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The Gospel of Wellness

Gyms, Gurus, Goop, and the False Promise of Self-Care

Rina Raphael

Holt Paperbacks

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ISBN10: 1250861535
ISBN13: 9781250861535

Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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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.


Praise for The Gospel of Wellness

“What [Raphael] does is unmask the way that the wellness industry has ‘taken good ideas about nutrition and fitness and made it into this individualist mandate that’s filled with fear and productivity pressure.’”—The New York Times

“A bubbly and engagingly thorough dissection of the modern wellness industry.”—The Atlantic

“This book is a must.”—Good Morning America

“An index of the contemporary West's most mindless fads . . . Tells a story bigger than its purported subject.”—The Times (UK)

“The pleasure of this book is that it is an inside job: a series of dispatches from the other side of the looking glass.”—The Guardian

“A blistering exposé of the predatory, pseudoscientific wellness industry.”—The Daily Mail

“A much-needed eye-opener.”—People

“ . . . Explains why and how wellness grew into such a phenomenon.”—Allure

"Brilliantly and scientifically researched, this book is neither sanctimonious or overly cynical: Raphael is a fantastic guide through the many hidden traps awaiting women, in particular, who want to be well in a world that consistently fails us.”—Electric Literature

“Amazing new book . . . which ‘takes a playful but thought-provoking look at the $4.4 trillion wellness industry.’”—Dua Lipa

“Excellent . . . Rina really knows her shit . . . I'm so thankful for this book.”—Jameela Jamil, actress and host of I Weigh

“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, New York Times bestselling author of Fat Talk

"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, creator and star of 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

“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

“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

"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 Reviews (starred review)

"Raphael delivers an eye-opening, cautionary study of the contemporary, amorphous meaning of 'wellness.'"Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


Santa Monica, California

It’s a sunny spring day in Southern California. Two thousand women are gathered on the wooden planks of the famous Santa Monica Pier. Seagulls are squawking overhead, but the women pay...

About the author

Rina Raphael

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 and