Celebrity diets

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Because celebrities so often set the standards of beauty around the world, their respective diets are viewed as vehicles to attain such standards. Often individuals who admire a particular celebrity's body will follow the diet they are reported to follow in the hope of achieving a similar figure. Due to the power of their marketing influence, celebrities have served as spokespeople for diets, raising both their own earnings, as well as the earnings of the particular diets. As pop culture's boundaries are spreading to further global limits, the influence of celebrity power is spreading as well, which, in effect, spreads diet culture.

For example, when Kirstie Alley (1951-) first became famous on the television show Cheers as the svelte and beautiful Rebecca Howe, no one would have guessed that years later she would balloon to over 200 pounds and become the source of tabloid criticism for weight gain. After Alley's initial weight gain, she hoped to capitalize on it through a comedic television show called Fat Actress, in which the main character is loosely based on herself. Alley contacted Jenny Craig and in January 2005, she signed on not only to be their spokeswoman, but also to lose weight in the limelight. Alley gradually and healthfully lost weight through the Jenny Craig plan, successfully promoting the diet as one that works. In Alley's second appearance on Oprah, after she had lost 33 pounds on Jenny Craig's diet, she said, "Jenny Craig has been a godsend . . . I needed a game . . . this has been so much fun because they have 8,000 things you can order to eat, and you get your own consultant!"

Another example of celebrity weight loss is Jennifer Aniston (1969-). On the television show Friends, Anis-ton's body transformed from one commonly described as voluptuous to stick-thin right before America's eyes. As the change became ever more apparent to Aniston's fans and the Friends viewing audience, questions arose as to how this happened. Both Aniston and her publicist responded that Aniston had started on the Zone Diet, which is based on a food ratio of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat (Jegtig 2006). Aniston's changing body has no doubt served as an advertisement for the Zone Diet because Aniston, like most other celebrities, serves as a role model for her fan base. Not only has Aniston popularized the Zone Diet, but she has also popularized the "stick thin" image that has become desired not only by celebrities but by many "average" women as well.

Hollywood culture is also very interested of late in the innovative and obscure diets of celebrities, and Gwyneth Paltrow provides an excellent example. Aside from her pregnancy, there has not been a moment since Gwyneth Paltrow (1975-) hit the Hollywood celebrity scene that she has not been incredibly slender. Paltrow, who is viewed as a fashion icon by many, has publicly spoken about following a strict macrobiotic diet plan in order to keep her figure in tip-top shape (Field 2006). The macrobiotic plan is a diet based on the Chinese cosmological principles of yin and yang and consists primarily of whole grains.

Renee Zellweger (1969-) is another celebrity famous for her weight fluctuations. She is an American actress who won the Oscar in 2004 in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in the film Cold Mountain. The native Texan is perhaps best known for her recurring role as Bridget Jones, a British everywoman who is self-admittedly "a little bit fat," in Bridget Jones' Diary (2001) and its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004). The first film was based on Helen Fielding's novel. Bridget Jones is a self-deprecating character who is ironic and insecure. She has very little self-confidence and constantly worries about her appearance, specifically her weight. Although Zellweger's performances in the films themselves were worthy of acclaim— she received an Academy Award nomination for the first one—it was the hype surrounding her change in appearance to personify her character that gained the most publicity. The actress gained an excess of 20 pounds in order to look like the "average-sized" Jones. Zellweger claims to have lost the weight via portion control and frequent visits to the gym. Interestingly, she returned to an even more svelte size than her pre-Bridget size four. In the next film she shot, Chicago (2002), after the first Bridget Jones movie, she was practically emaciated. Caryn James of the New York Times comments on the absurdity of our culture that Zellweger had to gain weight to be the size of an "average person." James further argues that in regard to Zellweger and her weight, "of course she's not average; she a movie star paid millions to pack it on or lose it" (James 2004).

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