Forget #Fitspo: Why Real Wellness Is More Important Than Ever

Forget #Fitspo: Why Real Wellness Is More Important Than Ever

By Anne T. Donahue

None of us are doing particularly well. Mentally, emotionally, and likely even physically, the reality of Trump's presidency has begun taking its toll, leaving us alternating between wanting to scream into the night and curling up small enough to disappear.

Which doesn't bode well for wellness -- or more specifically, the idea of "wellness" that we've been championing until recently. Think: "wellness" as an industry, as a brand, or as an all-encompassing lifestyle that enables the promotion of particular brands and their corresponding stretchy pants. "Wellness" as an extension of capitalism and one's status as an influencer. "Wellness" as a "trend," or as in "self care," or a slew of other buzzwords that have less meaning these days than "alternative facts."

"Wellness" as we know it is finished. And it needs to be redefined in the wake of our new political and social realities.

Old means of fitness, wellness, or whatever you'd attribute that godforsaken Drake and Taylor Swift Apple ad to (#why) don't resonate the way they once did. Seeing celebrities pose in workout clothes on Instagram isn't inspiring, it's a testament to the time and money they have to set up a shoot in an empty gym. Chronicling the Kardashians' fitness regime isn't so much the catalyst for self improvement as it is proof that if you have the means for a personal trainer, you can fit into whatever designer clothes you've been gifted. Where fitness and wellness were formerly packaged as an extension of luxury, now they've become an actual means of survival -- as a way of keeping anxiety and panic attacks at bay. But it's not like you can really market that.

Not the way you can market "self care" -- an idea rooted in taking a second to regroup and look after yourself in the wake of stress and, say, international tragedy (whether it be through reading, logging off the computer, or getting your nails done). While valuable, the term began to eclipse the act itself, finding its way as a buzzword in everything from women's magazines to ad campaigns and arguably losing all real meaning along the way. Yes, it's still an important tool to combat stress and anxiety (self-care forever), but our tendency to apply it to general living made us immune to its actual benefits.

Similarly, the idea of "fitspo" has become a synonym for unhealthy extremes, whether we're talking about the physical and mental effects of too much exercise and barely eating, or consumerist excess masquerading as health. Over the last couple of decades, we've conflated "fitness" and "wellness," all while deeming a particular body type as the only testament to health. Which is unrealistic and dangerous and should be rallied against, not embraced.

On top of this, we've also seen a boom in consumerist options that promise short cuts to that "health" for premium dollars. Juice cleanses, waist training (see: glorified corsets), and teas-that-make-you-shit-a-ton have replaced eighties-era quick fixes (like Thigh Masters) but yield harmful results. Fitness isn't "the perfect hourglass shape" just like "wellness" isn't crashing and drinking only juice. That's not what neither of those words mean.

We need to begin prioritizing the wellness of our minds before we hang our worth up on our bodies. Obviously, health is important (hello: we need vitamins and minerals and food to fuel us), but when we talk about "wellness" we need to decide once and for all that it applies to all avenues of existence -- from the internet to our workplace to our relationships to how our hearts feel when we run for the elevator. "Wellness" as a synonym for "fitness" makes as much sense as maxing out your Visa card for a dress you don't need in the name of "self care." (Like, why would you do that? Now you're just stressed about money.) To be well necessitates the engagement of all aspects of self. You don't chug a green juice and take on the world.

Because that's the thing: we're currently in a position where taking on the world is exactly what needs to happen. And we won't be able to do it if we think a pair of star-endorsed Nikes or a drop in pant size is going to make us strong. Stress -- like, the kind we're coming up against in the wake of Trump's Executive Orders -- affects our sleep, our digestive and circulatory systems. And while exercise is a bankable and valuable outlet (and eating well is great), it's still up to us to redefine the rest of our wellness norms. Prioritizing wellness should be akin to armoring up for battle; for building ourselves up to endure a fascist dictatorship or an army of Twitter trolls or marching in the streets or volunteering where you can or educating who you know or rebelling in the way you can. "Wellness" isn't an extension of capitalism or an interchangeable term for "athletic." Now, more than ever, it's about building ourselves in the wake of the current presidential administration. It's about making sure we're healthy enough on all fronts to outlive it.