You may have noticed that the wellness industry is booming - but where does that leave qualified health professionals? There’s more to the wellness industry than meets the eye - but naturopathy is not part of that.
Almost as soon as the word ‘wellness’ moved into our collective view, it was hijacked and commodified - so it’s hard to separate out the well-meaning wellness influencers and superfood spruikers from the more sinister aspects of the industry. The word wellness has changed to encompass an industry that is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. If you’re reading this, you’re likely interested in health and may have dabbled in a few wellness trends (I think most of us have at this point!). But everything in this world has a shadow side and wellness is no exception. As a naturopath working in the allied health space today, it’s important for me to draw a line in the sand between naturopathic principles and the wellness industry.
Keep reading to find out the difference between wellness and naturopathy.
The many faces of wellness
Wellness isn’t always a dirty word. But like any industry, there are parts of it that are dark and even exploitative. So, let’s take a quick look at the different types of wellness.
Wellness in the traditional sense encompasses the physical body, including exercise, diet and supplementation, but other forms of wellness can include:
- Emotional wellness
- Environmental wellness
- Physical wellness
- Social wellness
- Spiritual wellness
- Intellectual wellness
- Financial wellness.
More recently, we’ve also seen the rise of insta wellness. This includes social media influencers from all arenas - beauty, fashion, as well as health coaches. This is the less accessible version of wellness, the version more aligned with social and financial status and the traditional marketing that plays on feelings of inadequacy, lack and hopefulness for a better version of ourselves. Wellness influencers aren’t bad or wrong, but the information may vary wildly and can be potentially harmful to some viewers. Add to that, social media - as many of us are already acutely aware - doesn’t do wonders for mental health.
The problem with wellness
There are a few issues I take with wellness, but one of the biggest ones is that it hyper focusses on women - women’s bodies, women’s self-esteem (or lack thereof), women’s worth, women’s productivity, women’s value to others - it’s another way women are influenced by messaging about not being enough.
Wellness victim-blames - ignoring the realities of life for many people, wellness messaging often pushes the blame for personal circumstances back on the individual, regardless of whether that person’s situation has come about for social, economic, familial, geopolitical, racial or any other reason. While personal responsibility can absolutely help people to step into their power and take charge of their health, it’s far more complex than that for most of us.
Wellness is still very much appearance and status-based. Although many companies have begun to use body-positive marketing strategies, there’s still a particular look that is put forward as the ideal when it comes to wellness. With wellness influencers being such a big part of the wellness industrial complex, the underlying messaging is more often than not that you need to be beautiful and you need to be rich to achieve wellness - or that you could be beautiful and rich if you use these products.
The root of naturopathy
What I’m most interested in as a naturopath who has seen health and wellness trends come and go for decades, is upholding the ethical values I and my colleagues were taught (and have honed along the way).
Each healing profession has its own values, just as every naturopath has their own way of practising and expressing what healing is to them. My approach to naturopathy is about meeting people where they’re at - it’s not about offering quick-fix solutions to complex problems. I do not consider myself as an alternative authority “outside of the system.”
For me, naturopathy is journeying back to wholeness. I want people to have empowered health care - to be in touch with how they feel, to be educated about why they feel the way they feel and to learn how to self regulate and heal. Stress is insidious, it draws on our reserves. I want people to know that if they are well-resourced that they can draw from those healthy reserves when they need to and replenish those reserves when they need to.
I want my patients to adopt a holistic approach to health. This means ultimately that they will feel the call (an intuition, an instinct that there is more to life than suffering and pain, navigating minefields, darting from danger, dimming, and heartache) and do the work of healing to a version of wholeness that is inspired by nature’s wisdom and natural medicine.
I want my offerings to support people on any part of their journey. From, recalibrating their nervous system with simple nourishing food, sunshine, early to bed, meditation, plant medicine and nature’s wisdom with curiosity, an open heart and kindness. I want to inspire people to move from that restless, anxious, alienated, displaced feeling and inhabit a safe and kind home in their minds and bodies. I want them to believe from here they will discover a new way of living and bring forth their niche - their individual gifts and light. I want my offerings to light that path for them.
Naturopathy supports all aspects of health - far from the world of promises in bottles and systems. To me, naturopathy moves us:
- From simply alleviating symptoms to addressing the root underlying causes or contributing factors.
- From convenient, quick-fix self-care and health care (when you’re short on time and feel empty and depleted) to prioritising self, giving over the time, energy and space to explore your true needs and not simply ticking boxes.
My support as a naturopathic practitioner includes:
Providing honest, natural, and considerate remedies that don’t hurt the earth. With tender, gentle infusions and unhurried ceremony, we produce something conscious and compelling.
I’m here to chime in that life’s too short for suffering and stress; that cultivating health and wholeness creates freedom - something we can all aspire to.
And what heals you, heals the world……While it can be fun to try new products or trends, inspiring to follow wellness influencers, it always pays to be mindful of what we’re actually consuming. Just like a Friday night takeaway dinner doesn’t replace a nourishing home-cooked meal, wellness can’t replace holistic and considered naturopathic care.