Us Weekly uses language of disaster to discuss celebrity food choices

I’m a big supporter of healthy nutrition habits, but Us Weekly may not agree with me.

I know I feel better and have more energy for the things I love to do when I’m eating a good balance of whole, natural foods. I also don’t argue with the fact that it’s important to know what the food you’re eating offers your body, which can help you make informed decisions about snacks and meals.

But I also love treats! Sometimes a treat comes in the form of a cookie or a piece of cake, and sometimes it comes in the form of something extra salty – and I know that it’s OK to eat these delicious bites.

More importantly, I know that if I treat myself to something, it’s not the end of the world and I’m not going to be punished by the food goddesses for having fried rice for dinner or a cookie sundae for dessert one night.

But I definitely don’t take my food advice from Us Weekly, which devotes considerable page and web site space to the “best diets” that celebrities are on, as well as to the bodies that they deem are best. And most recently, in their January 23, 2012 issue, they took on the task of instructing readers what they should order when they’re eating out (with the help of well-known nutritionist Joy Bauer).

Conceptually, this isn’t a bad idea – helping diners determine what the healthy food options are when they’re scanning menus. But as we know, presentation, wording, and tone make a big difference – and in these respects, Us Weekly is joining the ranks of other media outlets using loaded terminology to tell you that you’re failing or should be a bit embarrassed about your eating habits. They tell us what to order by telling us what mistakes celebrities made when they were eating out.

Example 1: In detailing what Christina Aguilera ate at a Chinese restaurant, Bauer exclaims, “lobster fried rice and taro puff lollipops cost her 1,075 calories!” First of all, I love the exclamation point – really emphasizes how terrifying this is supposed to be for the careful calorie-counter. Second of all, by saying it “cost” Aguilera to eat this, the implication is clear – that lobster fried rice really put her into some kind of debt disaster (where calories are the currency), and she will have to pay for her indulgence (again: we aren’t talking about cash).

Example 2: In ruminating over Jennifer Love Hewitt’s trip to a Mexican eatery, we are told that she really “scarfs enchiladas and tostadas, totaling 1,000 calories.” Talk about a loaded word – does “scarf” make anyone else think of an uncontrollable vacuum cleaner inhaling at warp speed? Somehow I don’t think that’s how Hewitt approached her dinner. But they’re telling us how afraid we should be of losing tight control over our food – it may lead to what we’re supposed to see as a calorie bomb.

Example 3: In what seems to be an effort to publicly shame Khloe Kardashian, it’s detailed that at a Japanese restaurant she ate “shrimp tempura and crab rolls…[which] set her back more than 920 calories.” Get ready to play catch-up in some kind of Kalorie Konquest, I guess? It’s also pointed out that “tempura is a diet disaster!” Apparently, some food choices can actually be deemed calamitous and catastrophic!

I find it interesting that a magazine that frequently takes pains to point out how often and how intensely celebrities work out (and they do, seriously, work out a lot) doesn’t mention here that if you’re burning 500 calories a day with your exercise regimen, you’re going to need to eat more.

Nutrition is incredibly important. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of what you’re consuming is great – but sending the message that you owe something, that you lack control, or that you’ve committed some kind of atrocious disaster because of your food choices is not the way to get the health messages across.

My best advice? Don’t take advice from gossip mags, but instead work with a nutritionist or doctor who knows your body type, metabolism, lifestyle, and favorite foods, who can help you make the best healthy and tasty (and special treat!) food choices.


2 thoughts on “Us Weekly uses language of disaster to discuss celebrity food choices

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  1. It really is true that it has a lot to do with how these stories and this kind of “advice” is framed. It’s important to eat right, and to exercise, and to pay attention to the kinds of foods you are eating, but not like this. Feeling like eating something is “setting you back” isn’t healthy. Great post.

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