An article on Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop has come under fire for encouraging readers to achieve their “leanest liveable weight”. The Q&A, with Dr Traci Mann, was supposedly meant to “bust diet myths”, but instead has been called “dangerous” by some on Twitter.
A leading charity also told HuffPost UK messages promoted by the diet industry can be a contributing factor to someone developing an eating disorder. They warned against perpetuating a culture that idealises thinness saying: “These, often ‘off the cuff’ remarks, can have a negative effect on individuals with an eating disorder.”
The British Association of Dieticians (BDA) also told HuffPost UK it would not recommend the use of “leanest liveable weight” as a phrase as “we need to shift to health, and not just weight” when thinking about our bodies.
However, others have supported Dr Traci Mann’s message, suggesting her use of the phrase “leanest liveable weight” has been taken out of context by critics.
In the article, Dr Mann said a person’s “leanest liveable weight” is the weight they are at the lowest end of their “set range”. The idea is the “leanest liveable weight” for one person will not be the same as the “leanest liveable weight” for another.
“Your set range is a genetically determined range of weight that your body generally keeps you in, despite your efforts to escape it,” she said. “For many of us, our leanest liveable weight is heavier than our dream weight. I urge people to aim for their leanest liveable weight, rather than below it. Embrace it—it’s where your body wants you to be, it’s easy to maintain, and you can be healthy there.”
Dr Mann went on to advise women to ditch the scales and “focus on being healthy” instead of focussing on a number, recommending regular exercise as a fun way to lose weight. But despite her explanation, some on Twitter have still condemned the use of the phrase “leanest liveable weight” as it “glorifies diet cultures”.
Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and BDA spokesperson, said dieticians would not use a phrase such as “leanest liveable weight” or even “liveable weight”, but would instead encourage people to think about lifestyle changes that can help then achieve a healthy “maintainable weight”.
“This should not be influenced by the societal obsession with thinness, it should be focused more on the idea that human bodies vary and so do our shapes,” he told HuffPost UK.
Although he disagrees with Goop’s focus on leanness, Dr Mellor does not think the overarching message of the article is bad. “It really comes down to the idea that we should just stop judging our self-worth by the number on a dial of a scale or how we think we look in a mirror, instead give ourselves a huge mental break and focus on enjoying eating healthier and moving more,” he said.
“The article clearly states that the liveable weight is often higher than someones dream weight. [Having said that] I would also criticise why we want a society that permits women to think about their weight as ‘dream’. We need to shift to health, and not just weight.”
A spokesperson from eating disorders charity Beat said while they couldn’t comment on the Goop article itself, we must all be aware of the potential influence language, particularly in the media, can have.
“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with complex causes. Some messages promoted by the food and diet industry are unlikely to be the sole and direct cause of an eating disorder, but they may exacerbate the problem or be a contributing factor for someone who is vulnerable to developing one or is already ill,” they told HuffPost UK.
“People who conform to society’s picture of an ‘ideal’ body by losing weight or are seen to be able to control their appetites, are sometimes praised and rewarded. These, often ‘off the cuff’ remarks, can have a negative effect on individuals with an eating disorder, or those vulnerable to developing one. Competitiveness, perfectionism, control and low self-esteem form some of the key personality traits that raise the risk for eating disorders.”
In response to the criticism the article received, Dr Traci Mann told HuffPost UK: “I urge people to actually read the article before criticising it, as these comments are exactly missing the point. I am strongly and clearly opposed to strict dieting. In fact, the article is specifically about not dieting, not trying to lose too much weight, not doing anything unhealthy or extreme.”
HuffPost UK has also contacted Goop for comment and is awaiting response.