Vitality of Nature

Life Is Short, Wellness Be Damned

Grape-Nuts for Your BrainThis is a plea for perspective. For all of human history, people have yearned for longer and healthier lives. That pursuit became an obsession for some notable entrepreneurs in the Victorian era. For example, the wellness obsessions of John Harvey Kellogg and C.W. Post gave us Corn Flakes and Grape-Nuts. They became big brands through bogus health claims that would never hold up now.

Today, one of the prime sources for bogus health claims is people peddling wellness. And it turns out that this can be equally true for claims from Gwyneth Paltrow and claims from a great many corporate wellness programs.

Confronting Mortality

Writing in the New York Times, Allison Arieff explains why these scams have such an enduring appeal. Many people are trying to avoid the fact of their own mortality. In the process, we are denying our own humanity, she says:

Our time here is but a blip, and when we leave, the great world continues to spin. As such, the appreciation of our own lives has much to do with the ever-increasing awareness of its relative brevity. It is this – an awareness and acceptance of our own mortality – that makes us human. And it is the impetus, I’d argue, for living our lives to the fullest.

Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

Barbara Ehrenreich makes this point with her new book. In Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, she writes:

You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and seize it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.

Likewise, Professor Nathan Heflick explains how facing mortality leads people to value life more highly. His research supports the writings of philosophers who tell us that contemplating death can help us appreciate life more fully.

In sum, we are not arguing against sound principles of personal wellness. Please do eat healthfully. Stay active. Brush your teeth.

Rather, we are suggesting that unrealistic promises about postponing death are pernicious. Thus, if we should value life, we must be honest with ourselves about how fragile and brief our lives are.

Click here for more on worshiping the false idols of wellness and here for more on how your corporate wellness program probably isn’t making you healthier.

Vitality of Nature, photograph © Lidia Zoltanska / flickr

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August 21, 2018

4 Responses to “Life Is Short, Wellness Be Damned”

  1. August 21, 2018 at 8:08 am, Susan Burke March said:

    Ted, thanks for your thoughts on this important subject. I just recently listened to a podcast from Health News Digest that spoke about how we are making all people into patients with unnecessary and often irrelevant screens and “genetic testing.” I’ll have to find the link and post it. We’re taking off-next stop Madrid 👍

  2. August 21, 2018 at 8:22 am, Ted said:

    Thanks, Susan! I wonder this is the podcast you remember:
    http://www.healthnewsdigest.com/news/Cancer_Issues_660/Like-Shark-Attack-and-the-Lottery-Unconscious-Bias-Influences-Cancer-Screening.shtml

    You might also be interested in this commentary:
    https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmv008

  3. August 21, 2018 at 9:18 am, Julian Simcox said:

    Focus on Life to your Years and then you might well get lucky and get more Years to your Life

  4. August 21, 2018 at 3:51 pm, John DiTraglia said:

    ― Woody Allen quotes-

    “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”

    “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”

    “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.”