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I can strongly recommend a course … of … Goop

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Was giving a luxury brandzine the same name as a well-known industrial hand cleaner a mistake? Perhaps.

There are no surprises in Lindy West’s article about Gwenyth Paltrow’s first In Goop Health health and wellness expo.

There wasn’t a group vaginal steaming event. There’s nothing narsty in the aura photography tent. Irate support staff don’t rise up and pelt attendees with vaginal crystals and coccyx leeches.

I’m not making up the steam, stones or leeches. I didn’t misspell Good. In other words, the article about a health and fitness event for women contains everything one would expect.

The fact that it is an actor-turned-health-guru project aimed at people who could afford $500 – $1,500 to attend probably didn’t make that much of a difference in the content. For example:

After a brief history of Goop (“I started to wonder: Why do we all not feel well? Why is there so much cancer? Why are we all so tired?”), Paltrow introduces her personal physician, Dr Habib Sadeghi, DO.

The answer to these questions is some combination of life events, exposure to various things that make you not well and just plain aging. The reason that people of all walks of life are drawn to what Paltrow is selling is a combination of fear, confusion and dissatisfaction with the health care they are receiving.

And a desire to know what the knowingless men know not.

Women are more likely to be targeted by garbage merchants. We’ve been groomed for it. In addition to standard health concerns and the usual hurried health care encounters, we have to deal with societal sexism which impacts the health care we receive. And has a built multi-billion dollar industry on insecurity about ourselves and a horror of time’s passage. That’s how we’ve reached the point where women will let hastily trained health care providers take lasers to their genitals for cosmetic purposes.

It’s nuts. And it’s why health guidance from a beautiful famous woman and doctors who speak soothingly is so damn attractive.

He talks for an hour about “cosmic flow”; his left testicle; the “magnificence” of Gwyneth (“I’ve been down and I’ve touched her feet … and I’ll do it again”);

OK, the mention of his balls is a bit surprising. I assume the foot touching was done to check Paltrow’s circulation.

and his belief that “consciousness precedes phenotypic expression”, which means, basically, that all ailments are on some level psychosomatic and your ovarian cysts are really just little nodules of emotion – or something.

Now there’s a completely original thing for a doctor to say to women, but “consciousness precedes phenotypic expression” sounds mysterious enough to keep people from throwing their water bottles.

And of course there’ll be sport obsession with the current hip, happening body system.

The next panel, on gut health, counters Sadeghi’s consciousness theory with the assertion that all human illnesses are caused by antibiotics, ibuprofen, caesarean sections and legumes. The human gut is a rich rainforest, they say. Antibiotics are “napalm”, and taking one ibuprofen is “like swallowing a hand grenade”.

Another original thing: attempting to scare the shit out of laypeople – perhaps literally in this case – because talking to them like adults is too much effort. I mean, there certainly are things about the widespread use of antibotics that should leave everyone petrified, but it’s along the lines of Lots of people will get antibiotic resistant infections and die unprettily. I have no idea why NSAIDs are like live hand grenades.

And for attendees who don’t like sport, there’ll be sport scary stories about the biggest, baddest, bogey of all: Fat.

Someone relates an anecdote about a marathon runner who had to get a faecal transplant from her fat niece, and it made the marathon runner fat.

This would have been a good time for the irate support staff to start throwing the crotch rocks.

Or better yet, for any of the doctors on the panel to do some quick research and issue a correction: There is a case report which noted unexplained weight gain by the donor and the recipient, following a fecal transplant. In an example of everything wrong with science reporting, articles about the report made the unsupported claim that the donor – the minor daughter of the recipient – was overweight at the time of the transplant. Perhaps Paltrow does – as West jokes – intend to start selling her own crap.

I’m actually surprised it wasn’t on offer. This is a place after all where people were voluntarily receiving IV infusions. I can’t imagine they’d hesitate to down a few pills claiming to contain 100% organic, free-range Paltrow Poo. Maybe that was in the Collagen Garden  and West didn’t have access to that part of the shindig.

For attendees who don’t like variety there’s sport: Quacks talking about food.

Dr Steven Gundry, author of The Plant Paradox, reveals that from January to June inclusive, he consumes all his calories between 6pm and 8pm, because “we evolved to search for food all day and then fast”.

Pretty sure he meant search for food and then eat, but was light-headed from hunger.

It’s funny how our understanding of human evolution – of the point at which we were once our truest selves – can shift according to which restrictive diet is on-trend that day.

And that understanding is strangely selective. Not that I expect Dr. Gundry to spend his days roaming the aisles of Jeff Bezos’ latest acquisition. Or better yet, furricking in the hedgerows for his meals. However, the belief that the life of early humans was that organized is almost charming.

I am no anthropologist, but I suspect that if early human scored a handful of nuts at 8 a.m., he ate them at 8 a.m. And if she dug up some grubs at noon, she ate them at noon. And if they chased some hyenas away from a recently deceased gazelle at 4 p.m., they ate that at 4 p.m.

I’m never certain what people mean when they make evolution the basis for the diet du jour. It seems to range from wobbly biped up to right before attempts at what we recognize as agriculture, and certainly that lack of clarity must be part of the magic. However, I find it irritating.

As is this.

Gundry argues that human beings aren’t meant to eat any plants native to North America, because we are native to “Africa, Europe and Asia”.

This would doubtless come as a shock to the surviving descendants of people who ate native North American plants for thousands of years before Europeans showed up mob handed and spread small pox all over the place.

But do pause to appreciate the delicate balance of permissible and forbidden unnatural things that is a common hallmark of wooquack. Native North American plants are unnatural and forbidden (except for blueberries, it seems). Importing non-native plants (either for crops or straight to the grocery) is not natural but it’s permissible.

The trick is to make the marks think they’re getting some secret wisdom, not to make them think or to make them uncomfortable in ways that aren’t conducive to getting them to hand over the moolah.

As for Central and South America, I don’t know what people down there are supposed to do. I thought at first that he realized suggesting avocados, chocolate and cocaine would have been a step too far. But I checked his blog and two most recent entries about the benefits chocolate and the joys of avocado ice cream. Then I remembered he’s a quack.

At one point, Dr Amy Myers casually distinguishes between the gut bacteria Asian people need (because “they” eat a lot of seaweed) and the gut bacteria that “we” need. You don’t have to glance around the room to know who “we” are.

Neither does one have to glance at a map to know how completely fucking stupid such an assertion is.

There was even – to switch TV comedies for a moment – a course of leeches:

There is one moment I can’t stop thinking about. Near the end, Kerr casually mentions that she once tried leech therapy as part of her wellness practice: “One was on my coccyx because it’s really good to, like, detox the body, rejuvenate the body…

She popped one down her cod-piece breeches.

At any rate, there are a number of legitimate medical uses for the little suckers, but detoxing the body or curing Blackadder of his crush on his manservant aren’t on the list.

… I had a leech facial as well. And I kept the leeches. They’re in my koi pond.”

I’m going to start a maggot farm. When someone creates the quackified version of what is politely referred to as larval therapy, I’ll be rich.

However, it seems there was a little something for everyone at the event, even reporters.

Kerr’s body is almost certainly what those people mean when they say “a natural healthy shape”, because our society conflates conventional beauty with health. But, I don’t know – I might be fat, but I’ve never felt like I needed to get an IV drip on a patio in Culver City or put leeches on my butt to suck out toxins, and I’m grateful for that.

I guess Goop did make me feel well after all.

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