Health and Privilege in the Wellness Industry

An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago which let me know that I had hit a serious and needed nerve. In my Facebook discussion group, I shared a post from a health coach in which she lambasted people working in the service industry for making poor choices about what they ate/drank, and comparing them to people complaining about over-priced products at a juice bar.

Essentially she was trying to say that people should look at their health as an investment, so it’s worth it to pay high prices for things that would be better for your body –– and she needed to do this because her services cost $1,000 per month. Remember, her target audience is people in the service industry: waitresses, bar tenders, DJs.

When I posted this in the group and pointed out that this was incredibly privileged position, and that many people don’t have this choice for a litany of reasons, I had people comment and tell me that I missed the entire point of her post: that people are just lazy and cheap and will spend money on beer but not health food.

I posted it again in another group and a couple of commenters had a similar reaction. I posted it a third time on Instagram and yet another commenter had a similar reaction.

Throughout my responses to these comments it became abundantly clear that the idea that anyone can be healthy if they simply make better choices –– and that they are solely responsible for their ability to make those choices –– is a deeply held belief by people who are into health and wellness, and it’s an inaccurate one which is deeply rooted in individualism and ableism.

Learn more about ableism in spirituality.

Why Health is a Privilege, Not a Personal Choice

Health and wellness –– both mental and physical –– is a systemic privilege and it is only a “choice” for people of a certain upwardly mobile social class.

I get why everyone thinks that health is a choice: because that’s how it’s been marketed to you your entire life by the health and wellness industry.

You have been conditioned to think this by people who benefit from you thinking this. That’s kinda how marketing works.

And they’ve done this precisely by pitting you against the pharmaceutical industry and telling you that you are superior to other people for “choosing” health. But they are just as interested in your money as any other industry, because at the end of the day it’s all capitalism.

I’m trying to tell you that you have been bamboozled. You have been brainwashed and taken advantage of by corporations and greedy people. Health is not a personal choice for the vast majority of people in this country, it is a privilege that is only fully accessible to about 20% of the people who live in the US.

Why is health and wellness a privilege?

If you look at the results of  the ACE Study, you will see that there is a direct correlation with how much childhood trauma a person has experienced and the development of nearly every single illness. The higher their ACE score, the higher their risk of developing illness, and 64% of people studied had an ACE score of 1 or more. 12% had an ACE score of 4 or more.

The ACE study only looked at people who were middle to upper-middle class. When you get down to the working class (such as the waitresses and DJs mentioned in the previous coach’s post), the probability of trauma becomes significantly higher. Poor people are 9 times more likely to experience trauma.

Learn how trauma directly impacts your likelihood of developing disease.

Of course, trauma isn’t the only factor in health and wellness for the working class on down, although it is a huge one. The other factors are access to healthy foods and exercise. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, buying all organic food is a luxury, and so is a gym membership. But more than likely, you’re so stressed out from the trauma and work that you’re too tired to workout or cook anyway, because trauma increases stress on the nervous system and fucks with our ability to make logical decisions and to cope. So given the lack of access to healthy alternatives, people turn to other, easier, and faster coping mechanisms like cigarettes and alcohol, which is another big factor in why traumatized people are more likely to develop diseases.

These people are also more likely to have experienced generational trauma, because poverty is cyclical, which means they probably had alcoholic or drug-addicted family members, were emotionally or physically abused, or on the flip side, were neglected because their parents were gone working all the time.

Their nervous system has been in survival mode their whole life, but lack access to trauma-informed mental healthcare (because our healthcare system is shit and most mental healthcare workers are not trauma-informed), and the only alternative –– coaching and wellness services –– are almost exclusively high-end.

The health and wellness industry is a $4.3 Trillion industry that perpetuates a false narrative of individualism which claims that health is a personal choice, when in reality, that is only true for a privileged few. And even if you could afford all of the health food in the world, it won’t change your genetics, which are another large factor in whether or not you develop diseases.

The reason this lie exists is to justify the unnecessarily high costs of goods and services which are positioned as a “personal choice” that everyone should be investing in, even though they are sold under luxury prices that the majority of Americans –– 83%, to be exact –– cannot afford.

* 83% is calculated using household income of the average American, assuming $1,000 per month spent on health goods and/or services, given the original poster in question was charging $1,000 per month.

People who don’t necessarily have the funds have to be convinced that this is an “investment” in order to bypass their resistance to paying a ridiculous amount of money for results that cannot be guaranteed (because change cannot be achieved unless the underlying trauma is addressed, and again, genetics can’t be changed) and the industry engages in toxic marketing practices to convince you that it’s worth it. Not to mention, a lot of these people have no problem asking you to put yourselves in debt to afford them.

This is predatory as fuck.

Some might say, “But a lot of this industry is just regular people trying to make a living, too!”

Yeah. That’s how capitalism fucks you. It tells you that anybody can be rich if they just work hard enough, which incentivizes the  middle-class to cannibalize itself and the working class while the top 3% watch in amusement and continue to capitalize on this incentive and amass more wealth, and it uses MLM-style high-ticket coaching to do it.

Learn about how MLMs use the same mind control tactics that cults do, and how it shows up in the marketing of the coaching industry.

So, in this context, hopefully you can see why using toxic marketing that shames people who have been out of a job for the last year and a half with false assumptions to get them to pay $1,000 a month for coaching (which is probably pretty close to the same amount they are paying in rent) is privileged, arrogant, and predatory.

I’ll say it again: the only reason any coach needs to tell people this lie is to justify the fact that they are charging high-ticket prices.

They have to get people to believe that this is an “investment.” That word, in and of itself, is a manipulation. They are trying to sell a luxury good to people who can’t actually afford it and they are engaging in predatory marketing practices to do so.

When influencers don’t recognize or acknowledge that health and wellness is a privilege, they perpetrate harm on their followers and their clients who don’t sit in that category of privilege, usually by inflicting shame and attempting to use it to manipulate a prospective client into making a purchase.

Becoming aware of this type of harm is part of making a business conscious and trauma-informed.

I don’t care who they are or what they do or what their mission is. If they aren’t extracting themselves, their belief systems, and their business from capitalism and Individualism (which is what anti-racism work is), then they are not an ethical entrepreneur, they are certainly not a conscious one, and they definitely don’t have your wellness, or the collective’s, at the top of their priority list.

PS: If you found today's topic intriguing and you're an entrepreneur or practitioner who offers services to others, I would recommend checking out my articles on conscious business and subscribing to get notified when there are new posts. Learn how you can work with me here and be sure to check out my new online course, Ethical Entrepreneurship.

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