Maybe I’m the target demo, but wellness seems pretty inescapable right now.
DALLAS, TX – NOVEMBER 20: Gwyneth Paltrow poses for a photo as she celebrates the launch party for Goop Pop on November 20, 2014 at Highland Park Village in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images)
In the context of the “wellness industry” that is primarily marketed toward women, wellness is not just personal health but also a kind of moral superiority. The idea of wellness that is sold by Goop, fitness influencers and celebrity chefs on Instagram is a hard nut to crack because truly, people are ill, our modern diets and lifestyles make feeling healthy and maintaining good health difficult, and striving to attain better health is something that all people should be interested in, but it’s also very aesthetically rigid, expensive, and scientifically ambiguous.
Health trends change over time (running used to be weird!), and the wellness industry that promotes everything from “clean eating,” jade vagina eggs, crystals, natural deodorant, exercise regimens, supplements, fasting, and juices (and more!) is diverse and also runs a spectrum of helpfulness.
However, like all trends, I think we should be critical of what we’re consuming (literally and figuratively) and take a step back to examine what exactly we’re being sold. I do partake in some of these kind of crunchy, wellness related fads and enjoy them (chlorophyl water is pretty refreshing, although I don’t think it had any particular impact on my wellbeing), but I try to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s hard to be a woman in the world and not know someone with some kind of disordered eating, and I admit that when I see food bloggers using words like glow, warming, and nourishing about recipes I feel kind of the same way some people do when they hear the word moist. There’s is nothing inherently wrong with it, it just feels like something’s not quite right.
I think the part of these trendy, wellnessy-marketed things that troubles me the most is the idea (sometimes overt, sometimes implied) that attaining whatever your chosen leader’s form of wellness is something that can put you on a path to self-actualization or moral superiority. I think many people can feel empowered by feeling more in control of their health and lives, but kind of how many people who aim to lose a lot of weight and do but don’t become the happy carefree people they assumed they would be when they finally reached their goal weight, there are no magic fixes to what ails you and believing there are is a slippery slope to disappointment.
Anyway, I have a lot of ambivalent feelings about wellness, but I think these articles are all really helpful for understanding the salience of this industry and what we as consumers should consider:
Why we fell for clean eating (8.11.17 via the Guardian) Really comprehensive history of the evolution of “clean eating” and the wellness industry.
You can’t found a new faith system with the words “I am publishing a very good vegetarian cookbook”. For this, you need something stronger. You need the assurance of make-believe, whispered sweetly. Grind this cauliflower into tiny pieces and you can make a special kind of no-carb rice! Avoid all sugar and your skin will shimmer! Among other things, clean eating confirms how vulnerable and lost millions of us feel about diet – which really means how lost we feel about our own bodies. We are so unmoored that we will put our faith in any master who promises us that we, too, can become pure and good.
We exercised with Nina Dobrev and the experience nearly killed us (7.20.17 via Jezebel) For a lighter take on the hegemonic aesthetics of wellness, I really enjoyed this.
Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously (6.15.17 via Quartz) I liked this article because it is more validating of seeking “wellness” than most articles (there are legitimate reasons people, especially women, look for alternatives!) but also drops some important points like this:
But it’s important to remember that the dollars we drop on salt lampsand Moon Dust aren’t the same thing as agitating for change—and that retreating into wellness is only an option for the privileged set. Medical outcomes in the US are largely predicted by race and socioeconomic status, and it is minorities and poor people who face the worst consequences when toxins get dumped and regulatory systems break down.
Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, we’re not f**king with you, we’re correcting you. XOXO, science (5.22.17 via Dr. Jen Gunter) Dr. Gunter is a damn delight, and taking on the snake oil salesman ways of Goop is a frequent topic on her blog. This is one of several take downs Dr. Gunter has done, all of which are informative, science and fact-based, and often hilarious as she deconstructs Goop’s latest fad with incredulity.
Wellness, womanhood, and the west, how Goop profits from endless illness (4.28.17 via Jezebel) Stassa Edwards is really fantastic and you should read this whole thing.
Learning to chew, swallow, and shit at Viva Mayr, an Austrian Detox spa for the ultra wealthy (3.15.17 via Jezebel) I read this with an open, non-judgemental mind, just because I think it was really interesting to hear about how Detox spas like this work. It reminded me of an older article from the Cut on a celebrity weight loss “wellness” retreat, and I think both articles provide some important observations on the pros and cons of these spas/camps/retreats that you really cannot make without some first hand experience.