Monday, July 19, 2010


Gwyneth Paltrow announced recently that she's been diagnosed with osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. Her bone mineral density is lower than normal, and her Vitamin D levels are "the lowest [her doctors] had ever seen."

The inter-tubes are already abuzz with speculation as to how she could have developed such a condition at the ripe old age of 37. After all, hasn't she been proselytizing about her strict macrobiotic diet and her celebrity trainer, Tracy Anderson?

My unsolicited opinion: Her nutrition and fitness regimen are, ironically, the culprits.

First of all, macrobiotic diets call for lots of whole grains (brown rice is BIG), legumes, vegetables, and fruit. And a little fish. What's missing? Vitamin D. Gwyneth is a kale junkie, so she clearly ate her share of dark, green, leafy vegetables -- a decent source of calcium.

But without Vitamin D, you can’t sufficiently absorb dietary calcium. When this happens, your body's forced to draw calcium from your bones, which weakens your existing skeleton and prevents you from forming strong, new bone.

I'm sure that Tracy Anderson's insanely stupid workouts contributed to Gwyneth's increasingly brittle frame. Case in point: Anderson claims that no woman should ever lift more than three pounds, which is just plain dumb. Check out this video from Oprah:

Take it from Well+GoodNYC:
Not only is it really inefficient advice -- Anderson has clients do hundreds of reps -- it’s also downright dangerous. Lifting weights prevents bone loss, and may even help build new bone. And using real weights produces real results. “Women burned nearly twice as many calories in the two hours after their workout when they lifted 85 percent of their max load for eight reps than when they did more reps (15) at a lower weight (45 percent of their max),” according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. And guess what? They didn’t bulk up.
The myth that resistance training makes women turn into female bodybuilders has been thoroughly debunked. As the New York Times put it not too long ago:
[T]he notion [that lifting heavy weights makes you big and bulky] is not supported by science. Producing bulky muscles requires not just heavy weights but heavy calorie consumption as well, typically far above the 2,000 daily calories recommended for many adults.
For people who lift weights to tone up and slim down, experts say, a regimen that includes a combination of challenging weights and fewer repetitions can help significantly.
Wake up, Gwyneth. Lift something heavier than a carton of orange juice once in a while. Strength training improves bone density, and it's great for women. Besides, most women (and men) have to pick up and move things that are heavier than three pounds (e.g., books, casseroles, small children, briefcases, chairs, carry-on luggage, big boxes of stuff from Costco). Doing "hundreds of reps" of super-light weights for 10 hours a week has no real-world application at all, unless you're a factory worker with an incipient case of repetitive strain injury. And you're not.