New Non-Fiction Book Review
It’s Probably Nothing: The Stress-Less Guide to Dealing with Health Anxiety, Wellness Fads and Overhyped Headlines by Casey Gueren takes you on a journey to help you navigate health misinformation and the wellness industry. Gueren is an award-winning journalist, and former executive editor & health director at SELF.
When I learned about Casey Gueren’s new non-fiction book, I ordered it, read it, and now I’m thrilled to write about it. As a health and wellness journalist, Gueren’s book hit home. I’ve written and presented on some of the many topics in Gueren’s book. It’s a must-read, not only for health and wellness consumers, but for health and wellness journalists. While I don’t review every chapter, I highlight some of them below. I can’t give away the whole book! You’ll need to read it for yourself.
Why Did Gueren Write This Book?
I was curious about why Gueren wanted to write this book so I reached out to Gueren and asked her. Here’s what she said in an email statement:
As a health editor who also happens to be very anxious about her own health, I’ve been on both sides of the search engine—creating the content that you might find when you Google your symptoms, and also panicking about the latest health concern that’s keeping me up at night. I also know that most people get most of their health information from the media, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (I’ve helped create a lot of it!) but it can also be kind of a mess out there. I wrote this book in an attempt to distill my health editor’s toolkit into actionable advice that would help people navigate the wellness industry more easily. Because we all have questions about our health, and it should be easier to find accurate, accessible health information online.
Whether the topic is health literacy, health education classes, wellness hype, health headlines, or health anxiety, Gueren does a fantastic job providing bite size information to help you navigate your health. Furthermore, Guern shares examples from her own experience and provides helpful resources.
This book is for everyone who needs a little help separating hype from health. And right now, that’s pretty much all of us.”—Casey Guren (p.19)
Be Careful What You Google
The first lesson from Gueren’s book? Be careful what you Google. While this advice isn’t anything new, it does bear repeating. She writes, “A 2019 survey conducted by the website HealthPocket polled 1,000 people in the United States between the ages of 20 and 35 and found that 79 percent of them said they would check their health problems on the internet before heading to a doctor.” (p. 31)
Honestly, I thought the percentage would be higher. After all, I see patients in the hospital “Googling” their symptoms as they lie in their hospital bed. Plus, I know I’ve done it. I suspect, you’ve done it too. Who hasn’t? The biggest take-away here is to be empowered and ask questions.
“We don’t have to have all the answers. But we do need to have the space and the courage to ask questions. I promise, you aren’t the only one with your questions,” writes Guren (p.38). I couldn’t agree more. After you do your research, have your questions ready to ask your doctor, NP, or other health care professional.
Wellness and the Health-Stress Cycle
Gueren defines the wellness industry as the “commercialization of wellness” and her third chapter, “CBD oil, cleanses, jade eggs, and other things your body probably doesn’t need”, does an apt job of addressing how the wellness industry is big business. Furthermore, she describes it as, “…anything that makes money off of you taking care of yourself outside of a conventional health setting.”
Gueren writes that she’s no stranger to being a wellness industry consumer. As an editor, she would sometimes try products that were sent to her in hopes of said company receiving editorial coverage. Furthermore, she explains that she has freely purchased products with her credit card after stumbling upon a product on Instagram. (By the way, Guren writes in Chapter 6, “How not to fall for the latest wellness trends all over Instagram.”)
I love what Guren writes here:
Whether we’re searching for it or not, we’re constantly bombarded by the message that our bodies are broken and need fixing: that our health is suboptimal and could be so much better. And when the wellness cure of the moment doesn’t make us feel any better, we’re right back where we started at the beginning of the health-stress cycle, freaked out and insecure about our seemingly subpar bodies. (pp. 70-71)
Be Your Own Advocate and Do Your Own Research
My advice about the wellness industry is this: Be a proactive health care consumer because you are your own best advocate. Just because something promises immediate health results, doesn’t mean it’s true. Above all, do your own research and be your own advocate.
In some ways, I feel like the wellness industry has gotten a bad rap because of the constant pushy messaging about things like how to lose weight or how to look younger. However, wellness can also be about thoughtful healthy living. The problem is the wellness industry is a business and it has become synonymous with quick fixes and magic potions.
Wellness is about living every day well…It’s about nourishing your mind, body, and soul…It’s about designing a life you love with passion and purpose. Wellness is healthy living. It’s thriving, not just surviving. It’s taking small steps every day for a healthier and happier you.–Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, for KevinMD
How To Decode the Latest Health Headlines
Chapter 5, titled “How to decode the latest health headlines” is brimming with robust, uncompromising goodness. Fair-warning, it’s not only about headlines. Gueren not only writes about how it’s important to always consider the source, but she takes you through what to look for if the source is a person versus a media outlet, etc.
What I want you to remember is that reach does not equal expertise. Too often we see someone giving an interview on TV or posting something on social media, and we think, Well, they must be legit; otherwise the show wouldn’t book them. Or They must know that they’re talking about; otherwise 1.3 million people wouldn’t have share this. —Casey Guren (p.116)
Motives, Conflicts of Interest & Biases
Gueren’s book guides you through how to determine if a source is trustworthy or not. Gueren breaks it down into easy simple nuggets. Be aware of motives, conflicts of interest and biases, she writes.
When it comes to evaluating a health news story, Guren turned to Gary Schwitzer, a health journalism watchdog and founder of HealthNewsReview.org. Gueren shares Schwitzer’s 10 criteria for evaluating health news stories. Please read pages 143-145.
Side note: I had the pleasure meeting Gary Schwitzer and interviewing him. Schwitzer is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
Guren continues to provide readers with helpful information. Chapter 7 deals with “How to tackle a health question like a health editor,” and Chapter 8 dives into “How to get the inclusive, empathetic, evidence-based care you deserve.”
In conclusion, I highly recommend Gurern’s book. It’s an easy read with an abundance of helpful health information to help you navigate the wellness industry. I recommend it for health and wellness consumers as well as health and wellness journalists.
I’m going to sum-up Gueren’s It’s Probably Nothing with the following quotes:
We have to stop pretending that health care is one-size fits-all. —Gueren
If something is claiming to be a cure-all, it’s probably not. —Gueren
In 30 Words
It’s Probably Nothing: The Stress-Less Guide to Dealing with Health Anxiety, Wellness Fads & Overhyped Headlines by Casey Gueren helps you navigate health misinformation and the wellness industry & wellness hype.
Casey Gueren is the former Executive Editor and Health Director at SELF. An award-winning journalist and fierce advocate of accessible health information, she was also an editor and writer at Buzzfeed, Women’s Health, and Cosmopolitan. She graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with a dual degree in Journalism and Psychology. You can find more of her writing, editing, and consulting work at caseygueren.com.