I recently learned of a new -ism. You know, like racism, sexism, classism. But have you heard of healthism? Once I researched more I realized that I actually know this -ism all too well. Like a pair of cute jeans that don’t fit but I won’t get rid of, I see it every day. I see it on social media all the time and I myself have unknowingly participated in this mindset. So what is it?
Healthism is another form of shaming people (just like those cute jeans). It is when you believe that your way of being healthy is THE way and everyone else needs to pull up their big girl panties and get in line. There is an awesome scene from the Netflix series “Shrill” that exemplifies this. The main character (who is in a bigger body) is approached while getting coffee by a very well meaning, adorable and ENTHUSIASTIC fitness buff. The fitness buff insists that the main character has a skinny girl inside her just waiting to come out. In the book the series is based on, the writer jokes that the fitness buff makes it sound as if she has accidentally eaten the pretty little skinny girl. It’s funny but also great example of healthism at its best.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be and feel healthy. As a yoga teacher I promote health and well-being. But I am very aware that while yoga is my favorite way to feel good and healthy, it is not everyone else’s top pick. Yoga is ONE way to well-being, not THE way. Sometimes (especially on social media) people say things that make us feel less because we are not doing their charming little diet or their cute, compact 30 days to a better body workout.
We are all different and need/want different things to feel good! An egg for breakfast may help you feel amazing but that would start my day with an upset stomach. I love going for walks a few times a week to clear my mind and to move my body. But someone else might enjoy running. What if this person said to me that walking is not enough effort to be healthy? That to really be healthy I need to workout harder and to run for over thirty minutes a day to really see benefits. Healthism!!
The really tough part is these charming remarks often end with the truth, “I just want you to be healthy because I care about you.” People who love people in bigger bodies (or any BODY they deem unhealthy) are worried about them and that’s really awesome. However, (just ask Brené Brown) shame is not a way to build someone up. Shame is just a dainty little way of trying to get them to do what you think is best. No grown adult needs that. Let’s work on building each other up because people who love themselves take care of themselves in their OWN way. People who love themselves eat foods that help them feel good. People who love themselves are happier and less prone to mental illness. People who love themselves throw out the cute jeans and buy a cuter pair that actually fits. People who love themselves are more fun to be around!
Our bodies have so much wisdom to share with us if we just listen. Then we can create our own beautiful checklist of what we need so we can get on that journey to being a person who loves themselves. We can build a trusting relationship with our body which brings us well-being. And no amount of healthism or shaming can break it. #RealYoga4RealPeople
-Lora and Tiffany
Read my thoughts on yoga, teaching, parenting and everything in between. Shout out to Tiffany Stewart for help with the writing.