Cameron Diaz: The Next Celebrity Nutritionist?

Cameron Diaz is busy with her next project.  Her rep confirms her interest in writing a nutrition book to help young girls.  She wants to use her celebrity for good- to encourage girls not to fixate on being thin but instead just to make healthy choices.

A few thoughts:

Of all the celebrities that I see pitching these types of projects (I'm looking at you Gwyneth Paltrow), Cameron actually seems to model a healthy lifestyle.  She is not too thin, but instead looks muscular and strong.  We always see her keeping active with surfing and regular gym workouts.

It is reported that (in preparation for the book) Cameron will be visiting high schools to talk to teenagers about their food choices and what is important to them.  She wants to get their input, e.g., how do they decide what to eat? Although this work will not be a formal "Needs Assessment", I like that Cameron will be out in the community and talking to the teenagers who are the focus of her book.  Doing formative work before a project that engages your audience is incredibly important in public health.  Hearing and seeing what the health problem/s look like first hand allow us to craft more effective interventions.  So I applaud Cameron for planning to do this outreach versus just planning to write a book that may or may not address the challenges faced out in communities. For example, Cameron can discuss the importance of choosing fruit over potato chips, but if a teenager does not have access to affordable fresh fruit in their neighborhood, then the recommendation is not helpful.

One challenge to this effort is that even though Cameron appears to model a healthy lifestyle, she is still a member of the Hollywood community that has contributed to setting an unrealistic standard for beauty.  We have seen her on numerous magazine covers looking very thin and of course airbrushed.  In public health, we always have to think- "is this the right spokesperson"?  It is important to know how teenage girls view Cameron.  Do they see her as part of the problem?  Or part of the solution?

Another challenge is that (from my perspective), celebrity "nutritionists" do not have the best track record for safety and accuracy.  Take Cameron's friend Gwyneth Paltrow.  She has regularly promoted nutrition strategies like detox cleanses and gluten-free diets.  Her extreme choices do not send a message of moderation to teenage girls.  In addition, Gwyneth's cover photos also contribute to the unrealistic standard for beauty.

As I've discussed many times on this blog, celebrities can be an incredible resource for public health.  They have a visible platform and extensive reach to many of our audiences.  However, that can work for us or against us based on the accuracy and relevancy of their messages.  It is imperative that they work closely with clinicians (e.g., physicians, nutritionists) and public health practitioners to craft the messages and design outreach programs.

What do you think about Cameron writing a nutrition book?
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