THIRTY ONE: The (Un)Health Industry

I haven’t seen gym in so long, I’ve reverted back to calling him James

Me – avoiding fitness

A few months ago, I went through my social media feed and unfollowed a bunch of accounts, because I realised that their presence in my socials just didn’t feel healthy. It was ironic. Why? Because they preached a message of health.

As we all know, H.E.A.L.T.H. stands for Happiness across Every Aspect of your Life Timmunity Honeys, but it is also identified more commonly (for now) by its definition. If you ask the World Health Organisation, they’ll tell you that to be health is to be in a state of “complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely in the absence of disease or infirmity”. What do I want you to take out of that? Health isn’t just physical, there is so much under the surface that we should hold in as high a priority as we do our waistline.

From a mental health perspective, the “health” industry’s presence on social media can be problematic for audiences, particularly in times when we are more body conscious than ever. We consume the carefully constructed content of social media “athletes”, which proves as detrimental to our overall health as a long-term unbalanced diet. When we lap up images of an “ideal” physique, the “must-have” supplements or the latest exercise craze, we mentally binge eat. Only this time it’s not what we over-feed our body, it’s what we over-feed our brain.

Social media in itself is a highlight reel. It’s a collection of a person’s greatest hits, and what you see in this highlight reel is dictated solely by the person running it. If someone only wants to show you the high points of their day, week, year or life, that’s up to them. If they chose not to disclose the challenges, obstacles and setbacks, that’s up to them. By having complete control over what you take from their feed, they shape how you perceive their life. So when it comes to how we perceive the lives of those who promote “health”, it ain’t always what it seems.

The things we don’t hear about on a health-driven social media can prove to be the things we need to hear about the most. Sure, it’s great to know how good it feels to get in a good workout, or learn some new ways to keep yourself engaged in fitness, but too often do these accounts with hefty follow counts leave out the important parts.

To be frank, we’re misinformed to the point that we are given an unrealistic expectation as to what we need to be doing to subscribe ourselves to premium quality health. We don’t hear that it’s okay to skip a gym session, we don’t hear that it’s important that you get enough sleep for your body to recover, and we aren’t told that cutting out your favourite foods will make you more susceptible to binge eating than weight loss because it makes you miserable. These people are not disclosing the challenges we can face in the pursuit of that “look”. Then we look back and wonder what we’re doing wrong, and why we’re not getting the same result by doing the same thing.

Well, there’s an ugly truth behind it.

What we don’t get told by these people with the “perfect” body is that they are training for hours on end to tone up the “problem” areas of their body. We’re not told that they barely sleep because they’re training every day, morning and night. We’re not told that they adhere to a miserably repetitive diet regime that does not bring them any enjoyment because of how restrictive it is. And, in some cases, we’re not told about the performance enhancers they use to maintain this unrealistic physique. These people don’t tell you that, in a vast majority of cases, the lifestyle makes you absolutely miserable in the long-run.

What makes this so concerning is that such a lifestyle is not sustainable, particularly for audiences who do not have a fitness-focussed career or lifestyle. But even for those who are, they are often left vulnerable to a number of long-term conditions that would prove far more damaging to their health, like eating disorders or insomnia.

In saying that, I am not a doctor, nor am I practiced in the field, what I say comes from experiences that have been shared. This isn’t a scare or slander campaign, but what I want put across to you today is this;

  • Your health is not determined by the size of your waistline, but with your relationship with it.
  • If you do not enjoy going to the gym and lifting weights for exercise, then don’t! The key to maintaining a healthy exercise regime is enjoying what you do. If you would rather go for a regular walk along the beach, or join a social boxing class instead, then all power to you, my friend.
  • Take what you see on fitness pages with a grain of salt, we see only what content creators want you to see. Try the tasty recipes and the tips on being mindful, but if you’re not sure about an exercise, a supplement or anything you see, ask someone you know and trust about it.

So this week Timmunity, I really want to you review what you are mentally consuming, because it can be just as harmful for your brain to binge unhealthy material. The key to good health is sustainability. Find hobbies you enjoy, engage with people with similar interests, have something to look forward to!

And above all else, have the happiest of Mental Health Mondays.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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