There’s an Australian ‘wellness blogger’ making headlines all over the world right now.
No, not Tammy Hembrow, the fitness “inspo” goddess whose health brand is only a little tarnished by her recent unscripted, horizontal exit from Kylie Jenner‘s 21st birthday.
No, this one is an old favourite, Freelee The Banana Girl (above). You might remember Freelee from a “feud” she had with Kayla Itsines back in 2015. Freelee, who advocates eating mostly raw food, and sometimes as many as 51 bananas a day*, told the world that Itsines’ popular Bikini Body Plan was advocating starvation. Itsines took her to court, and won.
Queenslander Freelee now lives in the South American “jungle”, where she rarely wears clothes, blogs about her ‘mono-diet’ (eating large amounts of a single food, like eight pounds of potatoes in one sitting**), and avoids claims that she might really be living in a mansion, with a professional photographer on hand.
Those claims – which Freelee denies, insisting she lives in a monsoon-whipped tent – have seen her land on the front pages of American media sites lately, including The Cut.
If you think Freelee’s mix of extreme diet and titilating photo shoots is a little… unusual, you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happened to health on social media.
Try a quaint experiment. Pick up your phone, open Instagram, and do a search on #wellness.
Actually, don’t. Let me save you the trouble. Because what you’ll get is a riot of breakfasts and bums.
Beautiful bowls of rainbow-hued vegetables, untouched but for a dusting of chia seeds.
And Lycra. And bottoms. Welcome to wellness 2018.
There is kale and there is something called chard. There are breakfasts involving 25 ingredients, most of them tongue-twisters.
And there are a lot of bikinis.
That’s Tammy. How did you feel, looking at that? Motivated? Inspired?
Or did you feel just a little, ever so rubbish?
Because the flipside of Insta-style wellness – the movement that’s meant to be making us feel better – is that in offering quick fixes to what ails us (lethargy, weight-gain, stress, disconnection), it’s rolled up in a package that makes us feel worse.
Maybe you’re a new mum, and you’re battling with a body that suddenly feels like an angry stranger. Perhaps you’ve gained some weight lately. Perhaps you’re really focused on work right now, or study right now, or Netflix and a comforting doona right now.
Perhaps you feel like your life is running just a little beyond your control, too many people want too many things from you and there never seems to be enough time to please them all. Maybe you’re feeling anxious, or isolated, perhaps you’re fighting with your partner, or your best friend. Maybe you’ve just broken up with someone, or perhaps you’ve just lost your job.
If any of these things are true, then #wellness is coming for you.
Because there’s no-one more vulnerable to the siren-song of acai than the disillusioned.
Holly’s second novel How To Be Perfect is about wellness bloggers and bad influencers. You can hear about it, here:
And you can read the first chapter of How To Be Perfect, here.
Often, I am one of them.
My moments of weakness are all around the morning. When I’m dealing with fighting children, a pinging phone, off-milk and violin practice that sounds like strangled aardvarks. When I discover I haven’t got any bread left for the school sandwiches and my skirt doesn’t do up anymore and I have chanted my morning mantra – “Socks, shoes, teeth!” – at the kids 25 times in a row, I reach for my phone and I look at Nicola Robinson Evans.
Her morning looks like this:
Meditation & Tea go hand in hand for me. The ceremony itself is a graceful dance between all the elements, a heart centred, peaceful practice that floats me into a space of true tranquility. The tea herself guides me to go deeper within & inspires me to forget all about me & just BE… no stories, no judgement, no duality whatsoever, just an eternal state of unitary being. My very dear sister & teacher @allmattersofspirit awakened my curiosity for this loving practice many, many moons ago & ever since, every morning, usually before the Sun, I gratefully begin my day here. Our teacher Wu De is traveling to Australia in December & teaching at numerous events at the @satnaminstitute & in Brisbane too. If you feel called to learn more & dive into the Zen flow, please do pop on over to @globalteahut, join our family & click the link in The Global Tea Hut bio for tickets & more information. ????????????
Robinson-Evans’ feed is almost exclusively exquisite shots of salad and ponies and rolling green hills. Every now again that guy who presents My Kitchen Rules pops up, visiting the most beautiful hinterland farmhouse you’ve ever seen. Reality TV’s fat and salt pay the bills, but meditation and fermented beets bring the Likes.
Sometimes, when things get really stressful, I find myself reaching for one of my Gwyneth Paltrow cookbooks.
I have a Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook for the same reason you have a Pete Evans one: It appeals to the person I hope I am at some indeterminate time in the future. There is an alternate reality, and it’s one where I have eschewed lentils because they are bad for inflammation, am steadfastly regarding quinoa as junk food and am sitting, alone, on a sun-kissed hillside chewing on a stick of chard.
That person cooks from her Gwyneth cookbook. That person has their shit together.
Apart from Freelee, and Tammy and Kayla and Nicola and… There’s Rachael Finch. The glorious Finchy is here to remind us (okay, me) that having two small kids is NO EXCUSE not to exercise lots and eat clean. She can do it. Her post-workout breakfast looks like this:
Post workout #bodybyfinch bowl today ????. Banana, avo, choc protein, nut butter, maca, turmeric, coconut milk + a truckload of spinach. I could have this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Hits all the macros & tastes like ice cream if you get the right consistency ????????????. In new season @bodbyrachaelfinch www.bodybyfinch.com
What do you mean, you had toast this morning?
I never have any of the ingredients to make Gwyeneth or Rachael’s meals. Sometimes I try to calm myself by making a shopping list of things called agave and spirulina and Sex Dust. I imagine that if only I could be organised enough and feel flush enough to make date-based treats and order the ENERGY ELIXIR, everything in my life will become more manageable.
These women are the new celebrities. If we used to aspire to Jennifer Aniston’s hair, Kate Moss’ stamina and Angelina Jolie’s bedroom pull, now we aspire to a round bum, a smoothie shaker full of righteousness and a Yogalates class near the office.
Inspiring women to shuffle themselves up the list and take care of their bodies and minds is a gift.
But tapping into our insecurities at our most vulnerable is not.
Freelee and her banana-supported bod are selling us a dream. So is Tammy and her “you can do it” mantra. So is Nicole on her stunning multi-million-dollar hinterland spread.
Just remember, it’s their dream too. And no-one’s reality.
Pass the chard.
* Don’t do that. That’s nuts.
** Don’t do that, either.
You can buy Holly’s novel, How To Be Perfect, here.