Self-professed experts have taken to running wellness blogs in their droves, all with cutesy names like Peanut Butter Fingers and Naturally Ella, promising diet, style and general life hacks. Many of these blogs are great and offer sound advice, but what about those that don’t?
And can blogs have a negative influence on body image, mind and even health? NATALIE SELLERS investigates wellness blogs that recently made the news, and cautions writers (and readers) to double-check their facts.
The internet offers a wealth of information, from bona fide sources like the BBC online to the crowd-built Wikipedia. But lurking among these brilliant resources are bear-traps and pitfalls all in the name of good health advice.
Journalists now share the internet with an army of bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers. A Pulitzer Prize is great, but a huge following on Instagram is even better. Couple that with swish branding, a saccharine sweet attitude and a new breed of online guru is born.
Blogger, Deliciously Ella and health and fitness YouTuber, Sarah’s Day, give advice on everything from diet and fitness to that most enigmatic of terms, ‘wellness’. Naturally, these are often accompanied with uplifting personal anecdotes and snapshots of gazelle-like figures adopting the lotus position in uber-chic living spaces.
These blogs can be inspiring, they can motivate you to go the gym, eat better and catch more sleep, but there is a flipside. Being sold the dream that if you follow this blog, you too will be bronzed, beautiful and rich can be soul-destroying if you don’t have the right building blocks in the first place.
Bloggers portray a filtered life
Instagram is the weapon of choice for bloggers to visually promote themselves and their products. Deliciously Ella frequently uses the network to blend earnest posts expressing her “endless gratitude” amid recipes for miso sesame tofu veggie skewers and glossy promo shots.
She may have started out a humble blogger but her carefully curated brand image has managed to secure cookbook deals, a deli and her own line of products. However, even Ella has voiced concerns about “fuelling young girls’ inadequacies, with the sometimes shiny vision of her life viewed through an Instagram filter”.
Despite being written with the best intentions, blog posts can sometimes seem insensitive, at worst insincere. One Sarah’s Day blog begins with “Because we never feel good enough…”, the accompanying shot is of a young, slim, attractive woman – who seemingly has it all – sitting on the beach.
To someone less physically blessed, reading about the shallow insecurities of someone who is, could be more demoralizing than empowering. And no one is more susceptible than the target audience of young women.
Not-so-sage advice from wannabe health writers
It’s not just physical insecurities these blogs prey on, but people’s wallets and more worryingly, health.
Nothing is too outlandish for serial offender, Gwyneth Paltrow and her Aladdin’s cave of a site, Goop; everything from psychic vampire repellent to reishi mushroom elixir mix can be bought here.
Like many bloggers, Goop’s voice speaks with a self-appointed authority over a scattergun of topics from diet and fitness to balancing energy. A voice that promises to help people with problems they previously didn’t know exist while peddling often dubious products.
The infamous jade egg achieved notoriety when Goop’s article ‘Jade Eggs for Your Yoni’ calmly encouraged women to shove jade eggs up their vaginas. Top tips included placing the egg in moonlight to “absorb energy”, while offering said egg for $66 a pop.
Ultimately the health concerns for this decidedly odd habit won out with the BBC recently reporting that Goop “agreed to pay $145,000 (£112,000) for making unscientific claims about vaginal eggs”. The settlement also applied to Goop’s depression-curing flower essence.
Writers spreading fake news
Although, no one is forced to put stone eggs in intimate places or take flower essence on a bad day, when popular branded voices become confused with the authentic voices of trained professionals, then the risks become clear.
Wellness blogger, Belle Gibson shot to fame when she promoted curing her brain cancer by ignoring doctor’s advice and following her own far more educated intuition. Apple and Penguin lapped it up, helping Gibson launch a cookbook and best-selling app promoting her alternative treatments. With little scientific evidence supporting it, she freely endorsed the unproven Gerson therapy and other controversial practices.
It later transpired Gibson never had cancer and her entire holistic empire had been built purely on chat; the wellness circles she had been operating in were left reeling.
The internet is a vast wilderness with few checks and balances and it’s all too easy to dish out unsubstantiated advice to a willing audience. The online voice is powerful; writers must use it wisely.
About the Author
London-born and bred, Natalie Sellers spent her early years doing a hodgepodge of jobs with various drinks companies and publications in the UK. With itchy feet setting in, she decided to up sticks and move to the other side of the world where she joined drinks website, Wine-Searcher in Auckland. She now regularly writes and contributes to articles while pursuing her interests in food, wine and travel.
Main photo credit: Flickr.com/SAWS