TV’s ‘Wellmania’ reminds me of the link between lifestyle and health

How ankylosing spondylitis helped spur my own invigorated self-care

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by Jemma Newman |

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“Your insides are garbage,” a doctor irritably declares in the first episode of the Netflix series “Wellmania.” The doctor is speaking to the main protagonist, Liv Healy, a fast-living, overly stressed, 39-year-old food critic. Liv has just been through a massive health crisis, but can’t seem to understand that she needs to change her life, not just seek quick-fix health fads.

Though Liv doesn’t have ankylosing spondylitis (AS) as I do, I could relate to the series as it depicts a life upheaval after a health condition that brings a woman to her knees (or in Liv’s case, a complete collapse on the floor of the U.S. Consulate’s office).

The result of pushing our limits

In the first minute of “Wellmania,” Liv smooths out her short skirt after a one-night stand, stating her view on life by cockily announcing, “Life is short. If you’re not making the most of every moment, what’s the [expletive] point?”

I see Liv as the embodiment of that part inside us that doesn’t want to face reality or take responsibility for our actions. She’s ferociously chasing an intoxicating social life and exciting career goals, without a thought for how that might affect her health.

Growing up, I was often told to dream big, pursue goals, and keep pushing for what I believe I deserve. It’s not bad advice, but it leaves out the crucial part that our health is most important, and if such a life precludes health, the rest is meaningless.

After Liv collapses and fails the medical exam to renew her green card, the doctor diagnoses her with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a resting heart rate that’s off the charts. But instead of heeding the doctor’s advice that she’ll need time to recover, Liv continues to punish her body with what the series considers to be painful and expensive wellness “hacks,” including colonic irrigation, fasting, and cupping therapy, in an attempt to fast-track her health and get her old life back without making any underlying lifestyle changes.

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How Lifestyle and Diet Modifications Provided Me With Hope and Relief

I was ignoring the warning signs

Taking health for granted is often too easy for those who haven’t experienced a chronic disease, such as ankylosing spondylitis. I wasn’t a big party animal like Liv in “Wellmania,” but I put my body through years (or decades) of physical and mental stress from my career and overly busy lifestyle. I typically ignored my body’s warning signs, including insomnia, anxiety, stomach pains, extreme fatigue, and shingles.

But it wasn’t until I started experiencing AS symptoms after the birth of my second child that I was forced to pay attention to my health and make it a priority. I’ve had to realize that for me, there isn’t a quick fix for my autoimmune disease; there’s no holy grail medication to take, not a single therapy to throw myself into and achieve complete health.

Managing my AS takes careful, ongoing action, with a holistic approach to self-care, exercise, stress, diet, and sleep. If I neglect any of these areas for too long, the stiffness and pain of AS worsen.

Creating a health-centric lifestyle

AS has taught me some important lessons about how closely entwined our lifestyle is with our health. In some ways, I feel healthier now than I did before my AS diagnosis because I’ve been forced to listen to my body’s signals and create a new, slower-paced lifestyle to manage them. Through living with AS, I have a new appreciation of my well-being as a priority. That’s allowed me to redefine my vision of success, from standard achievements to an appreciation of health and contentment.

As Liv must learn in “Wellmania,” there are no shortcuts to good health. You can’t keep living the same lifestyle and expect different results. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith explained it well when she wrote, “Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t take your body for granted. Do something today that communicates to your body that you desire to care for it. Tomorrow is not promised.”

Note: Ankylosing Spondylitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ankylosing Spondylitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ankylosing spondylitis.


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