A Survival Guide to Live Without a $600 Water Purifier

The last straw for me was when I saw bloggers on Instagram promoting a stand-up water purifier. They claimed that this was the Cadillac of water purifiers, removing all of the deadly toxins that were poisoning our bodies. Even Brita filters, they said, were not good enough, leaving a lot of the dangerous minerals behind that would mess with sleep, cognition, and happiness. Reading through the comments, many people expressed fear that they had not yet made the switch, vowing to exercise the generous $25 off code they had received. I decided to see for myself how much this stainless steel drum cost. After a quick internet search, I got my answer: $600.There was no way I would ever be able to shell out $600 for a water purifier. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, it was enough that I had to pay for rent and food.

I’ll take my water via the tap, thank you very much..

And hey, you know what? I have to be honest, but not purifying my water with that filter has made me hallucinate, grow a secret tentacle under my clothing, and actually has given me the ability to read minds. It is all those toxins that have rendered me a mutant. All because I was too poor not to shell out $600.

This issue of accessibility has resonated with me for a long time. I remember first discovering the “food blogger” world on accident via a Buzzfeed article. As I delved into the accounts, I discovered exciting new ways to eat food. Spiralized zucchini! Avocado toast! And, my personal favorite, the smoothie bowl (are you surprised?) All of these recipes had ingredients I did not recognize. Acai, maca, spirulina, and bee pollen.  What were these mystical “superfoods”? Did they have a cape to make them super? These bloggers claimed they were the new IT thing, that they had healing properties guaranteed to make me have more energy, lose body fat, gain muscle, and reduce anxiety. And honestly, who would not want that?!  I did not know what any of these ingredients were, but, as someone who wanted to take care of themselves, I was curious.  Reading through all of these posts, I had a strong desire to be like the bloggers I found inspiring. These women were so confident, so interesting, and their food looked delicious.

And if they were putting maca powder in their smoothies, then I wanted to.

However, after doing some research on Amazon, I realized that these “superfoods” did not come cheap. I didn’t even now what ashwaganda was (was it a berry? Unicorn hair?), but I was shocked that a small jar of the stuff could cost $50. It was enough of a splurge for me to get a piece of salmon for dinner on my student budget. Where did these bloggers find the money?

I remember feeling the shame. The shame that I could not be as “healthy” as the insta-celebrities I looked up to because I could not afford these smoothie mix-ins that promised all sorts of medical benefits.  Was I missing out on the incredible benefits from these products that my favorite bloggers promoted? Was I not reaching my optimal level of health? Why did “living your best life” have to be so expensive?

That was two years ago. And with the experience of being one of those “influencers” under my belt, that shame still resonates with me. Though I am two years older, out of school, and have a pretty well paying job, I keep myself to a tight budget. My parents always taught me to value the power of a dollar. I am the person who puts items I would like to buy for two weeks in my electronic shopping cart, just to make sure I really need them. I compare the price of the same item at multiple grocery stores to make sure I get the best deal. I methodically put my groceries away each week ti make sure they will last (my best tip: sandwiching herb between paper towels in sandwich bags). That water filter post on Instagram forced me to evaluate my position on this platform  I had to take a serious look at myself and recognize my responsibility to my readers. Because, yes, I view my position as a tremendous responsibility.

As much as I love the community I have built here on Instagram, I cannot help but feel uncomfortable that many bloggers put forth the notion that, to live a healthy lifestyle, you need to spend. And spend. And spend. You need to drink the $100 juice cleanse to purge the toxins from your body. And heaven forbid if you do not eat organic, local, and GMO-free everything, because if you don’t, you are messing with your hormones. Is someone more fit than someone else because they are able to go to Soulcycle at least twice a week? Does that mean you should do it too? In short, the message I receive from some on social media is only way to live healthy is to shell out that cash.

And that is disturbing.

Especially in today’s Instagram “world,” companies give bloggers new and innovative products to test and share. Do I receive free products? Yes I do. Frankly, these features are how I discover many of the products I have come to love. While I enjoy having the opportunity to test products, I understand that I hold a very privileged position as a blogger. I understand my voice holds a lot of sway. Buying one product is not going to instantly make you healthy. Achieving optimal health is a lifestyle that does not have to mean owning all of the products bloggers promote.

Look, am I saying that you should not be buying “potions” or “powders” or taking spin classes because they do not work? No, not at all. I know many people who follow influencers to discover new products and creative ways to eat food. I thought a spiralizer was the strangest concept until I tried it. What I am saying is that we, as bloggers, need to recognize that most people cannot afford a $30 container of yogurt (Yes, I am serious. It exists). But hey, that is ok! You can still live a full life without it. You are not less of a person because you cannot afford it.

There is a viewpoint in society that the route to optimal health is expensive. Every day, many people feel they have to make the decision between processed foods and fruits and vegetables. Ultimately, many decide fruits and vegetables are too “expensive” and go with the “unhealthy” option. Men and women in this country, yes even here in the United States, struggle with food insecurity. If we truly want to make a change in how our country views wellness, promoting health is only accessible to those who can afford the optimal products is not feasible. And that is something we need to keep in mind, especially if our goal is to make healthy living an option for all people from all economic standings and backgrounds.

Healthy living should not be given a socioeconomic standard to which we should aspire. Eating nutritious food can come in all shapes and sizes. Just because I cannot afford to buy organic carrots does not mean I should avoid buying carrots all together. You cannot expect people to go from fast food to kale salad overnight. In that sense, you should not feel inferior that you cannot pick up the tab for all of products that are out there. You have to start with what you can afford and find what works for you. If you can’t afford farm fresh, organic eggs, then that is ok! Do what works for you. It is the baby steps that will get you to where you want to be.

5 comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! As a mid-20 year old in DC as well, it's very difficult to see all the fitness studios here flaunt these "healthy" products and fitness gear, making you believe you need to buy them in order to achieve full wellness. While I don't buy all of my groceries from the farmer's market or local organic grocery store, I do go there and talk to the farmers, learning about nutrition, how to buy stuff at the chain grocery store (they even tell me to get certain stuff there!), and meet the REAL healthy, sustainable food community. Don't feel the shame, embrace being a normal person!
  2. Such a good read! I think about this a lot when I'm working on my own blog. I don't want people to feel like they can't be healthy because they can't afford the latest trends or simply don't have access to them because they don't live in a major city. I actually looked up the coconut yogurt you mentioned because I was pretty sure I knew which one you were talking about and laughed when I saw the price!
  3. Yes to ALL of this. Pretty sure I know the posts you're talking about regarding the water filter and "potions." All of it is so unattainable for the average person, but even more importantly, a lot of it is straight up BS. If someone just happens to like a product that costs hundreds of dollars, I'm so completely fine with that. Talk it up! But when they say that some new, pricey product changed their life and is the reason they are healthy, that gets a massive side eye from me. So much of the information on the foodie part of Instagram is straight pseudoscience. It makes me sad that a lot of these bloggers' followers will buy into anything they promote. Final note: when is the food blogger turmeric obsession going to end? It's crazy. An $8 turmeric latte isn't going to make you healthier...you would think that would be obvious. Anyway, I guess my point is that I 100% agree with this post and think that voices like yours are needed, now more than ever. Healthy eating is relatively simple. If people want to eat all sorts of powders and stuff because they like it, that's awesome...just don't tell me I'm full of "toxins" because I don't. Every time I hear the word "toxins" from a food blogger, it's immediately clear that the person has no clue what they're talking about...what toxins? Name them if they're such a problem! Be specific. Sorry for the rant, I've just been thinking all of this stuff too and it's made me want to unfollow a lot of people who post beautiful, interesting recipes.
  4. So good! Thanks a lot for this. As a follower of many of these social media accounts, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with everything that is posted and promoted, knowing that I can't afford a majority of what's being put out there. Luckily I feel like I have a pretty good foundation for being as healthy as I can be, but I still find myself feeling like I'm missing out even though I know I'm doing my best.
  5. Ahhhhh friend this is so so so refreshing to read. Thank you for this ❤️ So much truth. I'm kind of just sick of seeing super food after super food - even as a dietitian. Perhaps one of the reasons I get so tired of Instagram. Just unrealistic food and lifestyles to achieve.

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