Brigid Delaney, author of Wellmania, will appear at the Newcastle Writers Festival
Posted on 04/18/19 12:43 PM
Be Well: Journalist Brigid Delaney examined the desire to be “clean, lean and serene” in a book about the wellness industry. Picture: James Brickwood Brigid Delaney calls itthe “wellness industrial complex”.
She’s referring to the mass marketing of healthiness –things likefad diets, clean eating, yoga, mindfulness, sugar bans andgym memberships.
The Guardian journalist will speak at the Newcastle Writers Festival on Sunday on a paneltitled, The Cult of Wellness.
This subject reflects her latest book,Wellmania: Misadventures in the Search for Wellness.
“About 10 or so years ago, I was living in Sydney and I noticed that the word wellness started coming from nowhere,” Delaney said.
“It’s akind of made-up word.I thought, what does it actually mean?
“I realised it was becoming a status symbol to do yoga and wear expensive yoga clothes.”
She also noticed it was becoming a status symbol to “become very healthy and to eat organic food”.
“That was translating into big business for a lot of companies, so I wanted to explore that industry and look at why it’s so seductive,” she said.
She watched the quest for wellness “morph from a fringe, hippy concern to something vast, global and corporate”.
“I see itas a marketing assault. We’re suddenly made to feel that we’re not doing healthiness right.”
She noticed there was “a lot of paranoia around health”.
“All these productssprang up –everything from Michelle Bridge’s 12-week Body Transformation to juice bars andsupplementsto make guys look bigger,” she said.
It’san industry that can tapinto people’sinsecurities.
“That’s worth a lot of money,” she said.
The desire for wellness was, for some people, a way tobalance bad habits and feelings of guilt.
“In Bondi, you’d have these people who would spend all week in a yoga studio, then go out and do cocaine on the weekends.
“Some people would binge, feel really bad, then slam themselves at the gym.”
The rise ofsocial media, particularlyInstagram, has since taken wellness tonew heights.
“Instagram has allowed people to promote a certain ideal,” she said.
In the book, Delaney chronicles her own quest for serenity and inner peace.
“Smartphones didn’t really existin a mainstream-way until about 2007,” she said.
“We had a lot less distractions [before then]. You weren’t kind of walking around constantly with this small, very powerful computer in your pocket. You had natural breaks from the internet.”
It was easier then to find moments of inner peace. To get closer to this state of mindnow, she needs a counterbalance to smartphone overload.
“I go through periods of addiction to my phone. In order to break that cycle I have to really take up something in opposition to that,” she said.
For her, that’s meditation.
“Theonly way to break through that addiction [to smartphones] is through creating an opposing habit,”she said.
She says there are no quick fixes in the search for a balanced life.
“Unless you’re able to actually put what you’ve learnt into your life every single day for the rest of your life, it’s not going towork,” she said.
“You can spend thousands of dollars on a retreat in Bali,learning to meditate and do yoga and eat vegan food.
“But unless you carry on that lifestyle when you get back to your own life and country, the benefits disappear.”
She said one question people might ask is, what can you usefrom the wellness industry that can be incorporated into your lifewithout sending you broke and taking up huge amounts of time?
Delaney will also speak on a festival panel on Saturday, titled What Does it Mean to Live Well.
Some of the program highlights:
Saturday, April 7* Anaesthesia – The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness; 10am; The Playhouse.
* What Does it Mean to Live Well; 11.30am; The Playhouse.
* Making It Up – What Is Fiction For?; 3pm; Wheeler Place marquee.
* Beyond Mad Max – Actor Steve Bisley discusses the highs and lows of life in the fast lane; 4.30pm; City Hall.
* Life Advice From Kitty Flanagan; 7.30 PM; Harold Lobb Concert Hall, Conservatorium Of Music.
* Writing The Past – Richard Fidler discusses his passion for the stories and personalities that have helped shape history; 6pm; Harold Lobb Concert Hall, Conservatorium Of Music.
Sunday, April 8* The Radical Farmer – Charles Massy discusses his critically acclaimed book, Call of the Reed Warbler; 10am; The Playhouse.
* A Fine Balance – Robert Dessaix on the pleasures of leisure and why we need to do less instead of more; 10am; Harold Lobb Concert Hall, Conservatorium Of Music.
* The Cult of Wellness; 11.30am; City Hall.
* Free Family Day – Dust off your Book Week costume and come as your favourite character to win great prizes; 10am to 1pm; Wheeler Place marquee.
* In Excess: A Conversation About Self-destruction; 1.30pm; The Playhouse.
* What is your Newcastle Story?; 3.15pm; Wheeler Place marquee.