{thinking out loud Thursday} Are wellness bloggers doing more harm than good?

Me being a stereotypical #wellnessblogger #yogi #motivationalquote #greensmoothie #liveauthentic

Me being a stereotypical #wellnessblogger #yogi #motivationalquote #greensmoothie #liveauthentic

Health and wellness bloggers: We need to have a chat about your Instagram accounts and the advice you share on your blogs.

Just because you’re “young, photogenic, big on Instagram and top bestseller lists around the world” does not make you qualified to give people nutrition and health advice, as pointed out by author Hadley Freeman for this fantastic The Guardian UK article.

I have to agree. Although being a healthy living inspiration as defined by our cultural standards can be a positive thing — especially since more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese — I think there is a point where wellness bloggers can do more harm than good.

Just as looking good does not make you a fitness expert, being pretty and thin with an Instagram page full of Reyes-filtered images of your morning coffee, mala beads and laptop; frosty green smoothies in mason jars topped with cacao nibs causally placed next to a carefully stacked pile of homemade raw/vegan/gluten-free/Whole 30-approved energy bars; a spiralized zucchini noodle pasta dish with cashew cream sauce (#vegan #healthy #wellness) you “just whipped up”; and wistful photos of you exploring a beach or doing yoga poses in the forest with some kind of inspirational quote about living life and following your dreams (#vcso #liveauthentic #explore) does not make you an authority on health, wellness and nutrition. As a fitness blogger who lives near the ocean in the pacific northwest, does yoga, practices mindfulness, eats primarily plant-based and often shares recipes on this blog and my Instagram feed, I’m totally guilty of some of these stereotypical shots and I’m the first to admit it. However, I’m also the first to admit I eat chocolate everyday and drink wine on the weekends, overindulge on vacations and fully believe in a life of balance and moderation. Being too rigid one way or another is not practical nor healthy, and I think portraying ourselves as the epitome of all that is health and wellness is not inspiring others to “live better” as much as we think it is.

“‘Wellness’, as style.com recently put it, using the zeitgeisty term for the pursuit of health, is “the new luxury status symbol… If five years ago it was a Céline bag, today’s ultimate status symbol might just be a SoulCycle hoodie and a green juice.” While such breathless prose might make you want to throw a spiralizer through a window (for the uninitiated, that’s a machine that turns vegetables into vague substitutes for spaghetti, thus sparing you those dreaded carbs), it is true that the pursuit of “wellness” hits that crucial point on the Venn diagram between aspiration, self-love and slimness. It’s the ultimate modern sweet spot, especially because you don’t even have to admit that you’re trying to lose weight (so boring, so unfashionable). You are simply pursuing ‘wellness’.” – Hadley Freeman

Just as viewing filtered and photoshopped gym selfies on social media can contribute to body image issues, seeing perfectly posed and styled shots of our seemingly clean, green and healthy day-to-day lives can be harmful. When your feed is filled with nothing but all that is good and “clean” as defined by today’s trends in health and wellness, it gives followers the impression that in order to look like you and #liveauthentically, you should be downing green smoothies, doing juice fasts, eating Whole 30/paleo/vegan/gluten-free all the time. Not only is that totally unrealistic for most people, but could also be unhealthy, especially for those prone to disordered eating behaviours and body image issues.

“Instead of qualifications in boring things such as nutrition and science, the wellness guru has a blog and an Instagram account. From these, she advises thousands, even millions, of followers in her friendly, informal tone to avoid the likes of tropical fruits (too high in sugar) and stock up instead on cold-pressed green juices. She makes dark references to the many ways in which today’s food industry is making us all sick. She also includes many, many photos of herself to confirm the efficacy of her recommendations.” – Hadley Freeman

As Freeman points out, “food bloggers and nutritionists, unlike dietitians, are not regulated”, which not only means some of the advice they share may not be suitable for some readers to follow, but also it could have serious and dangerous consequences if taken to extremes. While it’s fine to share a lifestyle and diet that works for you, please disclose that what you share on your blog and social media channels is only your opinion and NOT advice, unless you have the science-based qualifications to be providing such information as advice.

You're not a wellness guru on Instagram until you've shared a  #greensmoothie in a #masonjar photo! Forgot to top it with cacao nibs, oops!

You’re not a wellness guru on Instagram until you’ve shared a #greensmoothie in a #masonjar photo! Forgot to top it with cacao nibs, oops!

Even though I’m a CSCS, I will always cite credited, science-based research when it comes to nutrition and fitness advice, and will disclose when something is just my personal opinion or experience. Even though providing nutritional guidance is in my scope of practice, I don’t consider myself a fitness or nutrition and health expert by any means. I see my role as a writer, blogger and personal trainer as more of a health and fitness translator or journalist, doing the research and applying it to training and nutrition so my readers and clients don’t have to. I think if all wellness gurus and healthy living bloggers took this “wellness journalist” approach to what we share with the world, we’d be much more helpful to our readers, clients and followers.

Health and wellness bloggers: what are your thoughts on this? Do you think we need to be more careful about the advice we give and what we share on social media? Do you primarily share “clean, green and healthy” food photos and recipes, or do you include “normal” meal photos and recipes as well?

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Thanks Amanda for the link-up 🙂