Are You a Victim of “Well-Washing?” with Rina Raphael
Everyone wants to feel healthy, but none of us want to be duped—and many prefer not to be goop-ed, for that matter. How can we navigate the world of wellness as savvy consumers and avoid the “well-washing” so often used to sell us on the next expensive fad? We know just the expert to help us navigate this increasingly complex space.
Meet Rina Raphael, one of the leading wellness journalists in the world. She’s earned that reputation by working at the likes of CNN, NBC, CBS, the LA Times, the New York Times, and Fast Company.
Her new book, “The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop, and the False Promise of Self-Care,” takes a nuanced and critical look at the recent explosive growth of the wellness industry and how, at its worst, it can sell us over-complicated and unnecessary solutions to very real problems. Her goal is not to debunk the wellness industry but to provide a cautionary tale and urge us all to use critical thinking when it comes to wellness claims.
Rina has been a part of the Global Wellness Summits for years. Stories from her newsletter, Well To Do, are often quoted on the news headlines GWS sends out, and she has written several annual trend reports for the organization including the fertility boom in wellness, how organized religion is jumping into wellness, and how tech is closing the gender gap in wellness research. She was also a part of a masterclass GWS put on called “2022 Wellness Trends Making Headlines.”
The wellness industry has changed tremendously over the last ten years, and with that, the public’s relationship with wellness has changed as well. Despite the concept of wellness booming, and more products and methodologies out there to improve health outcomes, women are feeling more unwell than ever before—and they are drawn to this industry to find the cure. If you find yourself buying supplements, going to specialized gyms, or obsessing over a wellness app, you’re not alone. The marketing machines behind many of these companies are very adept at what they do, but unfortunately, the evidence backing up their products can often fall short. The collective frustration over expensive wellness products that aren’t matching up to their claims and the endless flood of new information is reaching an apex. Something has to change—and it’s already begun.
One major shift we’re seeing in the public perception of wellness is being driven by the up-and-coming Gen Z. These young consumers are rebelling against the perfectionist ethos pushed forward by some of the worst parts of the wellness industry. While much of the last decade of wellness has focused on an overwhelming and unattainable standard, we’re starting to realize that the stress caused by striving for perfection is actually making health outcomes worse. This more realistic, relaxed approach to wellness means people are still making healthy choices— on their own terms.
We’re also seeing an epidemic of misinformation online. Not only is marketing particularly adept at misleading people, but we’re seeing potentially well-meaning influencers on social media platforms such as TikTok sharing advice—without sources or evidence—that ranges from unhelpful to downright harmful. And this advice, which may seem profound, gets shared and recirculated faster than it can be refuted. According to Rina Raphael, the best way to combat this epidemic is for each person to sharpen their critical thinking skills, question information before accepting it, and vet anything before sharing it. Before you buy in on something, look at who is putting it out there and find out what their reputation is within the industry.
Overall, Rina’s book is full of a message of hope. While the wellness industry has a number of challenges to face, even from within, there is a path forward. Consumers are becoming savvier, the market is beginning to course-correct, and better research is coming out every day on accessible, affordable wellness practices and how to incorporate them into your life.
To learn more, sign up for Rina’s newsletter, Well To Do.
- Read: “The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop, and the False Promise of Self-Care”
Sponsored by Murad Skincare.
Hosted by Kim Marshall.