Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Doggerel #79: "Wellness"

Welcome back to "Doggerel" where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the things that often annoys me about alties is that they treat health as if it were a linear condition, and all you need to raise your hit points is "flush out toxins," get some sort of "energy" balanced, eat a certain food (or stop eating another), or stop thinking "negative" skeptical thoughts.

As I've said before, the human body is a messy, complicated thing. As such, you wouldn't expect there to be a simple panacea. Of course, we already have lots of other reasons for doubting stuff like "energy" medicine, vague scares about "toxins" and so forth. in the case of diet, sometimes they do feature good ideas (often recommended by real doctors), like cutting down on meat and eating more fruit and vegetables. For the typical American, that's good advice. Of course, woos will extend that into viciousness, sometimes, like recommending no-protein vegetarian diets or indigestible wheatgrass and so forth. Unlike a lot of woo panaceas, however, real medicine recognizes that different individuals often have different needs in some cases. I may hate pharmaceutical commercials, but at least they recommend you talk with your doctor and have warnings relevant to personal and family history.

Still another annoyance is that the "try it yourself" woos out there recommend judging personal health by subjective means, rather than things like objective numbers from bloodwork tests and so forth. Sorry, but there's no HP meter in your head. When the stakes are really low, it's okay to go by how you feel, but if you're making a serious investment on your health, you'd better check what the measurable numbers say.


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MarkCC said...

It's really not fair to attack "wellness" as being a woo term. Back in grad school, a bunch of my friends were nursing students. They used the term wellness - and it was clearly *non*-woo.

The focus of wellness was health preservation. The idea was that you shouldn't just think about medical treatment as fixing things when you're sick, but also protecting health and preventing illness.

So "wellness care" included seeing an appropriate medical professional for regular checkups, vaccinations, diet/nutrition, exercise, age-appropriate early screening for disease (blood work for diabetes, mammogram, colonoscopy), etc.

That's the main context in which I've seen the term used - as a proper part of evidence-based medical practice. Some woos have piggybacked onto it - but woos will piggyback onto *any* term that they think will give them some credibility.

Anonymous said...

Woo eavesdropping:

@ Hospital: "Wellness is important, Denise. If the only time you concern yourself with you health is when you go see the doctor, you're going to visit him more often." [Woo gets lightbulb]

@ University: "Have you heard about Quantum Physics? It's some awesome stuff, but it's also really difficult to explain to the layman." [Woo thinks "Double Bonus!!"]

The list goes on and on. Wait, that just made me think of something, BD. Mark might have hit on something. Maybe a post about the terms that Woos have hijacked and bastardized for their own uses.


Ryan Michael said...


I disagree. Woos use it often, just not exclusively. There are a lot of terms (quantum, for instance) that woos take out of context or just plain lie about.

Wellness is one of them, especially my recent dealings with the acupuncture morons.

Bronze Dog said...

Mark, you missed one of the key things: "ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused or just plain meaningless."

I'm specifically attacking the woo "piggyback," not the term itself.

And for some reason, I didn't get comment notification, so sorry for being late to reply.

Dikkii said...

And for some reason, I didn't get comment notification, so sorry for being late to reply.

BD, Blogger's been doing that to me a bit lately. Glad to know it's not just me.

Also, that's a good post. Prior to MarkCC's comment, I wasn't aware that 'Wellness' was also a non-woo term that's been strangled by the woo crowd.

I would have preferred that the non-woo term be changed to 'wellbeing', but I guess that's only because I only hear woos using it and 'wellness' has been permanently tainted for me as a result.

Bronze Dog said...

It's kind of like "paradigm": A perfectly legitimate word that's been subject to overuse by the wrong people.

If it weren't for managers and fake-Galileos, I'd probably be using 'paradigm' to describe things, like when I'm trying to find a different approach to a puzzle.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Yes we have a "Wellness" program at work where they promote healthy eating, exercise, preventive medicine etc.. There are all kinds of goals set and rewards for the goals.

It's all so that they get a deal on the Insurance and the way they approach it isn't really woo. But just walk into a one of new agey sotores and there are all kinds of uses of the word wellness. Most of them woo filled.

Anonymous said...

I first came across the term "Wellness" when I was living in Switzerland. I'd never heard it before at least not in its woo incarnation. I thought it was another false anglicism like "handy" for cell/mobile phone. No native english speaker calls his cell/mobile phone a "handy" and I thought the same was true for "wellness"

Speedwell said...

Just to be different, I'd like to point out that it is nearly impossible to construct a "no-protein" vegetarian diet. Even a low-protein vegetarian diet is hair-tearingly difficult to stay on. The staples of vegetarian diets - grains and beans, soy and nuts - are so high in protein that raw protein is commercially refined from them.

Bronze Dog said...

Yeah, I recognize the difficulty. Mostly what I was trying to convey is that a lot of the pro-veg woos out there don't seem to know how to construct a viable veg diet.

Anonymous said...

The staples of vegetarian diets - grains and beans, soy and nuts...

For a traditional vegetarian diet, OK. But some woo-woos these days think grains are evil and unnatural. And some think all cooking is evil and unnatural, which leaves them with bean sprouts and those nuts that can be eaten raw. And then there are the folks that think we should exist on fruit alone -- these last can't be getting enough protein.