Book Review: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?

Long Title: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty and Happiness.

Timothy Caulfield. Published by Beacon Press 2015.

Spoiler alert – yes it would seem poor old Gwyneth is wrong about everything; from juice cleanses, to coffee enemas and steaming her fanny (OK – I added that one but I did read she does do this).

Caulfield’s delightful tongue in cheek title and light, fruity and readable tone, belies a hefty and serious message within.

We mere humans are hard wired to look up to celebrities, it’s an ape-like thing where we look to the fittest and the strongest – the most attractive.  This tendency has worsened with the social media explosion.  Now we can look up to Gwen and also feel some sort of delicious personal connection to her as she tweets us directly to our living room mid fanny steam or bottom cleanse.

I can hear you thinking, oh shut up – just don’t follow the dumb ideas of celebs then.  But wait – did you know Mad Men increased cigarette sales?  That most people feel not only less attractive but think their partner is less attractive after viewing a few models/celeb images.  And tell me who is protected from them for even a day in this digital age? I don’t need to tell you what Pamela Anderson did for breast surgeons around the world.  Lets just say she should have been on commission.

Out with hard science in with the lovely people.

It seems to be out with science and in with celeb advice.  Celeb advice being followed better than evidence based scientific advice.  Given we ALL have a beautiful people bias (they earn more, are happier, are more confident, we trust them more) no wonder we feel celebs are the pinnacle, the beautiful-est of the beautiful.  Bad news – celebs are on balance, less happy, die younger, commit suicide more (maybe, stats are hard to find here), are often lonely and especially in the case of those that got there via sports, surprisingly often broke in the end.

So there is this dream, to shoot for the stars; that something like 80% (or was it 90%) of school kids have.  A dream to be famous, most (says the data) just for fames sake, rather than excellence at any given endeavor . The chances of getting famous are so close to zero it isn’t worth splitting hairs and really is this the future you would wish for your children?

All in all celebs are ruining the world.

It is not a cheerful story.

But it is an entertaining, fact filled, eye opener that if you are a parent, or even just a person living on this planet …. is very relevant to you.

In the Author’s own words:

“Celebrity culture has emerged as one of the most significant and influential sources of pseudoscientific blather.” 

Celeb trends are changing our behaviors.

If you prefer hard science, here is Caulfield’s ‘science informed six’:

  1. Moderate your booze, don’t smoke
  2. Move
  3. Eat fruit, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains (yes true carbs are not actually the devil despite the celebrity blather) and good fats
  4. Don’t be too skinny or too fat
  5. Wear sunscreen. Btw this is one of only four things that are actually effective in reducing the signs of aging.
  6. Sleep (7-9 hours a night).

Seems like a no brainer when you put it like that eh? Sad truth is it looks like the celebs are being followed more than the scientists.  I guess it is easier to lie down in a luxury environment and have someone rub your face with gold leaf than go to the gym, put the wine back in the fridge etc.

The Author

Timothy Caulfield – is Chair in Heath Law and Policy and Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health the University of Alberta.   AKA he knows a thing or two and is a bear of big brain.

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