There are many emotions I expect to feel after reading one of Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP newsletters: annoyance and frustration are a few that spring to mind. But after reading her most recent GOOP, I found myself feeling something else: sympathy.
Let me just start by saying this: I am really fucking sick of hearing about what Gwyneth Paltrow does or does not eat. I was sick of it 10 years ago, when every Paltrow-related conversation would come back to her infamously strict macrobiotic diet. Example: "Did you see The Royal Tenenbaums?" "I did! Gwyneth Paltrow was great." "OMG, did you know she only eats like, a scoop of brown rice for dinner?!" And...scene.
With GOOP, Paltrow is attempting to position herself as a lifestyle expert of sorts, an Academy Award winning Martha Stewart who balances her career, children, and life as a rock star's wife through various means of making, doing, going, getting, and being. Last year, she admitted that she was no longer macrobiotic and enjoyed fried foods, and the entire internet flipped its shit on a level akin to if she had announced that she was really a Boglobhar from the planet Xernon and she had come to destroy us all. The Paltrow image; that of a woman so controlling that she only allowed herself a cup of brown rice as a meal, had been shattered, and people weren't really sure how to deal with it.
But why do we give such a shit about what Gwyneth Paltrow eats? Or about what any celebrity eats? The truth is that we're not looking to them to provide dietary instruction as a means to bolster our own health: we're looking to them to tell us what to eat because we're buying into their physical image and see their dietary plans not as lifestyles pushed by an industry that celebrates and pushes unrealistic standards, but as a path to suddenly become super-thin, flawless-skinned celebrities ourselves. 9 times out of 10, people aren't following Gwyneth Paltrow's diet plans because they want to "nourish the inner aspect"—they're following her plans because she's movie-star thin and represents a white, blonde, thin, "aspirational" image that has been pushed by Hollywood for decades.
But I'm not sure that Paltrow herself recognizes this, which is why I felt a bit sympathetic after reading her most recent missive, which detailed the diet and exercise plan she underwent in order to get in shape to reprise her role as Pepper Potts in Iron Man 2. Under the guidance of her personal trainer, Tracy Anderson, Paltrow presents a workout and nutrition regimen that somewhat encapsulates the Hollywood idea of healthy living: an hour and a half workout per day, fueled by a borderline starvation diet that centers around kale juice and fresh vegetables.
Paltrow, I'm sure, as someone who has been in the industry for the majority of her life (was born into it, really), views this as a reasonable and practical means of getting in shape quick, as its standard Hollywood procedure. She probably thinks she really is helping people by publishing it, and I think she might be, but not in the way she expected: if nothing else, she's showing the general public the insane routines actresses go through to get those red carpet-ready looks. But it's also slightly irresponsible, in many ways, to push a 5-day extreme exercise and diet plan on the general public. Much like celebrities who promote fasts and flushes (including Paltrow) it shows little insight into the notion that taking control of one's nutritional intake is a lifestyle overhaul, and not a 5-day juice-fueled quick fix. Paltrow does note that readers should contact their physicians before undergoing any type of diet or exercise plan, but maybe, instead, she should consider that promoting what is essentially a crash diet isn't the best way to encourage her readers to nourish their inner aspects.
In the end, it's best if we stop looking to celebrities to play dietician for the rest of us: it's not just that they live in a world with personal trainers and private chefs at their beck and call, but they also come from a world where the extreme becomes the ordinary, and perhaps, along the way, they forget how to separate the two.