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The Healthy Skeptic: Celebrity Diet Secrets

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The fact that we’re in the year 2006 and people still think that there are some “secrets” to dieting – and that celebrities somehow have access to a vault of classified information about how to lose weight – depresses me.

It’s sad that so many people still think that there is a mystery to losing weight that is deeper than just taking in fewer calories than you use.

And if it weren’t so tragic it would be funny that people buy celebrity diet and fitness books in their quest to lose weight and get fit. What indication have we had that we should do ANYTHING in our everyday lives that celebrities do? I guess this has something to do with our society’s growing obsession with all things celebrity, which is another topic for another writer.

Well, here’s the secret – and it’s a biggie – THERE ARE NO SECRETS WHEN IT COMES TO DIET. And the same goes for exercise, but I’ll get to that issue another time.

To show you how silly celebrity diets are, let’s look at the example set by Lindsay Lohan. On the cover of the January 16 edition of US Weekly magazine we’re told we’re going to get the diet secrets of Lindsay, J. Lo and others. Lindsay’s secrets include eating five, small snacky meals a day – stuff like granola and veggie sticks – along with some old standards like oatmeal for breakfast, chicken at midday and fish and veggies for dinner. Miss Lohan – we’re told – gets her “bikini bod” by doing 250 crunches a week and hits the treadmill. Okay…

Meanwhile, over in Star Magazine, also dated January 16, we’re told that Lindsay says she had been using drugs and had a problem with bulimia, and that while Lindsay and her publicist were telling people Lindsay was working out with a trainer and eating anything she wanted, she really “was making herself sick.”

Do you think she’ll parlay this into a “Lose Weight and Look Great With Bulimia and Drugs” diet book?

The point of this is not to make fun of me because I read both US Weekly and Star Magazine, but to illustrate that when it comes to celebrities and what they tell us about how they take care of themselves you can’t believe one word of what they say.

How do we know what these celebrities do? Drugs, alcoholism, cosmetic surgery, anorexia, and bulimia are all very popular in the world of celebrities. All of these activities can help to make/keep you thin. Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially if it’s a celebrity diet/exercise book, or an in-the-flesh celebrity.

And even if a celebrity leads a “clean life”, they have the time and resources to devote to their pursuit of health that most of us can only dream about. Looking good is their number one priority, part of their job. In my almost 20 years in the business only the “super-rich” can devote the same kind of effort to looking good as do celebrities.

We’ve had a lot of nonsense foisted upon us as a result of this obsession with celebrity fitness methods. Have you ever seen one of these celebrity fitness “gurus” who recommend that you have to sit down and write a commitment to yourself or who wants you to complete a self-assessment survey? I just saw a recent item where one of these guys wants people to come up with a personal fitness mantra, something simple like “just do it” that you repeat to yourself when times are tough. This kind of mental mumbo jumbo is just a waste of time.

The best example of a celebrity fitness expert to avoid is Oprah Winfrey’s personal trainer Bob Greene. Mr. Greene has written a series of books and has capitalized on his position as a member of Ms. Winfrey’s stable of diet and exercise gurus. At the time Greene’s book – Get With The Program – was published, the only credential he had was the affiliation with Winfrey.

When it comes to fitness, the term “best-selling author” especially when used in reference to Bob Greene, is indicative of nothing. Greene’s first book, Make the Connection, was a bestseller and I guess somehow solidified his “rep” as a “fitness guru.” After reading Get With the Program, the only way that I would read anything else by Bob Greene is if it would help me to avoid painful surgery to my nether regions.

The Get With the Program program consists of every touchy-feely, get-in-touch-with-your-feelings, make a commitment to yourself nonsense that will do nothing for you. You will waste time and be needlessly confused as a result of reading this book.

If someone is drowning you grab them by the neck and pull them to safety, you don’t ask them why they can’t swim or how they feel about not being able to swim.

Bob actually gives you homework! There are thirteen written exercises that deal with issues from “what makes you happy” to “how you triumphed over obstacles,” a “Happiness Journal,” and a ‘Final Essay.” And nowhere in the book does it mention if Greene is qualified to assess people from a psychological standpoint.

From an exercise program design standpoint, this program is substandard, and the illustrations of the exercises that are in this program are frequently incorrect. Anyone – who as Greene does – makes the incorrect assertion that sit-ups are bad because they place “unnecessary stress on the back,” and the ludicrous assessment that swimming is not an optimal aerobic exercise, should not be considered an expert. You should avoid this book and anything that this guy does.

But the fact remains that this guy is considered an expert because of his affiliation with Oprah. And I haven’t heard anyone question this guy on the subject of where he was when Winfrey was yo-yoing up and down with her weight. Was his program in place when she was heavy?

We have all been the victims of a shell game here. “Eat all protein!” “No, eat all carbs!” “No, my expert says don’t eat anything with a face!” “Don’t cook your food, my guy says!” “This girl with a great body who was on the Today Show said eat 13 small portions a day!” “Cool mountain spring water and a stuffed cabbage daily will help you stave off the aging process!” “Don’t eat carrots or fruit because there’s too much sugar in them.” Oy vey…

After 20 years of this bleating people have lost their way, have forgotten how to eat properly. So when I tell people to eat three balanced meals per day along with one or two healthy snacks I might as well be asking them to calculate the value of Pi to 2000 places in their heads. People actually do not know what it means to eat three balanced meals. People think that a healthy choice is to eat the chicken fingers at Wendy’s or sandwiches from Subway. And these same folks are clueless when it comes to picking out healthy snacks.

If you’re anywhere from 35 years old or older, you probably grew up eating a pretty balanced diet. Things like bacon and eggs or oatmeal and toast for breakfast, a good homemade sandwich for lunch, and a roast chicken or pot roast or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner all with a vegetable or salad are all good, healthy balanced meals. Before fast food restaurants were so prevalent, and before we were told that certain foods were bad for us, people weren’t confused about what to eat and had much better eating habits as a result.

The real secret is that we need to get back to eating these kind of foods – these kinds of meals – and stop ignoring all the “experts” who have a financial stake in seeing us change our eating habits.

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About Sal Marinello

  • I agree with your article, very well written by the way, and want to add to that information that is essential to health and wellbeing. Being a Science teacher and fitness afisciano (I used to weigh 375lbs adn now maintain 135lbs) I was shocked to find that I knew nothing about how cells communicate and therefore regulate every process in the body. We were teaching kids about amino acids and protein, but in actuality, several Nobel Prizes in Medicine, beginning in 1999 are about the discovery of how cells DO communicate. I researched and found myself uninformed. But, now I have been enlightened, and wish to share this with others.
    Our bodies need 8 monosaccharide sugars to form the alphabet of cellular communication. On each cell in our body there are protein and carbohydrate strands called glycoproteins that are the forms whereby cells share information about their status. These sugar codes tell the immune system where to locate and dispose of foreign invaders, to kill cancer tumors, to nourish and fix cells, etc. I was amazed. It is the fundamentals of what this article that Sal wrote. We do not have these 8 sugars in our modern day diet, so we have to supplement them. Go to http://www.cellstoskin.com and educate yourself.