20 July, 2024
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Celebrity diet advice should be consumed with a truckload of salt


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The Harper’s Bazaar web series Everything (insert celebrity) Eats in a Day is the latest vessel for inexpert celeb dietary advice.

The series features celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, American model Martha Hunt and Canadian actress Nina Dobrev detailing their ultra-clean, albeit restrictive meals.

Dr Sara Grafenauer, associate professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of NSW and board director of Nutrition Australia, underlines the influence celebrities have on nutrition.

“Celebrities have a massive influence over people’s food choices, as food is about belief systems. When dieticians talk about it, we sound boring and very controlled,” she said.

“A lot of what people do is based on beliefs, or what they have seen another person achieve.”

Embodying the thin, Western female beauty standard is an achievement modern society idolises. When viewers see a thin and attractive star detailing a calorie-deficient diet there is a big incentive to mirror their eating habits. Imitating these restrictive diets poses the larger threat of developing an eating disorder.

This predicament is exemplified in actress and dancer Julianne Hough’s edition of What I Eat In A Day”.

Julianne preps her lemon and water the night before. Photo: Shutterstock

Hough begins her day drinking water with lemon she prepared the night before. Then she takes an amino acid capsule to give energy for her workout.

Dr Grafenauer outlines the problematic nature of Hough’s morning routine. “She is giving a lot of non-evidenced based information, such as leading you to believe amino acid capsules are a source of energy and they … are not.”

Without any mention of breakfast, Hough goes on to detail lunch, which consists of a butternut squash soup with carrot, prepared the Ayurvedic way. This is partnered with an asparagus, broccolini, radish, beetroot, spinach salad with ginger on top. For dressing, she uses apple cider vinegar.

The low energy content of this meal raises concerns for Dr Grafenauer.

“Essentially, she is fasting until lunch, then consuming a low-calorie meal with no protein or fats,” Dr Grafenauer said.

“People often use low calorie vegetables like radishes which have heightened flavour which help with satiety.”

For dinner Hough says she usually eats moong dal, a simple Indian dish of skinned mung beans cooked in plain water with onions, tomato and a variety of spices. She pairs this dish with asparagus, sweet potato, ginger and greens.

According to Dr Grafenauer, Hough’s daily energy intake is below the recommended level for a woman whose profession is highly active:

‘She is walking a tightrope’

“Dancers are often at risk of not having enough energy intake. She is walking that tightrope of being on a low energy diet where it can impact bone health and fertility,” she said.

“Hough exhibits a pathological eating attitude which generates a nutritionally unbalanced diet, where foods are eliminated based on an assumed impurity. The celebrity worship which permeates modern society puts individuals at risk of copying her diet, without guidance from an accredited dietician.

“The National Eating Disorders Collaboration, using statistics from eating-disorder studies, points to the alarming increase since the late 1990s of strict dieting, binge eating, and other behavioural and cognitive eating disorder symptoms.

“Our exposure to toxic wellness diets has contributed to unhealthy attitudes regarding eating and weight.

Harper’s Bazaar is adding to dietary overload without including professional responses from accredited dieticians or nutritionists. This leads to platforms flaunting glamorous celebrities instead of experts.”

Given the nature of popular culture, Dr Grafenauer’s crusade against celebrity-driven eating disorders isn’t likely to end anytime soon.

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