It’s the first week of January, so it’s likely you’ve been inundated with ads and emails and influencer posts about being healthy/fit/prioritizing wellness in the new year. (If you haven’t, you’re either very lucky or very offline.) A TikTok from one creator is going viral for the simple but powerful message it delivers: wellness culture can be quite toxic, and we’re not here for it in 2023.
The TikTok account The Salad Whisperer is run by a woman who self-describes as a “classically trained chef. ED recovered. Foe of diet culture and toxic wellness.” In her video, which has over 600,000 views, she stitches a video from a thin, conventionally attractive, white creator who records herself sniffing vegetables in the produce aisle and urging her followers to get out of their “comfort zone.” The implication here is that if we just eat better (from exorbitantly priced Whole Foods) and do yoga (in athleisure that costs more than all of your monthly utilities combined), we’ll be better people!
But this year, more people than ever seem to be saying the same thing: No thanks.
“Quick reminder,” Sarah, aka The Salad Whisperer, begins her video response. “This is the time of year when conventionally attractive and privileged people are going to try to convince you that the only difference between them and you is the fact that they make great food choices and you don’t. And that’s total b.s., so.”
There’s absolutely nothing new about diet culture capitalizing on everyone’s post-holiday blues and our inherent desires that pop up annually every January. It’s a tale as old as time. But what is new is just how many people are combatting the notion that we need to spend more money to be thinner, more vegetable-y versions of ourselves in order to find happiness. Diet culture and the toxic wellness culture industry may be ramping up their efforts this time of year, but not everyone is susceptible to the problematic messaging.
What is wellness culture?
Wellness culture is, at its core, a set of values that equates overall wellness with moral goodness. Typically, this wellness/goodness can be achieved by diet, exercise, and having a smaller body. Wellness culture can be problematic and toxic when perpetuating this rectitude, and it also implies that our bodies can’t function properly on their own (because the wellness/diet culture industry can’t make money if people realize their kidneys actually do all the “detoxing” we need and that we don’t actually need a juice/pill cleanse). Wellness culture is also shockingly ableist and completely ostracizes anyone with any kind of limitations—physical, financial, mental, etc.
Critical thinking and actual science are enemy #1 of the wellness and diet culture industry, so it makes sense that “wellness” and diet companies pay good-looking, skinny, able-bodied, wealthy white people lots of money to shill their products. Because society overall has a tendency to treat anyone who doesn’t fit that visual description like dirt, which is why so many of us buy into the ideal they’re selling.
Personally, I’d love to have more time to exercise and focus on my personal health. As a full-time working mom with two young children, a husband currently fighting cancer and a few physical and financial limitations of my own, it’s just not that easy. And because I refuse to let circumstances beyond my control get me down, whenever someone brings up a new diet or wellness fad in my presence (especially if my children are around), I simply ask them not to. Because my mental well-being is a lot more important than fitting into whatever societal standard is en vogue at the moment.
Thankfully, it seems a lot of people feel the same way heading into 2023.