I love learning about new health trends, and I'll even try out the "weirder" ones every now and then, like moon milk, or goat yoga. When it comes to these, shall we say, more "out there" wellness recommendations, Goop seems to be at the forefront. But the woman at the head of Goop made some recent comments about wellness that simply aren't true. In an interview with Financial Times, Gwyneth Paltrow suggested that practicing wellness is "free," which is just plain false.
“This idea that wellness is aspirational, and for rich people, it’s absolutely not true at all," Paltrow said during the interview. "At the crux of it, the true tenets of wellness — meditation, eating whole foods, drinking a lot of water, sleeping well, thinking good thoughts, trying to be optimistic — are all free.”
"Eating whole foods," of course, is a generally agreed-upon, good-for-you health tip. But eating whole foods is, quite literally, not free, nor is it an easily accessible wellness tip for everyone. According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, 40 million Americans struggle with hunger (including 12 million children), and food deserts — aka areas where access to fresh foods is severely limited — keep lower-income people from being able to purchase fresh produce. Plus, the time it takes to travel to buy whole foods and then prepare them is a luxury that many people simply don't have. Even Paltrow's suggestion to drink a lot of water "for free" ignores the fact that, in Flint, Michigan (as well as other places in the U.S. and across the world), water can be unsafe to drink, and bottled water can be a tremendous expense for some.
As for "thinking good thoughts," as Paltrow told Financial Times, sure, technically that's "free" to do, but assuming that something like mindfulness or meditation — which, of course, focus on the idea of changing your thought patterns — can always successfully improve someone's mental health, is simply unrealistic. Moreover, learning these skills and how to implement them is something that often happens in therapy, and according to a Mental Health America global survey, 20.6 percent of adults with a mental illness said they were not able to receive the treatment they needed because of financial and/or health insurance-related barriers. And to that point, a 2010 review of 115 global studies, published in the academic journal Social Science & Medicine, found that poverty is associated with higher rates of mental illness. Having said all of that, the bottom line on this particular point is, when someone does not have expendable income or is uninsured, access to therapy can be extremely limited. Plus, while mindfulness and positive thinking certainly have their place in taking care of your mental health, they simply cannot substitute quality, professional help.
Overall, there's a kind of out-of-touch quality to comments like Paltrow's that seem characteristic of many of her wellness recommendations, at least in my opinion. Still, I have to say that there's an inexplicable lure to wondering what Paltrow will recommend next. Every year, I personally look forward to seeing the ridiculousness that'll appear on the Goop holiday gift guide. The 2018 list, for instance, featured an Hermés surfboard, an $820 incense burner, and an Aston Martin — just your basic, run-of-the-mill gifts, you know? Except, I don't know a single person who would be able to casually drop almost $8,000 for a designer surfboard that probably isn't even meant to be used for surfing.
Obviously, Goop is still in business, so there have to be people buying its products. But as much as luxury health products are Paltrow's thing, giving wellness advice to those of us who cringe at the mere price difference between organic apples and conventional ones, is not.
This is certainly not the first time that Paltrow has found herself in hot water when it comes to wellness issues. For example, in a controversial interview with Wall Street Journal Magazine back in December 2018, the Goop leader seemed to be taking personal credit for the popularity of yoga. She told the magazine,
Forgive me if this comes out wrong, but I went to do a yoga class in L.A. recently and the 22-year-old girl behind the counter was like, ‘Have you ever done yoga before?’ And literally I turned to my friend, and I was like, ‘You have this job because I’ve done yoga before.’
Sigh. All I can really say is, I hope Paltrow has made a New Year's resolution to think before she speaks a little more often.