Super healthy selves
My project aims to understand young people’s aspirations and practices towards ‘super health’ in the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam, where organic, low-sugar, low-carb diets and the fit lifestyle have become the rage. The ubiquitous gyms, yoga studios, organic and health stores, juice bars and super foods lining the city’s streets invite urban youths to rethink their concepts of health and to question their daily routines.
Through participant observation, I explore how youths experiment with vitamins and supplements, monitor and measure their bodies, and experience the evasive boundaries of the body’s inside, surface and surroundings. The intense, disruptive changes to lifestyle associated with their quest for super health mirror how youths navigate urban social life, aiming to enhance their social status among peers while coping with the pressures and anxieties of everyday life.
One of my field sites is a health store, a place where young bodies enter into intimate relationships with a commercialized health movement. Young people, it seems, understand the efficacy of vitamins and supplements within this dualism, influenced by both biomedical discourse and discourses of experience and belief, revealing tensions between biomedical notions of the body and young people’s experimental, creative and social understandings of what their bodies are capable of.