Illustration of various wellness products, accompanied by screenshots of two headlines discussing Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP.

Debunking Health & Wellness

As wellness culture permeates sectors of mental health and illness, the question arises as to who gets to participate in this growing phenomenon, and who/what remains excluded.
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GRAPHIC DESIGN Zoe Statiris

“GOOP— A Modern Wellness Brand” is the internet search tagline for Gwyneth Paltrow’s multi-platform company promising to “start hard conversations, crack open taboos, and search for connection and resonance from a place of curiosity and non-judgment.” GOOP is one of many companies establishing themselves in the wellness industry, and working themselves into the intimate conversations we have when navigating mental health. As a young person struggling to connect with my own well-being while managing multiple diagnoses, I’m encouraged to ask the question: How can my wellness be represented in a 360 g, 30-day supply of box of “GOOPGENES”, at $132.00 CA?

 

How can my wellness be represented in a 360 g, 30-day supply of box of “GOOPGENES”, at $132.00 CA?

 

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness economy represents 5.3% of global economic output, equivocal to $4.5 trillion in the year 2018. The wellness industry is huge, and recognizes categories like ‘Wellness Real Estate’, titles that, quite frankly, don’t trigger any immediate definitions in my mind. Yet still, many of the industry sectors tracked by the Global Wellness Institute are ones with which I see myself as an active participant. 

For example, “Personal Care, Beauty, and Anti-Aging” is a part of my everyday morning and night routine, and runs me a good percentage of my student budget each month as a self-proclaimed ‘skincare addict’. When I treat my body the best I know how, I am actively participating in both the ‘Healthy Eating, Nutrition and Weight Loss’ sector, as well as “Fitness and Mind-Body”. My employers demonstrate a similar commitment to personal health by investing in the “Workplace Wellness” sector. Conducting a critical self-audit between wellness sectors identifies their relevance to the lifestyle currently I lead. However, what about the lifestyle I aspire to lead? More importantly, why start with wellness and not health?

There is, as with most issues, both a short and long answer to the question: Why does wellness work itself into conversations more often than health? 

If health is defined by the Global Wellness Institute as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, then wellness must be something else. I’m led to believe that, if health indicates that our core needs have been both met and surpassed, wellness has stronger ties to capital gain than it does to my capacity for personal fulfillment. 

In fact, ’Health’, according to GOOP.com, is a mere subcategory to ‘Wellness’. The Global Wellness Institute explains, “wellness is associated with an active process of being aware and making choices that lead toward an outcome of optimal holistic health and well-being”. In short, wellness is a lifestyle. While the pursuit of peak well-being is not inherently problematic, the persistent use of ‘wellness’ in place of ‘health’ throughout popular media plays into the notion of health as universally accessible.

It’s crucial to recognize that the widely interchangeable use of ‘wellness’ vs. ‘health’ is not isolated within the wellness industry. The Mindfulness Movement is projected to reach #1 in wellness growth sectors by 2023. This signifies a definite relationship between the wellness industry and resolving mental illness, purely on the basis of language.

While the true origins of mindfulness practices likely stem from Eastern religious practices, contemporary mindfulness is rooted in the Western practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Many of the vernacular used within CBT, allowing patients to accurately assess and respond to their perception of reality, have been adopted to promote and drive sales of products marketed towards individuals interested in mindful practices. 

We all know that language is a powerful marketing tool that can be used to align brands with consumer interests. Companies like Paltrow’s GOOP are co-opting the language that has been used in treating my mental illness in order to sell the infamous candle named ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’— did I mention the candle is priced at $107.00 CAD?

 

brands such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘GOOP’ have reaffirmed that the wellness industry is a luxury good…

 

Unfortunately, the wellness industry demonstrates that it will always be fashionable for one’s own means to exceed the needs of others. I feel that brands such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘GOOP’ have reaffirmed that the wellness industry is a luxury good, and is simply not for me. The truth is, it may never be.

At its core, the wellness industry commercializes the need for physical, mental, and social well-being. As a student who struggles to balance chronic mental illness, the wellness industry perpetuates a unique dynamic of ‘otherness’. Rather than cultivating a space for self-betterment, the wellness industry emulates the self-care we all genuinely need, but harbours false expectations and disappointment for those of us who may never have a full experience of health let alone wellness.

Here are the words GOOP imparts onto its web visitors,

‘At goop, we believe wellness is deeply individual. One woman’s path to health may call for sobriety; another’s may involve a nightly whiskey ritual.’

One thing is for sure, my holistic path to wellbeing won’t lead where I need it to go while investing in GOOP and Paltrow’s wellness empire. 

One Response

  1. I feel like wellness is used instead of health to yes, speak of it as a lifestyle because of society’s current damaging lifestyle. You can be healthy as per a medical professional, while still not be healthy as a whole and contributing to damaging habits that will later in life get back to you, such as drinking, overworking etc, is not health. Is it accessible? No. We do not live in a world where wellness, let alone health, is accessible. The reason I believe is mostly due to a lack of education starting at home. Can the wellness industry assist in creating better health? Yes. While medical professionals failed me, the wellness industry has done incredible good, but it was at a high price $$$$.

    The downside of the wellness industry is the new trend of the wellness community. Although most of the practices are positive ones, they are so convinced of their philosophies that they partake in able-ism loud and clear. This way of seeing the world also applies to the job market in the wellness industry.

    Professional supplement brands make a LOT of money, while selling to nutritionists who will then charge double as it’s the “market price”. With my professional account and certification number, I buy probiotics at 40$ and then the recommended selling price is 75$. Supplements are not covered by the government plans yet they are not only recommended for some conditions, they are NEEDED by some. For quality supplements, at their price tag, they are a luxury good.

    However there is another side to it. You’re much less likely to make changes in your own life if you don’t invest in it. Should it be this pricy? No. But if you put your health in priority you will spend money on what you need.

    On the subject of Goop, it is not seen by the wellness community as a professional brand luckily. It is mostly there for trend seekers but prices for marine collagen, e3live and other similar ingredients, remain quite high.

    Freya, Certified Holistic Nutritionist.

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