A lot of us aspire to be well. It’s estimated that the wellness industry, which sells everything from day spas, retreats and yoga classes to supplements and detox diets is a multibillion dollar one that’s rising. Guardian journalist, Brigid Delaney is well-acquainted with this alternative church having been a devotee of various health and wellness fads over the years. In her third book, Wellmania she chronicles her misadventures in this pursuit for wellness. It’s ultimately an interesting one that separates the wheat from the chaff or the hype from the things that do work and it’s all nicely-presented in the form of some funny and painfully honest fly-on-the-wall-style essays.
Wellmania consists of three different parts: clean, lean and serene. In the first section Delaney describes in detail the horror that she experienced when she embarked on an extreme fast. It is one that our prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull has completed along with television’s very own, Eddie McGuire. It’s also a detox that makes some big promises with respect to maintaining long-term weight-loss and removing toxins from the body. Reading Delaney’s account is terribly voyeuristic and painful to witness at times and rather funny and silly at others, particularly when she is being self-deprecating and taking pot-shots at her subsequent halitosis.
The lean portion of the book is devoted to Delaney’s commitment to practicing yoga. This penchant for yoga would see her doing it in many countries around the world (Delaney is a globe-trotting journalist who has stories about living in various countries, so she should write her memoirs one day). It is through yoga that Delaney encounters everyone from rural Aussies doing it in jumpers and jeans to the most committed fanatics in pants that cost more than some people’s grocery bills. It is times like these that the reader comes to appreciate the fact that wellness is a privilege for the rich and a commodity that can be both bought and sold.
The final part is titled serene and is dedicated to meditation and mindfulness practices as well as the periods Delaney spent at a silent retreat. Once again, she does a fabulous job of interviewing the key proponents of the treatment as well as sharing her own fascinating anecdotes and thoughts about the subject. Wellmania ultimately sees Delaney playing the intrepid, gonzo wellbeing journalist who tries just about anything once while the reader is left to make up their own minds about these alternative treatments and remedies.
Wellmania is a great read because Delaney isn’t afraid to tackle the Goliath industry head on. She is thoughtful and wise in her arguments about the rise in popularity of these things and she notes how people are filling a void that was previously occupied by religions (and answering some big questions about spirituality in the process). This collection is essential reading for anyone who is curious to know more about the wellness craze because Delaney is ultimately like the cooler, worldlier older sister who paves the way for us one yoga mat at a time.
Wellmania: Misadventures in the Search for Wellness is available now through Nero.