I define wellness as a holistic sense of well-being. This includes mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, physical health, and social health for me. Personally, I feel like no other aspect of my health can thrive, unless I am focusing on maintaining my mental health. That’s my top priority.
The aspect of my identity that has influenced my definition of wellness the most is my identity as someone who has recovered from an eating disorder. This has influenced my life in many ways, one of which being the aspect of health/wellness that I focus on most. For me, focusing on physical health too much can easily become obsessive and problematic, and thus, unhealthy, so I have to maintain a balance of the other aspects of wellness in my life. Health isn’t just determined by one’s physical health, as the other aspects matter just as much, and can be even more vital to someone’s happiness and fulfillment in their life. Because of this, the way I cultivate wellness looks more like self-care, meditation, stress management, and embracing meaningful relationships with others. Additionally, in recovery from an eating disorder, I learned about the concept of Health at Every Size, meaning that everyone can pursue health, no matter what their body looks like and without focusing on changing their body. Everyone’s healthiest body is going to look different from one another’s; you cannot determine someone’s health status by looking at them. This has impacted my definition of wellness in that I no longer see it as an aesthetic to attain; I see it as choosing what enables me to live my life more fully.
I do see gaps in how wellness is portrayed – I think that wellness is typically portrayed, especially in the media, as an image of white, upper-middle class, able-bodied, thin, young people. I think this impacts not only people who don’t fit this mold, but also, people who do. First, people who don’t fit this mold may feel a pressure to attain this ideal, and could potentially do so using behaviors that are not health promoting. Because this is a very weight stigmatizing ideal, this can also lead to negative body image or issues with self-esteem, which are linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and disordered eating behaviors. Additionally, this can impact those who do fit this mold, in that it has the potential to create a pressure to maintain this aesthetic for the years to come, which is not viable. They also may assume that they naturally are more healthy than those who are at a higher weight or look different, which is not always the case. I think it’s vital to reframe health and wellness as a state of being, which no one has an obligation to pursue, as opposed to an aesthetic.