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.