Her journey does not look like the beautiful, clean, and soft wellness that we see in our Instagram feeds. It is funny, sweaty and vomit-covered. We wonder if she has ever gotten back on the wagon.
Liv said: “Fuck the diet, fuck the exercise.” “All I have to do is starve and have my colon washed out.”
Netflix has no quick fixes to our health problems. Netflix
Wellmania makes it clear that there are no quick fixes to our health. It is quickly apparent Liv’s wellness extends beyond what she puts in her body (or up her nose). We see a complex relationship between friends, family and coming home.
This is, of course, coupled with all the humor of returning home and turning into an adolescent version of yourself when you are around your adult sibling. There is nothing quite like being 39 and flipping off your younger brother behind your mum’s back.
What we mean when we talk about wellness
Wellness is a part of our everyday vocabulary. We see it on our Instagram feeds, in news headlines, and a recent trend in publishing.
Self-help books, keto diets, green juices and ways to “get well” are promoted everywhere.
Wellness meant something distinctly different when the word first became commonplace. The history of the word wellness dates back to 1961, with medical doctor Halbert Dunn’s book High Level Wellness.
Dunn’s definition of wellness relies on an individual’s ability to function to their maximum potential physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Today, ‘wellness’ is a multi-billion dollar industry. Netflix
Dunn’s work inspired physician John W. Travis to create the world’s first wellness center. Travis believed health is not the absence of disease, but an “ongoing dynamic state of growth“.
His centre did not claim to treat or diagnose patients, but to help them understand why they are sick.
Since then, wellness has transformed from an ideology of self-examination used to describe relaxation, meditation and managed nutrition, to its current medicalisation alleged to treat health issues. Today, wellness is an unregulated word. With the popularisation of social media platforms and the commodification of bodies and health, wellness can be bought and sold online.
In Wellmania, we see Liv enter multiple wellness spaces.
Some of these spaces endeavor to help Liv understand her mind and body, like her very concerned and unbelievably patient GP. Others indirectly assist Liv to explore her past and relationship with her body: she hitchhikes to Canberra with a death doula; she sees a tarot card reader while microdosing on LSD.
It’s not all health and wellness. The show includes a significant amount of drug use and shows the dangers and dark side of the wellness industry, and of Liv. Liv’s self-destructive behavior is mixed in a dangerous cocktail with fasting, bloodletting cupping and an inability to confront the past.
Read more: Could microdosing be as good as yoga for your mood? It’s not that big a stretch
A holistic journey
Health is not linear. A consistent theme running through wellness discourse for the past 60 years is that to be completely well requires a holistic approach – not holistic as in the bastardisation of the word by the multibillion-dollar industry of juice cleanses and essential oils, but holistic as in the sense of the whole body.
Wellness is about the whole body – not just your physical self. Netflix
Wellness is the physical body, yes, but also emotional, mental, sexual and spiritual health. Each episode of Wellmania shows us this, woven throughout a story of family, home, flourishing careers and the downfalls of them all.
Alongside its wonderful, crude humor (necessary in a show featuring colonics), Wellmania unexpectedly tells the story of grief and how uniquely it penetrates and devastates our bodies.
This series shows us one woman’s world of wellness. But, more than that, it reminds us how closely wellness is tied to our lives, bodies and loved ones, and the consequences of being unwell.