Pre-coronavirus pandemic, the wellness industry was booming, and showing no signs of slowing down. The global wellness economy hit $4.5 trillion in 2018, accounting for 5.3% of total global economic output, according to a report from the Global Wellness Institute. You’ve no doubt seen the signs around you, from a heightened focus on self-care to the proliferation of juice shops and fitness studios in certain neighborhoods.
Much of the boom has been a relatively good thing. It’s great and important that we have more ways than ever to care for our mental health, move and nourish our bodies, and sleep and rest more effectively, even if access to these resources remains a big issue. But in many ways the pursuit of wellness has turned into a narrow goal defined by bubble baths, $40 fitness classes, and personalized supplements. In our quest for self-optimization, we’ve lost the true context of what it means to be well.
That’s why in 2021, SELF is redefining wellness. Because the truth is that even when it comes to our physical and emotional health, we often don’t allow for the fact that being healthy looks different for different people. And because wellness also means looking past ourselves.
If the events of the past year have taught us anything, it’s that our individual health and our community health are intertwined—and that in order to practice self-care, we must also consciously practice community care.
Because we’re all connected and we’re all in this together, yes, of course. But also because you can’t outrun poisonous air or dirty water. No amount of meditation will help if you can’t afford your medication. And there’s no point in counting your macros when you don’t know when your next meal is going to be—to name just a few examples.
Over the course of the year, we’re going to focus on four key components of wellness through the dual lens of personal and public health: Food, Environment, Movement, and Home. We’ll continue to share useful personal service journalism to help you make the best choices for yourself and your loved ones. But we’ll also share experiences, advice, information, and motivation to help you join with your community and take better care of your neighbors, your country, and your world. Our world.
And we’re starting with FOOD.
It’s well past time to redefine healthy eating. Because healthy eating isn’t just about nutrients and superfoods and trendy diets; it’s also, crucially, about food access and sustenance; about fuel and nourishment; and about community and culture. And the way we talk about healthy eating should encompass all of that. So we’re going to focus on three pillars of healthy eating: community health, physical health, and emotional health.
Healthy eating is actually deeply individualized. What’s healthy for one person isn’t necessarily healthy for another, depending on a variety of factors, like health conditions, fitness goals, food access, and more. What’s healthy for pregnant people or athletes or people with diabetes or lactose intolerance—that all might vary from person to person. A cucumber peanut salad, for instance, might be a delicious lunch for me, but a triggering food for someone else in recovery from an eating disorder, or even deadly for someone else with a peanut allergy. Meanwhile, it might be entirely inaccessible to someone living with food insecurity, or lack of access to affordable produce, for whom any calories at all are certainly better and healthier than none.
As part of the emotional and physical health pillars, and to better illustrate just how varied and personalized healthy eating really is, we’re launching a new series that I’m very excited about: Grocery Diaries. We asked people from across the country to share their grocery lists with us, and then called up a few of them to ask for more details. Why do they buy what they buy? How much do they spend? Who are they shopping for? What health conditions or nutritional concerns are they thinking about when they choose, for instance, an almond milk over cow’s milk, or particular flavors or spices or treats? We’re launching the series with three different diaries, and then we’ll publish a new one every week. The goal is to illustrate that healthy eating really isn’t one size fits all. And what works for one person might not make sense for another.
To further drive home the fact that healthy eating is as much about community health as it is about personal health, our January Fitness Challenge—the Better Together Challenge—is in benefit of Feeding AmericaⓇ. We’re encouraging our tens of thousands of challenge participants (and everyone else) to donate what they can to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. In 2020, more than 50 million people—including 17 million children—may have faced hunger. That’s a 43 percent increase from 2019, due in large part to the continued devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But there is hope: It doesn’t take much to make an impact. A $1 donation can help provide up to ten meals for families through Feeding America’s national network of food banks.
Beyond these projects, we’ll be publishing a lot of nutrition content over the next few months, focusing on those three pillars I mentioned above. In the community health pillar, we’ll be exploring food access, hunger, and the connection between food and the environment, touching on environmental and food justice as well as climate change. In the emotional health pillar, we’ll be exploring the mental health connection to food: building a better relationship with food, combating food guilt and shame, and finding joy in food as part of your cultural identity. And in the physical health pillar, we’ll be exploring some practical details, and explaining what you need to know about vital nutrients, minerals, and the stuff that fuels your body and helps you feel strong and well and fulfilled.
And we have more exciting surprises in store as well. I can’t wait to share them with you.
Here’s to a healthier 2021, and to embracing a new way of thinking about how to take care of ourselves, and each other.
Originally Appeared on SELF