In her early 30s, Rina Raphael quit the rush of New York — and a job on the “Today” show — and moved to Los Angeles in search of a healthier lifestyle.
She’s immersed herself in the world of wellness — both covering it for Fast Company and spending a lot of her own money on it, seemingly trying every boutique fitness class, trendy hair color and offbeat yoga retreats.
“I was deep down and really drinking kombucha full time,” Raphael told the Post. But after a while, she realized that the pursuit of extreme health left her feeling worse.
“It started to feel like a burden more than an escape,” she said.
She became increasingly skeptical of the whole thing and began to investigate the green juice lifestyle. “The facade started to crumble,” she said. “The wellness industry was not doing well.”
In her book “The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop and the False Promise of Self-Care,” released Tuesday, Raphael reveals how the industry — which she says is filled with pseudoscience — exploits women’s anxiety. with expensive potions and promises of quick fixes.
She examines how the idea of “self-care” has been greatly distorted from its original meaning.
Initially, the phrase was used in civil rights activism of the 1960s to counter how the medical community underserved black and Hispanic women. In 1988, black activist Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation, and it’s an act of political warfare. The concept was a way to be healthy, strong and demand collective change.
“Now it’s become associated with a certain type of woman or man who has discretionary spending to buy all of this. We’ve turned it into this hyper-consumerist idea,” Raphael said.
And there’s always money to be made, especially by “monetizing women’s anxiety,” Raphael said. “Fear sells very well, and [realizing] it was a big turning point for me. She said the movement has exalted, above all, expensive workouts and “all-natural” or organic products and foods. And that creates more stress for women who think they can avoid disease, aging, and weight gain by simply buying the right things to put in their bodies.
Things labeled “organic” “are a complicated subject,” Raphael said. “There haven’t been any definitive studies saying it’s more nutritious or healthier. [The benefit] could be minimal.
It all goes unchecked, she said, because “wellness is covered like fashion. It’s not approached like real health. It’s treated as a trend. Health issues are now found in style sections.
She noted that many who once worked in fashion — CEOs, marketers, journalists — have migrated to wellness. Many are not qualified to offer what borders on medical advice. Writers, for example, do not always consult scientific experts in their reporting.
“Even Goop, a lot of their reporters worked in fashion, and they use the same techniques,” Raphael said. “We take a lot of wellness at face value.”
(When reached for comment, a Goop spokesperson said, “This is completely inaccurate. We have a full scientific writing and research and product development team. You can access their bios here. .”)
In her book, she references a 2019 study in which a bipartisan group of scientists looked at 100 popular health articles from the previous year.
“Of the top 10 stories shared,” she writes, “they found that three-quarters were misleading or included false information. Only three were rated as ‘very believable’.
This fervor is aided by social media influencers, many of whom have varying, often dubious degrees of expertise.
“If you go back 20 years, if there was a guru who wrote a diet book or a health book, he was sitting on your bedside table waiting for you to have a free moment to read it. You now have nonstop access to your gurus. They post content multiple times a day and you can communicate with them directly,” Raphael said. “It makes this stuff a lot more powerful.”
The former wellness junkie recognizes real therapeutic solutions within the industry. “Fitness, good nutrition, community and stress management are all positive things,” she said. “They shouldn’t come with a deprivation or a high price tag.”
New York Post