You probably bought yourself a recipe book in January, using the Waterstones voucher from your aunt, to support your New Year’s resolution to take a break from those 3am Subways, and chances are it was either Deliciously Ella (495,191 books sold as of Jan 2017) or Lean in 15 (over 1.1 million books sold as of Jan 2017). Wellness is a $3tr economy, so who can blame the publishing industry for wanting a slice of that gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo avocado and cacao cake, ,right? However, after the recent backlash against the clean eating trend, perhaps it’s time for us all to step away from fitspo and wellness Instagrams, and look up the latest Dominos deals instead.
[Ella’s] part of the trend of beautiful, thin, young, white women who advocate eating chai pots for breakfast and cutting carbs
Fad diet guides are nothing new (in fact, the first known diet publication was circulating in 1797, a small pamphlet, followed by a book in 1862 which sold 63,000 copies). Since then, the popularity of dieting books has gone from strength to strength, now having mutating into the grotesque – albeit #aesthetic – monster of the wellness cult.
Yesterday Ella Woodward, of the ‘Deliciously Ella’ fame, will hold a book signing at Exeter’s Barnfield Theatre for the release of her newest wellness recipe book, ‘Deliciously Ella With Friends’ (which sounds more like a children’s TV show than a thick recipe book filled with obscure middle-class ingredients like medjool dates and manuka honey). She’s part of the trend of beautiful, thin, young, white women who advocate eating chai pots for breakfast and cutting carbs; while avo-on-rye is great for the gram, is it actually that great for the gut?
Sales, rather than science, seem to be the motivator for the sheer number of wellness guides
In the last year, the BBC has released two documentaries (Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets in July 2016) and Horizon: Clean Eating – The Dirty Truth in January 2017) about the dangers, pseudo-science, and miscommunication of wellness gurus through their websites and books. Perhaps the blame lies at the feet of the publishers, who have jumped upon the Instagram popularity – around 30,000,000 posts use #cleaneating – to make a profit. Clean Eating Alice, for example, was offered a six-figure deal from HarperThomas for her second book, The Body Bible. With Kayla Itsines’ 10 million Facebook fans and 6.3 million followers on Instagram, Bluebird’s decision to publish a hard copy of her iconic Bikini Body Guides comes with a massive guaranteed audience. Sales, rather than science, seem to be the motivator for the sheer number of wellness guides filling the non-fiction bestsellers lists.
Spending a day hunting through Holland and Barratt for obscure seeds only to spend hours decipher the steaming, broiling, and slow-cooking of a glossy recipe book doesn’t quite seem as exciting a Two-For-Tuesday Dominos. The publishing industry has (coconut and almond) milked the wellness trend for the past four years, but as the warmth and faith for wellness gurus fade in response to the reported scandals and falsities of those involved, it’s about time we – and the publishers – put down the kale and refused to let ourselves be enchanted by pastel-coloured pages, a big social media following, and ingredients we can’t pronounce.