First there was conscious uncoupling, then jade vagina eggs — now the world has been introduced to another eye-catching concept by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. Namely, your “leanest liveable weight”.
That’s the latest phrase to be dished out by Paltrow’s controversial $250 million wellness brand, which yesterday published an article on its website in which Traci Mann, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, gives her tips on how to achieve it.
The backlash came fast, with many pointing out that the associations between eating disorders and a phrase that seems to imply “be as skinny as possible without actually dying” were irresponsible.
“ ‘Your leanest liveable weight’ is an egregious, fat-shaming phrase. It makes food into a fuel to be controlled and negotiated with as opposed to something joyful,” says the nutritionist and health writer Ian Marber, whose “nutribollocks” polls on Twitter ask followers to vote for the most misguided or misleading health claims.
In fairness to Mann and the editors of Goop, the article advises against calorie-counting and dieting, and instead proposes a “veggies first” approach to eating and regular exercise. According to Mann your leanest liveable weight is not (as might easily be assumed) the lowest weight you can possibly obtain, but rather “the weight at the low end of your set range . . . a genetically determined range of weight that your body generally keeps you in despite your efforts to escape it.” She argues that “if your weight is below that range, biological changes due to calorie deprivation happen and generally push you back”.
“I am strongly and clearly opposed to strict dieting,” Mann says in response to the criticism. “In fact, the article is specifically about not dieting, not trying to lose too much weight and not doing anything unhealthy or extreme. The phrase ‘leanest liveable weight’ refers to the leanest weight you can be without doing any strict dieting or unhealthy behaviour.”
The dietician Maeve Hanan, the founder of dieteticallyspeaking.com, says that the theory of a set point weight can actually be helpful to many people. “The idea behind it is that we are all different sizes depending on our genetic blueprint, and instead of focusing on a number the scales should read, or your BMI, you eat well, exercise and your weight will naturally stabilise,” she explains. “I think the problem with this Goop article is it focuses on getting to the lean or low end of the range, which distorts the idea a bit.”
Whatever you make of the leanest-livable-weight furore, it’s unlikely to be the last health controversy that Goop sparks. After all, this is the site that promoted steaming your labia and spending £45 on a self-love spray. As Marber puts it: “Goop is the Donald Trump of the health world. It knows how to disrupt and get attention.