A New Way to Hurt: Are You ‘Healthist’?

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by Bailey Vincent |

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“I’m worried about your health.”

I have heard this more times than I can count. It’s normally a guise for criticism of how I’m eating, how I approached my pregnancies, or how I look. For a long time, I tried to appreciate the concern. That’s how we show love, right? The problem is that fretfulness under the façade of friendship is often “healthism” in disguise.

I didn’t know healthism was even a term until I read an article a few days ago. (Your Fat Friend is one of my favorite writers right now.) After researching it, the term hit home. At first, I thought, “But don’t we have enough isms?” I experience ableism as a Deaf woman and sexism as a female, but I didn’t realize how healthist the internet could be until I thought about how healthist I can be.

I judge others as much as myself. I see nearly every plate I post or meal I make through a faulty filter of Instagram goodliness. How artistic is my oatmeal bowl right now? Is my smoothie setup sepia enough?

This filter doesn’t come naturally. (Courtesy of Bailey Anne Vincent)

Any time someone acts morally superior to another for their health choices, it’s healthism. It’s the sideways comment about “candy” when someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or the near-constant trolling of medical or body-positive accounts with “fauxcern” for “the obesity epidemic.” (Lizzo can dance circles around you. Get off it.)

The problem with these dogged digital assumptions is presuming we all have the same access to healthy living as the next person. We don’t.

I am mansplained a lot these days. If I post about socioeconomic barriers to my quality of life as a sick person, or grieve reproductive woes as a uterus-less lady (issues that impact me specifically as a woman of a certain caste), a man is always ready to assure me I can overcome anything if I “stay mindful” enough. (Maybe I can Vinyasa my vagina away?)

At the end of the day, I get it. If something aches, I tell myself, “Shut up. Push through.” But refuting society’s stigmas and their impact on our social functioning doesn’t make us more enlightened. It makes us more ignorant about what hurts someone else.

I don’t believe in excuses. I can’t remember the last time I said, “I can’t dance like my 22-year-old counterparts at Company 360 because I’m 33,” or “I can’t jump as high as you because I’m genetically defunct,” and I don’t plan to start now.

I do believe in advocacy. Advocating for myself when I can’t safely roll backward in a modern dance class because I’ll endanger my pet port-a-cath. Advocating when I can’t get new pointe shoes that better support my skeleton because each $100 pair costs more than we spend on a week of groceries for four people. Advocating for health needs when we wish we needed less.

(Courtesy of Bailey Anne Vincent)

I can’t eat the way #healthyfoodie prophets suggest because my remaining small intestine can’t digest certain nuts, roughage, and raw fruits. Sure, I follow every “vegerina” (ballerinas who post green-toned Buddha bowls and avocado sushi rolls at every single meal) I can find because I want to be like them. But I’d risk bowel obstruction obliteration if I did so in excess.

I do everything I can to be as healthful as I can. I properly stalk holistic telepathists and natural totems, and at the end of the day, I can’t make my body digest something it can’t; I can’t make my bank account afford Whole Foods on a Food Lion budget. (I mean, I can, but as most of us know, hard work doesn’t unilaterally equal fiscal success.)

Presuming everyone can afford stylized studio fitness classes with white linen outfits, possibly appropriated lioness mantras, and borrowed Beyoncé backbeats in order to work out is a global mistake. Not everyone has the resources, space, transportation, accommodation, or location. Even then, other isms — size safety, skin tone support, accessibility standards — create further limits.

In the world of internet wellness, everyone has an opinion. There is always someone ready to comment on medicinal regimens or clinic criteria (yes, I’m looking at you, chronic illness creepers), and doing so shows privilege. Frankly, it also shows the need to start looking more closely at yourself, because I can’t imagine having so little to do that I’d take the time to quasi-concern-comment a stranger.

The only way to healthfully navigate life is to get your own, and then live it as openly, generously, and ism-less as possible.


Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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