ETR 268: Debunking Wellness Claims with Christy Harrison

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-Worth

Podcast Interview on Debunking Wellness Claims with Christy Harrison
Debunking Wellness Claims with Christy Harrison

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m joined by Christy Harrison, author of Anti-Diet and most recently The Wellness Trap. We’re debunking some of the more common wellness claims and what to watch out for so that you don’t fall into the wellness trap.

We also talk about why, as a culture, we’re so obsessed with wellness and how social media perpetuates this.

In This Episode, We Chat About

  • Christy’s personal journey with “wellness” that led her to the work she does now,
  • The way that medical diagnoses are being used to sell wellness products that are not scientifically well supported,
  • How wellness culture seized on the pandemic,
  • How wellness culture capitalizes on the failings of conventional healthcare,
  • That the alternative services are better at giving empathy and time, and the effect this can have,
  • How social media algorithms are driving people towards more and more extreme wellness content,
  • The sense of control and power wellness culture can offer,
  • That everyday human ailments are now framed as signs of unwellness,
  • What the research on social determinants for health shows us,
  • The systemic changes needed and why skepticism is important,
  • Plus so much more!

      Watch on YouTube

            Links Mentioned in Episode:

            Connect with Christy:

            Don’t forget, I’m on iTunes! You can be one of my kick-ass subscribers. Also, I would be SO GRATEFUL if you took 2 minutes to leave a review. Go here -> click “Reviews and Ratings” and then “Click to Rate”.


            This episode of eat the rules is brought to you by you on fire you on fire is the online group coaching program that I run that gives you a step by step way of building up your self worth beyond your appearance. With personalized coaching from me incredible community support and lifetime access to the program so that you can get free from body shame and live life on your own terms. Get details on what’s included and sign up for the next cycle at summer forward slash you on fire, I’d love to have you in that group. This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and confidence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.

            This is episode 268. And I’m joined by Christy Harrison, author of anti diet and most recently the wellness trap. We’re talking about why as a culture, we’re so obsessed with wellness and how their social media perpetuates this. We’re also debunking some of the more common wellness claims and what to watch out for so that you don’t fall into the wellness trap, you can find all the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 268. I want to give a shout out to all piccata who left this review. I’m here as a counselor listening to these podcasts for myself, my daughter and my clients. I love her research based humanistic approach to how to work with yourself in the body or in she is so well spoken informed on social justice issues including race and privilege. And she really understands the way the brain and human behavior works. I’ll be listening to as many of these as I can and share this with my clients who struggle with these issues. Thank you so much. That review is really, really meaningful to me. I mean, it’s everything I want the show to be. So I really appreciate that feedback and that you took the time to leave that review, you can leave a review for this podcast by going to Apple podcasts search for eat the rules, then click to leave a review, or give it a rating. A review is always preferred, because I’ll read it on the show. And it doesn’t have to be a long one just can be one sentence like this is the best thing ever. Don’t forget to grab the free 10 Day body confidence makeover at summer forward slash freebies with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. And if you are somebody who works with people who may also have body image struggles, so if you’re a dietician, a coach, a therapist, an educator, a personal trainer, a naturopathic doctor, like I’m just trying to think of all the people that I’ve worked with around this, but we have a free body image coaching roadmap for you at summer forward slash roadmap. And that gives you a way of understanding how to take your clients through a process in terms of working with them with body image struggles, I am really excited to have Christie back on the show. She has been on the show a couple of times before the first time, many, many years ago, Episode 71. That’s going way way back. That might even be when I had the Guns and Roses intro and then Episode 170, which we did a couple of years ago when anti diet came out. And that one’s called anti diet and intuitive eating one on one with Christie Harrison, which is like a really, really good episode if you need kind of a great overall summary of the of you know, why dieting, why diets fail, and really looking into like, quote unquote, the obesity epidemic and things like that. So that’s an amazing episode to check out. But so I’m thrilled to have her back on the show today to promote her latest book, The Wellness trap, I really enjoyed reading this, especially because I came from a background in as a holistic nutritionist. And so many of the things that she really critiques and looks at what the research actually says are things that I learned in school, which is really, really interesting. So those are things are probably still being taught. They’re pretty prolific within the natural wellness field. And it’s interesting because I kind of sit in the middle on this because I’ve actually had some incredible experiences with naturopathic doctors. Of course, with any of those I’ve really had some firm boundaries, like I’m not going to make any changes with food. And it’s really been around like hormone stuff that they’ve helped me with and specifically the first one was the first practitioner to actually say hey, you have a disordered relationship with food and you’re and you’re over exercising, and you need to eat a lot more than you’re eating. So I sometimes I honestly think that that would match up Another doctor kind of saved my life because I’d been to so many other actual doctors who had told me that my body size was too big to have hypo hypothalamic Amen arena. That’s what’s called right. Anyways, I digress. But the point is, is that when we look at kind of the overall things that are suggested within wellness culture, a lot of them can kind of send us down this dark path, but there’s also some good practitioners out there if you can find them. Christy Harrison is a registered dietician nutritionist, certified Intuitive Eating counselor and journalist who has been covering food, nutrition and health for more than 20 years. She is the author of two books, the wellness trap and anti diet and the producer and host of the podcast rethinking wellness and food psych, which have helped 10s of 1000s of people around the world think critically about Diet and Wellness culture and develop more peaceful relationships with food. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times self BuzzFeed refinery, 29, gourmet slate, a Food Network, and many other publications. And our work is regularly featured in national print and broadcast media. You can find more about Christy at Christy Let’s get started with the show.

            Hi, Christy, welcome back to the show. Hi, summer.

            Thank you so much for having me back. It’s great to be here.

            I’m so excited to have you here today and to talk about your new book, The Wellness trap. Before we dive into some of the concepts that you talk about in the book, I’d love for you to just share maybe just a little bit about your own personal experience with with wellness in kind of quotation marks like what was your own journey with that that then ultimately led you down the road, obviously to to get into the work that you do now?

            Yeah, such a great question. So I have multiple chronic health conditions that I’ve been managing for a couple of decades now. And I initially started to experience symptoms, when I had just started dieting and develop disordered eating and sort of undiagnosed eating disorder behaviors really. And you know, unbeknownst to me, I think that was at the root of a lot of it, or at least that was what triggered some of these chronic conditions. But they’ve stuck around and they’re things that you know, wellness culture really loves to target like autoimmune conditions Hashimotos thyroiditis, which is like autoimmune and hormonal. So there’s that piece to like, hormone health. And you know how wellness culture targets that digestive disorders, eczema, acne, like skin conditions, you know, lots of things that sort of exist in this, this targeted space of wellness culture, wellness culture loves to, like, offer solutions in the form of often diets and supplements and unproven untested practices. And so I really fell into that hard because I was feeling dismissed and unheard by the conventional healthcare system. I felt like doctors were not getting it, they didn’t know what to do with me, I was like bouncing from doctor to doctor and just not really getting the relief and support that I wanted in the that he deserved, you know, and nobody was nobody was picking up on really the connection with disordered eating either. And so I think that’s something that could also have helped my experience, but nobody was nobody knew what to do with me. So I was very attracted to, you know, natural, quote unquote, natural protocols. I think it also dovetailed with where I was in my life and my career at the time, which I was had, you know, just graduated college was a young journalist, covering environmental issues, nutrition, health, sustainable food, you know, I was like very in the mix with all of that stuff. And like, thinking about food systems in the sort of Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle way that was trendy at the time, and you know, blaming food for causing people to gain weight, and you know, seeing things through the lens of a quote unquote, obesity epidemic, which I now know is such a stigmatizing way of framing things, but I really believed in it at the time. And so, you know, it was all tangled up with, like, my own issues, and I tried to heal my issues, quote, unquote, naturally, because of sort of those pre existing beliefs that I had about food and about, you know, the sort of moral virtue and value of doing things, quote, unquote, naturally. And because I was feeling so dismissed by the conventional healthcare system that I kind of felt like I had no choice. So you know, I found a lot of it was it was really early. Well, some of it was pre social media, but like also really early days of social media of like Friendster and MySpace, and you know, Facebook didn’t even exist yet. When I was first struggling with these conditions and social media, as we know, it didn’t really exist. It was more like social networking. You know, it was just like finding your friends online. It wasn’t algorithms driving people down rabbit holes. And so I was able to, even though I found my way to a lot of like, really extreme sort of wellness content at the time. It wasn’t mainstream, it was very fringy and I was able to kind of think, Oh, this isn’t really for me, like, I don’t feel like this resonates and you kind of walked back from some of it pretty easily, I did get very hooked with, like gluten free diets and other elimination diets and the idea of cutting out food and managing everything through foods. So that piece was really sticky for me. But like some of the other stuff, other sort of more non standard protocols and stuff, I wasn’t as hooked by. But now I see so many people getting hooked into this stuff that was so on the fringes back when I was first struggling and first looking for answers. And so that was a big motivation in writing this book is that like, I’ve seen so many people over the years, and I think increasingly, in recent years, coming to me and saying, you know, I have chronic Candida or I have adrenal fatigue, or I have, you know, leaky gut syndrome diagnosed by my naturopath or my functional medicine doctor or a questionnaire. And, you know, what do I do about it, like, like, I’ve been prescribed all these diets, and it’s ruining my relationship with food and like, Help me, help me heal my relationship with food, even when I have to do these, quote, unquote, medically necessary diets. And so that was a big piece of it was like, starting to do that research and seeing that these supposed conditions that people had, weren’t really validated by good evidence, and that they were being used to sell these protocols and supplements and practices that were also not, you know, scientifically, well supported, and causing a lot of harm to people’s relationships with food in their bodies. And another piece of why I wanted to write this book was that, you know, in 20, with a pandemic, I started to see how wellness culture was really seizing on that to sell people products and, you know, promote, like multi level marketing schemes, and all these things that just are so potentially detrimental to people’s well being and have no good evidence behind them, you know, people selling their essential oil as a suppose at COVID cure or their vitamin protocol or detox as like a way to avoid getting it. And, you know, that was all happening kind of at the same time as, as the pandemic was really shining a light on the social determinants of health and how important those are for, you know, overall population wellbeing, and how like, the people who are already the most marginalized, were the ones getting the sickest and getting sicker and greater numbers and, you know, the people who were able to like work from home or, you know, stay home and not engage outside and like order in all their groceries and stuff like that, more of the people who were staying safer. So it’s just this interesting juxtaposition, I think of like this, all this wellness rhetoric, with sort of the pandemic shining such a stark light on the importance of social determinants of health for actual well being. Mm hmm.

            Yeah, that’s such a good explanation for it. And so you mentioned a couple of your own personal reasons about kind of getting into, you know, going down sort of the wellness, rabbit hole like being dismissed and, and unheard, which I think so many of us can relate to, and particularly, anyone who is have like a more marginalized identity is going to face that even more so. But why do you think like culturally, we continue to kind of become more and more obsessed with wellness?

            Yeah, I think there’s, it’s a couple of things, I think it’s like, at the systemic level, there really are failings of the conventional healthcare system. You know, I think people feel unheard and dismissed in sort of high numbers a lot in a lot of cases. And also, even if they don’t like, even if they feel like they’re getting decent care from their doctor, there’s just not really a lot of time in the health care system. You know, I say, the health care system, like I’m speaking from a US lens, and I know you’re in Canada, but even though they’re very different health care systems, I think, you know, our healthcare system, being for profit still has something in common with other like national health care systems in the sense that doctors are so overworked and overbooked that they really don’t have time in any of these health care systems to give adequate attention to patients, I think, and people, you know, national health care systems often are on really long waiting lists to get access to a doctor. And so it can be super frustrating, I think, when you finally do get there to have the doctor say, Well, I’m not really sure what’s wrong with you go see this specialist and wait another year or something, you know, and in the US, like, even if you don’t, you know, have long waiting lists or whatever, there’s like lack of access for other reasons, like lack of insurance, or, you know, just lack of geographical access to providers and things like that. So, I think there’s those systemic failings that, you know, make the conventional healthcare system. And that’s not not to say, you know, that’s to say nothing of the discrimination that exists in the conventional healthcare system and the anti fat bias and racism and other forms of discrimination that people experience when they go to the doctor. That is also something that drives people away from that system. And so I think when people are feeling failed by conventional medicine, wellness culture is sort of right there to sell them an alternative and One, this culture often capitalizes on that I think on on the failings of conventional health care. You know, I think there’s a lot of amplification of like, the problems with a conventional health care system, the problems with the pharmaceutical industry, and, you know, blaming Big Pharma and the medical industrial complex for all kinds of things, which, you know, again, there’s, there’s a lot of truth to that. And I think it’s unfortunate that there are so many failings in the conventional system. And I think we need to fix that and change that. And the promises that wellness culture is offering often don’t fail to deliver often the products and practices and services are not actually effective and can can, in fact, cause harm. One thing that I think the alternative systems do well, though, is give empathy and time. You know, that’s something that I think we don’t see as much of in the conventional system. And I think, again, and again, in my reporting, and also in my personal experience, I’ve found that when you go to like an alternative practitioner, or when you go to an acupuncturist or chiropractor or a naturopath or someone who’s in the more like integrative space, where they’re doing alternative medicine under the auspices of medical doctors, like functional medicine providers, or integrative medicine doctors, that you do see a lot more empathy and time given given to you in those spaces. And it can feel really great. And it can feel like, you know, finally, someone’s taking me seriously, finally, someone is going to get to the bottom of this, and my symptoms aren’t being dismissed, I’m actually being heard. And that goes a long way to helping people feel better, there’s actually something called the care effect, which is like part of a family of placebo effects where, you know, expectations and sort of how you feel in a situation or how you expect to feel given a particular treatment can actually have a physical impact on your body, it’s not on your head, it’s actually the mind body connection at work. And so with the care effect, you know, having an empathetic care provider who makes you feel heard and understood, can definitely create some pain relief and create some symptom relief. And so I think that’s one aspect of it. That’s, that’s really attractive to people. I think another reason for this proliferation of wellness culture, is that social media algorithms are really driving people towards kind of more and more extreme wellness content, so that the things that were really on the fringes back, you know, 20 years ago, or whenever I was searching for answers, you know, at first, now, those things have become so mainstream, and we have things that are even more bizarre and fringy. Like, you know, the Medical Medium, saying that he talks to a spirit who tells him how to diagnose people, and that, you know, celery juice is the cure to all ills. And science hasn’t caught up with that yet. And so like, don’t worry about the fact that there’s no studies to prove it, a Spirit told me and, you know, it’s just like, super bizarre out there. Stuff that I think really works well on social media, because the algorithms are designed to amplify and promote content that is, you know, novel that sort of like, gets these outraged responses or like shocked responses from people gets people debating in the comments, stuff that’s, you know, polarizing or controversial. And, you know, all myths and misinformation really hits all those notes that social media is sort of designed to promote and foster. And really, the reason that the algorithms drive us toward that kind of content in the first place is not because they’re designed with any sort of nefarious intent, but because they’re designed to just maximize engagement and keep us on the platforms, liking, clicking, sharing, so that will be exposed to more advertising, and therefore the platform’s make more money, because that’s how they that’s their business model. And, you know, it just so happens that this outrage inducing content is novel content, you know, misinformation, really hits all the notes that drive engagement. And so I think that’s another big piece of why wellness culture has become so prevalent is that people are seeing these more and more extreme things on social media and, you know, that also are getting picked up by while there’s, you know, this sort of ecosystem, really this media ecosystem where websites like goop, or, you know, other sort of wellness, the websites are writing headlines, and, you know, design and putting up stories and stuff that are designed to take advantage of that algorithmic juice that’s given to, you know, novel controversial, sort of wacky things. And so, you know, you get a lot of these really out there extreme sort of wellness practices and protocols becoming more and more mainstream as people are sharing them and they’re going viral. And you know, it’s just become such a part of the Zeitgeist now to think about, you know, like to treat food as medicine I think that wasn’t part of the conversation in the way it is now. 20 years ago, certainly not as mainstream you know, and and some of these really out there things that maybe I’m not going to say like a lot of a lot of examples because I don’t want to, you know, give people ideas or activate disorder behaviors or thoughts in any one but, you know, even some of the really out there stuff is is now Much more mainstream and common and you might hear you know, your mom or your dentist or whatever talking about it, you know,

            I almost feel like Dr. Oz was like really kind of the initiator, in terms of it becoming so mainstream. But um, yeah, you did a lot.

            Yeah, I feel a lot of this is it almost like mirrors kind of the magical thinking of diet culture, right? Like where you have, okay, if you just do these, these things, then everything, you lose weight, and your life will be perfect, and you’ll be happy and, and confident and all this other stuff. And this is almost similar. It’s like, if you do these things, then you will be like, well, you will be able to relieve yourself of all these symptoms, and everything will be better. And so I think it, it kind of anchors people in this idea of like, hope of like, okay, if I do this, then I can have more vitality, or I can live longer, or I can, you know, not be in in pain. And like, we know how powerful that is, in terms of the dieting cycle. And I feel like this mirrors that in a very similar way, and sucks people in?

            Totally, yeah, I think it’s, it really creates the sense of, you know, individual responsibility and choice and like, you’re in charge of your own wellness, and you get to pick and choose your wellness protocols and practices in order to like, optimize your wellness and your physical body. And that is really appealing, I think, when people don’t have hope, and when they’re feeling like disempowered by the conventional health care system, and, and like they don’t have any answers or relief, you know, to say, well, you can do all these things, and you will be well you’ll, you know, reduce your symptoms, or even put your disease into remission. You know, that’s a line of rhetoric we’re seeing a lot in wellness culture now is like, you can reverse chronic disease, you can reverse aging, you know, and so I think that’s incredibly appealing when you don’t have other good answers. But even for people without chronic conditions, I think there’s like this, medicalization, that happens in wellness culture, and it happens in conventional health care to where, you know, just sort of everyday symptoms that people might experience like bloating or fatigue or, you know, difficulty concentrating some of the time or whatever, or, you know, just like any, any number of things that are sort of garden variety, human ailments, you know, occasional heartburn, whatever, those things are now framed as signs of unwellness, and signs of toxicity in the body. And, you know, you have to sort of root out like, get to the root cause of those things. And there’s this rhetoric that I think is really seductive and wellness culture that I know I fell for, which is like, you don’t have to live like this, you don’t have to deal with these things, you know, you’re you can feel so much better than you do. And when you’re feeling like profound chronic illness, I think that is incredibly seductive. But even if you’re just experiencing these sort of everyday ailments, in a culture that makes us feel so ashamed for having them and so ashamed for having bodies, you know, and for having, like, stomachs that get a little round after we eat, or, you know, that are round in general, or whatever, and get round or, at the end of the day, right from bloating, you know, or feel bad about our, our, like gas or our burps, or whatever it is, I think it becomes it becomes really appealing to to say like, oh, yeah, I shouldn’t have to live like this, like, I shouldn’t have bloating, you know, my stomach should not look this way. And there’s so much anti fat bias baked into that too, with this notion that like a flat stomach is a good stomach, a wild stomach or whatever. But I think it’s you know, there’s, there’s so many restrictive ideas and oppressive ideas about what a well body looks like in general. And when a well body should function like that. It’s sort of like, sucks everyone in I think, because in this culture, and wellness culture, like you’re never well enough, and you’re always, there’s always more you can be doing, you know, you always have to be optimizing. So, I think it’s like, it’s just a losing proposition. And I think about people like you know, Gwyneth Paltrow with all the money in the world, and you know, who’s like an acolyte of all these wellness protocols. And yet, she’s still chronically ill, she’s still struggle, she’s still, you know, it takes up so much of her life, it’s literally something she’s built her business on her entire kind of brand and Empire. And yet, you know, she’s still struggling, she’s still not, quote unquote, well, by wellness culture standards. And so it’s like, what are we even striving for here? What is like the goal, the goalposts are always moving and you can never quite get there.

            Yeah. And like, I mean, similar to dieting, it takes away so much time and energy to constantly be fixating on it like I remember kind of being down that rabbit hole as well. And similar to a lot of my issues were actually the result of disordered eating. And just like going is so obsessed with it, because I was just like, there has to be like a reason there has to be something I’m missing here. And I think that there’s this overall belief If now like, you should be able to kind of like heal yourself like you, you should be able to, like, get to the root cause and figure it out when, like, through natural means, right. Whereas like, you know, as you talk about a lot in your book, and you kind of dispel a lot of the specific things, the different kind of protocols and things get recommended, but it’s just not true. And we kind of, you know, the solution becomes the problem when you start to like, when it starts to kind of take up so much time and space to to figure these things out when, like, you could really just turn to conventional medicine and maybe get like, you know, some sort of like actual medication that might help you, you know, and I know that that’s not always like, just an easy solution either. And that sometimes, like a lot of these medications have horrible side effects and whatnot. But yeah, I just, I feel like there’s this belief of like, you should be able to heal this. And I remember that when I was a nutritionist, like, thinking that and thinking, like, this is why I want to do this, because people can just be well, you know, like, people can heal themselves. And so it came from really good intentions. But it was obviously like, really misguided.

            Yeah, totally. I think about like the research on social determinants of health and how it shows that at the population level, when it comes to like, modifiable determinants of health things that we have any control over, that the societal or individual level, individual behaviors only account for 30% of the pie, and only 10% is food and exercise combined. And then 90% is other things, you know, including 70% Is social determinants of health. And I think in Diet and Wellness culture, we have that image reversed, we think that like 90% of the pie or more is food and exercise. You know, and maybe the small sliver is these other things that, you know, are other types of behaviors we could do or societal stuff. But yeah, it’s just interesting how how deeply rooted that belief is, and how central it is to so many people’s, you know, philosophies and practices, like as a dietitian as well, I definitely believe that, you know, first, when I first went into it, just thinking that like, I could help people heal themselves through food, or prevent any sort of chronic disease from setting in, if they just ate the right things. You know, there’s this really seductive idea that you can live that food as medicine, and that you can treat anything through food, and maybe also, you know, exercise and supplements and related kind of protocols. But there’s this idea that, like, you know, you’re really getting to the root cause if you’re dealing with food and exercise and supplements and stuff, which is, you know, I think about, like, how appealing that idea of a root cause is, again, when you’re feeling dismissed by conventional health care, or that like, the only solutions conventional health care has for you is just, yeah, take this pharmaceutical that has some pretty nasty side effects, or that isn’t totally effective, we really don’t know a lot else to treat your condition, or we don’t know what it is, we don’t even know how to treat it, you know, that doesn’t feel super satisfying. And when someone says to you, like, we’re gonna get to the root, cause we’re not just going to treat the symptoms, and we’re going to treat you as a whole person, we’re not going to just silo you into different parts and systems and have you, you know, work with one person for your digestive stuff, and another person for your endocrine stuff, and whatever, we’re gonna, like, look at you as a whole person that is so appealing, that’s like, so what we want, I think, in those situations, but the reality is so different. And I think actually, the so called root cause and so much of alternative and integrative and functional medicine is just predetermined, it’s just, you know, the root cause always is deemed to be food and supplements and exercise, maybe, but you know, mostly food. And, you know, that’s actually not treating the whole person that’s actually not seeing the person’s unique situation. And, you know, I talked to many people in the book for whom that was really a harmful approach that, you know, it led them to significantly disordered eating. And it also missed what was actually going on for them, which in some cases was really serious. I talked to one woman who had a tumor on her pancreas that was missed, because the functional medicine doctor or nurse practitioner she was working with was like, Well, yeah, when your body is all inflamed, that’s just how it is. And we have to heal this inflammation through this restrictive diet and these shakes and the supplements and then you’ll find really, you know, just totally missing this tumor that was actually causing the problems.

            Yeah. Wow, that’s really scary. One of the other things that I saw recently is that there’s like a course you can take to become a functional medicine coach. And I feel like that lingo is so deceiving because there are functional medicine doctors, and they are actually like, nurse practitioners or doctors. And then now there’s like, you can become a functional medicine coach, and it’s literally just like a year long program. And then you get to I actually just looked into it because I was like, What is this and you get, you can like, take, you know, get your clients to take all these tests and I’m just Like, Oh my god, like, this is really scary, that’s really scary that you’re putting your and by the way, like I actually do believe in like, I have a really good naturopathic doctor that does a lot of great stuff for me, hormonal II. So I don’t want to say that, like, anything is all bad or all good, but like, it is really scary to me when you see the way that the way that kind of like people can be trained to potentially, like work with people on really serious medical conditions. Without having like, any kind of background in sciences or biology or medicine. And even me becoming a nutritionist, I think back about what we learned in school. And they were giving us like protocols to deal with, like kidney issues. And and I’m just like, and I remember at the time being like, I don’t feel comfortable, like giving someone this huge protocol to deal with a kidney issue. Like, this doesn’t feel right to me. And so yeah, that’s it’s a little bit, it’s a bit worrisome in that regard.

            Yeah, yeah, completely, I feel like functional medicine already is something I am very skeptical of, because of its lack of strong evidence base, I think, you know, there’s a lot of doctors and nurse practitioners and other providers in that space, who really want to do good and want to help their patients and I think are coming from a good place. But, you know, there’s a lot of very early stage science or, you know, science that’s just happening in like cells and animals, it’s being translated into humans that, you know, I think it’s really not appropriate to do that. It’s not, it’s not ready to be used for clinical recommendations. And yet, I see that happening a lot in the functional medicine space. But then, you know, but at least at least there’s there’s people who are, you know, trained doctors and nurse practitioners and nurses, and, you know, that could potentially order conventional treatments, or conventional tests as well, if the need arose, if they if they saw the need for that. And like, if it’s a coach who doesn’t have any of that sort of training, or the ability to even really, you know, order anything themselves, like they might have to refer out or whatever, but, you know, who knows, at the individual level, like, whether they’re going to actually be doing that gonna be referring to a doctor, if it’s if it’s necessary or not, you know, and just, yeah, seems risky. Yeah.

            So one of the things I wanted to talk to you about was, like, how, what’s your advice to people to move forward? Like, how can people sort of watch it like, what should people watch out for? Or screen in terms of information that they’re finding or like practitioners that they’re choosing to work with?

            Yeah, it’s, it’s really a tricky world out there. And I think there’s a lot of things that need to change. So you know, I want to say, first of all, like, this is not all an individual responsibility. These are systemic issues, I think that needs to be addressed at the societal level, too, and kind of first and foremost, you know, like addressing social determinants of health and foregrounding, mental health, you know, not just sort of focusing on the physical and making health out to be this individual responsibility. regulating the tech industry, I think, is also really important regulating social media so that we can reduce the spread of misinformation and disinformation. And regulating the supplement industry, which in the US, and Canada is kind of the Wild West, it’s like largely unregulated, really only regulated post market, so things don’t get tested for safety and efficacy, before they go to market, they only could be recalled after they go to market. And in practice, the enforcement is really spotty and doesn’t happen as much as it should. So I think like, all of those things need to change. And we need, you know, systemic levels, societal level action on those things. But that said, there are also things people can do, I think, to take care of themselves. And at the individual level, sort of, in, in addition to and while waiting for the societal changes to happen. One thing is that I would just encourage everyone to try to approach alternative and integrative and functional medicine, and the wellness industry in general, really, with as much skepticism or more skepticism as you would have for conventional medicine. Because I think, you know, as I mentioned before, like wellness culture and the wellness industry are really good at sort of fanning the flames of people’s mistrust of the conventional healthcare system and sort of amplifying amping up that message and proposing their offerings as a solution. And so just being skeptical of that, and realizing that, you know, just because someone says something is natural or gentle or better than conventional healthcare, doesn’t mean that it actually is and that, you know, I think we need to be probably more skeptical of the wellness industry and, you know, providers in this sort of alternative space because they have even less evidence behind them in a lot of cases. Not that there is nothing wrong. You know, there’s there’s a lot wrong with the conventional healthcare system too. But I think there’s even more to be wary of in wellness culture. I think also, not to assume that you know why honest recommendations are based on any sound science, even when science is cited, or even when, you know, like, I think that a lot of alternative providers and sort of wellness culture, you know, advocates and entrepreneurs really like to, like claim to be super science based. And this is cutting edge research. And, you know, this is like, at the forefront of medical knowledge and all this stuff. But, you know, another word for cutting edge research is just like really early stage research that isn’t actually ready for primetime, you know, it’s a lot of scientific research, like, there’s a lot of exciting research that happens, you know, in early stages, and then other scientists tried to replicate it and can’t. And that’s like the vast majority of science, you know, there’ll be like these promising results from a trial and rats or a cell experiment or trial, and like, 10 volunteers or something, but then, you know, when it’s replicated by another group with a larger, larger participant base, and humans, oftentimes, you know, really most often is the case that the results aren’t replicated, you know. And so, I think that’s something to be aware of that when people are touting, like cutting edge science or whatever that it’s, it’s often just this really early stage research that isn’t going to go anywhere. And so that’s, that’s another thing to kind of look out for. And then I would say to like with any given wellness treatment, or practice, just trying to be mindful of your own experience, and realize the power of expectations, the power of the care effect, and how helpful that can be at first. But then recognizing that those things can also sometimes wear off like the placebo effect is, is powerful, but it does sort of decline over time, especially when the treatment or protocol itself isn’t itself effective. And so you know, you might feel really hopeful when you’re starting out, you might feel better, a little bit better. But then as time goes, by the good feeling starts to wear off and you’re not sure your symptoms return, maybe you get some new symptoms, you just don’t know, whether you’re really feeling better. And then oftentimes, what happens is, wellness providers will recommend, you know, adding other treatments, adding other dietary restrictions, like becoming even more, you know, going further down the rabbit hole basically, of, of the wellness protocols and practices. So I think really being skeptical of that, and just noticing like, Okay, if it feels like the potential benefits of whatever I’ve been doing are starting to wear off, what would it be like to go back to not doing the thing, you know, and see any difference in my experience that way, or, you know, at least like not going further down the rabbit hole and adding more and more and more restrictions, because I think that’s where it gets really disordered for a lot of people where people can really get into some seriously disordered eating and relationships with their bodies. And I think everybody is, you know, especially everyone listening to this podcast probably is at risk of disordered eating in this culture, I think very few people are not at risk. So just knowing when you’re going into any sort of wellness practice, or alternative medicine, you know, protocol or whatever, that the recommendations to cut out foods and dietary restrictions are going to put at risk your relationship with food and your body and to be really mindful of whether that’s appropriate for you are off, you know, and in some cases, I think you can talk to providers and say, I have a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating or, you know, struggling in my relationship with food. And I don’t think that going on a restrictive diet is going to be helpful to me and just kind of see what they say, you know, and if they’re supportive of that, and willing to look at other treatments, and not put you on a diet, that could potentially be a sign of someone who’s, who’s good to work with, if they really double down and say, No, we have to do this. And this is the only way that might be a red flag, and maybe, you know, it’s potentially helpful to look for a second opinion, you know, switch providers if you can, if that’s available to you. And I know access is sometimes an issue there too. So another another, I think helpful way to protect yourself from wellness, misinformation and disinformation is trying to take a step back from social media and recognizing how it pushes us increasingly towards extreme content that isn’t necessarily backed by good evidence, and you know, how it may have sucked you in already further than you’d intended and so not looking to social media for your ideas of what to try or what to do. And I know that sometimes social media can be important for community and feeling connected to other people who are going through similar things, but as much as you can, trying to, like separate that from, you know, not using it to like diagnose or treat any condition and also not typing into a social media search engine or into Google without any sort of, you know, making sure you have like ad blockers and privacy protection on your computers so that you’re not creating this like breadcrumb trail for the social media companies to use to retarget you because that happens, you know, A lot of websites have, you know, targeting like trackers on them that send your information back to Facebook and to Google and, you know, allow those ads to follow you around the internet for something that you once clicked on. And that’s creepy in and of itself. But you know, the the creepier thing is that they have these entire dossiers on all of us on like, our behaviors, our demographics, our psychographics. And, you know, what we’re interested in, including any wellness stuff that we’re interested in, or any health conditions that we have. And that can allow the algorithms to feed us some really potentially harmful content. So, you know, really trying to protect yourself from social media in that way. And then finally, I think, one useful tool that, you know, would be like a whole other conversation I go into in more depth in the book, but there’s this this strategy called sift that you can use when you come across wellness information online. And it was developed by a researcher at the University of Washington named Mike Caulfield, who studies digital media literacy. And it stands for its four steps, which are stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, and trace claims, quotes and media to their original context, then I think that’s a nice little heuristic for just like, not getting too engaged with any wellness information, or really any kind of information that you find online. But looking at the context first and deciding whether it’s something that you really trust and whether it’s something you want to give your time and energy to, or whether it’s something that you rather, you know, sidebar and sort of look elsewhere for for your wellness content.

            Yeah, that’s super, super helpful. And I really appreciated that approach. Because I feel like, nowadays, people will just take, you know, one tweet that they saw, or one thing that they saw, like one nugget of information that they saw in a headline and take it as you know, as a fact and as truth and, and we have to really, like slow down and try to figure out, you know, Where’s this coming from? Is there validity to this like, because otherwise, we’re just, you know, taking whatever somebody just can make up and say, which is unfortunately happening? Quite a bit of which we found during COVID. Right. And, and it’s, it’s quite scary. And I think like, you know, social media trains our brain to just like, see something and like, take it as truth. And really, you know, rapidly kind of digest little nuggets of information, instead of like really slowing down and kind of, you know, going in depth with something and checking actually, like looking into something and it doesn’t even take that much time I found because I’ve done that quite a few times with people that are, you know, people that have been, you know, somebody I knew from like high school who I still follow on like Facebook, who posts like some sort of claim and, and I like looked it up, and it was really easy to disprove in about 30 seconds. I was like, wait a minute, like, that’s not even true.

            But yeah, I appreciate all of those all of those suggestions. And I really loved in your book, how you just wanted to so many different things like what does the research say about intermittent fasting and manifesting? And yeah, like leaky gut, and Candida and all that stuff. So I highly recommend people pick up a copy to get into kind of the nitty gritty of it all. And as always, it was like extremely well researched, and, and well written. So I really appreciate you being here today.

            Thank you so much. It’s so good to talk with you. And I really, really appreciate you having me on and glad you like the book. Yeah. So where can people find you, Christie? Yeah, so people can find me on my website, which is Christy, which has all the links to my book and places to buy it. You can also get the book at any bookstore, you know, pretty much any major bookstore in North America, or any indie bookstore. And I also have a new podcast called rethinking wellness, which continues on, you know, exploring some of the themes in the book. And in this conversation, have lots more conversations with folks who study and experience different aspects of wellness culture. And you can find that just by searching for rethinking wellness with Christy Harrison or just rethinking wellness, wherever you’re listening to this.

            Thank you so much, Christy as always, it’s such a pleasure, such a pleasure rock on.

            As always, Christie has such a wealth of knowledge around these things, and I think that you will really enjoy reading the wellness trap, so definitely check that out. You can find all the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 268 Thank you so much for being here today. Rock on.

            I’m Summer Innanen. And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on.

            Share this Post