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The Wellness Industry is Fixated on Fast Results

The fixation on fast results in the wellness industry aims to capitalise on consumers’ desire to obtain the “ideal image of health and wellness” through misleading marketing and influential celebrity culture.

Jul 08, 2024 | By Larissa Fay Wong
Photo: Eat This Not That

The wellness industry has seen rapid growth in the last few years, valued at a whopping USD 5.61 trillion in 2022 and predicted to see continued growth, rising 57% to USD 8.5 trillion by 2027, as reported by Bloomberg. The increase can primarily be attributed to a shift in consumers’ changing relationship with healthcare, especially during post-pandemic times and in an era of ever-changing health and body standards. The pursuit of wellness is a highly personal journey that strikes a suitable balance between mental, physical, and social health. Recently, the image of health and wellness has taken on a one-dimensional approach to accelerate industry growth and generate revenue. Due to misleading marketing promises, diet trends, technological innovations and celebrity and influencer culture, people are compelled to spend exponentially to achieve the “ideal” image of health in a shorter time through wellness treatments and trends.

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What is Health and Wellness, and Why the Dramatic Shift?

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As explained by a certified intuitive eating counsellor, author, and speaker, Alana Van Der Sluys in her TED talk, she shared her image of health — imagining young white women decked in yoga attire and carrying yoga mats. She explained that the wellness industry has created an ideal image of health and wellness, which is undoubtedly unrealistic and impossible for the general public. In a bid to capitalise on the growth of wellness, the collective perception presented to consumers of the ideal image of health sends an implicit message that we need to have clear skin or a slim body to have the right to be confident or to be satisfied with ourselves. Van Der Sluys also asserts that the industry was elitist, that the image is oversimplified, one dimensional and exclusionary — presenting consumers with the idea that those not of a certain status cannot pursue health and wellness.

Her logical argument reminds that with shifting consumer habits, it is inevitable that companies wish to capitalise on it — regardless of whether it is truly beneficial for a consumer. The wellness industry once taught that a balanced lifestyle was the ideal image, condemning fad diets and trends and pushing the idea that slow and gradual lifestyle changes are the healthiest ways to better health. Whereas it has now warped into marketing schemes that present expensive experiences and treatments to achieve fast results and a quick fix to an individual’s health goals. Furthermore, with the dramatic and overwhelming shift in marketing shortcuts to health as well as public figures in the media displaying extreme body and lifestyle standards, the wellness industry has created an air of urgency within consumers, allowing them to capitalise on people’s insecurities and desire to achieve the “ideal image”. Hence, it is unfortunate but unsurprising to understand the industry’s fixation on fast results.

Misleading Marketing Promises

Photo: Medium

There are copious examples of treatments and plans that promise to “fix” one’s health acceleratedly. Workout plans typically market themselves with bold claims of rapid weight loss, with advertisements highlighting significant weight loss in short periods, often using tag lines such as “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days”. In a world where social media appearance holds such great importance for many people and the overwhelming pressures of living in an appearance-obsessed society, Gen Zs and millennials have been influenced to place much of their self-worth on appearance. These factors prompt hunger in consumers to search for quick fixes that guarantee the result of their desired appearance. Thus, businesses come in to satisfy them with expensive workout plans that market conventionally unhealthy habits to appeal to their insecurities.

Photo: Wall Street Journal

Similar tactics are employed when marketing mental health and relaxation products and services, often promising instant stress relief solutions when marketing products like essential oils and trendy relaxation pods. Considering the demands of modern life, the line of work-life balance has increasingly blurred, and consumers look to the wellness industry for solutions to deteriorating mental health. The urgent quest for salvation is satiated by the promise of instant stress relief through expensive treatments like sensory deprivation pods and sound baths, with little scientific studies to support its claims. However, considering that these experiences are popularly promoted on social media, consumers and an individual’s need for stress relief are compelled to try these fad trends. It is also worth noting that consumers could be swayed by a placebo effect, experiencing relief only within the time restraints of the experience, along with the short-term effects. The misleading promise of instant relief in tandem with a possible placebo effect may encourage brand loyalty, benefitting the industry by providing a temporary fix that is not sustainable in the long term.

Logically speaking, these businesses are responding to increased demand in the market to cater to consumer needs. However, these marketing promises are often misleading and do not benefit a consumer. They rely on false claims or unhealthy habits to generate revenue, essentially prioritising finances over the ethical implications.

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Celebrity Culture and Influence

Photo: Women’s Agenda

In the past two years, we have seen the shift from full figures to extremely slim figures being glamourised in the world of social media, primarily due to the significant influencing power of celebrities. In an appearance-obsessed society and the exclusionary image of “ideal health”, many look to figures in the entertainment industry as a baseline for the ideal body. This is partly because younger populations absorb so much digital media, thus, celebrities are perceived as idols and aspirations due to their displays of fame, fortune, and glamour. It is ingrained in human nature to desire belonging and social validation; people tend to adopt popular habits and follow trends to satisfy a psychological need for social approval. Hence, it is reasonable to see why the general public strives to follow wellness trends and desires to adhere to society’s perception of an ideal body.

Photo: Via @kimkardashian on Instagram

The infamous drug Ozempic has made its way into the inner circles of Hollywood. It is a diabetes medication well-loved by A-listers for its dramatic weight loss side effects and ability to work its magic in a short period. Our social media pages are saturated with celebrities boasting thinner bodies as a result of the medication, with most denying the short-cut route and attributing their new appearance to various niche wellness treatments and fad diets. They frequently endorse wellness treatments promising fast outcomes, misleading customer expectations to expect similar results. This is overtly deceiving and harmful to impressionable audiences, as with these treatments, figures are usually paid to promote — resulting in a futile effort to achieve the “ideal body” through ineffective and even harmful treatments and diets.

Photo: Unsplash

Celebrities also preach about the importance of fresh foods to achieve the desirable status of health, in which they prioritise the preference of fresh produce over frozen. Although frozen foods may sometimes be the better option as they can maintain the level of nutrients in certain foods, there is heavy emphasis on fresh produce, specifically organic and non-GMO produce. As explained by Alana Van Der Sluys in her TED talk, these practices create an aesthetic, stating that fresh, organic and non-GMO produce is healthier, portrays a subtext about those who can afford to consistently buy these items that are significantly more expensive than the run-of-the-mill counterpart. The subconscious narrative portrayed by emphasis on wellness treatments and expensive diets creates an air of privilege and empowerment.

It is also worth noting that as the wellness industry gains more and more traction, it also becomes increasingly expensive. Contributing factors like technological advances and the popularity of wellness treatments among the rich and famous, conveys an implicit message of status and wealth. Tapping into a human’s desire to gain social approval, individuals who experience these advanced or expensive treatments tend to share it on social media to portray an image of health and status. The sheer frequency and glamourisation of wellness creates a trend towards short-term programs and over sustained long-term efforts to achieve immediately visible changes is evidently influenced by marketing and social media.

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Implications of Fixating on Fast Results

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The booming growth of the wellness industry has prompted the inevitable use of misleading marketing and false claims to consumers in a bid to capitalise on consumer needs and insecurities. Many implications can arise, like the potential for unhealthy practices as quick-result workout and diet plans can lead to harmful habits like extreme dieting and over-exercising, which are not sustainable or effective in the long term. Additionally, psychological implications of unmet expectations are likely to arise; given the fixation on fast results, one might experience feelings of disappointment, insecurity and negative self-image if quick results are not noticeable or the “ideal body standard” is not achieved.

Considering the various facets of the wellness industry, it is clear that a portion of the sector is forgoing scientific backing and ethical concerns to capitalise on consumer insecurities and a desire to achieve the “ideal image of health and wellness”. The wellness industry must be more transparent and realistic with its treatments and preach the importance of a balanced lifestyle that anyone can achieve regardless of size and resources. This is to create a more inclusive image of health and wellness that, in turn, will allow the industry to pursue consistent long-term growth.

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