Top Hollywood trainer plays the Hot or Not? game with top Hollywood starlets: It’s the type of juicy tabloid fodder that we all hope we’re too mature to care about and yet somehow finds its way into our brains. (Clearly I read it since I’m blogging it, ha!) Harley Pasternak, founder of the famous Five Factor Diet and personal trainer to a list of celebs so long that his website can’t even contain them all (Katy Perry! Jessica Simpson! Miley Cyrus!), recently came out with a new cleanse called the Body Reset Diet, a 15-day “smoothie-based” diet optimized for fast weight loss. (It’s like a crash diet! Just without acknowledgement of the crash!) His reasoning was simple:
“I realized that the slow-and-steady message I’d been espousing is not a real world solution for everybody. [While celebrities] need to lose, maybe, three or four pounds, and tone or sculpt… Real people need immediate results and I need to give it to them in an immediate way. People don’t want to wait 30 weeks, dropping a half a pound a week, to look and feel better.”
People are impatient, I’ll give him that. Heaven knows I’ve tried more than my fair share of quick fixes. And why give people good advice when they prefer bad advice? Although in Hollywood where Master Cleanse is considered a command and not just the name of a sketchy diet, I can see how trading out cayenne-pepper-and-lemon water for smoothies would be an upgrade. I wouldn’t do it but I wasn’t going to get all worked up over it either. That is until I read the blog he wrote for People.com to promote his new cleanse called “Harley Pasternak Blogs About the Fit (And Not So Fit) Disney Stars.”
I’ll admit it: I’ve liked Harley in the past. He’s seemed more reasonable than most diet gurus and his body (bodies, ha!) of work is certainly impressive. So it made me sad when he took aim at our modern-day Disney Princesses (in all their tattered glory) with an article that while it purported to be all about concern for their health, ended up sounding a lot like Joan Rivers. (“I’m just saying you’re fat, have terrible style and your porcelain veneers look like Mr. Ed was your dentist for your own good darling! And because it’s true!”) Or, as he put it, “Let’s take a look at some Disney child stars who have blossomed into hard bodies and how they stay in shape. I’ve included some exceptions who’ve opted to “fill out” rather than work out.”
First he praised his own client Ashley Tisdale (who will always be Sharpay to me thanks to my tween-aged sister and her love of High School Musical – besides, is not Sharpay one of the best character names you’ve ever heard??).
“Ashley eats very well and follows the Body Reset Diet, mixing up two different smoothies (white, red or green) a day with one healthy solid meal (including salads, stir-frys and scrambles). A client of ours for a little over a year, Ashley has developed an incredibly toned midsection.”
A commenter on People.com summed up my opinion on this quite astutely: “Since when is eating one solid meal a day considered healthy??”
While Harley apparently only recommends the smoothie cleanse as a 5-day “jump start” to your weight loss – probably the most common refrain among all cleanses – it’s apparent from all his celebrity testimonials that many of his clients use it as their daily menu.
He also offered positive “healthy” assessments of Hilary Duff, Raven Symone, Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens among others. (And perhaps as their trainer he really is qualified to assess their health and not just their weight from a picture?). But it went downhill from there. While he admitted that much of famous junk-food fan Selena Gomez’s beauty can be attributed to “good genetics and a fast metabolism” – a point which made me applaud, and then wonder why he hadn’t used it on the entire list – he singled out other stars for their “unhealthy” habits.
Lindsay Lohan is easy fodder and I daresay I won’t disagree with his assessment that she’s on a downward spiral to an early grave. But when he gently skewered Demi Lovato for her past eating disorders and self-harming behaviors I got all squirmy, particularly since she’s the only star on a list of troubled stars to have her personal issues brought into it. (Which for the record, I thought she handled admirably.) It also bugged me because he had earlier highlighted Brittney Spears for staying in shape and being a good model of health and in my eyes, she’s had as many public health and personal problems as Lindsay and Demi. And then he got to Christina Aguilera:
“After the birth of her baby, Christina has gone on record saying she embraces her body. ‘I’ve always been one to make it very clear, love me or hate me, take it or leave it, this is who I am,’ she told PEOPLE in October. ‘I embrace my body, and I embrace everything about myself.’ While I applaud her for embracing her body, I can’t help but be a little skeptical. While she’s definitely not grossly overweight, she doesn’t look comfortable in her own skin like she did once upon a time. When Christina was in prime shape, she commanded attention and exuded confidence. What do you think?”
I’ve never been an Xtina fan but I would certainly not call her uncomfortable or un-confident – either in her Drrrty days or now. And it’s one thing to talk about the eating habits of people who are your clients but it’s entirely another thing to judge someone’s internal self-esteem based solely on red-carpet pics that every other media outlet has branded “curvy” or “fat” depending on their degree of political correctness. And then after planting the seed, he throws her to the wolves, er commenters, with that last question – one he didn’t pose after any of the other girls.
Also, why focus only on Disney “Princesses”? Why not call out some of the princes while you’re at it? And – this felt like the biggest oversight of all to me – let’s not forget every single one of these ladies is in her early 20’s, except for Brittney and Christina whose weight problems he was quick to point out. (Dear Harley: it’s normal for women in their 30’s to get curvier, especially after they have babies! And this is not “unhealthy.” In fact, it may actually help them have smarter babies and live longer lives.)
Many of the commenters on People.com’s site wondered why people were getting upset about this article when Harley was just “stating facts” and “telling it like it is”. Typing this post out has officially made me run out of ironic quotation marks you guys. Assessing someone’s mental health or eating disorder recovery from a picture is not a fact. Nor is it kind.
But, and this is the original question that leads many people to Harley’s article in the first place, is there a healthy way to cleanse? In the past I’ve been pretty anti-cleanse. All of them have felt like gimmicks and quick fixes are neither all that quick or much of a fix. But you can’t swing a personal trainer in a gym without hitting people trying, promoting, selling or doing cleanses in the fit-o-sphere. Upon investigation there are as many different ways to “cleanse” as there are people doing them and while some sound insane (hello Master Cleanse) others sound pretty reasonable. And here’s where I confess: I recently did a cleanse.
At the beginning of the year, in an effort to once again break my addiction to sugar, I did Mark Hyman’s Ultra Simple Cleanse – a program I found in Experience Life magazine – for one week. While there are smoothies involved (ironically called the Ultra Simple Shake despite having like 10 ingredients), you are also eating a good range of whole solid foods, drinking broths and there is no calorie counting or food amount restricting. You’re never supposed to be hungry and the point isn’t to lose weight. I’m not weighing myself but I’m quite sure I didn’t lose an ounce on it; and that wasn’t why I did it. I wanted to break my daily cycle of my mid-afternoon chocolate-chip binge quickly followed by my late-afternoon crash. I was tired of being tired and cranky. I did it, yes, to get healthier. And I think it really helped. While I still eat some sugar sometimes, I’ve stopped indiscriminately raiding my pantry for stale marshmallows. I’m glad I did it.
So can a cleanse be healthy? I think that depends entirely on the cleanse. I’m immediately suspicious of anything that requires you to buy their pre-packaged stuff (I was mildly interested in the internet darling Shakeology until I saw the price per bag, not to mention the ingredient list). I also don’t put much stock in celebrity endorsements (looking at you Kardashians). Although I am a sucker for Amazon reviews. I’m a big fan of whole, homemade foods that focus on fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts with a little meat – which is exactly what the Ultra Simple Cleanse was. It was basically just clean eating. I think it also depends on the person. A good friend who did the Ultra Simple Cleanse with me had a terrible experience with it and stopped after two days, which was absolutely the right decision for her. We each have different strengths, weaknesses and emotions when it comes to our food and we need to respect that what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for another.
I suppose it comes down to how you define “cleanse” – if cleanse to you means that you drop 20 pounds in two weeks and poop until your intestines turn into a Mobius strip then I think you’re not only going to be disappointed but will also likely harm your health. But if cleanse simply means trying to cleanse your body of processed foods and toxins by eating a clean diet then I think that can be very successful. Having not read Harley’s Body Reset Diet book (it’s not out until March 12), I can’t say which of these categories it would fall under – judging from the reviews it sounds like it’s somewhere in the middle of a juice fast and squeaky clean eating.
What do you think of cleanses? Have you ever tried one? How’d it go? What did you think of Harley Pasternak’s Disney Princess assessments??