Has green become the new black?

Green is the new black. Photograph: Perou for the Guardian
Green is the new black. Photograph: Perou for the Guardian

Anyone who has glimpsed the book charts recently, picked up a lifestyle magazine, ventured into the healthy-living area of the blogosphere or encountered an Instagram account using the hashtag ‘eatclean’, will probably have noticed that ‘wellness’ is the movement of the moment.

Whether it’s channelled through yoga retreats, or regular trips to juice bars, detox cleanses or spiralised vegetables, wellness is as endemic in middle-class England as hummus and Waitrose.

This weekend I was reading an article by Hadley Freeman about the wellness phenomenon, in which she pitched it as the new ‘luxury status symbol’, where a Sweaty Betty hoodie and a green juice has taken the place of a Channel handbag and a pair of Louboutin’s as the trappings of the ultimate lifestyle. Indeed, Calgary Avansino, one of the bloggers she interviewed observed (in all seriousness) that it’s not even the type of juice you get any more, but where you get it from.

Freeman suggests that wellness sits at the point on the Venn diagram where ‘aspiration, self-love and slimness’ collide. It’s more holistic (and socially acceptable) than dieting (everyone would rather say ‘detox’ or ‘juice cleanse’ than ‘SlimFast’) and more effeminate than pumping iron in the gym (wellness gurus are more likely to be realigning their chakras than dripping with sweat with their hair plastered to their face at the end of a long run).

Key proponents of ‘wellness’ include bloggers Ella Woodward (of ‘Deliciously Ella‘ fame) and the Hemsley sisters; and the underlying message from these twenty-something, lean beauties? Eat like me, look like me.

It’s easy to mock this phenomenon, as well as its spokespeople and followers, but wellness is a lucrative business, (yoga pants don’t come cheap you know), and when it is encouraging people to eat more fruit and vegetables and less sugar, while extolling the virtues of a daily downward dog, surely it has to be a good thing.

But, as Freeman points out, food bloggers and nutritionists, unlike dieticians, are not regulated, and their ‘training’ and ‘qualifications’, when they even have them, are not always as credible as readers might be led to suppose. Moreover, there have been cases when wellness bloggers have taken advantage of the lack of scientific knowledge of their followers and promote, in the best case, ineffective and in the worst case, dangerous, claims about food, nutrition, health and disease.

While I believe that the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is undoubtedly a good thing, (as I hope my own blog demonstrates), I think articles like the one from Freeman inject the necessary degree of cynicism into the picture. As I hope some of my previous posts have shown, I don’t believe in taking everything you read at face value and I think a line has to be drawn between well-meaning advice and gospel.

Luckily for me, if I even mention phrases like ‘energy flow’ or ‘prana’, R will bully me for at least a week, and I won’t even try to explain the look I got this morning when he caught me in a three minute ‘cleansing’ shoulder stand (needless to say it wasn’t supportive).

There is no harm in gathering good recipes and taking inspiration from wellness bloggers – I certainly do – but it’s also important to accept that at times some of the advice or guidance may be based more on trend than truth. Most importantly, no blog is a substitute for professional advice; if you have a serious medical issue, you need to see a qualified professional, be it doctor or dietician, and not just rely on a green juice and quinoa salad, no matter how tasty and full of goodness that may be.

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2 thoughts on “Has green become the new black?

  1. Thank you for this post. So many people think just because they read a book about “eating clean” that they are a nutritionist and know everything about diet and health. Its a lifelong journey and if you have any serious health problems a dietitian or doctor is always the best person to talk to.

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