The Problem with the Crunchy Community: An Intro (My Story)

My crunchy journey started around 2010, when I found myself unable to get pregnant after a year of trying. I found my family doctor completely and utterly useless in the matter, so I turned to the Internet.

There, I discovered a world where toxins are everywhere, trying to sabotage our health. The Standard American Diet is leaving us sick and disordered. The medical community is keeping secrets because it profits from our lack of health.

I bought into it completely. Vibrant health (including fertility) could be achieved with knowledge, hard work, and and the right foods and exercises.

And, I mean, why wouldn’t I buy right into it? After another year of trying — this time armed with traditional foods, supplements, and nontoxic cleaners and body products — I did finally get pregnant. I gave birth (at home, of course) to a robustly healthy little girl. I fed her all the right foods (including breast milk, of course) right from the start, ensuring a healthy future for her.

It was an incredible victory.

I did all the same hard work to get pregnant a second time, two years later. This time I gave birth to a beautiful, nine-pound boy with blond hair. A miracle. My dreams had all come true. Because I had done everything right.

Until I found out that my beautiful baby had been born with a genetic, life-threatening disease, and would need every conceivable medical intervention to survive, from tube-feeding and antibiotics to genetically modifying his white blood cells. And even if we saved his life, he would probably deal with health and developmental issues for the rest of his life.

I learned something very hard in that first year with my second child: nothing can guarantee vibrant health. NOTHING.

* * *

To be honest, I still have a crunchy soul.

I still believe there is healing power in good food and nature. I still believe there is a lot of toxicity in our modern world, thanks to greed + industrialization. I still believe there are limits to what the medical community can offer, and that answers to real health and wellness may often come from outside that world. I still see incredible value in turning to more traditional ways of living for healing.

I still buy mostly organic food, I cook from scratch as much as possible, and I try to avoid pharmaceuticals unless absolutely necessary. I don’t use anything with synthetic fragrances and I avoid plastics.

But I have come to better appreciate what the scientific and medical community can offer us.

And even more importantly, I’ve come to see that there are dangers hidden within the crunchy community, too.

Three Major Problems with the Cult of Health and Wellness

Over time, I’ve noticed a few major problems that can arise from the being active in the crunchy community. These are all things I’ve experienced personally:

  1. It offers a false sense of control over our health.
  2. It puts unreasonable pressure on individuals to pursue unattainable health.
  3. It ignores and demonizes the very real and good gifts that medicine and science have to offer.

Over the next couple of weeks,* in a short series of posts, I want to explore each of these issues separately.

These issues around being “crunchy” are things I’ve been wrestling with for the last couple of years, and I just felt it was time to try to articulate them, for myself if for no one else.

I will be very interested in hearing your experiences along the way!

*Or months, if I’m being realistic. I have drafts written already but they are a mess. And I have no idea when I’ll get another good night’s sleep.

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  1. This. All of this. Everything in moderation. Both the crunchy world and the medical world have their pros and cons, but they work beautifully together (most of the time).

  2. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing to the world. I always look forward to your blog posts. I’m interested in this particular topic because I have been attracted to the Crunchy life, but have felt discouraged because from what I read it feels like if I don’t buy into everything I’m failing. I’m excited to see where you’ve found community and how you’ve balanced your version of the Crunchy life.

  3. I’m so grateful and happy that you’re writing these posts! I know you’ve been toying with the idea of them for a while. I’ve made significant changes away from crunch-land in the last couple of years, and I’ve found my stress and anxiety levels to have significantly decreased as a result. What began as an honest attempt to take better care of myself and the world around me became a stress-inducing weight of ever-increasing perfectionism. And fear. And guilt. And, frankly, a sense of isolation. The stress it was creating definitely outweighed whatever benefits I may have been getting lol. Anyway, I’m really glad I took the scary step of letting myself just be “normal” (or mostly so) again. And I really look forward to reading your words about your experiences of this transition too.

    • Wait! But it did gift me you and our now years-long friendship! So I’ve got that to seriously thank it for. <3

  4. Dear Lord this is the post I’ve been waiting years for you to write. Its a grasping at control for what we possibly can’t have. Creating shame where there shouldn’t be. Guess what, we all die! Anyway, super excited to this, especially from you.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more. My career was in naturopathic medicine. I trained at Bastyr University and love love love this lifestyle. But I have Lyme disease. Like you, I was doing everything right. But a tick bit me and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I am thankful for the combination of conventional AND wellness medicine that has served me in this 20 year journey. There has been no one perfect diet, lifestyle, supplement protocol, etc. that is a magic bullet. I meet myself where I’m at everyday. We do our best but are on a tight budget, live in an urban environment, and enjoy a burger and fries once in a while. I sometimes think wellness is becoming the new religious fundamentalism in our society. I won’t let anything steal my peace or balance. I live by the motto “progress not perfection.”

  6. Thanks for writing this. Yes, Thank God for conventional medicine and natural healthcare. We have to do what we can without making ourselves crazy, craving that perfection that will never come.

  7. This speaks to my experience so much. I was making my own deodorant and other toiletries when I got pregnant with #2. And then my placenta slowly detached, causing the premature birth of my son at 24 weeks and his death three weeks later. It has taken my son’s life and death, a life-threatening food allergy in our family, and a serious and permanent injury to my hand requiring two surgeries, months of pain intervention, and years of hand therapy to realize that I have so little control, and yet I don’t have to feel guilty about what I do or don’t do. I do my best, one day at a time. I do my research but also take full advantage of the knowledge and training of scientists and doctors (because I am neither!). There is no single right approach to health/recovery/wellness. The illusion of control and the fear mongering are dangerous and demoralizing. Thank you for addressing this important issue.

  8. This is perfect! I have loved being a part of your journey. It’s easy to get swept into any idea completely at first…when it’s new and your still trying to learn. I see it in the minimalist groups too. But over time, I like seeing us take it back to authentic place for ourselves. The constant check of, “Am I doing this only because the group says it’s the way?” And, “Am I rejecting this only because it challenges me?” These questions take time, trial/error, and redo to work through. Taking the time to myself can be exhausting. You are awesome to share this part of your life with everyone too. Thanks!

  9. Elyse B. says

    As someone whose life was completely sidelined by chronic illness this year, I concur 100%. There’s just so much we can’t control, no matter how much bone broth we drink.

    Looking forward to the series!!

  10. Thanks for sharing your story! This is really interesting to me. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your journey on this subject.
    Aimee recently posted..Kindergarten Math with Dimensions Math by Singapore: A ReviewMy Profile

  11. Always appreciate your insight! You may be interested in checking out Alan Levinovitz’s work. I really appreciate his insight on unpacking the ‘natural’ through understanding science, religion, philosophy, with very grounded insight on the human factors, with appreciation and respect given where due for to both the natural and biomedical worlds of wellness. This is such a sticky space for us to navigate in present times.

  12. Hello Kathleen,
    I myself had 2 episodes of kidney problems before. I was consuming too much salty snacks and not drinking enough water and had some small kidney stones, but after taking chinese herbs it came out without going for surgery. My second time was the stones recur because of not drinking enough water. I should heed your advice on minimizing processed foods and eating natural. But most of my caures came from traditional chinese medicine. Right now if i have minor problems i go see a chinese doctor and it seems to be working for me.
    Francis recently posted..Infrared Amethyst Bio matMy Profile

  13. This is fascinating to me and really reaonates with things I’ve been thinking lately. Looking forward to hearing more.
    Beth recently posted..Camping: Not Great. Camping: Great!My Profile

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