity. That quality is a feeling no app is going to provide. Moreover, do you really want to be absorbing more non-ionising radiation when you sleep, just when your body is repairing?
What’s more, in the data-driven obsession to try to ‘improve’ ourselves, our happiness is likely to be affected. It may even turn into obsession or anxiety as you lose your mind about ‘how much’ sleep you are getting, or ‘steps you have taken’. Personal wellness is turning into the age of ‘getting better’; or worse still encouraging neurotic behaviour.
Whereas before you were used to being happy if you ‘went for a run’, and experienced ‘runner’s high’, now you are being measured: how good was that run? According to Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run, We’ve been running since the beginning of mankind, why do we need an app to tell us anything more?
Because that’s what ‘big data’ has planted in your head. An app for this pursuit, an app for that passion. It’s like we didn’t exist before the smartphone revolution. Except we did. Data has become ‘personal currency’, a means by which we can record, distribute and socialise. All in the name of vanity. In the age of ‘betterment’, the end effect is that we have placed ‘data’ as the pinnacle of our existence when rather it should form the basis.
Yes, please ‘big data’ tell me my unique biochemistry so I can improve upon what I eat and what supplements to take, but please don’t tell me how to ‘run’ my life, it doesn’t need to get any ‘better’. I already know what it’s like to get a good night’s sleep.
What’s your experience of personalised wellness and apps? Have they made a meaningful difference to your life?