It kind of seems like you can’t get away from Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP these days. Now, she’s branched out with her own controversial Netflix series. Is it as crazy as you’d expect it to be?
Ah, GOOP. You started as a pet project for Gwyneth Paltrow when she lived in London and received your eye roll inducing name because “successful companies have two Os in them”.
Now, you have your own Netflix series. Controversy was bound to follow, wasn’t it? That’s why I took a break from my daily binge of Friends and Queer Eye episodes to load you up, and go on a wellness journey with you.
Yes. I watched The Goop Lab.
Episode 1 starts with Gwyneth and her GOOP staff, casually sitting down (as if several cameras weren’t around them) and discussing the growing trend of using psychedelics to treat mental health problems.
Before I know it, I’m watching several lucky team members jet off to Jamaica for a psychedelic retreat. You can’t deny that GOOP staffers get some great travel opportunities. I think it comes at a price though. You have to use a lot of wellness buzzwords, and be #authentic to yourself at all times.
The episode flits between three distinct segments. The first is the GOOP office, which now includes two researchers from MAPS who are discussing their evidence clinical research with the FDA. The second are title screens, claiming evidence with no references (not that I was expecting to see any) and showing case studies of patients who have worked with MAPS.
The third is the Jamaican experience. It’s not a clinical trial in a research setting, complete with ethical sign offs and on-site medical aid (although I suspect Netflix had a doctor on standby). It’s a beach house, where the practitioners guide you through a magic mushroom trip and take a small dose themselves, in order to *vibe* with their guests.
The thing that really stands out of me is what they discuss before they drink the mushroom tea. Locals, who’ve traditionally used psychedelics for practical medicine, are bemused by Western tourists who want to use them for spiritual connections. This doesn’t seem the phase the GOOP staff, but this is a red flag for me.
The wellness industry is often accused of two things. First, it’s for rich, slim, white women. Second, it culturally appropriates local practices and ups the price point by turning it into a new trend. I think this is quite true, and GOOP is not making it any better.
Funnily enough, ‘traditional’ European medical practices like blood letting, arsenic poisoning, leper colonies and plague masks aren’t advocated by GOOP, but hey – if it’s based on a tropical island, then it must be good for you!
Anyway, back to Jamaica. Some of the GOOP staff are dealing with serious issues like intimacy problems and deeply rooted grief. When the mushrooms kick in, so do the emotions, and these staff members feel like they’ve reached a turning point in their lives after this experience. If this has really helped, then I say good for them, but no thanks for me.
There is one GOOP member who grates me the wrong way though. Elise Loehnen is Chief Content Editor and I’m sure she’s perfectly nice, but she’s guilty of using a lot of the buzzwords in this show. What’s more, when she was feeling the effects of the tea, she felt like she was back in the birth canal.
I had to roll my eyes and take a break before the next episode.
The Crazy Dutch Man
So, this episode is perhaps more up my alley but I still have issues with it. This is about the research (again, evidence based… they’re really keen to push this point) of Wim Hof, an 18 times Guiness World Record breaker who advocates cold therapy and controlled breathing.
I was kind of into it, until he said that his controlled breathing techniques could make the body “more alkaline” and reduce inflammation. Now, I’ve written before about the myth of the alkaline diet (among other health myths). I kept watching though, despite my apprehension.
What genuinely interested me though is that his research, which he’s been conducting for a long time, is proven to not just be the placebo effect!
With this *plot twist*, it was time to follow more of the GOOP staff on their next trip. They headed to a snowy Lake Tahoe (must closer to home than Jamaica) to practice deep breathing and taking dips in icy water.
Most of the staff were there from sheer curiosity, but one woman had been dealing with an anxiety disorder since she’s had a baby. This is where I noticed that mental health has been a secondary topic in both of these episodes, and I was curious to see how else they were going to approach this very prevalent, very important health issue.
The first deep breathing lesson bought out a lot of emotions, and even lead to some panic attack-like symptoms. Luckily, the woman living with anxiety felt that despite these familiar feelings – she still felt in control. Then, it was time to do some yoga in the snow and jump in the icy lake. I’ve got to say… it looked pretty invigorating!
Overall, this one had a much more “team” feeling to it, and was maybe more like a classic team building retreat. That’s not a bad thing BTW.
Finally, it was refreshing to see that Gwyneth (who was obviously fasting that day) does ‘girly’ pushups. Same Gwyneth, same.
Should you watch The GOOP Lab?
If you’re interested in health and wellness then by all means, give it a go. I’m not sure if I’ll carry on with the rest of the series but I might pop back to the lab another day – maybe when Friends disappears off UK Netflix!