I’m not going to pretend I know much about Gwyneth Paltrow. I’ve seen her in a few movies, most of which I thought were pretty good. I particularly liked ‘Sliding Doors‘ and ‘Shakespeare in Love‘ and thought Paltrow did a fine English accent and acted extremely well in them. Paltrow seems nice enough person (comes across ok in interviews, is appropriately self deprecating etc etc), and hasn’t to my knowledge done anything particularly nasty.
So why was she voted ‘Most Hated Celebrity in Hollywood‘ by the bastion of all things celebrity, Star Magazine?
To be honest, I don’t actually know. I find celebrity ‘news’ tiresome beyond belief, and Hollywood about as interesting as a chemical waste factory (actually, I take that back – chemical waste factories actually provide a useful service to humanity, whereas Hollywood creates eating disorders and Pirates of the Caribbean 7).
But I’ll take a stab at it anyway.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece attacking Paltrow’s personal trainer and exercise ‘guru’ Tracy Anderson. Paltrow is a hardcore devotee of Anderson, who has claimed that the only way to get seriously toned and fit is to follow her particular set of exercises and diet regime. Needless to say, Anderson is completely full of shit and is little more than a glorified aerobics teacher. But so enthralled with the ‘Tracy Anderson Method’ and fitness in general, Paltrow has spawned her own mini fitness and diet industry, publishing books on what to eat and what not to feed your children.
As Hadley Freeman in the Guardian writes, based on a couple of visits to a doctor and some very strange diet advice, “Gwyneth, with the kind of self-centred self-righteousness that only Hollywood A-listers can master, decided that if she needs to follow this medically dubious “elimination” diet (a diet one doctor has already described as “at best non-evidence-based hope, and at worst plain old malpractice”), then so does everyone else in the world.”
Her new book, ‘It’s All Good‘ has been trashed by, well, pretty much everyone who has read it. Why? Because it is completely ridiculous. Paltrow apparently discovered that “Everyone in my house is intolerant of gluten, dairy, chickens’ eggs, among many other surprising foods,” and devised a new diet based on cutting pretty much everything worth eating out.
The truth is, there is little real scientific evidence to support the notion of ‘gluten intolerance’, and if Paltrow was seriously intolerant to things like chicken and eggs, she wouldn’t have been able to eat them for 40 years.
The ‘gluten free’ industry alongside all the other ‘sugar/carb/lactose free’ industries are huge and growing businesses that profit massively from the diet obsessed looking for new trends to jump on. And Paltrow certainly has a habit of latching onto ever shifting dietary fads. Writes Hailey Eber in theNew York Post:
In 2010, she [Paltrow] featured Organic Avenue on Goop, enthusing about the “amazing results” she’d achieved with a five-day juice cleanse. Earlier this year, she and her fitness guru, Tracy Anderson, were featured in a Redbook magazine cover story, with Anderson warning that “juice fasting destroys your metabolic rate” and is “not what detoxification is about.”
Having been in the fitness industry myself for some time, this continuous switching between exercise methods and diets is incredibly common, and it doesn’t have much to do with health and fitness itself.
The switching itself is no bad thing – I routinely change up the exercise I do, and experiment with different dietary habits. It’s a way of challenging my body and seeing whether different foods make a change to my performance. Your body often derives results from this constant flux, as doing the same thing over and over again gets boring and prevents adaptation and growth.
But in the fitness industry, new workouts and diets are not promoted as something to do for a few months to switch it up a bit, but as revolutionary new methods that must be followed religiously.
The truth is that there is no one best way to exercise or diet. There are many ways, each with their own set of benefits, yet Paltrow seems to think that because she happens to be deriving benefit from a particular workout/diet at a particular time, then everyone else must do it too. Today it’s Tracy Anderson aerobics and no eggs. Next year it could be pole dancing and chopped liver. The one thing we can be sure of though, is that Paltrow will be out promoting a new book telling everyone that they must follow her latest regime to get results.
And that is why everyone wants her to shut the hell up. Yahoo worked out that to follow Gwyneth’s diet, you’d have to fork out about $200-300 a day – or the entire salary of a minimum wage worker in America. While Almond milk, gluten free flour and duck eggs wont break the bank for Paltrow and her insanely wealthy husband Chris Martin, 99.9999% of the rest of the planet would have to take out a second mortgage just to get to lunch.
Tall, blond, skinny and astronomically successful celebrities live lives almost no one can imagine. They get what they want, when they want and however they want it. If Gwyneth Paltrow wants roast quail eggs served on gluten free, hand crafted bread from Guatemala, covered in truffle oil, that’s exactly what she’ll get. She has a lifestyle people resent, particularly given today’s tumultuous economic times. While Paltrow wouldn’t bat an eyelid spending $25 on manuka honey, most people have to budget money for meals days in advance. Not that it’s Paltrow’s fault. There is no need to begrudge rich people their money, but we don’t need to hear how wonderfully balanced their lives are because of ludicrously expensive eating habits and personal fitness gurus.
Gwyneth is enjoying a hybrid method of dancing and yoga, and is having her family cut out pasta and chicken. Great for her.
We just don’t need to hear about it.
UPDATE: A reader has correctly pointed out that there is medical evidence that some people are genuinely gluten intolerant (people with celiac disease for example). My broader point remains though, that there is a lot of disinformation about gluten, and much contradictory evidence that it is harmful to the broad population. The peer reviewed Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsreleased a comprehensive report that stated:
Despite the health claims for gluten-free eating, there is no published experimental evidence to support such claims for the general population. In fact, there are data to suggest that gluten itself may provide some health beneﬁts, and that gluten avoidance may not be justiﬁed for otherwise healthy individuals.
The PDF report can be downloaded here.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.