Last week, I was in London, and as usual enjoyed a sampling of the local magazines. I pawed through the newsstand, gathering as many issues as I could shove in my carry on. Two of the four magazines that made the cut included pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow, promising to reveal how she got that “amazing” body. Inside the mags, I learned that she got this “miracle figure” by “never” letting up on her workouts. I also learned about the routine that had Cameron Diaz comparing her arms to those of her pilled up lover, A-Rod. Now, let me show you what I was looking at:
Um….REALLY? THESE images are “hot”? This completely throws me off. Forgive me, but firstly, I don’t think Gwyneth or Cameron look sexy…at all. In fact, I kind of feel scared for Chris Martin. And even A-Rod. Secondly, I think that these are not just unattainable standards being set. These are dangerous standards. We all know that going to the gym is good for your body, but a line is being crossed here, right before our eyes, between normalcy and …not normalcy. These are not professional athletes training for the Olympics. These are normal people. Gwyneth and Cameron are not the only ones whose machete figures are being bombarded. The media updates us with every angle of the uber fit bodies of Jessica Biel, Madonna, Demi Moore, Kelly Rippa, Sara Jessica Parker, and a gaggle of other women suffering from gym-orexia on a regular basis. It needs to stop.
Last year, I read an article in DETAILS magazine on the perils of “gymorexia” (a real term) and its effect on men. Exercise compulsion affects all kinds of over-achievers, for whom enough is never enough, and DETAILS claimed in the article that the phenomenon is becoming more pervasive than ever. Men described in the article have their own over -strained role models, too, from Hugh Jackman to The Situation. They also share the same crippling dependency that leaves the affected feeling like a failure if they ever miss a work out.
In the DETAILS article, a sports psychologist said part of the problem is a need for control, and the other is a physical addiction. The physical addiction is to endorphins, which are likened to cocaine. Unfortunately for the addict, endorphin rushes get scarcer as the more your body gets used to getting pumped. The need for control is the crazy part. It is what gets these amazing stars and their kin to the point of working out for an hour - before their workout even began. It’s what gets them to work out 6, even 7 days a week. It’s what results in their never having alcohol with dinner (as Madonna famously proclaims), or canceling out social life altogether (how many tell “Self” magazine that they watch what they eat and stay home a lot? Think about it). It’s what gets these people out of bed at the un-Godly hour of 5 am, when it is still dark out. It’s what makes them miss out on time with family.
Why? Because if they miss a workout, they may instantly get fat. And then all those people they have abandoned will stop loving them. Or worse, their fans will stop being jealous of their super human bodies.
In the case of Gwyneth and her peers (notice I do not say “friends”. I have read “Goop” and do not believe such a person has any), it is part of the job they get paid very well for. But for us normal people, there cannot possibly be justification to combine this kind of routine with a full time job. For these kinds of bodies, we would not just jeopardize our mental health and our family and social ties - we may well jeopardize our work.
Let me say here that I am a huge advocate of working out. I have learned that at last count, only 14 percent of all Americans have a gym membership, and of these, only 20% actually go regularly. That is not good. I myself go to the gym an average of three times a week, and would love to go more often. What I’m saying is - we should all go and exercise! But the media meeds to stop making us feel bad about not taking it straight off the cliff.