How to Stop Buying Sh*t on the Internet

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These days, the internet has every answer for our ills, and scrolling through the endless well of wellness products can be overwhelming and costly. But when it’s cheaper than going to the doctor…how can we resist? In this episode, we’re diving into our health & beauty spending habits with the help of seasoned online shoppers and hosts of Lemonada Media’s podcast Add to Cart  Kulap Vilaysack and SuChin Pak. We’ll also hear a story from an ex-influencer about their healing journey into and out of the “wellness girlie” gauntlet.

Please note, The Dough contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all listeners.

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To follow along with a transcript, go to shortly after the air date.



Sam, SuChin Pak, Kulap Vilaysack, Speaker 4, Speaker 5, Speaker 7, Speaker 6, X Mayo

X Mayo  00:11

The Dough is a production of Lemonada Media created in partnership with Flourish Ventures.


X Mayo  01:41

Hey, boo. Hey, welcome back to the dough and money podcast for all even those of us buying $20 coconut oil just because someone hot on the internet told us to do listen, I cannot turn my nose up at that behavior. Lord knows I bought some truly extra shit off the internet in an effort to get the eczema off my elbow because that is a bad just look ashy and black people don’t make fun of me. From zip zappers to drink mixes that look like mud child we are grouped and gagged across the internet these days thanks to the wellness industry, and discovering new methods of getting well. It’s all fine and good baby. We love self care here at the job. But you don’t have to scroll far down your Instagram feed these days to realize we are living in a time overly saturated with products and people trying to convince you to buy them. Being alive is hard. It comes with acne, unexplained aches and pains. And don’t even get me started on the pressure to be beautiful, whatever the hell that means. It’s tricky, right? Because we all want to fix our problems. And these brands are out here pretending to be our besties with their solutions. It’s also easy to be swayed when you first hear these solutions from your favorite celebs bright. They come in gorgeous millennial pink packaging. And there’s a deal if you sign up now for a subscription that you’ll eventually forget about having only to discover you’re still getting charged a year later. Once you’ve already moved on to the next best thing. But wake up people. It’s all fun and games until you have a closet full of creams and candles that smell like vagina and a racked up credit card bill. You see the way the wellness industry preys on our insecurities, especially as women is a money problem connected to a bigger one. Our American healthcare system is far from perfect and super economically exclusive. For starters, at the time of the last census in 20 28.6% of the American population was uninsured, which may sound small, but that’s over 28 million people. And the most common reason why was cost But even for those of us with health insurance, it’s still hard out here. Lesson plans are confusing medicines expensive and co pays can make visiting the doctor more of a mind decision than a medical one. So we take control ourselves, we google our symptoms and start listening to people who aren’t doctors, but they seem healthy and happy with themselves. We buy supplements in hopes of solving our own medical mysteries. It’s a frustrating task so many of us share and advertisers relish in the result. It’s a circus out there online have weird pillows and Kegel bales don’t know what those are baby, you’re gonna learn about them later. And so I caught in some help from two ladies on the frontlines of the internet who bravely try out everything so you don’t have to Wow. Thank you for your service.


SuChin Pak  06:01

Well, my relation to the wellness industry is, is if there’s anything marketed towards making me feel like I am less dead, then I’m buying it.


X Mayo  06:13

Okay, so we’re starting at dead. But when we sniffed the lavender oil less dead.


Kulap Vilaysack  06:24

Io I’ve done it all you know, and anything can be put up my pussy.


SuChin Pak  06:33

Except for that cup, except for that cup.


X Mayo  06:36

I’m not doing no diva Cup. Why the fuck I gotta have, why I gotta have a damn murder scene. hey, stay my new carpet I got from Amazon.


Kulap Vilaysack  06:49

My name is Kulap Vilaysack, also known as auntie Kuku from Add to Cart. Along with podcasting, I am a writer, director and producer.


SuChin Pak  06:59

And I’m Suchin Pak otherwise known as auntie Susu. The anecdote and the partner to auntie Kuku I am a podcaster and a journalist. I’m sitting right now on a donut you know, because it’s supposed to help me feel more relaxed and awake. Not really.


Kulap Vilaysack  07:27

I normally when you sit down and don’t and I thought that was for hemorrhoids. This is different?


SuChin Pak  07:31

I’m sure that too. I think I probably initially bought it for the hemorrhoids.


X Mayo  07:36

purpose this multipurpose cooler.And she’s doing it just in case that hemorrhoids come just in case. This is preventative measures. So if the hemorrhoid thought it was forming, the donut is here and say.


Kulap Vilaysack  07:50

Donut says, do not.


X Mayo  07:53

As the host of Lemonada’s Add to Cart, a podcast about what we buy and buy into. These women have seen it all tried it all and live to tell the tale. For example, this next part as a grown ass woman, I know a thing or two about the importance of strengthening my pelvic floor. But I never heard of this product that claims to help you do it.


Kulap Vilaysack  08:19

I mean, I didn’t buy it. It was given to us through Add to Cart. It was Su Do you remember that product where you’re supposed to put it up your vagina? Look, that’s my corner of the universe. All right. It’s a wait. Act. It was a wait and you were supposed to while you’re in the shower. You put this or this egg?


Kulap Vilaysack  08:42

It was called the Kegel bell, thank you SuChin.


Kulap Vilaysack  08:48

It’s a weight. It looks like an egg. It’s yellow. And then you could put weights on the bottom and you shove it up and you’re supposed to hold it.


SuChin Pak  08:57

Hold the weight of it.


Kulap Vilaysack  08:58

Hold it. But yeah, there’s weight dangling.


X Mayo  09:01

And the purpose of that is to?


Kulap Vilaysack  09:03

Summon about your pelvic floor and just strengthening your pelvic floor. Yeah, that was the thing.


X Mayo  09:10

I have a cycle every month. My floor is the strongest steel. I got to Sylvester Stallone pelvic floor. I don’t need an I don’t need a goddamn kettlebell swing in my pussy.


Kulap Vilaysack  09:24

You’re bragging right now? Okay, you’re flexing you’re literally flexing your pussy right?


X Mayo  09:31

But when you put it in Kualp, you just like hold it you like One Mississippi. How long?


Kulap Vilaysack  09:37

I don’t know. I didn’t do it long enough to even remember it except that I started organizing the other day. And I was like, What am I gonna do with this? And I can’t give it away. And I feel bad about throwing it away. But it does not bring me joy and I have not used it for years.


X Mayo  09:53

As long as you clean it and sterilize it. Offer it up. Kulap, somebody is gonna take this and somebody isn’t I send it to you. Cool up, don’t you dare I’ll call the authorities.


Kulap Vilaysack  10:10

Becca, can I have her address, please?


X Mayo  10:12

Don’t, that is our producer ladies and gentlemen, that’s telling Coolock that she would give her my address. They absolutely fucking not.


SuChin Pak  10:20

To clean with sage and spit.


X Mayo  10:28

Okay, let’s get down to business, our producer back to the streets of NYC to ask folks about their wellness purchases, what worked, what didn’t and at what cost? And I gathered Ku and here to discuss the responses. Here’s the first one.


Speaker 4  10:47

I bought a special wedge pillow that has like a cutout in that like for your arm to go for like acid reflux. And it’s so deeply uncomfortable. And it was I think $250 Because I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. And I was desperate. And I wanted I was trying everything. I saw several like several of those like fake when it’s like a tick tock but it’s like the company paid for that tick tock and you know, and like and I knew that but I still still went for it because I saw several. And it was always like plus sized women that seemed trustworthy. And yeah, I don’t, it’s not for me.


SuChin Pak  11:38

I’ve seen that. A 200 and what?


Kulap Vilaysack  11:42

She has a a lot to say, Oh, she heard pillows.


SuChin Pak  11:46

Wow. Talk to me, suchinda Niamey started on pillows again, where do I rest my dead head? I mean, I’ve seen that and I was like, this is the thing about wellness and about these kinds of products is and this is no judgement, because we all do it is she’s got acid reflux. So rather than address the acid reflux, honey,


X Mayo  12:11

Talk about it because that was gonna be my thoughts. Thank you.


SuChin Pak  12:13

So G got a pillow with a hole in it that you put your arm through. It does not a natural way to sleep in and I mean when you eat this, that there’s gonna cause other problems you know? Yeah, mainly your acid reflux. Yeah, you got a crick in your neck.


X Mayo  12:29

Yeah, and now she gonna walk and look like she leaned with a rocking with it. Stop eating the tomatoes. Okay, get you some Tom’s they got smoothies flavors now and go to bed.


Kulap Vilaysack  12:40

Unfortunately, you know, we all can’t have nightshades Okay, and that’s tough. That is tough.


SuChin Pak  12:47

This is three aunties really coming together. For last one major on T transformer is we want you to be healthy. Yeah, we have a problem that made you go down this path. So we want you to live your best life. So deal with the acid reflux. Forget the pillows.


X Mayo  13:08

To be clear, we do not blame this person for buying this weird pillow. Watch, I looked up and can only describe as looking like a skateboard ramp that you punch your arm from. It’s just wild how some of these products end up distracting us from the problems that led us to them in the first place. But what about the things we buy for issues we don’t even have yet. And before you say x that is too extra for me. I do not participate. I live in the moment number state. Okay, yes, you do. You use sunscreen. And I know you Google retinol Do not play with me. Don’t play with me. Okay, on to the next.


Speaker 5  13:51

Neutrophil counts that like the hair wellness pill. That was an $80 a month subscription. I bought it because I was like, you know, I was like I’m turning 30 I should like take care of my hair and do things like that. And he was doing a bunch of research online. And so of course, Instagram started pushing neutrophil and veg Amour and all of those other tinctures and pills to take and I looked up news full bunch and I thought that was the most honest, doctor approved whatever, even though I had never gotten to a dermatologist. And I did use it for a while, but I’m really bad at taking pills every day. So like I have just three full jars. I obviously ended this subscription that I have three full jars of neutrophils kind of sitting in my kitchen waiting to be consumed.


Speaker 6  14:51

I was actually thinking about doing something similar with like a hair supplements sort of thing, because especially as a guy getting into your 30s it’s like that’s when you start to lose it. I’m like, maybe I should curb it and start taking it now, but I haven’t taken the plunge just yet because I’m a frugal bastard. Good for you, man.


Kulap Vilaysack  15:11

We know about Nutrafol.


SuChin Pak  15:14

Why doesn’t he take her Nutrafol lead because not marketed towards men sorry.


Kulap Vilaysack  15:19

Well, so if you if you will recall that ally remount of my Knox and neutrophil is beautiful glass, big canisters X but you have or just you have to take for a day giant giant Foresthill or pills a day. That’s too


SuChin Pak  15:36

It is backed by clinical reserves. People love it. People say it works. But it’s a commitment.


Kulap Vilaysack  15:45

I take so many pills. SuChin makes fun of me because my pillowcase looks the size of an iPad. It’s pro students. I take so many pills. And for me, I was like, this is too much. This is too many pills.


X Mayo  15:50

Yeah, it’s just kind of like, well, you also have to be mindful, too. I know that with my body chemistry when I started taking a specific supplement over and over again, East infection. I was like, what did I change in my diet? So we have to be mindful to like, listen to your body. So even like taking these pills, but it’s like buying all of them. That’s the whole thing. Sometimes something is worth buying, but then it ends up being something it feels like it in the moment but then when you have it it’s like grow let it go.


Kulap Vilaysack  16:28

It is such a product of capitalism. It’s such a product of you know of us wanting to secret things and just just throwing things up on the wall and seeing what will stick what will fill my void and make me better.


X Mayo  16:45

And dear listener, I can’t let you leave this section without this super duper fun little fact, dietary supplements. They do not need FDA approval in order to be sold. medicine does supplements do not. So why are you buying them in an effort to invest in your future herring supple skin? No one’s looking out for you to see how that might affect your overall health right now. There are some deceptive motherfuckers out there. Okay. Those who won’t even tell you about potential side effects and those who do you completely this next tape had me gag take it away TikTok teens.


Speaker 7  17:31

Have you seen like the green tea sticks though? Like you put it and then it advertised like oh the fours come out. And it’s actually chia seeds. I’ve seen a lot of people fall for that like a I don’t know if you recall like a clean stick mask and then in the video it shows like the spots coming out as in like your pores are being unclogged. But those are just chia seeds. So it’s, it doesn’t really work. Like after it’ll like decompose or it’ll go bad and then just throw it away.


Kulap Vilaysack  18:36

Basically I think on TikTok you there’s this product that it’s supposed to be your pores but it was revealed that in the marketing that’s chia seeds like the chia seeds was the the lie blackheads. Yeah, exactly. That was revealed. So I think that’s what they’re talking about.


X Mayo  18:53

Oh, so when they took it off like oh, look at your porn. Yeah, really? It was just she is GSC That’s right. They have some shit leftover from a smoothie that they didn’t want to eat. So a lot of liars out there.


Kulap Vilaysack  19:03

So a lot of liars out there. When I’m on TikTok. It’s constant influencer ads influencer like paid ads and it’s constant.


SuChin Pak  19:14

It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not a really is hard to tell. You know, I think the other caller about the pillow was like, you know, I saw, you know, some influencers that I respected. I forget what how the wording she used that, you know, using the pillow, it’s really hard to I don’t think the average person can tell when they’re being duped or not. You know?


X Mayo  19:40

I think this is the part that pisses me off the most. How are we as consumers supposed to make good decisions if we can’t trust what we see? Sure. False advertising is everywhere. Yes. But it’s a different ballgame. When we’re talking about our health. We’re hopeful these things exist to help us and then I can blur our vision a little bit. And speaking of blurred vision here at the dough, we’re all about helping you bring those important money decisions into focus. So every time you want to add something into your metaphysical cart, simply talk to it. Ask the product, these five questions. Dear product, do I already own something that looks or works exactly like you? Do I need to buy you now? Or can I buy you for half the price at TJ Maxx later? More importantly, will I still like you when my car payment is due? And will I be embarrassed when my partner sees you? And finally my dear product? What are we? Like really? No. What are we I need to know like you’ve been looking at me I’ve been looking at you. It’s like you’ve been standing here like, let’s establish something okay? But seriously, by the end of this money meditation, if the answer and clear honey, call your therapist, or we can just rely on Ke and Su.


SuChin Pak  21:21

I think to me, it’s just common sense. Okay, number one. Well, it is common. It’s just some somewhere along the line, you lost your way. You know this information intuitively, you know, you know, intuitively, if someone says something that’s too good to be true. It’s probably too good to be true. And I think that the wellness, marketing category does that I just heard a new underwear line made out of seaweed. So somehow they’ve made seaweed feel like cotton. Great, breathable, wonderful. That’s great. Now the thing that they tacked on to it was that it has minerals and calcium. You know what I mean? All of the things that seaweed Yes, does have. But are you gonna get that? When you put it on? Your nether regions? Like through the fabric? No, you’re not. You know what I mean? It’s like, it’s like they took it one step further. It’s like, why can’t you just say, Look, we found a sustainable fabric. Yeah, read the reviews. There’s an app. Oh, yeah, that I have on my phone. Right? You love this app where you can put the link of an Amazon an Amazon product and it will tell you if the reviews are fake or legit. But I also think that like there are this could be a scam because I think every listing is scam but but there are more and more products, especially in the wellness category, because there’s so many scams where there are legit doctors and researchers and chemists that are behind brands.


X Mayo  23:12

But not all doctors are created equal. You can avoid the Dr. Oz’s of the world people with his group Yes. How do you know you’re gonna run for Senate in Pennsylvania and you ain’t even living there you a from there? So that means I can just run for the queen and London. Hear ye hear ye the dough. This is x smile, and I’m running for Queen, a London cheerio and all that rubbish. Okay, all right. All right, let me get serious for me serious. If a product claims to help with a certain medical condition, please check on what the National Association of doctors in their corresponding field have to say. For example, if this field says it’s heart healthy, you better check out what the American College of Cardiology has to say about those supplements vape. And for all other products, the Federal Trade Commission recommends doing a search online for the name plus the words review, complaint or scam. So you can see if anything shady has been reported. And if you want to take it a step further, qu en su R Eb, c’est with this app called Fakespot, which you can apply to the web browser on your phone or computer or whatever the hell you get in your shop and fix on and it’ll let you know if online reviews are in fact real or fake. At the end of the day. It’s us against the marketing machine of the internet trying to suck us dry.


Kulap Vilaysack  24:36

And add to cart. It really was born out of this. Like we want to know we were buying stuff but I’m so interested in what Susan’s buying and what our friends and guests are buying because I want to hear about like these high touch items, people who’ve tried and true things that people love and recommend that’s gonna move up on my list because it’s like, oh, if you love that, then I know it’s good. Yeah. So you’re her circle of friends, I think is is key.


X Mayo  25:03

Absolutely. Underlining this for my girlfriend’s. When in doubt about a purchase ask people you know what’s up because a little 12 year old on Tik Tok I telling you the truth. I know she made me buy this soap and gave me a rash. There’s all marketing infrastructure behind these products, specifically targeting women and our insecurities. insecurities that and let me yell this for the dudes in the back have been created by the advertising industry. Especially for us millennials. We all grew up seeing the billboards of airbrush models high above us looking untouchable and insane. Now we’re on our phones, seeing a whole new version of that same thing. Only this time, it’s our favorite Kardashians speaking right? To us. It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to get lost scrolling through mountains of stuff. Don’t forget to listen to real people you know, and better yet, people like you.


SuChin Pak  26:04

And we talked about this on add to cart. I am in the business of only taking beauty influencers over 50, you are under 50 trying to tell sell me a serum on your donut glazed born embryonic fluid skin. I’m not interested in that show me a mature woman over 50. And let me see what the serum is doing to her face.


X Mayo  26:28

Correct. I want someone over 50 everyday woman or someone that’s not famous that doesn’t have access to the best dermatologist that they can not have them on retainer living in their basement, right?


SuChin Pak  26:40

Very small segment.


X Mayo  26:43

So I’m talking to the two women listen to this podcast. I’m talking to you doing it Sujit and I, we love you, girl. We see you, we love you. And we thank you for your service. Because any trusted opinions helps in this circus of products. As I put it earlier. You’ll see Yeah, we laugh about how far things have gone the weird pillows that chia seeds, but the money we spend in our search for wellness is for an important cause. We all deserve to find ourselves happy and healthy without being pointed in the wrong direction and may to face financial consequences as a result. After the break, we’ll speak with someone who was pointed in many directions throughout their wellness journey. As a result, they dove deep down a rabbit hole of debt and emerged out the other side with insight on the wellness industry. That baby you’re gonna want to sit down for. Welcome back, kick up your shoes and relax your feet. Have your green juice ready and some cucumber slices because I have a story for you straight from the mouth of a recovering wellness influencer. Yes, the D influencing movement is afoot. Get it totally. And how lovely is that? Sure. We’re all on the same internet inundated with supplements, subscriptions that are tricky to track as they deplete our bank accounts. But people are responding to this madness. And our guests, Sam is one of them.


X Mayo  31:26

They’re a writer based in the Midwest who went through the wellness girlie gauntlet and live to tell the tale. And their stories, the reality for a lot of people who turn to the wellness world when their health needs are unmet by our healthcare system. So I had Sam take me from the beginning.


Sam  31:43

So I feel like I grew up in a really like complex household as many of us did, obviously. But my parents have been sick my whole life. Both of my parents are disabled. They both have mental health conditions. My dad has schizophrenia. And there’s been just a lot of like medication and conversations about like hospitals and all of those things have just been like in my lexicon since birth. Like my first memory is my dad being taken to a state mental hospital.


X Mayo  32:20

Sam grew up in a low income household. Their mom who was originally from Germany couldn’t afford health insurance. Through both of their parents experiences, Sam had a front row seat to the reality of health care in America, a Death Loop of expensive medications and hospital stays that could bankrupt you.


Sam  32:39

I think that really impacted the way that I viewed health and wellness because like I have asthma and anytime that I was having an asthma attack, it was like straight to the hospital to get an inhaler. Because I didn’t have a prescription for an inhaler. And I knew if I went to the hospital, they would give me one. And so it was just like this never ending loop of just like needing to go to the hospital getting these medical bills being in debt, never being able to pay them off. And for a long time, because of what I saw my dad go through in the mental health system and in the health care system, I then began to reject it.


X Mayo  33:15

As Sam grew up, their health was impacted by more than just asthma. Sam got their period early and up until their early 20s. They struggle with PMS symptoms like cramping, nausea, and more. And 2017 Sam was working in the service industry spending long hours on their feet, trying to make ends meet and pay down medical debt.


Sam  33:39

I had like really, really gnarly periods to the point where like I was in so much pain or I was passing out at work, I was calling out of work, it was just not a good time. And I was also like, in a bad mental health time I wasn’t taking medication, my anxiety and my panic attacks were just totally untreated. And I had no idea what to do. And I just kind of like hit this point where I was like, I need something and I was really terrified of psychiatric medications because of what I saw my dad experience just being overly medicated because I didn’t have an understanding of like holistic care, I thought it was medications or nothing else.


X Mayo  34:24

How did you find your way towards the wellness industry? Like that’s so interesting to me. Did you see a video where did you go to a meeting that was marketed as a real estate orientation, to sell real estate and you got in there and they were like ladies, if you get this eucalyptus oil and if you sell 700 of these, you can make $10,000.


Sam  34:49

I’m triggered I’m triggered, as one does as a as a white person lady does on Instagram, I found my way into the essential oils world and really just gotten there.


X Mayo  35:08

And then and then you got into a cup and I’m saying guy, man.


Sam  35:11

You’re not incorrect. So I like found myself in a Facebook group of people talking about how essential oils are everything and how we need to remove all toxins from our household because it’s the toxins in our everyday cleaners and soaps that are making us go nuts and like we have to make sure that we are using the most pure version of what the Earth can offer like just all of these, like wild and nuanced things that just ended up being very interesting to me at the time. And through this essential oils world and the Instagram world. I found this person who sold essential oils but also had her own hormone coaching business. This hormone coaching was weeks and weeks of detoxing, having to drink chlorophyll and lemon juice every morning instead of eating breakfast, restricting all things dairy, gluten and sugar. Working out way too much because I was told I needed to move my body and I just felt truly worse than ever.


X Mayo  36:21

While you only drinking green liquid and a shadow limit literally Yes, right. You should you would feel terrible. Yes. And then you’re running up and down the stairs, Sam. What?


Sam  36:33

I was full on Gwyneth Paltrow being like I only drink bone broth for breakfast.


X Mayo  36:39

That hormone coach basically told Sam that everything they experienced that was, quote unquote wrong about their body could be chalked up to a hormonal imbalance. I have to mention that actual doctors like OB GYN have come out numerous times to dispel the myth that all your painful periods symptoms, or anything else for that matter can be solved by detoxes and fad diets. But this coach seemed like they were legit because they went to nursing school. Sam thought they were getting care from some nuance holistic approach. The coach even promised remedies for vaginal isthmus, which Sam had at the time, a condition where the muscles of the vagina involuntarily tense up, it made sex and even tampons, extremely painful for Sam. And we all know how algorithms work right? You like one pasta salad, then it’s 17 Other pasta salads and now it’s pasta salad makeup. And after engaging with so many wellness influencers, Sam was in an echo chamber of healing remedies. But as time went on, they weren’t getting better.


Sam  37:48

I was following all these people on Instagram who were just reinforcing all of these things that my hormone coach was telling me and selling all of these products and these supplements. Oh my god, the supplements did I love them. I was like, Oh, I’m gonna take all of the I’m gonna I do not even plan to get pregnant but I’m going to take this prenatal vitamin I’m going to do it all like I was just eating it up because I thought it would make me feel better. I thought it would cure everything because that is what those influencers tell you. They will do.


X Mayo  38:20

Sam spent the next couple of years buying all the essential oils, vitamins, balancing elixirs, charcoal flavored body wash and whatever else the coach recommended. But when the pandemic hit and suddenly the wellness Ward opened up to a whole new market. It was no longer space just for anti vaxxers Plessy to the Sun Yogi’s and granola, crunchy and white women Oh no. A whole new crowd of people had entered the chat, fearing for their lives and loved ones thanks to the deadly ever mutating Coronavirus. Sam was now looking into remedies for COVID and worrying about getting sick. There were now more influencers and more people looking to have their wellness needs influenced. And Sam was more online than ever. They began writing a newsletter back in 2017 that they posted their writing and poetry are so maybe the natural next step was testing out the waters of writing on Instagram and dipping their toe into influencing.


Sam  39:21

I went in kind of wanting to be a fashion girly because my bestie was a fashion girly on Instagram and I was like I can do this. It’s the pandemic I want to look cute and post on Instagram this is going to be great.


X Mayo  39:36

By fashion girly Sam means someone who posts their latest outfit and influences you to buy the same. Thank Fashion Nova meets GN meets pretty little thing hauls. Yeah, Sam was more into slow fashion though, promoting bespoke things from brands that appear to not be killing Mother Earth.


Sam  39:57

Because I am me and because of my value Use, I couldn’t, it couldn’t just be fashion, I also kind of had a reckoning with gender. And I was like, Oh, I’m non binary. And so I was just talking a lot about mental health and the way that clothes impacted my mental health and my understanding of gender and all of those things, and, you know, utilizing the hashtags as one does.


X Mayo  40:20

Oh, you gotta hashtag influence, you have to.


Sam  40:24

I was like hashtag wellness, hashtag mental health. And when you start doing that, then that’s when the brand starts sliding into your DMS and they’re like, Hey, we see that you are, you know, a wellness mental health person, we would love to send you XYZ and I was like, interesting. And I in my influencing, I was like, Okay, I really value feeling good. So I’m gonna like post this PR of this like latte that I was sent in a powder form or whatever, which hot take tastes disgusting. And I just found myself and like this, the saying I say a lot is I was lost in the sauce.


X Mayo  41:08

Around this time, Sam was starting to realize that no matter how much detoxing they did, essential oils, they smelled or supplements they took, their symptoms persisted. And in the process, they thought, especially that their mental health needed extra support. So they started seeing a therapist.


Sam  41:27

At this point, I was seeing a therapist who, if it were not for her, I am not sure that I would have gotten out of this because I went to my therapist, and I was like, I feel like shit all the time. Like this is what I’m doing. I don’t understand what’s wrong with me. I just feel so broken.


X Mayo  41:45

Sam’s therapist diagnosed them with OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, Sam was having the classic signs, a pattern of constant unwanted thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. And OCD is more than just the stereotypes we see about you know, cleanliness and color coordinating a closet. It’s distressing, and it needs serious treatment. Sam’s therapist specialized in ERP, exposure and response prevention, a treatment plan for folks with OCD that made Sam confront the thoughts they were having and understand their triggers. Sam’s mental health was finally on the mend. And it was no thanks to the wellness industry. Because this rabbit holes of remedies that Sam fell into, were actually feeding into their fears and compulsions, contributing even more to their OCD. And Sam’s therapist realized there was something much deeper they needed to tackle in order for Sam to get better. The extreme dieting that was recommended by the hormone coach, you know, the one who went to nursing school, it was actually making Sam’s symptoms worse in more ways than one. So one session, the therapist gave Sam a gift.


Sam  43:02

She handed me this book called anti diet by Christie Harrison. And I was woken up. I started it at this coffee shop after my therapist appointment. I read it all in one sitting. And I had a absolute meltdown afterwards. I was like I have an eating disorder. This is a diet culture. I am being duped.


X Mayo  43:32

That aha moment that Oprah talks about it came the light came on.


Sam  43:35

Yes, I felt so betrayed. And there was just so much in there about how like because I at this point I like had probably $3,000 of debt on a credit card.


X Mayo  43:50

Back it up like a U haul truck. Sam took out a credit card for their wellness needs. How to how do they wake up that much. Sam says the debt was mostly from purchasing supplements, essential oils and paying that hormone coach who ended up doing more harm than good. After paying $100 a month for three years, they eventually paid it all off, thank God. But just imagine factoring that in every couple of weeks like paying off a cell phone, except its products that didn’t solve your problems. After all. Sam realized not only did they fall victim to some physically and financially harmful rhetoric and marketing, but they were also involved in promoting this lifestyle to their ever growing Instagram following.


Sam  44:43

It was also hard to because I didn’t have friendships that were nourishing. I was in toxic relationships. And so I was also not just looking for you know, wanting to feel healthy in my body but I also was looking for community, which is something that those are organizations thrive on.


X Mayo  45:02

And after trying enough recommended remedies with no results, there comes a point when you really do need to go to the doctor. And that’s where Sam was. They did as much searching as they could on their own. But the answer to all their questions would require returning to the same health care system they turned away from. While Sam was coming to the realization that the wellness products were not working for their PMS and mental health, a new set of mysterious symptoms began to crop up. It was April of 2021 in Sam came down with a fever. This was concerning since COVID was circulating.


Sam  48:54

So I went to the doctor tested negative with COVID. But I felt horrible I had a fever, it would not go down. So I went to my primary care doctor. She sent me to get a few tests, everything came back normal as it always does. But I was like what I’m feeling it was not normal. I ended up getting to a point where about three weeks went by and I reached a day where I literally felt like I was gonna die.


X Mayo  49:20

One day the chest pain became excruciating and Sam went to the emergency room. The doctors immediately sent Sam for a CAT scan. Sam was kept in the hospital and diagnosed with a heart condition called pericarditis, rheumatoid arthritis and adult immune disease and adult onset still’s disease, a rare form of arthritis. That was really the missing piece in this medical mystery. All of this meant medications, lots of them.


Sam  49:49

After that, I almost felt myself being like, Okay, I have to go back into like wellness. I was like okay, what can I do? What can I buy? I, and I was like, No, we’re not doing that. We’re not going down that hole. And luckily like, yeah, my husband, he was there at the end of my essential oil stuff. And like he really helped me through that unraveling of it all.


X Mayo  50:15

Unraveling, you mean unpacking all of the oils and finding the place for them to be in there?


Sam  50:21

Well, more like putting them in the trash unfortunately.


X Mayo  50:31

Sam had grown quite an Instagram following, but they realized their content needed to change. So they pivoted.


Sam  50:39

I talked very vulnerably about my mental health stuff. With wellness, I talked very openly about that. So then whenever I started experiencing my own stuff with chronic illness, I kind of stepped into this very vocal, chronic illness advocate and like Disability Justice Advocate, I was starting to post more about what my experience with chronic illness was. And lo and behold, once you start posting about chronic illness, people start being like, You got to heal your gut, you should take all these supplements.


X Mayo  51:11

With a new understanding of chronic illnesses and disabilities, a new grim reality set in for them. As Sam was interacting online with more people with chronic illnesses, it was hard to ignore how many commenters swore there was a natural remedy for serious illnesses. Even if that remedy didn’t guarantee a cure, or it cost just as much as the hospital visit, people were going to seriously hurt themselves or worse, by not going to the doctor to get checked out.


Sam  51:42

One video was somebody else with a chronic illness saying things that I really resonated with. And then the next one was somebody talking about their wellness routine that cost over $1,000. And I was like, okay, this is so weird, like this dichotomy of content that we are constantly being fed. It’s no wonder, like, so many people, including myself have a hard time parsing through it, because everybody on social media positions themselves as an expert, right. So somebody that you build trust with, or even somebody that looks trustworthy, which is a whole other conversation could be selling you something. And really, they can even really, truly believe that that thing helps them. But don’t understand that. Like, there are so much nuance about how bodies are like, they’re so.


X Mayo  52:34

100% for me, it’s like, whenever somebody’s marketing something to me, and it’s like, I’m very careful if it’s something that I’m putting on my body or in my body. Right?


Sam  52:47

Exactly. I saw this $1,000 routine. And I scroll through the comments and I saw so many people being like, if I did this, I would be healed. If I did this, everything would change. I feel like doing all this work to me and then the Creator commenting back and be like, it really is so healing. And it’s like we need to have a conversation about what healing means. I think about this so often when it comes to the money that we spend on wellness products, like the wellness economy thrives on fear, it thrives on the fact that people are afraid of being fat people are afraid of being sick people are afraid of which oh my gosh, I could go into that like people are afraid of being sick.


X Mayo  53:30

I take Sam’s journey as a reminder to come back to yourself when things fill off with your mind and body. Scroll what everyone on the internet thinks you need in order to feel healthy. What do you need in order to feel your best self. In October 2022, Sam decided to take a month long break from Instagram and put all their energy into the newsletter they created back in 2017. They call the newsletter healing Field Notes kill. And they started writing about all kinds of stuff, mental health, sexual liberation and queer homemaking, everything that they’ve come to analyze through their own health journey.


Sam  54:10

I never thought I was going to do the Instagram influencing thing that just kind of happened before then I was a poet. I am still a poet. And I felt myself losing that side of me so heavily because of the way that overconsumption just takes over when you start being chronically online. I wrote this whole newsletter series about the insidious nature of the wellness industry and I really started with this idea of like, in a world that wants us to like Girlboss and hack our way into the best version of ourselves. It is really easy to fall into those traps. So many people in the wellness industry see something that a human is experiencing whether that be systemic oppression, depression, anxiety, trauma, as Have a opportunity to sell something to you. That is a problem. We cannot capitalism our way out of systemic oppression. Like I think we are clearly seeing that that is not working. The Wellness economy is not going to help that.


X Mayo  55:22

True healing can’t just be bought. It takes support. And support means information care, clarity. And yes, in many cases, some funds to pull from if you need to invest in something that will make you feel better funds that won’t be there if we overspend on the endless stream of products being marketed to us. Cool. And Sue says something in our interview that struck me, it’s a little obvious, but here it is.


SuChin Pak  55:48

It’s not the products fault. No, it’s not the product. So it’s never the product.


X Mayo  55:52

It’s not the products fault. The slippery slope of spending isn’t even about the products in the end. It’s about us and how we’re sucked into the social media marketing machine. The typical social media user Yes, I’m looking at you spends about two and a half hours per day on the sites that amounts to 164 hours a year, over a month of your damn time just gone. So next time you’re about to add to cart, think about it. Is it for you and your health? Or is it for the man who wants you to spread the Marketing Manifesto of the mass he’s selling hack tip, set an annual beauty and wellness budget for yourself. That way you can keep those digital wallets in check. So go ahead, buy the oils if they truly make you happy. Try the weird infrared masks that makes you look like a damn Stormtrooper. As long as you’re following your curiosity and not somebody else’s money grabbing pitch. You’ll learn something in your search for wellness, even if you do break out in a rash and if you do, maybe there’s a cream.


X Mayo  57:07

Thank you so much to our guests Kulap Vilaysack and SuChin Pak. You now them you love them and you can hear their takes on products across the internet every week on Add to Cart. Next week on the dough is all about family, family and the money tips they passed down to us. I remember as a young kid sometimes I would sweep up pennies to throw them in the trash and I remember my dad almost popped to me because he was like if you don’t know the value of a cent you won’t know the value of $1 we’re talking about building black intergenerational wealth. See you then.


CREDITS  57:51

The Dough is a Lemonada Original. I’m your host X Mayo. This series was created in partnership with Flourish Ventures. This episode was produced by Kristen Lepore and Becca De Gregorio. Tony Williams is our associate producer. Mix and sound designed by Ivan Kuraev. With additional mixing and engineering from Andí Kristinsdóttir. Original Music by Pat Mesiti-Miller. Kelsey Henderson is our production intern. Additional production help from Jerusalem Truth, Claire Jones, and Hoja Lopez. Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content. Executive Producers include me X Mayo, Stephanie Littels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating five stars, and writing a review. You can follow me on IG at @$80inasuitcase and Lemonada at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, not including MySpace. Follow the dough wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks so much for listening. See you next week. Bye.

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