The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop, and the False Promise of Self-Care (Hardcover)
Journalist Rina Raphael looks at the explosion of the wellness industry: how it stems from legitimate complaints, how seductive marketing targets hopeful consumers–and why women are opening up their wallets like never before.
Wellness promises women the one thing they desperately desire: control.
Women are pursuing their health like never before. Whether it’s juicing, biohacking, clutching crystals, or sipping collagen, today there is something for everyone, as the wellness industry has grown from modest roots into a $4.4 trillion entity and a full-blown movement promising health and vitality in the most fashionable package. But why suddenly are we all feeling so unwell?
The truth is that deep within the underbelly of self-care—hidden beneath layers of clever marketing—wellness beckons with a far stronger, more seductive message than health alone. It promises women the one thing they desperately desire: control.
Vividly told and deeply reported, The Gospel of Wellness reveals how this obsession is a direct result of women feeling dismissed, mistreated, and overburdened. Women are told they can manage the chaos ruling their life by following a laid-out plan: eat right, exercise, meditate, then buy or do all this stuff. And while wellness may have sprung from good intentions, we are now relentlessly flooded with exploitative offerings, questionable ideas, and a mounting pressure to stay devoted to the divine doctrine of wellness. What happens when the cure becomes as bad as the disease?
With a critical eye, humor, and empathy, wellness industry journalist Rina Raphael examines how women have been led down a kale-covered path promising nothing short of salvation. She knows: Raphael was once a disciple herself—trying everything from “clean eating” to electric shock workouts—until her own awakening to the troubling consequences. Balancing the good with the bad, The Gospel of Wellness is a clear-eyed exploration of what wellness can actually offer us, knocking down the false idols and commandments that have taken hold and ultimately showing how we might shape a better future for the movement—and for our well-being.
About the Author
Rina Raphael is a journalist who specializes in health, wellness, tech, and women’s issues. She was a features contributor for Fast Company magazine and has also written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, NBC News, and Medium’s Elemental, among other publications. Her wellness industry newsletter, Well To Do, covers trends and news and offers market analysis. Raphael has spoken on the wellness industry at national conferences such as the Global Wellness Summit and the Fast Company Innovation Festival. Previously, she served as a senior producer and lifestyle editor at TODAY.com and NBCNews.com.
“Next-level revelatory... You’ll never look at an Instagram ad for organic face wash the same way again. I found myself repeating many anecdotes to friends while I was reading, which is always the sign of a good book.”
—Sarah Knight, New York Times bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck
“Raphael articulates why women go on yoga retreats, start cleanses, and think we can only feed our kids organic, from scratch meals… A smart, reassuring read that you'll want to keep on hand for the next time Instagram tries to convince you that this supplement or that expensive new workout trend is The One.”
—Virginia Sole-Smith, author of The Eating Instinct
"This groundbreaking book explores something I’ve always suspected: that wellness harbors a dark side impacting women’s self-esteem, body image, and mental health. The Gospel of Wellness takes a much-needed magnifying glass to an industry left unchecked."
—Rachel Bloom, Golden Globe winner for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and author of I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are
"With empathy and nuance, Rina Raphael explores the roots of American women's embrace of the wellness industry—including their disillusionment with a medical system that's all-too-often dismissive and ignorant of their health concerns. And she offers a clear-eyed call for true wellness—based not in individualist, hyperconsumerist self-care but in the collective pursuit of a healthier, saner society."
—Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick
"A journalist who specializes in health and women’s issues, Raphael is perfectly situated to investigate the massive wellness industry. . . Writing with authority and empathy, Raphael tells a disturbing story of taking a good thing and then overdoing it."
—Kirkus, Starred Review
“Raphael does a tremendous job…readable, entertaining, surprising, and illuminating.”
—Harriet Brown, author of Body of Truth and Brave Girl Eating
"This book is an utterly juicy deep dive for wellness devotees and skeptics alike. The perfect balance of criticism and empathy for a movement that meant well."
—Jane Marie, creator and host of The Dream
“… a deeply honest look from a woman's perspective…a well needed antidote to the usual victim-blaming and cruel optimism by helping us see the wider structural and social issues underlying our cultural angst.”
—Ronald E. Purser, Ph.D., San Francisco State University and author of McMindfulness
"Raphael delivers an eye-opening, cautionary study of the contemporary, amorphous meaning of 'wellness.'"
“A revelation and a revolution. With humor and insight, Rina Raphael excavates the world of wellness.”
—Lyz Lenz, author of God Land
"Do yourself a favor and become a smarter consumer and mute so much of the noise created by the wellness industry with this great read. You'll never hear the phrases 'natural,' or 'free from harsh chemicals,' 'detox,' 'clean eating,' or 'cleanse' the same way again. "
—Katherine Goldstein, journalist and creator of The Double Shift podcast
"Rina Raphael takes a much-needed journalist's approach to critique a complicated business that generates $4 trillion by selling us ‘health’ in a bottle, and she shows us with startling prose why this industry deserves more scrutiny and oversight."
—Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair correspondent and author of New York Times bestseller, American Kingpin