Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Comment
31 August 2023

Celebrities are now “honest” about diet, exercise and beauty. I wish they weren’t

Kim Kardashian says she’d “eat poop every single day” to look young. Jennifer Aniston admits to salmon sperm facials. At this point, give me lies!

By Amelia Tait

Journalists have been asking Jennifer Aniston about her diet for nearly 30 years. Ever since the actress became famous as Rachel in the sitcom Friends, women have been desperate to know what she does (read: doesn’t) eat. In 1999 she told W Magazine that “being thin is hard work!”, but she denied calorie-counting, instead claiming that she simply loved to exercise. “I swear, I eat more now than I ever did in my life – I just work out more, because it feels great,” she said. This August, she told the Wall Street Journal that she eats “clean” every day of the week bar Sunday, saying: “Thin fads; they don’t interest me. Because I know what that is all about. That’s just calories in, calories out.”

Perhaps it’s refreshing (and not depressing) that thin actresses can now admit to calorie-counting, but in the 24 years between these two interviews, I’m not sure much has changed. In 1999 Aniston felt the need to declare something that all actresses at the time were duty-bound to declare: “If that old cheeseburger and fries start to look irresistible to me, I’ll eat it.” In 2023 she also claimed to eat homemade fast-food-style burgers on a Sunday; the journalist interviewing her called them “treats”.

I sighed when I finished writing that sentence – it makes me want to bite and kick and scream. As a teenager reading glossy magazines, I first noticed how often the world’s most beautiful women talk about cheeseburgers, a dish that comes with a side serving of shorthand. When a celebrity says she eats burgers, what she’s really saying is: “Yes, I fastidiously adhere to your beauty standards, but don’t for one second think that I care about them.”

So sure, in a way it’s nice that Aniston can now admit to caring and trying, two things that were considered crimes for women at the turn of the millennium. But I don’t think this honesty is especially helpful. The Wall Street Journal emphasised that Aniston has enough “willpower” to eat just one single crisp in a sitting, a fact she first revealed in 2021.

“What do you eat if you’re stressed?” an InStyle journalist asked at the time. “A chip. Crunch, crunch, crunch,” replied Aniston. “Just one chip?” “Usually. I’m good at that. I can have one M&M, one chip. I know, that’s so annoying.”

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

[See also: When did young people decide they wanted their celebrities to be so boring?]

It’s not annoying – it’s abnormal, and it benefits absolutely no one to pretend that it isn’t. I don’t want to unfairly judge Aniston, who rose to fame at a time when thinness was mandated in Hollywood, and who can hardly offer a stern “no comment” every time a journalist asks what she likes to eat. But also, come on. Don’t say that! Just don’t say that! I’d rather read lies about how she loves to scoff Wotsits than have a single teenage girl be influenced into crumpling up a packet after one crisp.

Today celebrities aren’t just more transparent about diets, they’re also disturbingly honest about anti-ageing treatments. In June the influencer Kim Kardashian, 42, claimed she might “eat poop every single day” if it would make her look younger. Aniston, 54, admitted in August to having a salmon sperm facial. Both women said they’d “try anything” to look young.

At this point, give me lies. Tell me that Kardashian and Aniston look twenty by chance, just because! Maybe it has something to do with all the burgers they eat! Today’s social media culture celebrates honesty and transparency – superstars share pictures of themselves crying, brand accounts speak like depressed people – and you could argue that it’s better for ordinary women to know just how unobtainable celebrity beauty standards really are. I don’t think so. The only reason journalists ask celebrities what they eat and smear on their faces is because other people want to copy them. So when a celebrity tells the truth like this, beauticians profit, diet culture profits, and women lose.

I don’t see the point of radical honesty when it concerns traditional values – it cancels itself out. A salmon sperm facial might be unusual, but it’s hardly radical in a world where women have been slapping animal fat on their faces for millennia. Disordered eating is not radical either, so where does that leave us? Perhaps it’s up to journalists to ask more interesting questions.

After all, despite the attention journalists are after, none of this is really shocking anymore. The only truly shocking thing a celebrity woman could do when it comes to their appearance is nothing. If an actress was asked what she ate and she said, “Oh, different things every day, depending on my mood,” and if she was asked what she did about her wrinkles and said, “I let my body take me where it wants to go” – if she said all this and she was telling the truth, that would be far more unbelievable than milking bodily fluids from a fish.

It’s not up to Jennifer Aniston to fix all this – and I pity her, as much as anyone can pity a universally adored millionaire. In 1996 she told Rolling Stone that the “nicest thing” her agent ever did was tell her she was “too heavy” for Hollywood (“I ate too many mayonnaise sandwiches,” she sighed. “Mayonnaise on white bread – the most delicious thing in the world.”) Rolling Stone reported that Aniston “gave up mayonnaise, pre-meal snacking, white bread, post-meal snacking and butter” and was subsequently cast in Friends. Seven years later Aniston denied this, telling W Magazine: “The idea that I got Friends because I got thin isn’t true at all… I don’t think I got thin. I think I got healthy.”

Celebrities’ stories might always be changing, but the line of questioning remains depressingly the same. “I mean, I just don’t get why anyone still cares about this stuff,” Aniston said in 2003 after chatting about her “killer” Thanksgiving sandwich filled with mayo and stuffing. That was 20 years ago. Does anyone really want to endure 20 more years of this?

[See also: The ultra-processed food swindle]

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action

Topics in this article : , ,