Before we begin, a confession:
I read tabloids. I’m not proud of this, but sometimes when I’m on the cardio machines at the gym – and I will not lie, cardio machines can be BO-RING – I need something to distract me from my boredom. Something shiny, full of pictures…something that doesn’t tax my brain too much.
Enter the tabloids, the cure for all that ails the bored, sweaty lady on the stationary bike.
Yet I can only lose myself for so long in the photos of “Glee” stars on set in New York and Katie Holmes and her American Doll…er, I mean, her daughter before I come across the visual equivalent of a smack in the face – those wretched stories about lady celebrities and their various exercise and diet routines. It’s like having a “Being John Malkovich” experience, except instead of being sucked into the delightfully demented mind of John Malkovich, you wind up inside the head of someone who struggles with an eating disorder.
And then, because it’s not just enough to talk about Jennifer Hudson’s diet or Sara Rue’s weight loss, sometimes the tabloid editors will heap a steaming little pile of judgment on top of these women. If you look too skinny, it’s time for an eating disorder watch! If you look a bit pudgy, it’s baby bump watch! (I recently saw a headline in which Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas said she wasn’t pregnant, she just liked tacos. First of all, HELLO SOUL SISTER, and second of all, that is worthy of space in a newspaper? During a recession and a war and god knows what else? Seriously?) That kind of scrutiny is bad enough, but then magnify it by a million, which is about approximately how many supermarket aisles and doctors’ offices these magazines show up in, and it’s a wonder anyone wants to be famous at all. (And then of course I feel shitty about myself for participating, even tangentially, in this ouroboros of fame-fueled creation and destruction.)
But then sometimes I see articles that somehow manage to stand out above the ocean of banal idiocy about this star’s weight loss or that star’s less-than-perfect bikini body, stories that convey such warped ideas of good health and fitness that my brain practically short-circuits at the mere sight of them. Even when those stories consist of little more than drive-by concern-trolling, when they are ostensibly about calling out poor practices, they still don’t bother to provide the reader with good information to counter-balance all the bullshit.
(Really, should I expect any more from publications who regularly prostrate themselves in front of Tracy Anderson, who I maintain is the worst thing to happen to the American fitness industry since Olestra? Or maybe since ever?)
For instance, I read an article about Leann Rimes, and how she credits her recent weight loss to working out twice a day, seven days a week. She denied that she had any kind of exercise disorder, saying instead she liked the way exercise makes her feel. I have no idea if she has an exercise disorder, because I’m not her doctor or her therapist, but I do know that, as awesome as exercise can be and as much as I love it, exercise is worthless without rest.
Rest is a critical part of any fitness routine, because it gives your body a chance to recover and rebuild. For instance, when you lift weights, you are basically inflicting little microtears on your muscles. I know that sounds freaky and bad, but it’s actually what gives your body the opportunity to knit itself back together, and this time stronger and better than before. But if you train the same body parts every day, your body doesn’t get the chance to heal, and you’ll find yourself taking the express train to Injury-ville, population you.
Plus, if you never take a break and recharge, you are just asking the universe to help you burn out on such a colossal scale that you’ll find yourself experiencing low-level PTSD whenever you so much as look at a pair of gym shoes.
And then this morning I saw another article about Heidi Montag, in which she bragged that she had worked out fifteen hours a day for two months to prepare for a pool party. Putting aside the mind-bendingly vapid nature of this statement, it needs to be pointed out that no one – not even a professional athlete – needs to work out fifteen hours a day. Hell, if you aren’t a pro athlete (or you aren’t training for a marathon or an Ironman or something) and you work out more than an hour a day several times a week, UR DOIN IT RONG. Look up “high intensity interval training” and go reclaim your life outside of the gym.
I do have to give props to at least one person who is doing it right – Britney Spears’ trainer. He recently laid out her workout and diet routine, which consists of 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weights, coupled with several small meals that are heavy on vegetables and lean meat and whole grains. I nearly fell off my bike after reading it, but this time it was because I was shocked I had actually read something sensible and healthy. How sad that such quality information is so rare in magazines that are read by so many women.