Looking back: Camille Rowe asks ‘What on Earth is Wellness?’

Olivia Chiappelli, Arts Editor

Upon hearing that our first issue back after break would be health and wellness themed, I only had one thing on my mind: British Vogue’s 2016 documentary series “What on Earth is Wellness?” hosted by Camille Rowe.

The five part series has stuck with me ever since I watched it for the first time almost seven years ago and upon rewatching, I found the information shared is more relevant than ever. So, please join me on this nostalgic wellness journey.

Episode 1: “Camille Rowe’s Personal Wellness Journey”

The first episode perfectly sets the scene of a culture crazed by the ubiquitous word “wellness,” and aims to demystify and evaluate the current cultural blind enthusiasm for all things well.

Rowe first meets with Dr. John Travis, the founder of the world’s first wellness resource center, to learn more about the history of wellness and how the term emerged into the mainstream. In 1961, Halbert Dunn, known as the father of the “Wellness” movement, wrote the book “High Level Wellness” which promoted a new understanding of health as a positive thing rather than simply an absence of disease.

The book taught that wellness was achieved through a holistic approach including not only the mind, body and spirit, but also the environment and community. Dr. Travis summarizes all of his work with six words: The currency of wellness is connection.

Over time, however, the original “Wellness” movement that emerged in 1970’s California has turned into an industry through commercialization and medicalization, and is far from the idea of wellness that Dunn had in mind.

Episode 2: “Camille Rowe Explores Nutrition & Supplements”

The second episode opens to the all too familiar image of a person trying to “get well”: overspilling cabinets of supplements. 

Dr. Molly Maloof, a personalized health practitioner and a pioneer in the field of scientific wellness, explains that many of the vitamins and ingredients in supplements come from foods, and that supplements can be replaced by those foods in a lot of ways. She recommends looking at food first and then utilizing supplements for specific problems that you are trying to deal with over a specific time period.

Rowe also meets with clinical psychologist Dr. Danyale McCurdy-McKinnon to discuss the point when being so obsessed with being healthy becomes unhealthy. McCurdy-McKinnon sheds light on orthorexia, an unhealthy focus on eating in a healthy way, and the dangers of food rules, obsessional thinking and words like “clean eating” when it comes to health.

Episode 3: “Camille Rowe Explores Psychology & Spirituality”

Episode three follows Rowe as she explores routes to personal well-being through two wildly different lenses. She first sits down with neuropsychologist Dr. Robert Bilder who explains that mindfulness meditation has been well associated with an increased sense of wellbeing. The practice can actually change the expression of DNA in our cells and alter our response to stress, ultimately quieting down the signals that make us feel bad.

On the other end of the spectrum, Rowe visits LA’s crystal emporium Spellbound Sky where she explores the power of crystals on wellbeing and comes to the conclusion that “regardless of objective science, simply believing in something and acting accordingly can have a profound effect.”

Episode 4: “Camille Rowe Explores Meditation & Mindfulness”

In episode four, Rowe meets with Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace, who explains the difference between mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, while meditation is an exercise to learn and practice the process of being more mindful and aware. 

Puddicombe also shares the useful tip of “coupling” when trying to create a habit of meditation. A routine of a shower every morning can easily become a routine of a shower and meditation every morning, which is not time specific and therefore focuses on quality over quantity.

Rowe also visits nutrition-savvy community enterprise LA Kitchen where she explores the often-overlooked connection between wellness and the health of our community.

Episode 5: “Camille Rowe Explores Fitness & Movement”

The fifth and final episode follows Rowe to a two-hour dance class with 5Rhythms, a moving meditation practice founded by Gabrielle Roth which is based around waves of energy, movement, and music. The practice reveals the healing power of dance as not a spectator sport, but also a form of therapy.

While we could not see inside the dance class, the emotional vulnerability Rowe shows after the session is powerfully captivating and has stuck with me since I first watched this series.

Freeform barefoot dancing may not be for everyone, so Rowe goes hiking with Mark Hunter, founder of the free-of-charge Cobrasnake Fitness and explores how cardio can work wonders for the body and mind.

And finally, almost every specialist that Rowe met with stressed the importance of this wellness practice: being kinder to yourself.