LUCY MANGAN: We're being poisoned by the cult of wellness

LUCY MANGAN: From protein balls to mini chia-seed pudding… We’re being poisoned by the cult of wellness

What’s this?’ I said. ‘It’s a cold-pressed carrot, ginger and turmeric shot,’ replied my friend. 

‘What’s this?’ I said. ‘Protein ball.’ ‘This?’ ‘Mini chia-seed pudding.’ ‘And this?’ ‘Chocolate.’

I regarded it suspiciously. ‘What’s wrong with it?’ I asked. ‘Nothing,’ she said. I waited. 

I would love to believe that the only thing standing between me and perfect health is a little more pampering of my lower intestine. But alas, a moment’s critical thought tells me it’s unlikely [File photo]

‘It’s made with pea isolate,’ she murmured, eyes cast down in shame, as well they should be. ‘That’s it,’ I said. ‘Bin. Now.’

My friend is a victim of a cult. It goes by the name of the wellness industry, but it is a cult all the same. 

It seeks to separate her from reason, money, friends and family – and anyone else who doesn’t agree that what a bar of Dairy Milk really lacks is a good dose of filtered pea powder.

I have been going through the ‘advent cleanse calendar’ she has bought herself online and I have had enough.

It used to be that the only things sensible people really had to battle against on behalf of gullible friends were astrology and homeopathy. This wellness business, though, is quite a different prospect. 

I doubt the human race would have lasted as long as it has if the proteins in one of the earliest crops ever grown had really been as vicious to our viscera as some claim [File photo]

It has taken insidious hold and it is hard to pry the golden fingers of its high priestesses (Gwyneth Paltrow, assorted other celebrities and serried ranks of bloggers, vloggers, ‘grammers and influencers, each thinner and glossier-haired than the last) from their victims’ psyches.

This is despite the fact that none (to my knowledge) has any genuine qualification – if we grant that good hair and a vanishingly low body-fat percentage really doesn’t count – for the vital job of advising people on how to stay healthy.

The wellness cult depends on wrapping pseudoscientific nonsense round tiny chia-kernels of actual empirical fact, like the need to eat less sugar and more fibre and not poke chips down our gullets eight times a day.

But it’s nonsense that sounds good and, standing alone, almost convincing. I mean, who am I to say to some glowing, gluten-free goddess that wheat is not ‘like sandpaper for the gut’? 

I would love to believe that the only thing standing between me and perfect health is a little more pampering of my lower intestine. But alas, a moment’s critical thought tells me it’s unlikely. 

The wellness cult depends on wrapping pseudoscientific nonsense round tiny chia-kernels of actual empirical fact, like the need to eat less sugar and more fibre and not poke chips down our gullets eight times a day [File photo]

I doubt the human race would have lasted as long as it has if the proteins in one of the earliest crops ever grown had really been as vicious to our viscera as some claim.

Ditto dairy allergies, which at modern rates would have ended humanity shortly after someone first pointed at a mammoth teat, looked quizzically at his mate and said: ‘Let’s give it a go.’

Like all cults, wellness has now developed its own language and life: simple salads become superfood salads, spelt bread becomes organic broccoli bread, pasta becomes kale ravioli, cleanses that promise so much and do – psychologically and psychosomatically – feel so good that they must be done once a month, then once a week and then every single day.

If you find yourself falling under its spell, you are probably hungry for something – but it’s not, and it never will be, chia seeds or protein balls

What the wellness habit, and the industry that creates and fuels it, offers is a cover. 

Often for eating disorders, because following its strictures – and you can pick and choose among hundreds according to your needs – provides a superficially reasonable justification for cutting out entire food groups.

And often for more intangible sorrows. Because it seems to offer agency and control – over your appetite, over your body, over your appearance – it is attractive to anyone who lacks those things. Which, let’s face it, is most of us at one time or another.

Like any cult, the wellness industry feeds on our insecurities and promises to meet needs that are not being fulfilled elsewhere. 

If you find yourself falling under its spell, you are probably hungry for something – but it’s not, and it never will be, chia seeds or protein balls.

The monarch we need next

Long admired as the hardest working and most unpretentious Royal, Princess Anne was also feted last week for her appearance in a video clip showing various world leaders putting the boot into Trump, and shrugging at her mother when Her Majesty needed extricating from the deathless conversation she was trapped in with The Donald and Melania. 

And Anne’s younger self – brilliantly played by newcomer Erin Doherty, left – is the funniest thing in the latest series of The Crown.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could go from Queen Elizabeth to Queen Anne?

Virtue-signalling hypocrites 

A while ago, I read about the message recommended by millennials for dealing with friends’ problems when you are feeling overstretched. 

It goes: ‘Hey! I’m so glad you reached out! I’m actually at capacity/helping someone else who’s in crisis/dealing with some personal stuff right now’ – delete according to need – ‘and I don’t think I can hold appropriate space for you. Could we connect [later date or time] instead/Do you have someone else you can reach out to?’

You are texting this, of course, not calling or speaking face to face – you’re not some kind of crazy boomer.

A while ago, I read about the message recommended by millennials for dealing with friends’ problems when you are feeling overstretched [File photo]

Now there is a companion piece. The suggested way of breaking bad news is: ‘Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?’

And yet at the same time, new research has shown that more than 40 per cent of millennials aren’t willing to give up their seats on public transport for pregnant women or elderly people.

It’s almost as if modern manners have absolutely nothing to do with helping others at all but have become just another means of protecting the individual’s time and energy while virulently virtue-signalling the opposite. Cold transactions masquerading as caring. I do not see this ending well.

Marks & Spencer is planning to invest in a body scanner that will… well, scan your body, and tell you your size and which clothes will fit you. Dear God, Marks – do you understand nothing? 

We need to work up to such knowledge in increments, in our own time, not via a printout in a changing room. Leave us our dignity and our dreams. The size ten we once were lives on inside us all.

Last week was the 93rd anniversary of Agatha Christie’s famous 11-day disappearance before she was found in Harrogate living under a different name and claiming amnesia. 

It happened just after she discovered that her husband was having an affair and he came under great suspicion while she was missing. Raise a glass to the woman whose first thought on unearthing an infidelity was to start framing the man for murder. 

Men: the ultimate festive mystery

I have been buying Christmas presents for 30 years and I am still no closer to cracking the perennial mystery – what do men want? And why can’t they tell us? Do they really not know? 

Do they really not want anything? Couldn’t you learn to love bath oil or something? It’s really nice! But answers come there none – so ties, cufflinks, booze and underpants it is, just like every year. But please know that your loved ones tried. 

I have been buying Christmas presents for 30 years and I am still no closer to cracking the perennial mystery – what do men want?

RE men’s presents: my father actually managed to reach new depths of unhelpfulness this year by suggesting that as he was so old now, we should take stuff away from him instead. 

He wants me and my sister to put stickers on things we’d like to have after he’s dead. Merry Christmas to you too, Dad! 

Conservative candidate Sally-Ann Hart says people with learning disabilities should be paid less because ‘they don’t understand money’. 

Thereby demonstrating her lack of understanding of just about everything – especially basic moral decency.

I’ve decided that in the Election I’m voting for whoever will outlaw headphones in public places.

Not so much for the noise the leaky ones create but for the way they reduce every wearer to a selfish, lumbering, bovine oaf paying zero attention to the speed they’re walking at or who they’re obstructing. Which party will back a mass cull?

I’ve decided that in the Election I’m voting for whoever will outlaw headphones in public places [File photo]

Over the past decade of austerity, almost 800 libraries – a fifth of our total – have closed. 

It’s not just access to books that has been lost – it’s warm places to sit if you can’t afford cafes, company to keep if you are lonely, helping hands if you can’t work the internet. 

And it’s also an idea – that reading, learning, pursuing knowledge and interests outside school, for their own sakes, were worthwhile things to be doing, and that someone, somewhere, cared enough to give everyone the chance to do so for free. 

That’s not romantic nonsense. That’s a beautiful thing. And we cannot afford to lose beautiful things. 

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