A Deep Dive on ‘The Living Clearly Method,’ Hilaria Baldwin’s Wellness Book

Few genres of literature so clearly communicate the anxieties of their epoch like diet books, a form that combines science-flavored woo with instructions on how to become a living embodiment of a society’s values and aspirations. In his new SELF column, JP Brammer is revisiting popular diet books and unpacking what they tell us about a particular time in American culture. For this installment, he’s tackling The Living Clearly Method by Hilaria Baldwin.

“Wouldst thou like to live clearly?”

This is the question posed to us by yoga instructor, wife to Alec Baldwin, and Spanish culture enthusiast, Hilaria Baldwin. In her 2016 book, The Living Clearly Method, Mrs. Baldwin (the book won’t let you forget she is Mrs. Baldwin) introduces us to a method—or a “recipe”, as she also calls it—for bringing intention and purpose to our daily lives. She also includes actual recipes. You know, for eating and such.

It’s fine, if generic. But it got me thinking about what the thriving “awareness” genre (as typified by, say, Goop) has to say about the world we live in. My thesis with these diet and wellness books is that each models an ideal kind of person for the era they represent. They take aim at the anxieties of their zeitgeist in order to sell remedies for them. So what, then, does The Living Clearly Method tell us to be, and why?

I’ll get to all that big picture stuff. But first, let’s take some collective breaths, set an intention, and talk about the specifics of this book.

I was drawn to it by the frankly bewildering images contained within it. My favorite is on page 156, which features Hilaria upside down on a countertop in her kitchen using a blender with Alec Baldwin, who is just standing around—like a man.

We don’t have permission to include the photo here, so I recreated it for you.

JP Brammer

Anyway, it’s a unique position to be in, to be sure. There are many others showcasing Hilaria in stilettos in various yoga poses. I found these altogether delightful. They were my favorite things. I disagree with the people on Goodreads who say they found them elitist and ridiculous. There should be even more of them. This book should have been a calendar.

To be perfectly candid with you, I thought I was going to find a lot more to make fun of here. I approach all pieces of literature with an open mind, of course, and I didn’t embark on this series with the intention of mocking people. But one must acknowledge that the House of Baldwin has been beset by some scandals. A rather harmless one, and also my favorite, is Hilaria’s unique relationship with Spanish identity.

This—how do you say in English—“charade” is perhaps best exemplified by a doomed appearance on the Today show in which Hilaria pretends not to know the English word for cucumber while preparing a meal. “This is how I learned in Spain,” she says, peeling a tomato like an apple before going on to say, “in Spain, we don’t use these spicier sauces.” Hilaria is from Boston, Massachusetts.

Look, if pretending to be Spanish despite contradicting evidence is a crime, then my entire Mexican family is in trouble. I feel you, hermana! Anyway, Hilaria had to release an apology and clarify that she is not, in fact, from Spain. It’s always good to bring clarity to a situation like this. One might say she was living clearly. Viviendo con claridad.

Ahem. All this is to say: I had certain expectations when I opened this book up. But to be honest with you, I found Hilaria likable. It could very well be the case that something in my psyche was irreparably shattered after reading Skinny Bitch, the last diet book I read for this series, wherein I was repeatedly called a silly pig with a lumpy ass through a bedazzled megaphone. In contrast, The Living Clearly Method felt like a soft-spoken yoga instructor tenderly asking me, “Who put all this trauma in your root chakra?” Oh, Hilaria. It was the skinny bitches.

The Living Clearly Method is based on five principles: perspective, breathing, grounding, balance, and letting go. Some of these might sound kind of close to each other, and they kind of are. Perspective and grounding, in particular, are a bit blurry in my mind. But the gist of it is that we go about much of our daily lives without being present. We establish routines, and those routines are often riddled with self-sabotage and unhealthy habits—but we find comfort in the familiar, and so we surrender agency in exchange for the stability that those things offer.

This is actually pretty true! And it’s exactly the kind of theme I would want a yoga instructor to touch on while I’m holding a sweaty chair pose. I got the sense that Hilaria is probably an amazing yoga teacher. I do think my third eye would open a little bit during my savasana in her class. I also found her to be very forthcoming and candid, as she was when discussing her lifelong struggles with anorexia and bulimia, and with the hip injury that she incurred in her thirties from pushing herself too hard. “After so much pushing, my body had screamed at me to stop through the only way it could get my attention: breaking me,” she said. 

There are, of course, some moments that stuck out to me as unintentionally funny. Alec Baldwin features heavily throughout the book, despite the book opening with: “Many people know me as the woman married to Alec Baldwin…but there’s more to my story than that.” She writes about how they met. Hilaria was at dinner with her friends when she said aloud, “Universe, I’m ready to meet someone and fall in love!” Alec Baldwin was sitting two tables away and overheard her. As she was leaving the restaurant, he said, “Who are you? I must know you.”

That’s some powerful manifestation abilities. Like, warlock tier. I am going to try this at Bocca di Bacco.

She also mentions that she and Alec have a phrase engraved on their wedding rings. The phrase reads: “Somos un buen equipo,” which means, “We are a good team.” This, along with her recipe for vegetable and quinoa paella (on page 200) are not helping her beat the Hilarix Madrileña “La Motomami” Baldwin allegations, but that’s why I appreciated them, personally. There was no photo of the paella, and I will not be making it.

Other than that, standouts included the line: “Being deaf to my body’s wisdom was like driving down a mountain road with a dirty windshield and no GPS,” (page 14), which is a mental image that really tickled me, and her desire to “whack” a woman with an empty baby stroller who was being argumentative with her (page 35). All in all? I wish I could take her yoga class. She seems fun! She also said “our not-so-smart phones” on page 75. I love stuff like that from corporate-approved wellness types. That’s what I want.

So, despite some very distracting acrobatics, I don’t have much to say about Hilaria Baldwin. But the genre in which this book is situated—a soft, cooing category of literature exemplified in The Living Clearly Method’s cover, a woman with bangs in a cashmere sweater (implied acai bowl offscreen)—is where the interesting stuff is. This figure—part yoga instructor, part Goop apostle, part CEO—represents a sort of cleric caste in contemporary life, tasked with taming the many demons of modernity for her flock, but also with rising to the top of the structure that generates such evils as work emails, corn syrup, long commutes, and impossible beauty standards.

Within the pages of these books, life under capitalism for the professional class is rendered as a sort of soft magic system. Feeling stuck in your job? Frustrated that you can’t seem to kick your tendency for tardiness? Cracking under the stress of balancing your family with your career? All those problems and their attendant emotions are stored somewhere in the body, where you can target and challenge them on the mat.

To be clear, I do this! So I’m certainly not judging anyone for it. I love overpaying for a yoga class and moving around in a guided practice, and I enjoy it when my instructor tells me to breathe in, breathe out, and let go—even if I’m not a huge fan of when they get a bit carried away and have me start, I don’t know, asking my sacrum for forgiveness.

Still, I think this position is an interesting by-product of the kind of civilization we’ve built—our attention spans under constant siege by our technology, work life continuing its encroach into private life, and precious spaces for pause becoming scarcer and scarcer. One temporary solution to all this harsh hustle is a soft, gentle industry—soothing colors, incense, stretches, and a calming voice reeling your beleaguered brain back into your body so that you can get back to the grind. All for a fee, of course.

It’s also worth noting that this book was written in a different world (2015) than it was released in (2016), and the ensuing national calamity really highlighted how ill-equipped the wellness industry was to handle the unrest and tribulations that were yet to come, issues that continue to color our daily lives. Perhaps this book would have sold better in the former world, when celebrity and yoga had even more power, or at least a less complicated influence. It makes me wonder how figures like Hilaria will adapt, or if we will continue to try to deep-breathe our way through apocalypse after apocalypse.

As for a broader, better solution, well, there aren’t any easy answers—unless, of course, you can manifest an A-list celebrity husband by asking the universe in a restaurant. In which case, that is the answer. Do that.



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