We’re thrilled to introduce our new digital editor, Maxine Ali, a writer and journalist who entered the wellness sphere three years ago when she launched her health, food and fitness website documenting an eloquently honest outlook of topical conversations and experiences within the industry. A linguist by training, she focuses on harnessing the power of language to promote healthy and accessible approaches to food and fitness.
With a passion for words on one hand and an insatiable sweet tooth on the other, she epitomises the Balance Festival ethos of exploring your own definitions of health to discover wellness on your own terms.
'The Picture of Health'
To say ‘you look the picture of health’ is a somewhat strange declaration. What exactly does ‘health’ look like? Is it glowing skin, thick hair, a lean figure or defined muscles. Is it running a marathon or competing in a weight-lifting championship?
If we were all to conjure an image of health in our minds, I imagine the models would look alarmingly similar. Olympic athletes, body builders and magazine cover stars coached and groomed to perfection without a bump or blemish in sight. Primed, polished and posed in momentary flawlessness then immortalised by a skilled pictures team enhancing every asset along the way.
We’ve had an incredibly specific and definitive picture of health painted before our eyes all through our lives and so perhaps it’s inevitable that we have these expectations of how health should appear. We associate wellness with arbitrary characteristics of purity and youth, innocence and enlightenment, and healthy practices are used as a means to purge ourselves of sin, cleanse ourselves of guilt and transform into the very same evangelised being we aspire to be.
But, if beauty by conventional standards is deemed to represent the pinnacle of wellness, where does that leave those who don’t possess this ‘ideal’ aesthetic? What opportunities do those who don’t fit the bill have to enjoy a full and healthy life as well?
For far too long, there has been an undeniable lack of diversity within the health and wellness sector. The faces of fitness probably don’t look much like you or me and they almost certainly don’t follow an easily replicable lifestyle. Daily workouts, tailored meal plans and a group of specialists on hand morning, noon and night are hardly on the cards for your “average” Joe and Jane Doe. People have jobs, hobbies, relationships; other priorities that rightly demand our attention. And let’s not forget that genetics too have a hand to play in this wayward game.
Whilst our culture is quick to blame a lack of motivation, determination and discipline for our inability to become ‘the picture of health,’ in truth, it’s this very idealistic notion of health that puts barriers in place; not a personal failure but that of society.
Desirable as it may be to strive for what past role models exhibit, the impossibility of such a goal is more obstacle than incentive to create a life of health for ourselves.
But health is not exclusive. It is not a right endowed to one kind of person, one type of lifestyle or one way of being. No one should be better equipped to live more well than another and no one should ever feel denied of access to a healthy body and mind. Health is something we all deserve and it is within all our powers to find it. First, however, we need to redefine what health means.
In the midst of a wellness revolution, the dawn of ‘balance’ represents a new era of health. A new movement that casts away regimens and structure and opens health’s doors to people from all avenues of life, all industries, practices and approaches. Balance as a concept means adapting to your circumstance and, as such, it leaves room for each of us to work within the scope of our individual lifestyles, creating something entirely unique and bespoke for ourselves, not for the eyes of others.
We’ve grown accustomed to choosing health out of insecurity; seeking wellness through restriction, but it’s clear that these attitudes have brought us no closer to feeling truly good in ourselves. It’s time to shake off the ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality and quit working within set parameters for a 'perfect' that doesn’t exist.
Balance cannot be controlled and enforced. It can’t be measured or quantified. It can only be found and felt each day through accepting of yourself as you are. Choose what healthy means to you without pressure, judgement and certainly without guilt, because ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ do not exist here.
At the heart of true balance is freedom in every single respect, and the most paramount thing is that you are practicing health in a nourishing, sustainable and enjoyable way that’s right for you.
More from the Journal
Maxine will be heading all Balance Festival content and regularly contributing to the journal. Keep up with her on Instagram