Gilmore Girls is big news right now. Everyone is raving about the revival episodes that dropped in November. Some loved it, some hated it… and others are still telling you not to give away spoilers. Seriously? It’s been nearly two weeks!
While I don’t typically write about pop culture on this blog, an important piece of the Gilmore Girls story is worth discussing here. Because it may hold they key to helping you create a healthier relationship with food.
Throughout the 7 seasons and four revival episodes, Lorelai and Rory are known as quick witted, chatty strong female characters who eat nothing but junk food and remain enviously thin.
Here’s where the phrase “The Lorelai Paradox” comes from:
Luke: “There’s nothing in here but ice cream, candy bars, cookie dough, canned frosting why are you not 450 pounds”
Lorelai: “I know, scientists call it the Lorelai paradox”
This quick witted reply is in reference to the idea of the French Paradox a phrase coined in the 1980s that described the surprisingly curious good health the French experienced despite higher quantities of saturated fat consumption (although, we’ve since uncovered that saturated fat is NOT the demon we once thought it to be in the 80’s).
When I first stumbled on Gilmore Girls a few years after college graduation, I was really intrigued by this idea. Partially because I was strictly “clean/paleo” eating and was envious and starving. And possibly because I wondered if it could ever be possible that I could eat whatever I wanted and still be thin.
Since that time I’ve studied nutrition, gotten a masters degree, participated in internships, and coached clients for over half a decade. My clients don’t diet. They don’t cut out entire food groups. They keep m&m’s in their desk drawer without bingeing on them. They feel like they do eat “whatever they want” while losing weight and getting healthier… however whatever they want looks a lot different than what is portrayed on the Gilmore Girls.
Today, I want to take a look at how the “Lorelai paradox” happens, and uncover what we can learn about food and nutrition from the Gilmore Girls.
How Rory and Lorelai really stay thin
The thing to first remember about this show is that it is pure fiction. These characters aren’t real. While the idea of being able to eat massive quantities of tacos and pizza while fitting into size zero jeans sounds appealing, it’s just not real life.
Most actors and actresses in Hollywood don’t maintain their figure by chance. It’s part of their job description. In fact, Lauren Graham was famously quoted in 2013 saying that she has been on a diet for 35 years… since she was eleven years old.
Yet, despite the pure fiction of this show, the idea of staying slim while eating copious amounts of fast food is intriguing to us because we all seem to know someone who seems to be able to effortlessly stay slim. We all have that friend whose metabolism seems envious, and we wish we could eat as carefree as they do.
How do they really do it?
The secret to losing weight while eating fast food
It’s actually no secret at all, to lose weight while eating fast food, you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. John Cisna made the news in 2015 for losing 56 pounds in six months eating nothing but McDonalds and exercising 45 minutes per day. By not overeating, and adding exercise to his routine, he lost weight while eating only fast food.
But that’s an extreme example, and probably not what you’re looking for. In truth, I envied Loralai and Rory’s relationship with food not because I wanted pizza every day, but because I wanted to feel more carefree about my eating. I wanted to be the person who could splurge from time to time without feeling guilty or gaining weight.
So what does it take to be that “naturally thin” person? Well, outside of television scripts, scientists have determined what these naturally thin people really do.
Dr Brian Wansink from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab has been keeping a registry of people who consider themselves “Mindlessly thin,” or have maintained a healthy weight their entire life without much thought.
Here’s what was discovered about these people:
- Naturally thin people don’t diet: The majority of naturally thin people (74%) rarely diet, while 48% say they never diet.
- They eat meat: The majority eat animal proteins: 61% say chicken is their favorite meat and only 7% are vegetarian
- They love their fruits and veggies: 35% say they eat a salad for lunch every day, while 65% eat a vegetable at dinner every day.
- They get a good start to their day: 51% eat fruits and vegetables for breakfast, and 31% include eggs in their breakfast.
- They snack wisely: most common snacks were fruits and nuts.
While we have this picture in our head of a person who eats nothing but fast food and junk food, staying slim and healthy, Dr Wansink’s registry shows that is not necessarily reality. Most people who maintain a healthy weight their whole life do so by making good decisions about their food and health, without restrictive dieting.
And let’s be honest there’s more to health than being thin
In a conversation with a friend, years ago, a really interesting idea came up: what if you had a superpower (or tape worm) so that you could eat whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted, and still be thin. What would you eat?
While a knee jerk reaction might be tacos. All the time. And massive amounts of Ben and Jerrys, I actually wouldn’t do that.
Because the truth is, health is not about size.
It’s not uncommon for thin people to have heart attacks, high cholesterol, or other factors that directly impact health. However, as we look at the blue zones of the world, the areas where chronic disease risk is 80% lower than in the United States, they aren’t staying healthy by eating 2000 calories of McDonalds every day. They stay healthy by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, natural plant based oils, lean protein, whole grains.
Basically, by eating more whole, unprocessed foods, you increase your shot at living a healthy, vibrant, energetic life. Even if you could eat nothing but tacos, pizza rolls, and fries and stay thin, would you want to?
While the TV script of naturally thin women who eat only junk food and maintain a healthy weight seems really appealing, it’s actually not how most people maintain their weight. You don’t have to cut out tacos, pizza, or French fries entirely, but they do require moderation. Besides, eating well is about so much more than just size and weight – it’s about giving yourself the best shot at a healthy, full life free from chronic disease.