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Does Gwyneth Paltrow have an Eating Disorder?The Normalisation of Orthorexia Nervosa.

One of my MOST popular videos this year on socials have been about the frankly, shocking, podcast interview that Gwyneth Paltrow gave about her diet, eating habits, and exercise routine. In fact on YouTube, my video has had more views than the original interview!

It’s had you flooding to my inbox asking me, “does Gwyneth Paltrow have an Eating disorder?”, and with good reason!

So let’s take 5 today together to explore whether Gwyneth Paltrow engages in disordered eating, and, more importantly, if her comments could be deemed dangerous. 

First, let’s take a moment to discuss one of the lesser-known forms of disordered eating - Orthorexia Nervosa. A recently coined term in 1997, Orthorexia Nervosa is disordered eating categorised by an obsession with “healthiness”.

Symptoms aligned with Orthorexia include cutting out significant amounts of foods or even whole food groups in an attempt to have the “cleanest” or “purest” diet possible, the development of damaging food “rules” often based on pseudoscience or fear, intrusive thoughts on ones diet, labelling foods as “good” and “bad”, and experiencing significant guilt and shame if “bad” foods are consumed. We also see weight loss, fatigue, low mood, low energy levels, a weakened immune system, and poor concentration. Outside of food, there may also be an extreme focus on perfectionism in other areas of life, including academia, career, or sports and exercise. 

Why do symptoms of Orthorexia develop? The same as any other Eating Disorder, as a coping mode to attempt to deal with unprocessed trauma! Orthorexia can give us the illusion that if we reach a type of perfection, we will finally be safe from the trauma and adversity we have experienced, that we will be finally given, or be able to accept the love and compassion we so desperately need. 

Problematically, symptoms of Orthorexia have become normalised, even socially acceptable within toxic health and wellness circles, with influencers and celebrities touting incredibly disordered eating as the pinnacle of health. Enter, the recent Gwyneth Paltrow interview.

Let’s break down four of the most significant disordered eating comments from this interview; ‘intermittent fasting’, ‘peleo’, and ‘detoxing’, and daily exercise on a low calorie diet.

Let’s start with intermittent fasting. This is a whole video in itself, and if when you’re watching this my video on it is live I will pop the link below for you! Intermittent fasting is an incredibly tricky and contraversial topic, but the reality is that it only works for some groups of people, and only if undertaken correctly. As an Eating Disorder specalist, I see a significant number of people in the celebrity space masking significant restrictive eating behaviours under the guise of ‘intermittent fasting’. This is a very good example of that, where we don’t really see Gwyneth at any point actually properly break that fast with an appropriate volume of nutrition in her day. Instead we see liquids replacing meals, coffee, soup, bone broth; then only one meal in her day of vegetables and perhaps some meat for a very early evening meal. This isn’t intermittent fasting, this is a severely restrictive diet, and absolutely disordered eating.

As an aside, intermittent fasting done incorrectly can also be the starting point for many struggling with Bulimia Nervosa, with the “fast” being their period of purging before or after binging. 

Paelo, detoxing, oh dear. Fad diets have been around for a very long time, with some significant diet culture being seen as far back as the Victorian era here in the U.K. I’ll link below a great website which details a number of ridiculous and dangerous diets throughout the decades. The reality is, any diet which encourages you to cut out whole food groups for non-medical reasons, or adopt bizarre food rules based on pseudo science will absolutely result in disordered eating. Gwyneths diet has extremely poor variety and nutritional density. This can quickly lead to a host of psychological and physical problems very quickly, and can end in severe malnourishment and slipping into Anorexia Nervosa. As a gentle reminder, your body naturally detoxes itself in a number of different ways, and it will be even more efficient in doing so by eating a variety of foods at a volume which honours your body and lifestyle. 

Finally the one that most people missed; exercising on a low calorie diet. Gwyneth slips into conversation that she exercises every day in a variety of ways; walking, pilates. This I have no issue with, in fact, I love that she’s mixing it up day to day. Listening to our bodies needs is super essential when it comes to choosing movement, and essential for those of us who are a menstrual age when syncing our movement with our cycle. I’d like to add here that napping is a great sport on your period! But engaging in daily exercise whilst on an extremely low calorie diet is outright purging. If we don’t even consume enough to fuel our day, by exercising we are simply purging the little calorie stores that we have.

I’m not here to rip apart Gwyneth, anyone struggling with disordered eating deserves compassion in my eyes. But from an empathic accountability perspective, I don’t like how she uses her extremely influential and privileged platform to spread often dangerous fad diets, trends, and misinformation.

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