Celebrity Diet Nonsense

Not pictured: a filling breakfast.

Does being “strong” mean depriving myself of carbohydrates and spending no less than three hours every day at the gym? If so, no thanks.

In an interview last week for The Cut, Bernadette Peters made some absurd statements about how she eats to stay in shape. “It turns out there's no shortcut,” The Cut notes, “just a lifetime of exercise and extremely healthy eating” — except if you keep reading, you’ll see this relationship with food doesn’t sound healthy at all.

“Lately, I’ve gone back to coffee,” the two-time Tony-winning actress begins the interview, as if she’s admitting to something utterly scandalous. She goes on to share that her typical breakfast consists of “three little smiles” of grapefruit and a spoonful of hemp powder.

This — which is all of about 50 calories — is fuel for a morning trip to the gym.

From there, it only gets worse. No carbs. Crackers are Satan. Boiled potatoes are only fit for dogs. As one commenter says, she sounds obsessed with food — as if she thinks about it all the time, but doesn’t eat it. Insert sad emoticon here.

It makes me sad, because I used to live this way too. In my early-to-mid-20s, I was all about “clean” eating — until I gave up obsessing over food and learned to eat whatever I want. Spoiler alert: I’m probably six pounds heavier, but I’m also a ton happier.

Still, I live in a culture obsessed with youth and thinness, and I’m not getting any younger. It can sometimes be tempting to return to my old obsessive ways — especially when I stumble upon interviews like this.

Of course, Peters isn’t the first celebrity to share her “healthy” eating habits that are actually anything but. Earlier this month, Jennifer Lopez told the Australian news and entertainment website news.com.au how she keeps in shape at 46. Lopez says, “There’s nothing crazy that I do or eat, nothing out of the ordinary,” going on to encourage people to “eat for power and for what you need.” Now that’s advice that I can get behind!

But then why, in March of last year, did Lopez share a food diary she claimed is hers — whose daily total comes to less than 1400 calories? At her weight, age, height, and ostensibly extra-active lifestyle, she ought to be eating nearly twice that. Not exactly empowering.

Then there’s Kate Hudson, whose active wear-clad image is, for some reason, all over my Facebook timeline. Hudson is another celebrity whose body I admittedly find enviable. She's around my age, and I have to wonder how she eats to stay in such great shape. According to an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Hudson eats “everything in moderation” — but then goes on to admit that she doesn’t eat meat, dairy, or gluten, and that she stays away from sugar. In another piece, she’s quoted as saying she “can’t remember the last time [she] ate a steak.” (As I write this, a flank steak is happily marinating in my fridge.)

Sure, there are legitimate health reasons to eschew gluten, including and beyond celiac disease. But any supposed health benefits of the high-alkaline diet Hudson prescribes are totally unproven. Experts say that, regardless of what foods are “allowed” and “not allowed,” diets work because cutting out certain foods results in caloric deprivation, resulting in weight loss. Until it doesn’t.

Speaking of deprivation, I want to pick on Khloe Kardashian. I want to pick on her mostly because her diet book, Strong Looks Better Naked, is a New York Times bestseller. I wrote a manuscript that was a finalist for an important literary award this time last year, and I still have no book contract. So I’m a bit bitter.

But OK, let’s focus instead on her diet. According to The Daily Mail, the “formerly fat Kardashian” snacks on apples and has steamed vegetables for dinner. Apples and steamed vegetables, huh? That’s it? Where’s the protein?

Kardashian’s another one of these celebrities who claims to eat “clean” — igniting my long-conditioned fear that eating a little white rice would somehow be “dirty.” I mean, good on her for losing weight, seeing as it was her goal. But personally, I’ve got things to do and think about besides a number on a scale (such as my ambitions to get that book published).

I want to be accomplished professionally. I also want to be strong. Does being “strong” mean depriving myself of carbohydrates and spending no less than three hours every day at the gym, as Kardashian suggests? If so, no thanks.

The diets celebrities suggest are unrealistic — and in all likelihood, fictional. If you dig just a little, the information is contradictory. In the Daily Mail piece, for example, it says Kardashian ends her day with a bowl of fruit and yogurt. So how come this article says she lost all the weight by cutting out all dairy?

Better question: Why are we talking about this at all?

We’re talking about four accomplished women here — yes, even Khloe Kardashian — and yet all the people interviewing them want to talk about is how they look and what they (don’t) eat. In this media climate, it’s no wonder I sometimes lose all sight of my interests, hobbies, and professional ambitions, becoming preoccupied instead by what it might take to maintain a certain number on a scale.

Maybe Peters is as zen as she claims to be in the rest of that interview. Or maybe she ought to relax, eat whatever she truly wants to, and not worry so much about food.

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