Celebrity advice. Should we be listening?

ONCE it was enough to see them on our screens or to admire them in the fashion pages of our favourite magazine.

Celebrity advice. Should we be listening?

Now we’re so starry-eyed we’re ready to follow celebrity advice on everything from fitness to fashion, from dietary regimes to raising our children, from how to wear the latest trends to how to be in our most intimate relationships. And meeting that need — to do it like Gwyneth and Jessica do — are the celebrity lifestyle websites. We check out five, look at some sample advice and ask an expert to comment.

GWYNETH PALTROW

Gwyneth Paltrow started Goop (www.goop.com) in 2008 so she could ‘share all of life’s positives’. According to her, Goop is, for many, ‘their most trusted girlfriend on the web’, with a blend of recipes, travel guides, fashion, culture and wellness tips. Goop is the site most likely to come up for mention whenever a new celeb lifestyle website appears on the block — as happened when actress Blake Lively launched Preserve recently. The media warned Paltrow to ‘watch her back’, as Blake’s site might be ‘more hip’ and ‘slightly less expensive’.

Sample advice (Nutrition):

Paltrow’s detox diet gives menu suggestions for seven days. Some lunch options: salad with carrot and ginger dressing; teriyaki chicken with mixed greens. Dinner options include broccoli and arugula (rocket) soup; pea and basil soup; steamed salmon and greens; miso soup with watercress. Snacks include mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds or a handful of blueberries.

Paltrow’s ‘detox specialist’ recommends some “basic principles of detoxification” while following the menus: taking a couple of spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil at night helps stimulate liver to eliminate bile and keep its circulation flowing; if bowel movements get sluggish, drink half a shot glass of castor oil followed by a glass of water. Paltrow advises: ‘no dairy, grains with gluten, meat, shellfish, anything processed (including all soy products), fatty nuts, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), condiments, sugar and obviously no alcohol, caffeine or soda.’

Expert comment:

Dietician Aveen Bannon says: “At first glance this seven-day detox looks incredibly restrictive, very low in calories and time-consuming to prepare. Strict regimes like this aren’t necessary for health and can result in an upset tummy, headaches, lethargy and an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s also low in calcium, iron and B12.

“I question drinking a couple of spoons of olive oil at night. There’s no evidence to show this has any impact on the liver. Likewise the castor oil for constipation — the best way to resolve constipation would be to include more wholegrains, the pulp from fruit or eat the whole fruit and vegetables. I’m also surprised by the elimination of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines — these are a rich source of vitamin A, C, potassium and fibre.

“I’d rate this diet at 3/10 — it encourage a lot of healthy foods but unnecessarily restricts others.”

ELIZABETH BANKS

Hunger Games actress Elizabeth Banks shares her funny take on life on her website, www.elizabethbanks.com. Comedy and humour is mostly what it’s about whether you’re looking at her ‘Work Stuff’, ‘Geeky Stuff’, ‘Yummy Stuff’, ‘Pretty Stuff’ or ‘Mommy Stuff’.

Sample advice (Parenting):

On ‘Mommy Stuff’, Banks has put up clips she found on Tumblr of her performances in the movie, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. There’s one where she’s saying ‘I have no control over my body or my emotions’— underneath the clip, she comments ‘I’d like to point out that this is indicative of parenthood in general’. And for a truly hilarious measure of advice, also in the ‘Mommy Stuff’ section, check out ‘really important questions with Elizabeth Banks —14 and dating’.

Expert comment:

Mum-in-Residence for www.MummyPages.ie Laura Haugh says: “I really enjoyed Elizabeth Banks’s refreshingly honest and humorous views on ‘Mommy Stuff’ in her website. Although unable to carry a child herself, the mum of two young boys born via gestational surrogacy has a really down-to-earth, practical take on the trials and tribulations of parenthood. While unable to speak first-hand of the emotional rollercoaster that is pregnancy, she probably has more knowledge than most, having spoken to many mums about their experiences in her research for her role in the movie of the pregnancy and birth bible, What to Expect when you’re Expecting. This genuine empathy and good-natured humour, which makes Banks so endearing, makes me wish she blogged more about parenthood. 10/10 for being open, honest, hilariously funny and not following the celebrity trend of pretending to do all the ‘Mommy Stuff’— and continue to work and look fantastic with little or minimal help.

“There’s a morbid curiosity among regular mums to see how celebrity mums cope with everything from teething, toilet training and tantrums all the way to the teen years. It’s nice to see celebrity mums share the reality of parenting (it’s hard). It’s not so nice to hear a celebrity mum preachabout the best way to rear your child — that feels like criticism from a place that doesn’t look like a level playing field.”

OPRAH WINFREY

Oprah Winfrey’s site, www.oprah.com, offers relentlessly positive and upbeat advice. Plus she’s a fan of quantifying the happiness rules — it’s numbers all the way, as in ‘Four Money Rules Every Happy Couple Follows’ and ‘Nine Unexpected Things That Could Save Your Marriage’.

Sample advice (Relationships):

From ’10 questions your partner’s still not answering’, you’re encouraged to ask your partner questions such as: What dinner did he once love that he would now prefer never to eat again?; What’s boring him about our life together?; What’s the one (doable) thing he wishes I’d stop doing?; When the big things come up—career strife, dying family members – is he up for bringing in outside help for the two of us? Or will he say: ‘Psychotherapy? [That’s] for crazy people!’.

Expert comment:

Relationships counsellor Lisa O’Hara says: “Being curious about your partner is a way of demonstrating you care and are interested in them. Asking questions will help deepen your understanding of them. It can be a way of involving them in decision-making. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be when inevitable losses and stresses arise.

“Some people like to talk it out, others don’t. If you know your partner isn’t a talker, avoid needlessly upsetting them (and yourself) by trying to force a conversation. Instead, just acknowledge what they’re experiencing — let them know you are there for them if they need it.

“Any advice that helps you know your partner better and that will be supportive of your overall happiness will rate high on the scale. I’d give it an 8/10 — reading a well put-together article will engage the reader, who may then naturally reflect on the dynamics of their own relationship. But relationships are unique. No one size fits all — what may work for one couple would be poison for another.”

LAUREN CONRAD

US TV personality, author and fashion designer Lauren Conrad bills her site, www.laurenconrad.com, as ‘your front-row pass to all things lovely and chic’. Advice ranges from fitness to fashion, dining to decorating and there’s an etiquette section, which includes her Ladylike Laws — on anything from’ public displays of affection’ to ‘how to hold your drinks’.

Sample advice (Fitness):

From piece by Team Lauren: ‘The 10 most common habits of people who are always fit’.

Mix up your routine. Running three miles every day for a year will keep you active, but it won’t do anything special for your body or your mind after you get used to it. Switching up your workout challenges your muscles, heart and lungs.

Don’t compare. People who are healthy, in shape, and confident about their figures generally avoid comparing their bodies to others. They also know where their ‘sweet spot’ is, meaning they know their healthiest weight.

Don’t wait for an occasion to get in shape. Waiting for a wedding or special event to start working out will make you view fitness as a phase, not a lifestyle.

Expert comment:

Chartered physiotherapist Avril Copeland says it’s very true that our bodies become accustomed to whatever exercise we ask it to do. “If you do the same exercise at the same intensity for the same duration each week, your body adapts. You can continue to see improvements if you increase the demands on your body within reason, either through increases in intensity, duration or both — if you like to run, you can increase the intensity by increasing your speed, reducing your rest time or increasing the duration of your run.”

Team Lauren’s also right about not comparing, says Copeland. “There are many variables as to why one person is one weight or shape and another — despite a similar diet and workout routine. Never compare — it leads to low self-esteem, low confidence and, in severe cases, psychological illness.

“Leading a physically active life reduces risk of developing diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Why would you wait until your cousin’s wedding to start reaping the benefits? I fully agree [with advice not to wait for an occasion to get in shape.

“I think the advice is good, albeit quite generic in nature. It’s positive in terms of steering people away from focusing solely on weight. I’d probably give it 6/10. But I’m sceptical about taking lifestyle advice from a celebrity — most of the time, these sites are purely commercial exercises with no basis in science.”

JESSICA ALBA

Actress Jessica Alba launched The Honest Company site (www.honest.com) after she became ‘utterly frustrated’ trying to find the ‘perfect products’ for daughters Honor and Haven. She wanted safe, eco-friendly, convenient and affordable so she set about supplying her own branded products. Topics covered on the site include: ‘Everyday Chemicals Causing Brain Damage in Our Children’ and ‘Seven Surprising Uses for Baby Powder’.

Sample advice (Family wellbeing):

From ‘One Mom Shares How She Set Family Goals’. The goals, which she said would change bad habits and bring them closer, are:

Eat sit-down dinner together without electronics at least one night a week.

Do at least one activity together on the weekends, even if it’s just a walk with the dogs or a board game.

Less shouting — count to three before you turn up the volume.

Encourage creativity — encourage children to use their imaginations to build towers and invent superheroes.

Once a month, have a kids’ choice day where they get to pick what the family does (within reason!).

Expert comment:

Parent coach Marian Byrne says: “All the advice is really good. Eating together one night a week would be great — a way of making sure we do overlap as a family. And the fact there are no electronics means all are communicating. In theory, it’d be great to have a sit-down meal together more often than once a week.

“I’d give the advice 8/10 as long as you take it as a prompt for thinking about your own values in your family. It’s a good idea to have goals. Ask: what would mine be? Just because these are listed doesn’t mean I have to accept them as my priorities. For another family, social contribution might be important — helping out and being aware of others — or time spent outdoors.

“For me, it would be a bedtime story every night. It’s a connection time going to bed. Children will relate learning with positive experience. Plus it creates a forum — if there’s something on your child’s mind, they’ll have time and space to talk about it.

“In relation to advice generally, I’d say it’s good to be open to ideas and prompts but always trust your instincts. If it resonates with you, makes good sense to you and ties in with your values, take it on board— if it doesn’t, don’t.”

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