Magic Mushrooms

Billions for Magical Wellness

Want a lucrative gig? Tap into any one of a dizzying array of segments of the magical wellness industry. It’s stunning when you start adding up all the dollars flowing through the U.S. economy from people who are chasing the magic of wellness. Abby Ellin does a fine job of explaining this in the New York Observer.

You don’t need evidence that any of this works — just a good story and dab of pseudo-science. A bit of shamelessness helps, too. Just ask Gwyneth Paltrow or Doctor Oz.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few segments to consider:

  1. Juicing! The juice and smoothie industry is growing explosively and currently estimated to generate sales of $2.3 billion. They do it at least in part with promises to “cleanse” and “detoxify” your body that have no basis in fact. Nor is there any evidence of a lasting weight loss benefit that many people have been duped into expecting from this fad.
  2. Wellness Coaching. Studying to become a Registered Dietition, Clinical Exercise Physiologist, or Clinical Psychologist can be really tedious. Even some health coaching credentials require a bunch of boring academic stuff (like a real degree in health science). Instead, why not sign up for an online, pass/fail course. With a lot less stress and fuss, for several thousand dollars you can graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and be on your way within a year.
  3. Magic Meal Delivery. People with lots of money and aspirations, but limited time, are ready to spend a bundle on having meals delivered to them that provide positively glowing, optimal health. One of the hottest services, Sakura, promises you will “eat clean eat whole.” If you need more reassurance, Gwyneth Paltrow is a big fan. They’ll bring you lunch and dinner for about $300 per week. They won’t trouble you with any nutrition facts or ingredient lists. Did we mention that all the skinny girls do it?
  4. Gluten-free Vegan Paleo Diets. Americans buy more than 25 million diet books every year. If you have a bizarre concept that catches fire, you can make a bundle from the books, collateral materials, and co-branding deals. No matter that it will flame out within a year. Just take the money and run.
  5. Corporate Wellness Programs. Have you been living with obesity all your life and can’t seem to shake it? Maybe what you need is a surcharge on your health insurance plan at work to give you the motivation you’ve been lacking all along. An unpleasant subset of the corporate wellness industry is pushing such plans to help employers shift health costs back to employees with chronic diseases. Nevermind that these programs lack any evidence for delivering better health outcomes. Corporate wellness is an $8 billion industry, expected to grow to $12 billion by 2020.

These are but a few examples — we could go on for quite a while. Compared to these tantalizing options, obesity medicine doctors, surgeons, dietitians, and clinical psychologists seem a little boring or maybe intimidating. So there’s lots of money to be made on magical wellness. Sigh.

Click here for more perspective on the magic wellness industry from the New York Observer.

Magic Mushrooms, photograph © PixelPlacebo / flickr

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2 Responses to “Billions for Magical Wellness”

  1. June 05, 2015 at 10:01 am, Walter Medlin said:

    That is some real Harry S Truman powerful truth!

    In Medicine – you can make more money off quackery than legitimate care. Beware the “boondoggle” Thanks so much for your work Ted!

    • June 05, 2015 at 2:53 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Walt!