Photographed by Yosra El-Essawy
Disclaimer number one:
Friday is a weekly, free glossy magazine in Switzerland. You can usually pick it up at bus stops and train stations. While I enjoy the idea of having a very “lightweight” magazine to read on the train (it is by the same publisher as 20 Minutes a daily free paper that’s supposed to bring you all the news in less than 20 minutes) I think that it takes itself a little too seriously. They even have an “in/out” section which I think is pretty pretentious since –when talking about fashion issues- not even the Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, who are arguably the most influential and knowledgeable magazines in this area of expertise, have such a thing (as far as I know of).
In the beginning of May Friday published an article that ran over three sides criticizing Gwyneth Paltrow’s every lifestyle choice. Her picture was on the title page with the title reading “Gwyneth turns into object of hatred”.
Disclaimer number two:
I do realize that being in the public eye or in other words being a so-called celebrity does imply that there is a certain image to be upheld. In that sense I guess that even the most genuine seeming ‘celebrities’ have an idea of how they want to be perceived by the public eye. So when I’m saying that Gwyneth Paltrow seems totally honest and genuine I do mean that to be read with a grain of salt.
Disclaimer number three:
I am a (sometimes more, sometimes less slightly) overweight chocolate-lover who does not get too much enjoyment out of any kind of exercise (unless it involves dance). So I’m definitely in no position to judge on what is a healthy lifestyle or not. However, I do think that my opinion on this is as valid as anybody’s and if a Swiss magazine can make a title story out of their opinion on this matter than I might as well be entitled to write this little rant that nobody is expected to read or agree with. There.
(I would really like it if you read it, though. If you don’t mind. Thank you.)
I think that our society is going through a rather healthy process of changing the standards of beauty. Skinny supermodels are generally being blamed for living unhealthily and conveying a dangerous lifestyle to young girls. I agree. However, I’m not so sure I like the direction quite so much, in which the pendulum seems to swing.
In the same issue of Friday, which harshly criticizes Miss Paltrow’s overly healthy lifestyle choices, we can read about how Kim Kardashian eats whatever she wants. And—interestingly this is not surprising anymore—receives applause for that statement and the choices it is based on. The small article is accompanied by a picture before which’s taking Miss Kardashian’s staff obviously managed to squeeze her full body into a tight, bright green dress with only her legs and her armpit-fat breaking out.
Now while I applaud curves, this body does not look even remotely healthy. However, Miss Kardashian’s choices are justified by a certain concept of ‘freedom’. We are free to do whatever we want with our bodies. Therefore continually putting crap into it is a choice that needs to be accepted and even honored. Now this poses two problems to me.
Firstly, and very basically, if one is being acknowledged for treating the body however one wants to in an unhealthy way, it seems to be deemed strong, independent and totally acceptable. However, when Miss Paltrow decides to apply that same freedom to what she does with her body in a healthy way she gets bashed.
Secondly, only because we are free to do certain things does not always mean that we should do them (Nazi Germany anyone?). This probably seems obvious to most of us when applied to life in general. Just because you can go up to every person on the street and paint their foreheads with purple colored Nutella and put green sprinkles on top doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to do so. But as soon as it comes to our bodies we take on an attitude of “I do whatever I want and nobody can advise me to do otherwise”, which brings me to my next point.
We live in a society of complete excess; I think that doesn’t need much proving. We can choose from as many options of cereal as we can of health insurance or religion. Choices are vast and we are encouraged to explore life to the fullest. Try different cereals, visit as many places as you can try every drug there is (this might not be officially approved advice but never mind).
It appears to me that ‘constraint’ is a horrible word in today’s society. It seems unhealthy that one would constrain oneself in a society where one can have one’s cake and eat it too. The concept of moderation has completely been lost (and I count myself in the lines of the biggest offenders). So seeing a beautiful woman who limits her own life –seemingly by choice- instead of making use of life’s full supply seems not only unnatural but she is hard to understand.
Here are a few arguments for why I think a life that applies certain moderations is a healthy and more fulfilling life (not to say that I’ve managed to do this myself).
Fist of all it seems to me that a large part of our society is becoming more and more aware of (and interested in) the volatile-ness of the body. We seek spiritual enlightenment and think about what happens after death. The body is seen as a cage that ties us down, that limits us and it is the first thing we leave behind as soon as we (if we do at all) depart from this life. It is a consumer good (there is this fabulous German word of “Verbrauchsgegenstand” which litteraly translates to usage-/ wasting item having more negative connotations than simply “to consume”). Therefore not too much focus should be put on the body or one should even try to distance oneself from it.
I agree with this in certain parts (mainly because I wrote it). But I also see the body as an enabler. It is the only way I can exist on this earth right now (as far as I know). And since I would like to stay here for a little while longer—because, quite frankly, I’m having a lot of fun—why shouldn’t I try treating it as well as possible? Why shouldn’t I try to get my body to a state in which it can serve me best? From this point of view I think that a healthy lifestyle is probably not the dumbest idea, even if it includes certain constraints.
Finally, the number one reason why admire Miss Paltrow is that she does not pretend her body is simply a product of freaking awesome genes. It has gotten so standard for supermodels posting super disgusting pictures of themselves with fast-food and talking super excessively about how they just eat whatever they want to eat. I mean, come on!!! Sure, nobody wants to seem like a party pooper and if you have to starve yourself to confirm to a certain ideal, that’s just sad. But then again what good do you think it’ll do telling us regularly-shaped women that that fab body of yours just comes to you naturally? Don’t you think it is extremely frustrating to exercise a little and eat a bit of healthy food only to realize that you’re still three times the size of those girls who claim they don’t have to make any deductions from their enjoyments? Also, nobody is going to believe you when you say that your abs are natural too. Just stuff your freaking pie hole with exactly that and let’s see what happens.
So I actually think it is very refreshing to see a woman who admits to her struggles with a healthy lifestyle. Miss Paltrow seems genuinely interested in making her body the healthiest possible (which—nice side effect—includes making it freaking gorgeous). She communicates how hard it can be to exercise regularly and watch what she’s eating. She admits to her insecurities and to the fact that she doesn’t always have the strength to go through with it and allows herself a few weak moments. But I would also like to add that calling her life “completely fun-less” is simply stupid. Why can’t moderation be happiness? As soon as one limits oneself, accusations of not enjoying life start bubbling up. But there can be enjoyment in making one’s body the best it can be (I’m sure there is I just haven’t quite found it yet…). Have you ever tried the Tracy Anderson workout by which Paltrow swears? It’s actually pretty fun(ny)!
Miss Paltrow even mentions in her newest cook book that she is trying to make healthy food interesting and fun. Doesn’t sound too horrible to me!
I think it is admirable to see a woman work so hard for something she deems important. We don’t necessarily have to apply that to body-image only. It shows a great deal of willpower to me, which has never hurt anybody (well, Nazi Germany might be about the best worst example to disapprove of my statement…)
Also, bashing her blog? Come one, have you read the thing? Goop.com is one of my most-visited websites. Even if you only go there for the travel tips: I have visited quite a few fabulous little restaurants, bars, museums and even a manicure place in New York City that were specifically recommended by Miss Paltrow and her team and I do not regret a single one of those visits.
Also, if you’d do your research properly you’d discover that there are multiple semi-healthy (and even straight out unhealthy!) recipes such as Pizza, Chicken Burger and meatballs on said blog. Doesn’t seem to me like Miss Paltrow is trying to promote a lifestyle of complete restraint.
When she recommends “an epic dessert called ‘The Barbara’ (a brownie with an ice cream sundae on top)“, I can’t help but feel like she knows how to treat herself to something really special every now and then.
And if you claim that she only says all this to make her image seem less unlikeable, then you’re defying your whole argument. Because if you think that she portrays a lifestyle that is too strict then the portraying of it does include everything that is untrue in your eyes as well. So then if she only says that she eats junk food maybe she’s lying about the exercising six times a week as well. Judge by one standard please; if that standard is what Miss Paltrow says about herself then please include everything that she says.
And to say that she has got to be bored if she has that much time on her hands to worry about her nutrition then I would just like to point out that we (including myself) must be even more bored because we write and read and discuss articles that are concerned with what OTHER people do to/ with their bodies. Think about it…
To end I would like to state that me and my brother too, didn’t get to drink Coke when we were little. Maybe the exceptional Sprite or an apple spritzer but that was it. And we turned out perfectly fine, no lasting damage… (A response to the outraged comments about how Miss Paltrow includes her kids in her ‘diet’ and doesn’t let them drink Coke…)
And finally, here’s a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow herself: „My philosophy is: eat good, fresh food that is totally delicious. It has to taste great and be fulfilling to all of the senses.“
I had pizza with salame, cipolle e gorgonzola for lunch. Got the little pizza-bread for free. Doesn’t make sense to me to get an extra pizza with pizza (you don’t get it with sandwiches etc). Then a bird pooped on me. Luckily my pizza was save.