The Mindfulness of Goop

A modern lifestyle brand.
–the tagline for

Wellness at

What is Goop all about? Those four words may seem simple, perhaps even empty, but that is where Goop is elaborate in its nothingness. In being modern, it’s about Today, which is so important, for you would not want to focus on fads from Yesterday. And it’s all about lifestyle, which means it could cover anything in your life, assuming your life is missing a $90 cashmere eye mask and slipper set. Goop is about “cutting edge wellness…vetted travel recommendations…beauty, fashion, and home.” What could be broader than all of your life? but, most importantly, your health.  Plus goop (or is it Goop? or GOOP? all three! ) is a brand which means it is not so much what you buy, but the fact that you bought it on Goop which really counts.

In fact, it really doesn’t matter what it is. But that fits perfectly because where else but Goop would you find a $3 lollipop, a $77 tank top, and a $287 In-flight zip pouch? None of your Walmart $0.50 ziploc bags or Amazon $7.69 zippered pouches, heck no. This pouch has slick black accents and is endlessly versatile for, like Goop, it is see-through and comes empty. Nothingness is environmentally friendly and promotes mindfulness.

The Mindfulness Industry

Mindfulness is big business right now, and sites like Goop are taking full advantage of the opportunity. Mindfulness, of course, is a real process, a part of Buddhist teachings and meditative practices that date back for centuries. As a practice applied with structure, it has been used successfully to treat depression, drug addiction, anxiety, and other psychological problems.

However, in the last few years, mindfulness has been harnessed into a multi-billion dollar industry. As Barbara Ehrenreich points out in her brilliant new book, Natural Causes, the rise of what she terms the “Madness of Mindfulness” is tightly linked to our current obsession with controlling the self. First, control the body at the gym; next, attain superiority over the mind. The practice of disconnecting to clear the cluttered thoughts has become an increasingly necessary one as society has adopted use of devices which are designed to distract. Ironically, the same folks who brought you those computers, phones, and tablets which consume your attention–and, thank you for reading my blog on one of those, by the way–those same folks have brought you apps and products to help you meditate about something else. While using the app on your phone to stop using your phone.

From, not the Onion.

This reminds me as much of anything of the sale of religious pardons and indulgences in the Middle Ages. If you recall your medieval history or your Chaucer, indulgences by the Catholic church freed you from sin and were granted based on your actions, such as through good needs. As the church matured, the actions more frequently came in the form of money, which turned it into a kind of sacred extortion. The church had found a clever and lucrative way of combining adherence to the rules they created with salvation and making a quick buck. Wouldn’t the modern version surely be a website explaining how mindfulness can increase your sales? We’ve seen this before, as those of us from the ’70s and ’80s remember the transition of hippies to yuppies.

“Let me give you an example. Say you want somebody’s job. Mellow teaches us that it’s okay to flash on a power trip as long as you’re upfront about it. You see, that job could be just as much a part of your karma as his…”
“How about beating him senseless with a tire iron?”
“Absolutely, create your own space. For sure.”
Doonesbury, 1978, book discussion of Winning through Mellow

Enter Goop

Goop is the website of Gwyneth Paltrow, daughter of Hollywood celebrities. Her mother, Blythe Danner, is probably best known for the movie 1776 and for hawking the drug Prolia. Like mom, Gwyneth was born blonde, attractive, and thin; she was lucky enough to be cast in Shakespeare in Love, so that Gwyneth also had an Oscar by age 23.  Married to a rock star (now divorced), mother of handsome children with curious names (Moses and Apple), what else would a forty-something do now but create a sales empire based on environmental consciousness, mindfulness, and doubtful science.

I could spend a few dozen paragraphs roaming over the goop/Goop/GOOP website looking at products that represent one contradiction after another. A utility-focused Victorian silk dress ($2,495). (Oh, sorry, I transposed two numbers–it’s $4,295.) Restaurants whose main draw is the decor (“sleek black and white.”) Organic pharmacy. What Alex Jones is to survival kits, Gwyneth Paltrow is to pill packets, designed to help with motherhood, aging, or simply “Why am I so Effing Tired?” (From waiting for the picture-laden website to load?)

Enjoy trying to actually read the ingredients in these packets. I’ll help you out; they’re pretty much a multi-vitamin with added lutein, turmeric, cinnamon, green tea extract, and every other unproven herbal additive people have been hawking on late night TV.

goop vitamins
Goop’s High School Genes product

What Goop (and acolytes like Moon Juice) sell is the notion that it’s not only excusable but worthy for a person to spend hours a day focused on her tiniest mood shifts, food choices, beauty rituals, exercise habits, bathing routines and sleep schedule. What they sell is self-absorption as the ultimate luxury product.
–Molly Young, New York Times

Scientific studies have…proven that truffles…cure cancer

Puffery is all well and good when we’re talking about buying face cream or fashionable jodhpurs. But let’s jump to curing cancer or warding off Alzheimer’s. People have a right to facts when they are worrying about real diseases, and not just Internet facts but what Lewis Black likes to call “fact facts.” Goop’s Wellness section is a core part of its business, and there are scientific facts and real doctors sprinkled across the articles. There is also a lot of what one writer termed “Goopsh*t.”

Being modern lifestyle people that we are, we do read facts, and we are intelligent 21st century people, so we ought to be able to separate truths from half-truths. For example, I could point out that scientific studies have not proven that truffles in any way cure cancer. But if I edit that properly, you might just reach a conclusion that leads you in search of truffles as the miracle drug (e.g. my section headline). So let’s take a look at how Goop approaches wellness and science.

I happen to have Alzheimer’s in my family history, so I’m always poking around for ways to keep it at bay. As I discussed in my blog a few weeks ago, I was happy to find that aerobic exercise and brain games have been scientifically connected to improved cognitive health, but disappointed that no studies have conclusively linked food–any kind of food–to improved brain power or reduced dementia.  In particular, science has looked extensively at antioxidants, resveratrol, and turmeric (curcurmin). They know that curcumin can regenerate neurons in mice, and that antioxidants (berries)  and resveratrol (red wine) are likely heart-healthy, but they haven’t yet linked specific foods to reduced dementia.

Dr. Lisa Mosconi would beg to differ. In the “Scientist’s Guide to Eating for Brain Health,” she is quite specific. “Research shows that people whose diets have less than four grams of omega 3’s a day have the highest rates of brain shrinkage over time and the highest risk of Alzheimer’s. ” Let’s click on that research (the link above is from Goop’s Q&A with Dr. Lisa).

That link takes you to a legitimate National Institute of Health abstract describing studies about dietary fat and dementia. The abstract says that saturated fat has been connected to diseases, like diabetes, which have themselves been linked to dementia. It goes on to note that several studies which tried to link fats to dementia were inconclusive, but that those studies were analyzed improperly because they didn’t account for multicollinearity among the fatty acids studied. Now, I happen to speak multicollinearity, so I found the reading of the full review interesting and technically curious as to how exactly they would adjust other people’s research to find that missing link… but I must point out that there’s nothing there about Omega 3s or the precise amount you need to have the highest rate of brain shrinkage over time.

No matter, though says Dr. Lisa, it’s science stuff, it’s all there. With that assurance to real research provided, we can get to the good part. What exactly should you partake of in order to reduce your risk of dementia?

Caviar contains a unique blend of nutrients that are great for the brain, including omega-3 fats (a brain must), choline (a B vitamin needed to make memories), vitamin B6 and B12 (needed to support the nervous system), minerals like iron and magnesium (needed for healthy blood and tissues), and a good amount of protein combined with potent antioxidants, like vitamin A, vitamin C, and selenium.
–A Scientist’s Guide to Eating for Brain Health

If you have a little extra caviar lying around, then you can be racing through those cryptic crosswords in no time! If you don’t, of course Goop will sell it to you and points out that showing up at a party with a tin of sustainable caviar will surely merit a return invite. None of that Walmart caviar for you!

My Penance for Making Fun of Goop

In part, I am a little chagrined at choosing Goop for today’s topic. It’s such an easy target for mockery, and I’m a little late to the party in the blogsphere in poking fun.  I will say Goop has offered my spouse and I a fair amount of free entertainment, from discussions about the vaginal steaming to the travel hacks (“To save energy, have the nanny feed the children dinner”) to the review of the restaurant where your dinner reservation grants you an access code that you type into a nondescript doorway in Barcelona.

On the other hand, now that I have clicked on the website, I know that product offerings will crawl after me like ants following a sugar trail. It is my own version of an indulgence. For the sin of waxing sarcastic about Goop, I will be treated to Goop offerings every time I am on Facebook or Politico, until I am driven to distraction (which will no doubt require meditation). But I had to dive into Goop for you, to demonstrate the unique and particular madness of this kind of mindfulness.

For science.


Next week–no Snark!–We are off on adventures. Viva Venezia! Ciao Roma! and Il pinguino bebe agua en Barcelonaaaaaaa!


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