A week or two ago, I was graciously tearing the skin from my hands in a low-cost doctor’s waiting room. Persistent dermatitis is, as you can easily imagine, a very relaxing condition and as I awaited the means to relieve it, I was in a wonderful mood.
With my bloody meat mitten that once passed for a primate organ, I reached for a distraction. Any old thing would do. The first thing my horror show-hand grabbed was Pretty Happy, a book whose subtitle promised “Healthy Ways to Love Your Body”. Here was the wisdom of qualified health professional, Kate Hudson.
I looked at the scotch fillet hand, and then, again, at the Hudson health guarantee. I wondered how she could help me love decades of eczema in healthy ways. As I pawed through the work, I left gobs of blood on pages that pledged a “journey” to “be your best self” and others that proposed I keep a daily written record of my poo.
Then, in her efforts to improve our physical lot, Kate asked readers to consider, “when you run, what animal do you most closely resemble?” (Note: I actually know the answer to this. My friend Nadine has seen me jog and tells me I look exactly like an angry Bichon Frise. Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be helpful in determining my Ayurvedic body type.)
I looked at the scotch fillet hand, and then, again, at the Hudson health guarantee. I wondered how she could help me love decades of eczema in healthy ways.
I should say this waiting room book did have a positive outcome: I was now so flipping irritated by the reminder of celebrity “wellness” money-making, I had forgotten about the itch in my hands. If Hudson had set out to write something so comically self-important and absurd it would serve as pain diversion therapy, she couldn’t have done a better job. But, this was never her intention. Like Gwyneth Paltrow and her claims for “Moon Juice Sex Dust” or Cameron Diaz and her published advice that “you should get to know yourself on the cellular level”—relax, ladies. This is no way demands the study of biology and simply requires that you feel more “empowered”—Hudson takes herself very seriously.
Of course, beautiful, famous persons en-route to midlife are perfectly entitled to take themselves very seriously. If Cameron, Kate or Gwyneth care to believe that their views on diet, vaginal steam cleaning and more derive from something other than pure idiocy, that’s great and very “empowering”.
I take no sort of issue whatsoever with the fact that tin-foil Paleo nuts activate almonds in their private kitchens or shun sun-screen in the misguided belief that a “healthy” tan is an effective safeguard against cancer. I do take issue with the publication and broadcast of this delusional tripe, an uncritical act which may turn out to be more harmful than the sugar I’m apparently supposed to quit.
Look: enjoy your alkaline cacao brownies as you engage in conversations about “wellness journeys” and talk about how vaccination is a big pharma conspiracy until your children are purple in the face from whooping cough. Believe that Gwyneth is not a cynical, monetised monster who urges you to spend your stagnant wage on the snake oil she sells in her online store, and have faith that she just really cares about the future of the planet. Honestly, I don’t mind. And I earnestly hope that one day, you all get to live in a luxury yurt with each other where you can perform nude yoga and infect each other with measles.
I do take issue with the publication and broadcast of this delusional tripe, an uncritical act which may turn out to be more harmful than the sugar I’m apparently supposed to quit.
But the problem that I do have is not so much with your delusion, but with the fact that some of my media colleagues – who are far less fixated on their ethical responsibility to sort important health information from inane mantras about “journeys” – spread the virus of stupidity. Even to a doctor’s waiting room.
I mean. Seriously. Last week, I read no fewer than five uncritical articles about Jesinta Campbell’s new work of fiction, Live a Beautiful Life. Storied news publications described this book as containing “health tips”, which it plainly does not. It’s very nice that Jesinta thinks that turmeric and a positive mindset are the best routes to longevity. It’s a public health menace when my colleagues see fit to endorse such nonsense.
Such messages are dangerous, especially when received by vulnerable people experiencing physical illness. I applaud Victoria’s consumer watchdog which, following the Belle Gibson controversy, secured agreement from one publisher that there will be no “health” or “wellness” book cover printed without a prominent warning about its author’s qualification. I would like to see this extended to claims made about a “positive mindset”. For those of us who have endured mental health issues, the widespread published advice that we should just cheer up is, at best, questionable.
Again, individuals, whether famous or not, may enjoy whatever fancy they choose. You want to imagine that Diaz’s cellular empowerment is not just some made-up word vomit, go right ahead. I have long since ceased my frustration at the fact of individual ignorance.
But, I can’t excuse professional media endorsement of stupidity. Or, the fact that my medical centre had a copy of Kate Hudson’s book, which is now, in any case, smeared with my blood. As a responsible communicator, of course I wrote “bio-hazard” on Kate’s beautiful face which, actually, is a phrase that should accompany any publication of “wellness” “facts”.