Lady Gaga’s twitter confession: she eats salad when she wants cheeseburgers

Lady Gaga’s tweet about exercise and diet has turned some heads and with good reason. Not only is she perpetuating unhealthy ideas about health and exercise, but for someone committed to fighting for the underdog–you would think she would be sensitive about making casual mention of not eating enough. And as a role model, you would hope she would realize how much people internalize her words. But despite these transgressions and what she may want us to believe, Gaga is a human being–one that is functioning under extraordinary pressure to fit into a certain body type. Despite, concocting an image that is supposed to be anti-mainstream, she still embodies mainstream standards of beauty, namely being thin. And it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that she has to work hard at it.

Jezebel discussed yesterday how, while her tweet was problematic, it is unfair that when women talk about being healthy they are chastised for it.

I’m sure Our Lady of the Gaga didn’t intend to set off a firestorm with those words, but her faux pas illustrates an unfortunate point — when it comes to talking about diet and exercise, it seems female celebrities must adhere to a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy or risk offending the masses. Once again, we lady-types just can’t win.

Perhaps there is a stigma to talking about health and exercise–but I don’t think it is because the feminist mafia dominates the airwaves. Instead, I think, if there is a cultural shame around talking about fitness it is because we are supposed to believe that the bodies of women in the public eye are attained somewhat effortlessly.

But, ultimately, I don’t think people are shamed for talking about their diet and fitness regimens at all–they talk about it constantly. There are entire magazines and articles dedicated to how Eva Mendes stays fit, or who is doing what cleanse or Gwyneth Paltrow not eating anything that casts a shadow. As a culture, we are obsessed with staying thin and all the myriad ways we can get there.

There is no shame is talking about all the work you do to be thin and there shouldn’t be, but we should be very critical of how health and “what you look like,” seems to have become the same thing. Doing what it takes to look like Lady Gaga and “being healthy” are two very different things. The problem is that our fat hating culture has fused these two things together–as though what you look like and how thin you are is an accurate measure of your health.

This grand gesture has made those critical of a culture that makes false generalizations about health and perpetuates unreal standards of beauty very aware of the tropes and images that are drawn when people say someone is “healthy.”

Yes, being healthy is great–and something that we should all be focused on–living happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. But what is healthy for each of us is a much more personal thing that is based on your needs, you body and your genetics. General health and fitness advice would be great, but it tends to perpetuate a culture that privileges a certain body type over others as opposed to actually being about getting healthy. Advocates of “healthy lifestyles” often miss the larger point which is the images we see in the media of fit people shouldn’t be our models for success. They are often unrealistically thin and a far cry from what you have to look like to be healthy. Instead we should be working towards solutions that prioritize self-acceptance.

It is not surprising to hear that Gaga doesn’t eat much and works out a lot to maintain what she looks like. But it is sad that women still face so much pressure to look a certain way which often comes at the cost of living a truly balanced and healthy life, instead obsessively focused on staying thin and fitting into a very specific aesthetic.

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14 Comments

  1. Posted April 12, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Samhita, I agree with your point that ” if there is a cultural shame around talking about fitness it is because we are supposed to believe that the bodies of women in the public eye are attained somewhat effortlessly”.

    With that in mind, maybe we can see Lady Gaga’s point in a positive light–it shows that attaining (or maintaining) the way she looks requires hard work and sacrifices, so for those of us who don’t want to go to back to back spin classes and give up cheeseburgers, we shouldn’t then feel guilty that we don’t magically look as thin as she does.

    I don’t know. That’s one encouraging way to look at it, though I also agree that there is a lot more to being healthy than being super thin, or even being overly picking about exercise habits and what we eat.

  2. Posted April 12, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I really don’t think it was a post showing how she conformed to the culture of “not eating enough” it seemed more that she was craving a cheeseburger for the taste, not the amount of food it would offer her in comparison to a salad.

    Salads are less food than cheeseburgers, but that does not mean that they are not enough food, if that were the case, vegetarians would constantly be starving for their lack of cheeseburgers (as would those who keep kosher).

    Really, who doesn’t want a cheeseburger? But picking Lady Gaga apart for choosing to eat a salad, while wanting a hamburger, is unfair manipulation of her words, and just mean.

    • Posted April 13, 2012 at 12:00 am | Permalink

      I don’t want a cheeseburger, after this much time. But then again, while there may be pressure for women to all have a certain body type, I’m not sure where I’ve seen pressure for them to do it “effortlessly”. Most of the ads I’ve seen for gyms or things like spin classes are geared at women, and most women’s magazines I see being sold usually have some blurb on the cover about “5 Moves To Get In Shape By Summer!” or something like that. Honestly, the only two times I can think of where this sort of thing would get picked apart, in my experience at least, is either when people equate it with fat-shaming, or with certain relatives who want to get in little “rabbit food” digs over my lack of burger-eating. But then again, I didn’t know Lady Gaga had an anti-mainstream image either.

      • Posted April 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        But I think in this case, the #PopStarsDontEat hashtag speaks volumes. A salad can be enough food sometimes, but not all the time.

  3. Posted April 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Have people in this country forgotten basic science? Humans need calories to live! Thus, this “thin is healthy” thing is as psuedoscientific as climate change denial or vaccine hysteria or creationism.

  4. Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the first commenter, and I also kind of feel like this is one of those extremely rare cases where this might be a bit of an overreaction. All she did was point out the lifestyle she must maintain in order to keep her body in the shape that it is. Sure, there are all sorts of societal pressures that have resulted in her struggle to maintain this picture, but what is so bad about mentioning it?
    Also, Salad IS usually healthier than a cheeseburger. The proportion of fibrous veggies with assorted vitamins, to healthy fats (in a vinaigrette or whatever), to proteins (from nuts or whatever) and carbs (croutons, quinoa, rice or whatever) is way better than the proportion of proteins, carbs and (almost exclusively non-healthy) fats in the average cheeseburger. I don’t see why this is particularly controversial. (PLEASE NOTE that I said a salad is *usually* healthier).
    I disagree that she’s “perpetuating unhealthy ideas about health and exercise”. she’s not, she is just stating her routine. Healthy or not, it was an inocuous statement, and I think a more good-faith interpretation of it, based on Lady Gaga’s history with body image issues, is that she was illustrating the ridiculous lengths one must go to in order to maintain an ‘ideal body’. She didn’t say “eating a salad and dreaming of a cheeseburger because I want to be healthy”. She just said- I’ve made this choice. PERIOD. we’re even reading into the motivation ourselves; she must be doing it to maintain her figure. Obviously this is a reasonable presumption, but I think it cannot be said that she is “perpetuating unhealthy ideas about health and exercise”.

  5. Posted April 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    So many things about this post. But I’ll limit myself to a few.

    “Not only is she perpetuating unhealthy ideas about health and exercise, [...]” I beg your pardon?

    Eating a salad is unhealthy? Exercise is bad for you? Has Fat Acceptance led to this?! I really can’t believe an article would start with such a statement. But there you are.

    Next point.

    If someone eats a salad but would really wants a cheeseburger what is she or he supposed to say? (assuming that person really wants people to know, which is another debate.)

    Are you asking them to state “yummy, I’ve just eaten two huge hamburgers”? That’s asking them to lie. Not nice.

    Third point.

    Since when are “celebrities” required to be role models? They are “celebrities” because of a certain skill in a certain domain (most of the time, but that’s another debate!). A singer is not expected to be a skilful writer. A professional basketball player is not required to be a good speaker.

    Likewise, a singer is not (or, more precisely, should not) be expected to be a nutritionist. For saying out loud! If Mick Jagger wants to bed a model, so what? Yes, he is not being a good role model to young admirers who think that sleeping around is cool. If Newt Gingrich wants to divorce Wife Number Four, so what? Will you say that he should not, because he will encourage wanton behaviour among the husbands of Des Moines?

    Hey, Ashton Kutcher bedded an older woman. What will young women think?

    I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.

  6. Posted April 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I have to say, I agree.

    I have spinning tonight. I would love to eat a cheeseburger afterwards, but I can’t. At almost 30, to maintain my size 8 frame, I can’t eat whatever I want, when I want.

    It’s not about being thin, it’s about being healthy (for me personally).

    My grandmother has heart disease. So does my Mom…and high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not keeping my weight in check is not an option for me if I want to live a long and healthy life.

    Let’s not get into the habit of berating women because they don’t conform to WHAT YOU think are “healthy” eating behaviors.

  7. Posted April 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Though I will add her using the hashtag of #Popstarsdon’teat isn’t my favorite. And I think that’s problematic, but at the same time, it’s reality.

    I eat about 1,400 calories a day to maintain my weight. It’s not a lot, but it’s healthy, plenty of food, and no where near deprivation. But would some people consider that “unhealthy?” Probably. But it’s not. Maybe we need to have a conversation about what really is healthy and what isn’t. Because watching your caloric intake in order to maintain a healthy weight IS NOT UNHEALTHY. And frankly, I am sick of this site making it out to be like it is.

  8. Posted April 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    She should be praised for being so honest and letting girls know that she does not look that thin naturally. What some of these women go through to maintain a figure is brutal. Could be why many supermodels suffer from depression.

  9. Posted April 13, 2012 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    Honestly, I interpreted her tweet in a few different ways:

    1) The I’ve got to eat this much or else I’ll get sick during a dance I’m going to perform in a half-hour and nobody wants to see me puke on the set/stage/in the recording booth, so I’m sticking to what I said I would do, but DAMN, my tastebuds are craving a Quarter-Pounder with cheese right now. kind of way.

    2) The No, you had enough junk food over the weekend, you don’t “deserve” to “treat” yourself, “just this once”, discipline, woman, DISCIPLINE! kind of way.

    3) The There are kids halfway across the world who would give an arm and a leg to have the salad you have right now, so do you really need that extra food that you know you’re just going to throw half of it away, anyhow? kind of way.

    4) The Man, what would you do for a Klondike bar, no, wait, I think I mean cheeseburger, but they’re full of grease and cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins and saturated fats and, either way, they had to mow down a rainforest to feed the beef for this, do you really want to support a system that destroys our planet while deteriorating your health? kind of way.

    5) The Hmm, lots of people are following my Twitter and my manager/mother/sister/brother/close personal friend/significant other/someone I met at the bar just finished talking with me about body issues and image, maybe I can make post and add an ironic hashtag at the end to get people talking. kind of way.

    (Given Momma Monster’s M.O. thus far, I suspect the last one is the most likely, but I’m sure there are many more that are just as likely and that I haven’t even thought of.)

  10. Posted April 15, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    Hey you gotta give her credit for being healthy, but like they said you would think she would be proud to eat what she wants and not be so concerened with that. Also that she tweeted both #PopSingersDontEat and #IWasBornThisWay is kind of contradictory in my opinion.

  11. Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I have always hated the fact that the media is all over famous people and how much they weigh. It is hard enough for them to do all the things they need to in a day and do their rehearsals and all of that crazy stuff that famous people have to do without having the media all over them to stay 100 pounds. No grown woman should be 100 pounds. I personally believe that women don’t have to be super thin to look sexy. Having a little thickness isn’t a bad thing. You look healthy and happy. When you are super thin it just isn’t a pretty sight. I don’t like seeing girls who look that way just for the basic fact that I know society got to them and they are doing that just to fit in a look like what society tells them is acceptable. The world has become so obsessed with what people look like and telling everyone what to do that it isn’t worried about the real issues anymore. It isn’t worried about the fact that we do have girls starving themselves to look “acceptable”. Girls and women are dying everyday because of eating disorders and this is a real issue that needs to be addressed, not the weight of them in the first place. Men aren’t scrutinized for their weight. They are looked at in the media as terrible if they are bigger. Men are amazing and perfect remember?

  12. Posted April 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I think this may be partially my own eating disorder history/sensitivity, but the Tweet comes off as kind of.. braggy. At least, it reminds me of a lot of thinspo shit that is posted all over the pro-ana blogosphere. I’m not saying this was her intention, but some people are gonna make that connection.

    It’s hard to interpret these things when they are text based. You have to kind of labour at irony if you want people to pick it up online, because we don’t have the same kind of interpretive context that we might otherwise have.

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