Inside Gwyneth Paltrow’s first wellness summit, In Goop Health – Los Angeles Times

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“Are you missing something?” the crystal shaman wants to know.

I’ve been staring at bowls of amethyst, malachite and rose quartz glistening in the sun, piled ever so delicately on sheepskin rugs. Here at In Goop Health, Gwyneth Paltrow’s inaugural wellness summit, all of the crystals are enticing, their edges smooth and shiny after being put through a rock tumbler. But are any of these stones speaking to me? Is there one that will reveal something about my innermost hopes and dreams? A stone to radiate warmth and joy into my life?

Colleen McCann, a blond in mirrored sunglasses who bills herself as an “intuitive medium” and “reiki master” as well as “crystal shaman,” indicates that this selection process shouldn’t be difficult.

“The crystal carries the energetic vibration that, on a cellular level, the body needs right now,” she says. “It’s literally taking you, like a radar, right to it.”

I try to tune into this invisible, energetic force drawing my spirit toward a specific crystal. But I keep getting distracted by superficial thoughts: This purple stone would look so pretty next to the diamond-shaped one! I wonder how these would fit on my office desk?

“I feel like you’re missing something,” McCann says.

“Um, yes,” I reply. “I’m missing something.”

In a way, almost all 600 of us at the sold-out Goop summit are here because we’re missing something.

Though judging by appearances, no one here appears to be wanting for much. After all, tickets for the one-day event began at $500 and went all the way up to $1,500 — instantly creating a self-selecting group. About 95% of the crowd appear to be white women between the ages of 30 and 50.

Dressed in flowery sundresses or Lululemon leggings — those wanting to participate in workout demonstrations had been instructed to arrive in athleisure wear — most have come to this anonymous Culver City warehouse to better themselves. Because even if you look like you have it all, the quest for self-improvement never ceases: You can always eat better, parent better, work out better, look better.

For Paltrow, this crusade has personal roots. At the beginning of the day, when she emerged onto a stage to greet the crowd — swathed in ethereal pink paisley — she tells us that her journey to wellness began two decades ago, when her father was diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to heal him, to make him feel better, and she started wondering: “Why do we all not feel well? Why is there so much cancer? Why are we all so tired? Why have we created a society where so many of us feel over-obligated with responsibility to the point where we aren’t feeling good — and what can we do about it?”

Gwyneth Paltrow, left, interviews Cameron Diaz, Tory Burch, Nicole Richie and Miranda Kerr on the

John Salangsang /

Gwyneth Paltrow, left, interviews Cameron Diaz, Tory Burch, Nicole Richie and Miranda Kerr on the “Balls in the Air” panel.

Gwyneth Paltrow, left, interviews Cameron Diaz, Tory Burch, Nicole Richie and Miranda Kerr on the “Balls in the Air” panel. (John Salangsang /

Later that afternoon, when I’m allotted two precious minutes to speak with the Goop chief executive herself, I ask her: Is everyone here truly on a wellness quest, or do most of them just want to emulate you?

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she says, shaking her head vigorously. “I think what it is is that I’m very, sort of, vulnerable in my quest to, like — I’m transparent in my quest to be a better mother, be a better friend, be healthier. I think there are a lot of people, in this day and age, who are very interested in this idea of wellness and how to improve. I think women in general are really looking for some solutions, some tools, some information. I think a lot of people have been down a conventional route with medicine and are interested in alternative medicine, functional medicine. So it’s nice to be able to bring all the experts that we love and who really resonate with us to a broader group.”

There are, indeed, numerous Paltrow-endorsed experts at In Goop Health, speaking on everything from how to balance your gut biome to how to attain the best orgasm. During the 11-hour conference, words of wisdom from both a veteran heart surgeon and actress Nicole Richie are dispensed with equal weight. It’s up to the audience to decide which advice —if any — to follow.

At times, this proves to be a difficult challenge, particularly during a mid-morning session about gut health featuring three doctors. One of them, Dr. Amy Myers, explains that 60% to 80% of the human immune system exists in the gut — so when the gut is out of balance, problems occur. There are many things that can disrupt our gut health, Dr. Steven Gundry adds, including antibiotics, which can kill off your microbiome for up to two years. (And don’t think probiotics will reverse that damage, he says — taking a probiotic is like “planting pine trees” when you’re trying to regrow a “lush rainforest.”) Anti-inflammatories are also destructive to the gut, he adds. Taking just one Advil or Aleve is “like swallowing a hand grenade. It blows giant, gaping holes in the wall of your gut.” Instead of these medications, Myers suggests, try natural remedies: Turmeric. Fish oil. Magnesium.

Also on Gundry’s danger list? Nightshades, better known as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants. The peels and seeds of these flowering plants were “designed to penetrate our gut wall and make us sick,” Gundry says. He adds that corn and soybeans, which we feed to chicken, are also bad for us, and that the French banned corn as “unfit for human consumption.” He does, however, endorse yams, sweet potatoes and jicama.

If those three foods don’t sound appealing, perhaps you should just consider fasting. “Don’t eat. I can’t stress that enough,” Gundry says. “We have the ability to store fat.” According to the doctor, humans evolved to fast and then feast, so for six months of the year he does not eat breakfast or lunch and consumes all of his calories in two hours each evening.

Unfortunately for Gundry, a lunch break has already been scheduled. As attendees empty out of the main hall, many migrate toward a Sweetgreen booth, where salads are being handed out. I opt for the Mexican elote bowl, which contains both tomatoes (nightshade!) and corn (unfit for human consumption!).

Outside at a picnic table, waiting to have their aura photographed, I find two women from the Kansas City area who have traveled to L.A. for the summit.

“We definitely came to educate ourselves,” says Darby Brender, who owns a fitness studio in Kansas.

“We thought this would be the cutting edge — the best of the best to give us some of our own takeaways,” adds her friend, Laurie Morrissey, who works in public relations.

“But they’re kind of stressing me out. I had C-sections and I didn’t do seeding,” says Brender, referring to Myers’ advice that babies born by C-section be exposed to vaginal bacteria. “Have I done everything wrong?”

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