The biggest controversy in Hollywood lately has not been dirty Oscar campaigning, the Republican resurgence or Winona’s jury pool.
It’s been diets.
Mention at a party that you are an avid carnivore or exclusively a dandelion-eater and you will be sure to start a battle royale.
In this image-obsessed biz, after all, it’s not enough to have an eating plan — you’ve got to share it with others. Awareness of who is eating what and why has never been higher.
Partisans will proselytize about high-fat, low-fat or low-carb eating with all the fervor of an evangelical minister before a tent full of sinners. Woe betide any soul that does not share their passion.
Reduced to their essence (and stirred well), causes celeb include:
- Atkins, in which refined carbohydrates are gradually eliminated;
- the Zone, which advocates a “40-30-30” balance of carbs, fat and protein;
- Food combining, in which proteins and fats are not paired but other elements are:
- Sugar-free plans, which, compared with many other Byzantine diets, are refreshingly comprehensible.
Diet riots often spill into the workplace, where more and more execs are getting precisely measured morsels hand-delivered in a modern twist on the term “meals on wheels.”
Given their convictions, it’s no surprise so many of those embracing protein-rich diets bark out a resounding “ha!” over the government’s recent softening on dietary fat.
However, dieticians and devotees of alternate dietology are quick to caution that the latest findings don’t endorse Atkins (never mind those crowing radio commercials). Neither do they favor any other high-protein diet so much as acknowledge the vital nourishment fat has always provided our bodies.
For all of the shouting, some with experience in the trenches believe diets may be working too well.
Nutritionist Philip Goglia says industry clients at his Venice Beach-based Performance Fitness Concepts tend to be woefully undernourished due to overly restrictive diets.
“Ninety-five percent of the people I see are undereating,” says Goglia, author of “Turn Up the Heat: Unlock the Fat-Burning Power of Your Metabolism.”
He says even lanky Jeff Goldblum was undereating when he came to his clinic, and that he immediately boosted the thesp’s caloric intake.
Goglia determines which metabolic types — fat and protein efficient, carbohydrate efficient or the relatively rare dual metabolism, whereby fats, proteins and carbs are metabolized with equal ease — a client falls into by analyzing their lipid profile, then designs an eating program accordingly.
Those efficient at metabolizing proteins and fats (74% of the population) tend to test high in triglycerides, while those efficient at carbohydrates (23%) tend to have cholesterol levels out of whack between HDLs (high-density lipids — aka good fat) and LDLs (low-density lipids — aka bad fat).
Goglia bases his approach on graduate studies at Duke U., home to a Rice Diet program, which drew celebrities such as Buddy Hackett circa 1980. He says certain celebrities lost weight on the program while others did not because they weren’t carb-efficient.
“It just makes sense — everybody’s body chemistry is a little different,” says Goglia, who’s worked with Owen Wilson, John Cusack, Kim Delaney and Gillian Anderson. “It’s all based on your family genetics.”
Literary agent Ed Victor takes Goglia’s approach a step further: He believes the most successful diet is one you design for yourself. The longtime agent, who lost 50 pounds a couple of years ago after years of yo-yoing on different diets, believes each person knows best which foods lead him or her astray.
He wrote the book “The Obvious Diet” under that guiding principle, incorporating tips from other media folk and diet overviews under the view that what works for one might help another. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft talk about their commitment to a Pritikin diet low in animal fats, while Tina Brown advises American eaters to order half portions as they provide more than adequate amounts of nutrition.
Victor says he had no trouble getting contributions for his book.
“People always want to tell you their views,” he says. “Everyone likes to talk about food.”
Victor flew to L.A. last week for a quickie visit and was given a book party by Bob Bookman of CAA, with guests including Brooks, Scott Berg and a host of CAA agents.
Naturally, everyone talked diets, but the hors d’oevres served by Bookman and his new live-in were rich in carbs and calories — and they all went fast.
“Intuitive Eating” co-author Evelyn Tribole, a dietician who has worked for Sony Pictures as a consulting nutritionist, says protein provides important nutrients, but so do carbohydrates. The Atkins diet severely restricts carbohydrate intake, which is why she’s “dead against it — it triggers more carb cravings,” Tribole says.
The carbohydrates in forbidden bread, pasta and rice provide serotonin, which keeps brain chemistry on an even keel, she says. Without it, depression often results.
“Treating carbs like it’s the evil demon causes you undue harm,” concurs co-author Elyse Resch, a fellow dietician who’s been counseling actresses in her BevHills practice for more than 20 years. “You need at least 130 grams of carbohydrates a day.”
The popular Zone diet also restricts carbs and although the regimen is more nutritionally balanced than Atkins, diet watchers say its popularity has contributed to the under consumption of carbohydrates. They say industryites have become just as drastic in their carb avoidance as their fat avoidance.
“They’re mostly on low carbs, which makes no sense at all,” Resch says. “They come in and say they have low energy, depression …”
“People are fixating — it’s the same thing we’ve been experiencing with low fat,” says Jim Karas, author of the upcoming “Flip the Switch” and the weight loss expert that melted 25 pounds off Diane Sawyer. “Carbs — should they be eaten? Yes. Should they be eaten in a controlled manner? Yes.”
Not everyone is taking sides. Suzanne Somers advocates separate ingestion of protein-rich meals and carbohydrate-heavy offerings on food combining principles and drastically cutting back the amount of sugar.
Food-combining theory suggests certain types of foods impede ingestion when eaten together, and that this leads to weight gain.
Somers, author of several diet books, says avoiding combining carbs and fats while drastically cutting back the amount of sugar leads to what she calls “the melt” even while eating meals rich in “good fats” such as butter and cream.
Dieticians dispute food-combining principles, but Somers say endocrinologists support her approach. She calls the recent government findings about fat “wonderful, because when I first started telling people about this way of losing weight, people thought I was wacky.”
Resch cautions against overly demonizing sugar, too, pointing out that breast milk has sugar. “It’s just part of regular eating,” she says. “There’s no evidence sugar is addictive.”
She also criticizes the highly regulated nature of the Zone diet, “which just promotes rebound” weight gain, along with counting calories, which she finds “terribly obsessive.” Resch advocates a more balanced approach keyed into internal hunger signals rather than prescribed diets.
The dietician turns down actress requests for quick weight-loss programs.
“I have worked with actresses and clients that are one way or another bound and determined to get below their ideal weight,” Resch says. “They come to me and they’re out of control. They’re bulimic or anorexic.”
She says the pressure to be thin “has definitely gotten more extreme with underweight role models in Hollywood,” which promotes eating disorders and rebound weight gain.
The problem, Tribole says, is that you can’t sustain diets such as Atkins.
“If you go on diets, and cut carbs, you will lose weight, but your body will crave carbs,” she says. “I talk to people and they’re devoted to it, but I haven’t met anyone who’s been on it for the long run.”
“Just about all diets work — that doesn’t mean it’s the right diet for you,” says BevHills personal trainer Gary Kobat, who’s designed programs to help Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell lose more than 20 pounds each. Kobat tries to teach his clients to think of food as fuel and less about dieting per se. “Diet is short term — you will die if you stay on it,” he says.
You can lose weight eating nothing but bacon, but that’s not very healthy, points out Loyola Marymount professor and trainer Paul McAuley, who helped Ralph Fiennes get ready for “Red Dragon” and Tom Hanks for “Cast Away.”
“People are fanatical about certain types of eating — the Zone, Atkins — but the common denominator is an overall reduction in the amount of food combined with exercise” he says. “I tell my students there’s no bad foods, just bad eating habits. Even junk food is OK; there’s just an issue of moderation — not eliminating certain types of food.”