If, like me, you’re someone who can’t relate to all of the wellness influencers on social media promoting their morning green juices and supplements, then let me introduce you to The Gospel of Wellness by Rina Raphael.
A hot take on the dark side of the wellness boom and the scary rise of pseudoscience.
Here’s everything I learnt from reading The Gospel of Wellness and my main takeaways.
Spoiler – it’s extremely refreshing!
The Gospel of Wellness is a relatively new book released in 2022 written by Rina Raphael, an investigative journalist who specialises in all things health and wellness. From wacky health retreats and bizarre trends to the rise of pseudoscience on TikTok, Rina covers it all.
I first came across Rina Raphael at a recent webinar hosted by The Global Wellness Institute and from the get-go, I was enthralled by her sceptical take on the wellness industry.
I found it so refreshing to come across someone who was just as critical about certain viral trends as I was.
After the webinar, I signed up for her Substack; Well To Do and pre-ordered this book.
As soon as I read the first page I knew it was going to be a match made in heaven. And of course, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to write a book review and share my thoughts with you.
So let’s dive right in…
“Wellness has both empowered and enslaved women.”Rina Raphael | The Gospel of Wellness
Table of Contents
- The lowdown on The Gospel of Wellness
- Is The Gospel of Wellness easy to read?
- My 3 biggest takeaways from The Gospel of Wellness
- Final thoughts
The lowdown on The Gospel of Wellness
The Gospel of Wellness is an investigative piece that takes a critical look at the $4.2 trillion wellness industry and sets out to debunk some of its most popular trends.
From pseudo-scientific claims and deceptive marketing strategies to the dangerous rise of conflicting nutritional advice and quick-fix supplement solutions, Rina Raphael exposes the dark side of the wellness boom.
Spread across 12 chapters, that all consist of sarcastic but poignant titles, The Gospel of Wellness highlights the ridiculous lengths Millennials will go to in order to “heal” themselves.
Rina draws upon her own first-hand experiences at some of the most outlandish wellness events she describes. From a travelling wellness festival and a women-only weed retreat in California to a luxury acupuncture studio in New York, the book questions why so many women feel exasperated and need to seek out these rituals so they can feel “well”.
At one point, Rina goes so far as to compare consumerist wellness culture to a religious cult and “a philosophy to live by.”
The Gospel of Wellness also exposes how some of the biggest brands and companies in the wellness industry capitalise on the emergence of new trends.
It’s fair to say that new trends all start out with good intentions. But once money is involved, they get hijacked by the masses which ultimately distorts the original message.
Take self-care for example. In its most basic term, self-care is any activity you do to take better care of your well-being. But since becoming mainstream (thanks to marketing) it has turned into a money-making machine where big brands prey on people’s insecurities, selling them expensive products and treatments that often don’t live up to the hype.
And so Rina’s aim for this book is to illustrate a clear distinction between what is healthy and what is purely a “pseudoscience, hyperconsumerist ethos that is muddying the waters.”
“Far beyond yoga classes and veganism, women are modeling their entire lives—from where they live to whom they socialize with and how they parent—on the wellness lifestyle du jour.”Rina Raphael | The Gospel of Wellness
Is The Gospel of Wellness easy to read?
In short, yes!
It’s extremely straightforward and easily digestible.
Although it’s slightly over 300 pages long, I got through this book within a week purely because I was so eager and curious to keep reading.
Rina Raphael writes in a way that leaves you wanting more. She also has the ability to get you to think about her opinions and draw upon your own conclusions.
There were so many sentences that stood out and resonated with me that I made so many underlines! It honestly took me a few hours to copy up all of the highlights I made into my Notion board.
This book reads more like a straight-up investigative piece rather than a self-help guide so it doesn’t contain any diagrams, summaries or stand-alone tips to implement, but each chapter does include a mini-backstory on the history of the wellness movement and how certain aspects began.
The only thing I would say is that there are quite a few statistics mentioned. Of course, this data is all relevant to the book, however, if you hate numbers like me, it can come across as slightly overwhelming.
My 3 biggest takeaways from The Gospel of Wellness
1 | Self-care is only a short-term solution, not a “miraculous cure-all”
Straight from the get-go, Rina challenges us to explore the reasons why we look to self-care in the first place.
The title of Chapter 1 hilariously asks, “Why is the answer always yoga?”
Rina muses on the fact that using breathwork practices and being calm isn’t actually going to solve our problems. Sometimes we need a stronger antidote. No, I’m not talking about alcohol. I’m talking about allowing ourselves to be angry. To scream through the pain and not always sedate our emotions through meditation and yoga.
Rina emphasises that self-care is a short-term “band-aid that does not ensure long-term redemption.”
I was first introduced to this concept by podcaster, Cassie Widders who regularly compares a social media detox to “a plaster which makes you feel better in the moment, but doesn’t stitch up the wound.”
And now The Gospel of Wellness draws on a similar conclusion for self-care which has really made me think about the role self-care plays in my own life and how I sometimes use it to mask my problems rather than solve them.
Rina suggests that the most effective thing you can do in times of turmoil is to take a step back and analyse “the root issues” of what is causing you so much stress.
Which I can completely get on board with.
Because after all, my kind of self-care is about human needs. By being able to pinpoint what you need allows you to be more intentional with your self-care routine rather than indulging in a random activity that won’t do anything for you (like applying a facemask).
“Self-care promises salvation and deliverance from the evils of stress. But if it’s a toxic workplace, a meditation program isn’t going to fix it. A fitness app won’t solve the uneven distribution of housework within your marriage; CBD gummies will not enforce better childcare policies; bath salts won’t stop late-night work emails. Buy whatever makes you feel good, but realize that these are short-term mental Band-Aids that do not ensure long-term redemption. Wellness remedies help, but the problem is that they’re sold to the public as miraculous cure-alls.”Rina Raphael | The Gospel of Wellness
2 | It made me think about my own message within the wellness space
With the rise of wellness influencers on social media, I am starting to see a lot of misinformation and one-size-fits-all advice being shared online and it doesn’t sit right with me. I never want to be in a position where I am sharing misleading health advice or promoting over-hyped products that either don’t work or benefit you in any way, for my own personal gain.
I have even gone so far as to include a disclaimer on my blog which clearly states that my content is my own opinion and is for informational and educational purposes only. Something that a lot of social media influencers fail to do.
But I wanted to go that step further too and expand my own health knowledge. So I am not always looking at Google and then questioning whether an article I’ve read is actually the truth.
And for this reason, I’m now studying to become a certified health coach.
I aim to graduate in the next 6 months so I can uplevel what I offer to you in terms of support and I wake up feeling excited every single day just thinking about it. It’s a long and thorough process and I’m slightly behind my desired roadmap but it’s also not something I’m going to rush. I’m not someone who is just going to change their Instagram bio to say that they are now a coach without any proper training. I want to know the ins and outs of it, take it seriously and be taught professionally.
And reading The Gospel of Wellness has solidified the reasoning behind this even more. Not that I needed any reassurance to know that what I’m doing is the right thing, but more as an indicator to show that “real” wellness guidance is seriously needed.
“With the death of the expert and nutrition information descending into chaos, wellness gurus and cookbook authors swooped in, sticking their flags in the ground to claim authority. Problem is, a lot of the information they offer is skewed.”Rina Raphael | The Gospel of Wellness
3 | How to navigate wellness amidst false health claims and pseudoscience
Out of all the chapters in the book, Chapter 12 offers the most action and implemental tips. So for anyone who struggles to make sense of the world of wellness, I encourage you to bookmark this page straight away and refer back to it whenever you need to.
Rina argues that the popularity of wellness has essentially come down to powerful marketing tactics and it is up to us to learn to read between the lines.
Her top tips for navigating wellness amongst all the false health claims and misinformation are as follows:
- Remember that wellness isn’t one-size-fits-all, health is specific to an individual’s needs
- Don’t just believe anyone who says a product or modality will definitely work for you just because it has worked for them
- Be wary of emotionally manipulative language
- Demand evidence
- Consider your sources for information: Are they qualified to be giving you this information? Can they be trusted? Do they include a disclaimer on their content?
- Analyze the intentions of the person promoting an idea or product
- Ask yourself whether you actually need the product or service, or are you just suffering from shiny object syndrome?
- Evaluate your root stressors before masking problems with self-care rituals
- Understand that science is always evolving and research is always being reevaluated
- Loosen the grip on always working on “bettering” yourself
“Marketing has a far stronger power than scientific proof. Few of us follow scientists, but we sure as hell follow celebrities, influencers, and brands that are in no way health experts but sure act like them.”Rina Raphael | The Gospel of Wellness
Whether you’re just starting out on your wellness journey or are a fully-fledged wellness warrior, this book is for you. I also 100% recommend it to anyone who feels overwhelmed by all the health advice available to us online.
The Gospel of Wellness will help you to make sense of the trends surrounding the wellness industry so you can navigate your way through all the misleading information and ultimately build a wellness regime that works for you.
Remember, you don’t need to be following every single trend out there.
I know it’s easy to gravitate towards familiar faces we see online but it doesn’t always mean they can be trusted. Just because your favourite influencer is taking 5 supplements a day and drinking green matcha smoothies, doesn’t mean it will work for you too. Also bear in mind that they might be promoting products for monetary value and will say anything to get you to buy them.
So be aware of misleading claims and one-size-fits-all advice. Don’t just copy others or follow a trend because it seems popular on social media. Do your own research first before trying out a new eating plan for example or do a test run before adopting a new morning routine.
The key is to always do what works best for you and your health.
Until next week,
♡ Thalia xx
Let me leave you with one last quote…
“So much of the current messaging serves to control women’s time and role in society. Our health becomes a catalyst for investment, one demanding negotiations, sacrifice, and performance. We need to purge our figures of excess fat, rid our minds of angry thoughts, cleanse our organs of “toxins,” and fix whatever is “wrong” with us. It’s fueling what can only be called self-absorption, revering our body to unhealthy proportions… (But) Wellness will continue to grow because the inherent sentiment remains the same: the status quo isn’t cutting it. We shop at farmers’ markets to cut back on overprocessed food. We wear a Fitbit because we recognise our lives are too sedentary. We go to yoga because we need a moment to slow down. Those activities in turn help to define us – and what we want our lives to be.”Rina Raphael | The Gospel of Wellness
Learn more about The Gospel of Wellness
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