Is this the end of wellness?

After a trend of magical thinking and quick fixes, science-based solutions may not be so dull, says Eva Wiseman

Like a worm cut in half, its head regenerating into a new, even angrier worm, the “wellness” trend is one that refuses to die. But this week, its wiggle appeared to wane. A certain weariness had set in. Is this the end of wellness?

The evidence:” I was a huge fan of Gwyneth ,” one attendee of Goop’s recent” wellness summit” in London told website Page Six,” Now I feel like I have lost my faith in God .”” GP[ Paltrow ],” said another, “is a fucking extortionist.” These were people who had spent up to PS4, 500 on weekend tickets, get off the tube in Hammersmith as if landing in Lourdes, expecting to leave healed. What do they need healing from, you ask? Well, what have you got? Creepy energy, deep thirst, smell of cardboard, troubled cavities, babyish sleeping, bad vagina- the beauty of the term “wellness” is that it encompasses almost everything, and can expense almost anything. Which is why I was excited to see the attendees rebel- a tipping phase has been reached. Somewhere among the self-care stations and lavender lattes, a healthless revolution.

The same day that Goop fans revolted, a wellness company called Get a Drip withdrew a PS250″ fertility drip” from sale after experts accused them of exploiting vulnerable girls. They specialise in intravenous drips of vitamins, with customers reportedly feeling more “alive” when they leave, despite physicians pointing out there’s no scientific proof they have meaningful impact, that the risks outweigh the benefits, and that they should be used only for people unable to absorb nutrients through their gastrointestinal tract- saying that any positive reaction is due to a placebo effect.

It’s one thing to market IV drips that claim to brighten your skin or attain your hair seem glossier. It’s quite another, argued Katherine O’Brien at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, to tell the one in seven couples in the UK that have trouble conceiving, that there is a” quick fix at an extortionate cost “.” There is no evidence that an IV drip of any combining of vitamins can improve a woman’s fertility ,” she said.” In promising hope to women at a very desperate hour, we are concerned that, aside from providing no real benefit, these drips may be causing real damage to women’s emotional wellbeing .”

Wellness has traditionally been a women’s issue, much like bloating and white jeans, but last year a men’s movement began, only to be tripped up this week for contravening Facebook policies. Men’s wellness brand Hims has had online ads for erectile dysfunction medications removed, with Arthur Caplan, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Division of Medical Ethics, telling Wired they were” dangerous[ and] irresponsible. A plenty of people are looking for a quick fix. These direct-to-consumer ads are undercutting the idea that you should be seeing a doctor- which is the wrong attitude .” This came soon after Britt Hermes, a former naturopath turned whistleblower on the “alternative therapy” industry, was awarded the prestigious John Maddox prize for championing science in the face of hostility and legal menaces. Some superheroes don’t wear capes. Instead, natty little white coats, with space for a Biro.

The wellness industry thrives due to a collecting of complementary ideas, mixed hard into a thick juice. One is the alluring mystique of nature, compared with the cold arrogance of Western medicine and its relentless evidence; wellness remedies are rarely proven to fail because they can rarely be proven to work. Another is the new idea that health, a place of painless calm and exhilaration, a sort of inner Center Parcs, is the body’s natural state, with any diversion from this an aberration that must be corrected. There is the celebration of wellness in glossy media, with its celebrities and plentiful lifestyle accessories, from crystals to big jade eggs. And there is a gendered claw, with a combination of feminist tropes- the idea that women’s health is misconstrue and the medical establishment ignorant about our bodies- and a sly regifting of the diet industry, this time with detox schemes and slimming drips.

It’s hard to fight miraculous remedies to nebulous problems with dull, unphotogenic but science-based solutions. But for every new wellness fad- activated charcoal, pink salt, placenta smoothies- there is a noisy, science-based argument debunking it, and increased responsibility from trusted organizations who are familiar with more care is required when representing magical thinking and its premier philosophers. And too, growing acknowledgement of the reasons these quick fixes appeal to so many people, especially those with busy live and restriction healthcare, especially those who have grown up being told that life can be perfected. The worm turns, slowly.

Email Eva at e.wiseman @observer. co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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