Is Wellness Just for the Elite?

More money = more options?

When I first started this article, it became clear very quickly that not everyone had the same definition of “wellness.” For one person, it was as simple as partaking in a daily serving of fruits and vegetables, and for another it was making sure he spent some time outside every day. 

For me, it means feeling the best in my body physically, mentally, and emotionally. Depending on the day, it can look a variety of ways, depending on what I feel I’m needing. As someone living on a fixed income, I strive to find inexpensive or free ways to improve upon my overall wellbeing. 

According to an article published by The New York Times in September of 2018 the Census Bureau reported that 12.3% of the American population was living in poverty. Of that, 5.7% live on less that $24,858.00 a year. With this kind of budget, good healthcare becomes extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible to access. Lower incomes mean purchasing “cheaper” healthcare plans that generally come with harsh restrictions on the allotted number of visits, tests, treatments, and access to doctors. 

So is the system designed to favor the needs of insurance companies and doctors over patients? Is there a hierarchy when it comes to the accessibility of quality healthcare? 

Perhaps that’s why “alternative medicine” has been so fiercely fighting against Western medicine, insisting the latter is a failing system that keeps the sick, sick. In its nature it serves only those who can afford the best, while the rest are left to suffer or endure inferior care. 

In today’s world there are more options than ever when it comes to alternative healthcare. All-natural, holistic, herbal, and green are just some of the buzzwords shifting people out of the old health paradigm of eating clean and getting regular sleep and exercise, and into the new paradigm of optimizing human function.

Longevity is key. Everything from float tanks to acupuncture and infrared saunas to supplements and Bulletproof Coffee is at your fingertips — all promising a vast array of health benefits. Yet, as it turns out, human optimization can sometimes come with a hefty price tag.

While these services aim to fill a gap that western medicine can’t, they aren’t any easier or more affordable to access. Most of these services are not accepted by insurance, forcing people to pay with cash with some costing thousands of dollars. If you’re looking to practice yoga, learn how to mediate, or work with a health or nutrition coach, then that too will cost you a pretty penny. Just as with typical western medicine, here there is also a clear hierarchy of accessibility, leaving only those who can afford the services to reap the benefits. 

Fortunately, in the age of technology, people have unlimited access to free Youtube videos, podcasts, and newsletters which offer multitudes of educational content (for anyone with internet access, that is). There are endless books, documentaries, and discounted seminars with available information — often from some of the same people who charge considerable prices for their personal services.

At the end of the day, I greatly admire and respect the people in the health and wellness industry who are trying to make a difference in the lives of others. They believe there is a purer and better way to approach not only health and wellness, but also financial wellness and spirituality. They’re working — in some ways with and other ways against — a broken system, and that means people will inevitably fall through the cracks. 

As this piece comes to an end, I find myself ruminating over the same thought I had when I began writing this story: What does “wellness” really entail? Ultimately, I believe there’s more than one way to live a healthy life and it looks different for everyone. I strongly believe in developing one’s own bodily intuition because no one knows you better than you. Am I oversimplifying it by concluding that it isn’t all about supplements, biomats, and reiki? Am I wrong to see these simply as luxuries and not necessities? Is there still truth in the concept of “less is more?”

Julia Piantini is still writing and drinking offensive amounts of coffee (though now she does it in Miami, Florida). She hopes to spend as little time on social media as possible, but if you’re curious enough, she invites you to find her on the ‘Gram at @julia_piantini.

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