Take celebrity diet advice with a huge grain of salt

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The Harper’s Bazaar web series Everything (insert celebrity) Eat in a day is the latest barrel of ignorant nutritional advice for celebs.

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

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

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

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

Embodying the thin, western feminine beauty standard is an achievement that modern society idolizes. When viewers see a thin and attractive star describing a low-calorie diet, there is a great incentive to reflect their eating habits. Imitating these restrictive diets poses the greater threat of developing an eating disorder.

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This predicament is illustrated in actress and dancer Julianne Hough’s edition of What I eat in a day”.

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

Hough starts her day by drinking lemon water that she prepared the night before. Then she takes an amino acid capsule to provide energy for her workout.

dr. Grafenauer outlines the problematic nature of Hough’s morning routine. “She gives a lot of non-evidence-based information, like leading you to believe that amino acid capsules are a source of energy and they are… not.”

Without mentioning the breakfast, Hough moves on to the detailed lunch, which consists of a pumpkin soup with carrot, prepared the Ayurvedic way. This is combined with an asparagus, broccolini, radish, beetroot, spinach salad with ginger on top. She uses apple cider vinegar for the dressing.

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The low energy content of this meal gives Dr. Grafenauer worries.

“Essentially, they fast until lunch and then eat a low-calorie meal with no protein or fat,” said Dr. Grafenauer.

“People often use low-calorie vegetables like radishes, which have heightened flavor and help with satiety.”

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

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

‘She’s walking on a tightrope’

“Dancers often run the risk of not getting enough energy. She’s walking the tightrope of a low-energy diet, where it can affect bone health and fertility,” she said.

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“Hough exhibits a pathological eating attitude that leads to a nutritionally unbalanced diet, where food is eliminated on the basis of a supposed impurity. The celebrity worship that permeates modern society puts individuals at risk of copying its diet, without the guidance of a licensed dietitian.

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

“Our exposure to toxic wellness diets has contributed to unhealthy attitudes toward food and weight.

Harper’s Bazaar contributes to nutrition overload without regard for professional responses from licensed dieticians or nutritionists. This leads to platforms showing off glamorous celebrities rather than experts.”

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

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