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The American wellness industry largely caters to a specific demographic of upper-class women, but people with lower incomes need all the things the space offers, too. POC suffer from economic disparity far more than white people, rendering the world of wellness inaccessible to many. Worse yet, a bulk of wellness modalities available have been appropriated by white people, from other countries and cultures.
As someone who forged a career in the wellness world, my private chef and nutrition clientele was predominantly as you’d expect: rich, white, liberal women. I used that work to build a platform, but the more I saw what a positive impact healthful foods and natural healing methods could have, the more I realized the disparity between those who could and couldn't afford it.
So, for the last few years I've shifted my mission to focus on helping those who need wellness, but have far less access. Gone are my recommendations that you, too, need to drink a daily smoothie that costs $100 in ingredients to make. In its place, I'm here to tell you that you can make a three ingredient veggie burger for about $.25 a serving.
In 2019, I spoke at the Women In Wellness Leadership Conference to offer tools for wellness professionals that would help their practices be more inclusive and accessible. Here are some of the ways the wellness world, and those who partake in its services and goods, can do better, but first:
Realize This May Feel Uncomfortable
Personal growth is not sunshine and roses. It can, and should, feel kind of bad as you dive into the ways you’ve contributed to a harmful narrative. I’ve made countless mistakes over the years, and, being human, will continue to. What matters is that we own our mistakes and use them as fuel to be more fabulous than ever!
If you have skills only economically fortunate people can afford to utilize, you can balance this out by occasionally offering them to those who need them most. For example, I’ve spent time offering nutrition and cooking workshops to underserved teenage girls. We made simple, fun, and youth-appealing healthy foods that required no strong culinary skills out of inexpensive ingredients available at big box grocers. Whatever your talent, there is likely a community that could use it!
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
There’s very little that Americans have invented in the natural healing realm. From turmeric, to acupuncture, to breath work, to hallucinogens, to yoga, most wellness practices hail from other countries and cultures. They may be new to America, but many have been around for thousands of years. Read up on the history of anything you’re involved in, and give credit to those who initially practiced it rather than talk about having “discovered” something awesome. Most importantly, avoid using appropriative language. You aren’t “shamaning” your friend’s mushroom trip, saying you’re going to “namastay in bed” is hugely diminishing of yogic principles, and that random celebrity is not your “spirit animal.”
Understand Your Image
If you have marketing materials, do you include diverse bodies in them? The racial reckoning our country is experiencing provides a great moment to sit and reflect on the audience you’re cultivating. We’re finally hitting a time where we can recognize that thin, white beauty doesn’t have to be the cultural standard—what are you doing to help expand that positive notion?
Use Your Platform
Is your Instagram a walking ad for white girls in yoga poses? That image has run its course, yet continues to be the dominant visual representation of wellness. If you have a following, don’t be afraid to share about what matters to you. #amplifymelanatedvoices is one example of a hashtag used to share content from Black people, in solidarity of their lives mattering and because their work is often seen, and appreciated, less than that of white people. One important note here: Don’t center yourself.
Are there organizations you’ve donated to that would benefit from others knowing about them? Share it in your newsletter or on your social media accounts. Engage your own audience, which has a twofold benefit: Your audience knows you care, and you indirectly help a charitable cause to grow.
Support BIPOC Brands
Before you purchase products or visit (or hire) a practitioner, look into options that elevate instead of co-opt. That spans everything from Ayurvedic healers who are Indian to Black-owned beauty brands. In a capitalist society, our money is our most powerful tool; let’s use it to lift those who need it most and deserve recognition for the usage of their modalities.
With these easy steps, we can help less advantaged people thrive. BIPOC gave us what we know of as wellness—let’s give back in the ways we can so they, too, can be well.