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Hollywood crock-buster: From detox programs to v-steams, celebs are steering us wrong

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2015 (1463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Is Ms. Paltrow wrong about everything?

Why, yes -- yes she is. She is wrong about absolutely everything. She may be a great actress, but she knows nothing about nutrition and how to avoid aging. Her advice cannot help and might hurt.

It's a pity her latest craze/craziness, v-steaming (look it up), came out after the publication of this book. The author would have had a lot of fun with it.

Caulfield's academic qualifications (lawyer, researcher, ethicist, professor in the faculty of law and the school of public health at the University of Alberta) are impressive. In this book, a followup of sorts to 2011's The Cure for Everything!, he travels the world of celebrity endorsements and culture with authority; the book includes 50 pages of annotated chapter-notes and bibliography combined.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/2/2015 (1463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Is Ms. Paltrow wrong about everything?

Why, yes — yes she is. She is wrong about absolutely everything. She may be a great actress, but she knows nothing about nutrition and how to avoid aging. Her advice cannot help and might hurt.

 Gwyneth Paltrow

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Gwyneth Paltrow

It's a pity her latest craze/craziness, v-steaming (look it up), came out after the publication of this book. The author would have had a lot of fun with it.

Caulfield's academic qualifications (lawyer, researcher, ethicist, professor in the faculty of law and the school of public health at the University of Alberta) are impressive. In this book, a followup of sorts to 2011's The Cure for Everything!, he travels the world of celebrity endorsements and culture with authority; the book includes 50 pages of annotated chapter-notes and bibliography combined.

As Caulfield explains at the beginning, his book is designed to debunk three powerful illusions: first, that celebrity status provides authority to give expert opinion on matters outside of the celebrity's expertise; second, that achieving celebrity status is possible through hard work and determination; and third, that achieving celebrity status makes a person happier and more fulfilled.

He succeeds admirably. Each illusion is calmly, rationally, devastatingly and gracefully demolished.

Caulfield examines many celebrity endorsements and their major impact on the populace, and then skewers the value of each one.

He dissects the quintessential American Dream — that hard work and dedication will always lead to success — and shows how truly false it is, in the process disproving Malcolm Gladwell's famous thesis that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary for expertise in a field.

Finally, he shows that being a celebrity leads to twisted values and unhappy, shorter lives, raising the question as to why anyone would want 15 or more minutes of fame.

This is an entertaining book. Caulfield writes engagingly, combining interviews, critical analysis, peer-reviewed research and observation of conventions to produce a book that is hard to put down and never fails to educate.

Interspersed with the more substantial parts of the book are occasional personal stories. Caulfield tries the cleanse and detox program endorsed by Paltrow; he cleans and exfoliates his face the celebrity way; he tries out for American Idol. Occasionally, however, these personal details, entertaining as they are, do get in the way of the solid science.

Caulfield has a gift for explaining research, and explaining away bad assertions. His illustrations of confirmation bias (our ability to discount evidence that contradicts our beliefs), the placebo effect, and of the fallacy of linking correlation to causation — all major contributors to the general ignorance and the illusions he debunks — are particularly excellent.

While he debunks so many myths, there is one that, according to careful research, he sadly reports is accurate. As part of his examination of the reasons for our great interest in celebrity culture, he shows that beautiful people — not necessarily celebrities — actually do better in life: they make more money, get better jobs, are treated better and are happier.

His analysis of why — despite all evidence to the contrary, as well as common sense — most of us cling to one kind of dream or other that we (or our children) will rise above the common crowd to become great in something is incisive.

His advice for being a healthier and happier person with the most glowing skin you can have is basic: stop smoking (that includes you, Gwyneth!), eat healthy and balanced meals, achieve a healthy body weight, exercise more, wear sunscreen and get a lot of sleep.

He says of these six common-sense points: "That is it. Everything else is either total baloney or of such marginal value when compared to the impact of these actions as to be nearly irrelevant. For example, if you smoke or don't exercise, worrying about eating organic food is like Wile E. Coyote using that tiny, broken umbrella to minimize the effects of a house-sized boulder falling on his head."

On a decidedly healthy note, you needn't read this book with one grain of salt.


Lawrie Cherniack is a Winnipeg adjudicator and mediator who has given up his dream of writing the Great Canadian Novel.

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History

Updated on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 8:14 AM CST: Formatting.

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