Haas Take: The health craze is classist


An assortment of cannabis products from the Cannabis Cup 2016, a festival in Southern California.

Ella Haas, News/Opinion Editor

Tensions are rising in the Western world. 

Anxiety surrounding the opioid situation, a political climate heated to a boiling point, and the impending reality of an irreparable environmental collapse has skyrocketed in recent years – not even mentioning everybody and their mother’s myriad of individual and social conflicts.

All this conversation, and the seeming lack of solution, has turned the American people into a nail-gnawing disaster running on fear and caffeine. 

As our situation worsens to the point of desolation, kale sales and the value of alternative-health products have steadily crawled up. In 2015 – the year preceding one of the most heated presidential elections in American history – the CBD industry grew from nearly nothing to a total of $202 million. The following year, that number more than doubled to $688 million as Trump stepped into office. 

The rise of meditation, metal straws, and alternative medicine happened at the exact same time as the increase in collective American terror not by coincidence, but in a case of cause-and-effect.

In an era characterized by overwhelming worry, people will turn to anything for a cure. For years, Americans have resorted to Western medicine and conventional health routines with no avail. When clinical psychologists and Alprazolam don’t do the job, hot yoga and greens start to sound like they just might work.

Nothing is wrong with this, of course: to each his own, and if it works, keep it up. I’m not bothered by my mom’s yoga mat appearing in the backseat of the car, or the grocery store aisles being rearranged to make way for the latest CBD-infused yogurt.

The problem with the booming wellness craze, as the case used to be with veganism, is that it’s rooted in privilege.

Two years ago, I could walk into a grocery store without feeling like I’d stumbled into a country club in sweatpants. Nowadays, snaking through clusters of Lululemon-clad PTA mothers clutching bags of kale chips to their chests, I can’t look at a snack food without feeling baptized in a silent, intense wave of public shame.

Something about the presence of new-wave health products in one’s shopping cart seems to create an ego inflation like no other grocery-store item, but participants fail to realize a number of crucial points.

The so-called “wellness” movement cannot be applied universally. As is the case in any species, humans have differing psychological and physiological needs that cannot all be treated the same way. 

While some people are allergic to CBD products, others have physical impairments that require the use of a straw when drinking. Someone I love, for example, has problems with his or her body’s iron levels. For this person to become wholly vegetarian or vegan would threaten his or her health with long-term or fatal consequences, making such a diet impossible to maintain. 

This is the case with millions of people worldwide: what’s good for some could be dangerous for others. In forgetting this, people sacrifice their empathy for a sense of elitism, embarrassing both themselves and the movement they represent.

In addition, not everybody has the income to buy all their groceries at Whole Foods – let alone afford all the essences and extracts. Healthy, organic products are expensive by nature. 

Many lower-class people struggle to afford quality food, and can’t adhere to the lifestyle of the average CBD fiend. Not realizing this, many upper-class health freaks tend to snub the economically underprivileged (whether for the size of their diet’s carbon footprint or because “you’re not valuing your health”), transforming the wellness wave into a suburban women’s nightclub whose bouncers forget not everyone was born with a silver straw in his or her mouth.

While it has its benefits on both individual and global scales, the health wave has morphed into something defined by narcissism and the practice of shaming others for not adhering to a specific lifestyle.

Participants should consider the reasons why not everyone can join them. Some people can’t afford it, some have medical conditions influencing their dietary needs, and some just don’t want to. 

Regardless of the reason, everyone’s choices are valid and deserving of respect. The refusal to acknowledge this is the fatal flaw of the wellness craze.