I despise healthism… which is strange for an ex-health nut who managed a health food co-operative and taught raw vegan cooking classes for several years. Let me tell you why the importance of being healthy in the modern age can be quite irritating and perhaps even…unhealthy.
What is healthism?
Healthism is the modern trend towards promoting personal responsibility for health, placing an increasing focus on individuals to create the perfect healthy body. Healthism represents virtuous living as a moral accomplishment and this trend has taken on some of the religious attitudes toward foods (e.g. the moral sin of gluttony).
Sounds like taking responsibility for your health is a wonderful thing. Indeed, it is quite beneficial to “take care” of yourself by trying to eat nutritious foods, stay active, continuously educate yourself on the health consequences of various choices…. because the modern environment has made the “normal” lifestyle quite problematic (sedentary behavior, cheap junk food, and what not).
The problem, in my opinion, is the fact that these personal decisions have increasingly become morally-laden decisions. It’s evident that the “health religion” is spreading through the fact that people make moral judgements about others’ worth based on what and how they eat (there is a number of studies showing that people view strangers who eat “healthily” as more virtuous, less likely to cheat, less lazy, and what not). Of course, moral judgments also are applied to the physical manifestations of presupposed internal qualities for those who are overweight (e.g. lack of self-control, greed).
On the other hand, our culture encourages the enjoyment of food- at parties, special occasions, when socializing.. You’re not “fun” if you’re too strict with yourself (surveys also show people perceive those who eat healthier (while more moral) as less interesting and nice to be around socially).