Are We Hiding “Diet” Behind “Wellness”?

And behind cleansing, fat-burning, metabolism-revving...

By: Gabby Lester-Coll
Photography: Jake Rosenberg

Ah, calories, how you owned the ’90s. We were slaves to you, convinced you were the sole ruler of the scale (the scale, also so ’90s!), and the sole determinant of how our pants fit. Or didn’t fit.

And then there was a revolt. Calories are a unit of energy (specifically, how much energy is needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water 1°C), not a measurement of how healthy something is, we were told time and time again. They’re a lie, don’t listen to them! Now, the point is *not* what this measurement means in scientific terms, but that the calories listed on the back of that bag of trail mix are measured in a vacuum. They don’t take into account the protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins your body is going to have to digest at the same time, and how this now complex process will affect things like your scale (which you threw out in 1999) and waistline.

So we stopped counting calories. The message was received loud and clear, and, over time, we learned that nutrients are more important than calories and healthy is more important than diet. Good fats don’t make you fat. Whole grains are important. Sugar is the new cocaine (not in a good way). Count macro and micro nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, not calories. And the list goes on.

While moving from an “is this food going to make me fat?” way of thinking to an “is this food healthy?” way of thinking is awesome, I’m not entirely convinced it’s happened. Sure, as a society we have moved away from diet, non-fat, and calories (miss you, Diet Coke) descriptors. But, unfortunately, it seems we’ve simply replaced these now-taboo words with things like cleansing, de-bloating, metabolism-revving, and wellness. Yes, we’re focusing more and more on the effects that food will have on us rather than an arbitrary number, but the effect that we’re still obsessed with is: Will this make me skinny? In 1996 it was “Will this make me skinny through a low-calorie count?” In 2016 it’s “Will this make me skinny by way of nutrients that are claiming to help cleanse me?”

If you scroll through Amazon’s top 10 best sellers in the vitamins and minerals category, you’ll find a probiotic that promotes optimal digestion, “daily relief from gas, bloating, and irregularity,” and even weight loss by improving metabolism and accelerating fat loss. You’ll also find a colon cleanse powder promising to supercharge all sorts of digestive functions for “healthy energy levels and weight loss” in two short weeks. Go to your local juice shop and you’ll find the chalkboard covered in exotic elixirs promising to detox, de-puff, debloat, and get you back to feeling like your lightest, brightest self. What is CAP Beauty’s, NYC’s mecca for all things natural, healthy, and holistic, #1 best-seller? The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder that promises to “support digestion and a healthy gut.”

You get the idea.

Im not saying that healthy, whole foods that optimize these functions are bad; of course you should fill your body with things that will support a healthy metabolism, digestion, detoxification process, and so forth. But are we really worried about these aforementioned bodily processes, or is there a different motivation behind it? Are we all really constipated, bloated, and tired? Or just obsessed as ever with our dress size? And, ultimately, just not willing to admit it.

 

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