Monday, February 11, 2013

"How many avocadoes is too many avocadoes a week?"

By Hariadhi, via Wikimedia Commons

A certain long-limbed, cleanse-inclined Ms. Paltrow has, with the help of her anti-flab guru Tracy Anderson, offered the general, "GOOP"-reading public helpful advice (via) for cultivating an eating disorder, or at least a time-consuming eating-related neurosis. Gwynnieness (to be distinguished from the more plebeian skinniness) involves replacing food with powder (advises Anderson: "Powders are a great way to add protein to your diet without all the potentially harmful effects of some protein sources.") and cultivating "feminine muscles," which is not what it sounds like.

To be fair, all of the advice in the post makes sense if you are, in fact, Gwyneth Paltrow. If your immense fame and fortune rest largely on your physical appearance, if you are of the caste that paparazzi photograph from the back and in unflattering light, then yes, you have a good reason to care what every square inch of your body looks like. There's nothing irrational or disordered about Paltrow micromanaging her physique. A (charmingly misspelled) question such as this one Paltrow asks Anderson, "How many avocadoes is too many avocadoes a week?," is perfectly sensible if you happen to be a movie star not as young as you once were, and unsure at which exact avocado threshold your metabolism will full-on collapse, turning you into some Gwyneth-like woman, but of a different size.

Ordinary women, however, just might be wasting their time and energy. I'm not sure what the real-world benefit is meant to be to having ever-so-slightly smaller muscles than the ones developed from running. (This is kind of French, though - the idea that women who work out look too muscular - but they, yes, I of course speak for all the French, despite not being French, advise leisure and small portions of excellent food, not special workouts designed to cultivate rock-hard yet slender thighs.) But no one's looking so closely. In professional and social settings, people tend to meet one another fully-clothed. And when it comes to more intimate situations, grown men tend to have seen other grown women undressed before. If straight men were really as revolted by cellulite as the Anti-Cellulite Industry would have us believe, they'd all have to fight over the three women who don't have it, or switch sexual orientation.

But if neo-aerobics do it for you, by all means. It's really the diet advice I find unsettling. Escapist fluff aimed at women - some of my favorite sources of procrastination - somehow always must include tips on how to not eat anything, ever. The tips are not aimed primarily at women who would receive either health or societal benefits from losing weight. They're directed at women who in no way "need" to lose weight (quotes because whether anyone does is another story). While this might lead us to think, first-world problems, thin-privilege, etc., this is significant because it points to a more general expectation that a woman's physical appearance be a continual work-in-progress.

9 comments:

  1. Tracy Anderson is an idiot. It's maddening. Loved the "Weight-Think" post as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeahhhh, Tracy Anderson is a weird one. I came across the infomercial for her "system" late at night long before it was being sold in stores and it seemed a little...gimmicky. And then there's that whole incident where she body shamed Gwyneth by making her take her clothes off and telling her she was "shocked" because she looked so great in clothes. (And why either of them is publicly recounting that incident is beyond me.) Basically, lady is off her rocker.

    ~Mary

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cameo, Mary,

    Yes, Anderson does seem like quite the character. I haven't liked the part of the backlash she's received that amounts to criticism, in turn, of her looks. But I suppose that comes with the territory, if one is claiming to be able to make women the height of physical perfection.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's painful because sometimes I catch myself believing, wishing, desiring to try to do and be something like that. But then it clicks-- I am not Gwenyth Paltrow. Haha! I think it's another cringe-worthy symptom of capitalistic individualism, manifested in a woman's body. But because of their influence as celebrities, their madness is asserted as something we should all strive for..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It's painful because sometimes I catch myself believing, wishing, desiring to try to do and be something like that." I think many - most? - women do, which is why things like this are a problem. It can be difficult to step out of the question of how one would go about having a perfect (whichever feature), and begin addressing why that would matter, what would even tangibly change in one's life if whichever feature were entirely flawless. It's probably easier, on average, the older one gets, but this can plague women of all ages.

      Delete
    2. While it was a terrible experience for the person in question, I'm actually quite grateful to have seen in my own life that losing weight can often do sweet bippy to make you happier. A male friend of mine had been overweight for many years, and was convinced this was why he was single. He eventually lost a LOT of weight, and slimmed right down - but he was still single. Turns out it was actually his personality, not his belly that had kept women away all those years.

      Delete
  5. Rosie Waterland, a fellow Australian, had some fascinating things to say about the expectation that women always be working on their weight, particularly bigger women. She put forward the idea that bigger women were only tolerated so long as they were seen to be "doing something about it," and I'm a bit alarmed to see just how far down the weight scale this thinking persists.
    Anyway, if you want to read her thoughts, they're here.
    http://rosiewaterland.com/2013/01/25/why-im-not-trying-to-lose-weight/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That looks interesting - there's a lot to be said for accepting that there are only so many hours in the day, and tasks more worthwhile than altering one's build. What I find baffling, though, is the extent to which women who are in no way "bigger" are expected to be on this permanent quest for physical self-improvement. Not of course that it's OK to expect this of bigger women - it's just not inexplicable - there are social (anti-overweight discrimination) as well as possible (although this is contested) medical benefits for certain women if they lose weight. Again, it's not good, but it's not baffling. Whereas for women who are already slim, why is there so much pressure to be an ounce slimmer, or more "firm," or to have a "clean" diet, etc.? A *huge* amount of the beauty industry is devoted less to "helping" women make changes that would actually in some meaningful way change their lives, but rather to making sure that no woman can ever just leave well enough alone.

      Delete
  6. To explain this, imagine a room filled completely from top to bottom with How To Get Rid Of Cellulitebaseballs, which will represent fat cells, and the ceiling is a tight sheet of plastic wrap. Now imagine that instantly .

    ReplyDelete