In a New York Times Op-Ed published this month, Jessica Knoll ’06 writes about her experience with the wellness industry and what she describes as its toxic culture. Knoll is the New York Times best-selling author of Luckiest Girl Alive and The Favorite Sister and is working on her third novel.
The article, “Smash the Wellness Industry,” discusses how the “harmful, pseudoscientific” claims of the industry harm women and lead to dangerous trends and habits. Knoll writes, “…at its core, ‘wellness’ is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.”
Through her personal journey, Knoll discovered the practice of “intuitive eating,” which advises going back to “the innate wisdom we had as babies — about when to stop eating, what tastes good and how it makes our bodies feel.”
A recent growth of attention to the practice might be “because women are finally starting to interrogate the systems that hurt and exploit us,” Knoll writes. “Perhaps it’s because we’re driven and ambitious and we need energy — not lightheaded, leafy-greens energy but real energy, the kind that comes from eating the hearty foods men eat.”
Food should have no “moral value” and should not be defined in terms that overexaggerate its consequences, Knoll says. Although it is difficult and “I am still trying to separate my worth from my appearance,” she writes, as a society “we cannot push to eradicate the harassment, abuse and oppression of women while continuing to serve a system that demands we hurt ourselves to be more attractive and less threatening to men.”
Previously a senior editor at Cosmopolitan and the articles editor at Self, this is the second opinion piece Knoll has had published in The New York Times. At HWS, she was an arts scholar and graduated with a major in English concentrated in creative writing.
As an alumna, she has participated as a panelist in Career Services’ Los Angeles Behind the Scenes trip. She will also be a guest on the Career Journeys podcast from the Herald and Career Services on Aug. 26.