The Real Reason 'Healthism' Is So Troubling

It's hard to deny that the importance of staying healthy is being spoken about a lot more. From social media to television commercials that urge you to make the switch to embracing healthier food choices and an active lifestyle, fitness is pretty much a trending topic everywhere. How much is too much, though?

A disturbing concept called "healthism" is particularly concerning. According to SELF, this term was first used by Robert Crawford in 1980. He said that healthism is the preoccupation with personal health as a primary — often the primary — focus for the definition and achievement of well-being; a goal which is to be attained primarily through the modification of lifestyles."

This means that external factors, such as poverty and a lack of access to essential services and food, were often ignored. You see, healthism basically placed the onus on individuals to take care of themselves. It also made it easy to target those who did not fit into conventional categories. They were called out for their bodies and were shamed for their choices, implying that being healthy is the morally correct thing to do and not living up to that definition was a failure on an individual's part.

Healthism can be toxic

The SELF piece made some important points. For example, someone who is overweight is often targeted by others who think they are doing them a favor by giving them tips on being healthy. This logic didn't go down too well before 2010 when Americans didn't even have access to equal insurance. Basically, those with "pre-existing conditions" weren't granted health insurance. 

Healthism, by the way, can be applied to another example, as those dealing with drug addiction are often criticized for not having better self-control. Issues that may contribute to drug abuse, such as extreme poverty, trauma, and stress, are swept under the carpet and not spoken about as much.

While it's important to safeguard your health, it's a good idea to not call out others for being a certain way. As pointed out by All The Nourishing Things, healthism and attaching too much importance to wellness can be really toxic to live with. It's crucial to realize that everyone has their own way of making sure that they're doing what they can to keep their health in check. Guilting them into submission isn't going to work.