• Emma Green

The trap of healthism

It’s great to see more people discussing the rejection of diet culture but I see that narratives often slip into healthism. Healthism is the idea that health should be everyone’s top priority and consequently they are morally obligated to pursue health in their daily behaviours. This is often held up as a favourable alternative to the pursuit of a particular body goal. Instead of trying to lose weight by calorie and macro tracking, that effort should be put into health-directed behaviours. There are a number of problems with this. Firstly, it positions health as being at the level of the individual and neglects the social and genetic determinants of health. Nobody has complete control over their health. It also tends to emphasise physical health, often overlooking mental health. In reality, the pursuit of physical health at any expense is typically associated with a decline in mental health and well-being. Healthism also overrides personal autonomy. Nobody has the right to tell another person what to do with their body. Not your body, not your business. Furthermore, by focusing on health as being of primary importance, it suggests that in the absence of health that things are not okay. When an individual is unhealthy, for whatever reason, their sense of self and worth can thus be threatened. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with pursuing health if that is a value of yours. However, the idea that everyone is able and morally obligated to pursue health is inherently flawed. Do what you want with your own body but don’t impose your privilege and choices on others.

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