This whole "eat better, live well" movement brings several different pictures to my mind. Kale smoothies and yoga mats. Essential oils and mediation. Signs that say "vegan" and "gluten free". Maybe some crystals and a pamphlet about the various chakras. I'd be lying if I said that each and every single one of these things hasn't intrigued me at one point or another.
When my feminist organization decided to host an event in collaboration with sustainability for Earth Day, I couldn't be more pumped. I happily visited local shops and markets for the best sustainable, organic and healthy snacks to have for our event. I set a budget of around $25, only expecting to get light finger foods. What I quickly discovered is that attempting to feed around 20 or so people on this budget is NOT feasible, and upon shopping, I immediately doubled the budget.
I couldn't help but think about what would happen if I were to move out on my own and began food shopping for myself. Would constantly eating healthy, organic and maybe even vegan be an option for me? The answer is likely no.
When I was living in a dorm during my freshman year and I was running low on my meal plan, it didn't seem like a huge deal. I simply pulled some money from my on-campus job paycheck and went down the street to the UDF and then to my school's bookstore to pick up a few things.
However, most of these things ended up being microwavable TV dinners lacking vitamins and nutrition and of course Ramen noodles, because they were only 25 cents a pack. I then realized what people who eat things like this on the regular as opposed to just during one to two weeks at the end of the semester eat that way because they have to, not because they want to.
Food isn't the only thing that requires money as a part of this movement. If you want to engage with your spirituality more, for instance, none of the experts simply tell you to go have a walk in nature or to sit quietly in meditation. Instead, they encourage you to buy crystals and herbs and candles and oils and whatever else you can fit into your budget.
I am not opposed to any of these things. In fact, I love them! But I'm a college student. And expanding my horizons spiritually should not mean spending half of my budget every time I get the chance. I didn't realize this at first because it was never advertised to me this way.
The same goes for exercising. You don't see personal trainers wearing old t-shirts and shorts when they work out, but instead brand-name yoga pants and Under Armor shirts. It's never about what you can do to work and stretch out your body with what you have (even if you have nothing), but instead buying a gym membership in order to use their fancy equipment.
Even time is a valuable resource craved by this new movement. Even if I wanted to, I don't have time to wake up every day at 5 am to work out and drink a smoothie because I have class and work and meetings throughout the day- it just isn't practical.
By all means, I am not calling for an end to this movement. Instead, I am calling for a re-branding of it, because as of now, this movement is only branded toward upper-middle-class housewives.
They have a bit of time and money on their hands to buy new work out clothes, fresh fruit for smoothies, crystals and whatever else. It is not branded toward young college students and it certainly is not branded toward those living in poverty or within food deserts.
Why should certain people be allowed to fully re-invent themselves in this way when others can't, and then are blamed for eating fast food and Ramen noodles? Why can't I and others living much more on a budget than myself be taught to live better and to improve my health and my spirituality with what's already in my pantry? I simply think it's about time that "living better" includes more than the people who can more than afford to easily do so.