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Have I been Gooped? One wellness sceptic's journey through an episode of 'The Goop Lab'

Gwyneth Paltrow is bringing her wellness wisdom to the masses with a brand-new Netflix series

Gwyneth Paltrow's decision to name her daughter Apple caused some controversy in 2004. Courtesy Netflix 
Gwyneth Paltrow's decision to name her daughter Apple caused some controversy in 2004. Courtesy Netflix 

I am a wellness sceptic. It's not that I don’t believe in being well, of course I do. But the wellness industry strikes me as one designed to prey on people’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses. So, when the opportunity to review The Goop Lab came up, I jumped at it.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop lifestyle brand has long been a fascination of mine – the eggs, the candles, the vampire repellent sprays. And I know that I am not alone – this month, the actress’s intimately scented candle* went gone viral, so it makes sense that Netflix have jumped on Goop while they’re waiting to seal the deal with a newly free Harry and Meghan.

At roughly 35 minutes a pop, The Goop Lab episodes are as digestible as the clean seven-layer dip Goop.com has a recipe for. There are six episodes in the series, which will be available to stream from Friday, January 24. The subject matter ranges from narcotic and psychedelic healing techniques to the topic of biological age. In each, the Goop editorial team undergo a wellness training exercise with an expert, and come out (spoiler alert) almost unanimously healed and enlightened.

For experiment's sake, I took a deep dive into the Cold Comfort episode, the second in the series. Here is what I learnt about breathing ourselves calm, well and warm from The Goop Lab.

*The candle notes are geranium, citrusy bergamot, cedar, Damask rose and ambrette, which actually smells quite delightful. I still don’t want one.

Giving wellness a cold shoulder

The techniques of Wim Hof, The Ice Man, are well-documented. For the uninitiated, he is the 60-year-old Dutch extreme athlete known for developing breathing techniques he claims enable him to control his autonomic nervous system, thus allowing him to take on incredible feats, particularly in cold conditions.

If your partner’s heavy breathing has been known to rile you, this episode will enrage you. You’re about to hear a lot of breathiness.

Alternative therapies are a focus of 'The Goop Lab'. Courtesy Netflix 
Alternative therapies are a focus of 'The Goop Lab'. Courtesy Netflix 

Hof gets the Goop editorial team out of their Santa Monica, California, HQ and to a cabin in Lake Tahoe, where they learn his breathing technique. Despite the self-assigned labels of being the coldest, most anxious and panic-attack prone of people, by the end of the episode they are (spoiler alert) able to jump into the lake, which was a frosty 7ᵒC.

“This is the most insane thing I’ve been asked to do for Goop,” said Ana, the website’s assistant food editor.

The team seem sceptical, but I think most people would be if they were told that within days they’d be jumping into Lake Tahoe in nothing but a bikini, with not a dry suit to be found.

Behind Gwyneth Paltrow’s closed doors

What does come across is how invested in Hof’s method Paltrow is. She tells him that her 13-year-old son has been taking ice baths inspired by his technique for the last two years. I don’t know too many 13-year-old boys, but I imagine that few are able to reel off the benefits of the Wim Hof Method. Moses Martin, however, can.

That is not the only insight into the actress’s personal life the show offers throughout the series.

In the show’s intro, she quips: “When I started Goop in 2008, I was like, ‘My calling is something else beside making out with Matt Damon on screen.’”

She also reveals that she and her TV producer husband Brad Falchuck took potent mind-altering narcotics when they were dating, a “very, very emotional” experience, apparently.

She also touches on her status as a Hollywood pin-up, saying: “I think that I shut that out. Because it’s a fiction, right? It’s all a projection. It’s really nothing to do with me or the quality of who I am or the good things about me or the bad things about me, or my own sexuality. So I feel almost divorced from having that pressure.”

When I started Goop in 2008, I was like, 'My calling is something else beside making out with Matt Damon on screen.'

Gwyneth Paltrow

Her behaviour in past relationships is also brought up on camera. “I think I was very much raised in an era where it was very much about the guy and trying to look good for the guy and do what the guy wanted, like be the cool girl,” she says.

'Mind over matter'

With the focus on Hof’s Cold Comfort episode, if you see past the snowga (yoga in the snow), horse poses and breathing circles, there certainly seems to be benefits to his technique.

He manages to get six Los Angeles residents to jump into a near-freezing lake and none of them seize up, have a panic attack or freeze to death (which would be my totally rational fear).

One team member, Sara, the Goop research scientist, says of the experience: “I felt like I was drowning, honestly … but I used mind over matter."

Kate Wolfson, the website’s executive editor, who is panic-attack prone, said of jumping into the lake: “I felt a panic attack coming on but tried to breathe through it, just kind of controlled myself and powered through.”

She later tells Hof and Paltrow, back at the aforementioned HQ, that she had not had a panic attack since the experience. She adds that she is in the process of, under the guidance of her psychiatrist, tapering off her medication.

'The Goop Lab': not here to dish out medical advice

“The following series is designed to entertain and inform – not provide medical advice,” a warning at the beginning of each episode reads. “You should always consult your doctor when it comes to your personal health, or before you start any treatment.”

From the offset, the show presents itself not as a medical expert. However, at times and from a sceptic’s point of view, it veers towards the point of view of those adverse to medical intervention.

Hof claims to have undergone experiments where he has beaten disease with his mind, having been injected with E coli. A case study of a man with an autoimmune disease that left him with a 50/50 prognosis of paralysis is also presented. He is doing the splits while being interviewed by The Goop Lab team.

Breathe through the gym

We are all told that breathing our way through a difficult workout is essential. Anyone who has been to a group class will have heard an instructor shout at them, reminding them to breathe in and out.

Hof challenges Paltrow and her colleague Elise Loehnen, the Goop chief content officer, to a press-up competition. The actress replies the most on-brand of replies: “I can’t do a push-up. On this fast?” She proceeds to take the challenge up, anyway.

Gwyneth Paltrow with Elise Loehnen, the Goop chief content officer, at the brand's Santa Monica, California HQ. Courtesy Netflix 
Gwyneth Paltrow with Elise Loehnen, the Goop chief content officer, at the brand's Santa Monica, California HQ. Courtesy Netflix 

“All I can say is, I know she’s fasting and she says she can’t do push-ups, she’s still going to do more push-ups than I am,” says Loehnen. Here, she is speaking on behalf of anyone who has ever been to the gym with a friend who says they’re, like, totally out of shape and proceeds to destroy them on the sixth round of sprints, while barely breaking a sweat, as they are ready to pass out and are fairly sure they saw the light. I will stop projecting now.

The push-up challenge takes place: 14 for Loehnen and 20 for Paltrow. They then try Hof’s breathing technique, and achieve 22 and 30 apiece.

Tomorrow if you see me heavy breathing before I walk into the gym, you know why. Wait. Does that mean I have been Gooped?

Updated: January 23, 2020 06:59 PM

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