Health and Wellness Expos Are Bullshit
Fuck this one “wellness expo” in particular. Fuck it in every hole.
Specifics first. There is a company called Health and Wellness Expos of Canada, run by Rick Thiessen, and he did something bad. Then people freaked out over the bad thing. Then he said what’s your fucking problem? Then sponsors started bailing out. Then he said fine I guess I’ll not do the bad thing.
The bad thing revolved around a bad person: David Stephan, a man who let his child die.
Stephan hails from southern Alberta, which, according to the National Post, is well represented by a toxic combination of religious conservatives who eschew modern medicine. Outbreaks of whooping cough and measles are on the rise in this region. Stephan is a member of an extremist wing of Mormonism that has a distrust of modern medicine. His father co-founded a company called Truehope Nutritional Support that claimed it was “scientifically proven to treat” a host of mental disorders, including depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and autism.
That’s the backstory. In 2016, David Stephan and his wife Collet were convicted of “failure to provide the necessaries of life” in the 2012 death of their 18-month-old son Ezekiel. He’d been home birthed, never received a vaccine, never been to the doctor. When he developed meningitis, they “treated” him with naturopathic “remedies” for his condition. For over two weeks, they watched him suffer as his condition worsened. When they finally called an ambulance, it was too late.
David Stephan was sentenced to four months in prison and community service. His wife got three months house arrest and community service. The conviction is currently under appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Health and Wellness Expos of Canada thinks David Stephan is a great guy to have as a keynote speaker at their events. In fact, he already has. Thiessen confirmed Stephan spoke at three of his events in Winnipeg last year.
When the excrement hit the rotary oscillator over Stephan’s keynotes at this year’s events, Thiessen responded of the speaker’s criminal history: “it’s between them and their God, it’s not between me and them,” he said. “The issue that Dave had in terms of being arrested has nothing to do with his health-care product that he’s selling.” He also said he was going ahead with having Stephan as a speaker because the controversy was good for ticket sales.
Just … Fuck this guy. Fuck them both.
But a major grocery store chain and a fitness equipment chain pulled the plug on their sponsorships as a result of the uproar; only then was Stephan uninvited as a speaker. Not because Thiessen thought it the right thing to do, but because it hit him in the wallet. In fact, Thiessen said, “In 24 years of doing this show, I’ve had some of the most controversial speakers and products known to man come through our doors.”
Because that’s what pays the bills. Quackery is always a hot seller, and when you attend an alleged health and wellness expo, flocks of ducks are what you’ll find.
Gwyneth Paltrow sells lots of things for the vagina. OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter takes issue with pretty much all of it not being good for vaginas. In January 2018, Dr. Gunter attended Gwyneth’s “”GOOP Health” event in New York and wrote a scathing exposé of the downright dangerous dumbfuckery. And in November 2017, pediatrician Dr. Chad Hayes attended Mercola’s “Get Your Life Back Now” seminar and live-tweeted the endless stream of bullshit heard from speakers. You can read my opinions of Mercola here. He’s against the flu shot, which helps prevent a disease that is currently killing 4,000 people a week in the U.S. (Feb 2018). So get your fucking flu shot.
I’ve attended a few of these wellness expos in the past, quickly perusing the exhibit hall, finding it full of bullshit products that are, at best, a waste of money. At worst, they recommend an ineffective treatment for a dangerous health condition in lieu of real medicine, and people die.
Years ago, I was picking up my race package at the expo for the Victoria Marathon and witnessed a bilking in action using “applied kinesiology.” I first saw this technique used by Tony Robbins. I attended his “The Power Within” seminar in 2007 as a “know your enemy” endeavor. He brought a sucker on stage and had them hold out their arm and think negative thoughts. Tony easily pushed their arm down. Then he had the mark think happy thoughts, and suddenly, Tony couldn’t push their arm down. The happy thoughts made him strong. It’s a miracle!
Nah. It’s bullshit. The fraudster changes the physics of the way they push to make it appear as though the mark has become stronger. Here’s a video showing how it works. When I saw it at the marathon expo, sure enough, the seller was flogging some overpriced bracelet to allegedly make the poor sap stronger, so he might get his Boston qualification.
Looking at the local upcoming health expo that David Stephan is now not speaking at, I scanned for other bullshit on the site. One speaker is a religious Japanese woman promoting “non-traditional medicine” and prayer as a method of healing. Another is a low carb fear monger saying it’s the root of disease and promotes “holistic medicine.” Another has a “natural health background in orthomolecular medicine,” which allegedly can “improve your life in 8 minutes.” Orthomolecular “medicine,” FYI, is not real medicine. It’s an alternative practice with concerns over safety and efficacy because it involves mega doses of supplements. Only one of the speakers seems partway legitimate; she discusses using horses as part of therapy for life choices, or something. They’re also screening the movie Food Matters, which is bullshit food fear mongering documentary starring David Avocado Fuckface and Charlotte Gerson, the founder of an organization that kills people by saying blasting coffee up your ass is a cure for cancer.
And the exhibitors? Here’s a sample:
- A multilevel marketer of overpriced nutritional and beauty products that make outlandish claims.
- Another multilevel marketer of overpriced nutritional and beauty products that make outlandish claims.
- A seller of cold laser therapy (which is bullshit).
- A multilevel marketer of essential oils.
- A keto (the fad diet du jour) supplement company.
- A multilevel marketer of instant coffee that alleges to help you lose weight, boost immunity, increase energy.
- Healing crystals. Yeah. Fucking healing crystals.
- An “orthomolecular research” company.
- A seller of “organic, non-GMO” supplements. (Read my take on organic and non-GMO here.)
- Another organic supplement company.
- A “natural products” company selling “fresh-plant medicines” and organic foods.
- And more essential oils, lots more organic, more MLM crap, including one that alleges to battle “carb toxicity,” and a chiropractor that offers acupuncture. There’s another MLM that sells wellness socks. Yes, socks, that have “advanced nano-tech” to turn your feet into cyborgs, or something.
Scanning the entire list of exhibitors, ones that aren’t hawking bullshit are few and far between. This is from just one wellness expo, and it’s the norm. If you want to come face-to-face with an endless stream of bullshit, and see people flogging their quackery onstage, attend one near you.
Why is it so? Because encouraging healthier eating, regular exercise, getting vaccinated, and visiting your physician when necessary isn’t the way to riches. There. I just did that. I’ll do it again: eat healthy, exercise, get your vaccines, and see your (real) doctor when you need to. And I didn’t charge you anything, although I made a little bit in ad revenue from this article.
The way to mega bucks is via bullshit. Promote fear and push an appeal to nature and you too can make a fortune selling supplements and special foods and healing crystals and essential oils and whatever other sacred chocolate nutribullet butter in coffee bovine droppings you can dream up.
If you want to be well, a wellness expo is the last place to look.
James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.