No, Adriana Lima is not ‘training like a distance runner’

An article in which supermodel Adriana Lima speaks frankly about the demands of being a Victoria’s Secret model is making the rounds, leaving in its wake dueling waves of awe at her honesty and horror at the lack of solid foods she eats.

Her exercise – once a day for three months, bumped up to two-a-days for the last three weeks – doesn’t really strike me as all that extreme, but her, uh, “eating” habits sent my eyebrows crawling so far up my head they ended up back by the nape of my neck.  Check this out:

He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – “no solids”. The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and “just drink normally”. Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely.

So she’s doing the two-a-days while on a no-solid food diet.  Let me state this again – she is not eating any solid food.  This means no steamed vegetables, no fruit, no lean meat, none of the standbys normally eaten by super-body-conscious people.

She’s not eating any solid food.

And then we have the comparison drawn between Lima and an endurance athlete:

“It’s like they’re training for a marathon,” says Sophia Neophitou, the British fashion editor who is chief stylist for this year’s show.

“Adriana works really hard at it. It’s the same as if you were a long-distance runner. They are athletes in this environment – it’s harder to be a Victoria’s Secret model because no one can just chuck an outfit on you, and hide your lumps and bumps.”

Yes, just like training for a marathon.  Except that whole eating thing.  Seriously, does Neophitou even know any distance runners?  Has she never heard the phrase “carb loading”?  Is she not familiar with the pre-race pasta dinner?  Even members of my non-running family know these things.

What’s even more troubling is the language of empowerment used throughout the article.  Neophitou references supermodels like Naomi, Cindy, Elle MacPherson as emblems of the look Victoria’s Secret is going for:

“It isn’t about being a waif, it was about being empowered and you can achieve that,” Neophitou says.

Read that again.  A diet in which a woman does not eat for nearly a week and a half is not about being a waif.  It’s about being empowered. Empowered. 

I do not think that word means what you think it means, Ms. Neophitou.

Victoria’s Secret models are often held up as exemplars of a healthier, more sensual kind of woman, like throwbacks to those Big Name Supermodels of yore.   They have (ample) breasts and (small) hips, and when compared to the wraith-like teenagers who trip up and down runways, they can seem downright fleshy.

But clearly VS only wants the illusion of a healthy body.  They want to be able to point at their models and say, “Look, they’ve got curves! They are healthy!” but they still want their models scraped and starved of all “excess” fat.   See what kind of paradigm is being set up for us?  See what is held up as our aspirational fantasy?  “Athletic” women who don’t eat.  Good luck achieving that without the help of a team of nutritionists and medical staff.

(BTW, the very fact that she’s being monitored by nutritionists tells me that they all know she’s doing something potentially dangerous, and they are taking every precaution to ensure she doesn’t develop a serious health problem as a result.)

That’s not how the human body works.  Our bodies need food. Food is not some optional thing we’d be better off without, like Katherine Heigl movies or Cheez-Whiz.

Most athletes know this.  We know that if we try to run a 10K on an empty stomach, we will puke or bonk.  We know that if we try to lift weights while restricting our calories, our bodies will have nothing to build itself out of.  We know that the best time to drink a protein shake is after a workout, not all day, every day.

But then, I suppose the difference is that the hard work of an athlete is to ensure her body can actually do things, whereas the hard work of Adriana Lima and her team is to make sure she looks good.  Doing vs. looking, passive vs. active.  What was that about empowerment again?

I do have to give props to Adriana Lima for being honest about the things models are expected to do to maintain those figures.  It’s nice to see a supermodel who doesn’t talk about how she eats cheeseburgers for every meal, because seriously, that shit gets old.   But oh, what a tiny silver lining in a gigantic shit-heap of a storm cloud.

13 responses to “No, Adriana Lima is not ‘training like a distance runner’

  1. Merciful heavens! What’s wrong with these people? And they’re passing their food-free-fetishes onto thousands (millions?) of viewers! AAAAHHHHHHH!

    Sharing to Facebook. Caitlin, you’re fantastic.

  2. great article – I especially like the contrast between the stringent training of the athlete that allows the body to “do” something, and the lengths models are forced to go to to “look” a certain way.

  3. Adriana Lima is praised within the pro-anorexia online communities and has long had her photos featured as “thinspiration.”

    The thing I think you’re probably missing is that in the throes of an eating disorder not eating *does* feel very empowering. I remember the smug satisfaction I had knowing that I could accomplish more in a day than my peers, and do it on fewer calories. It was my version of moral superiority and it was based in an unhealthy eating disorder, sure, but the lie that I was being empowered existed.

    • I understand what you are saying, but I’m not sure that’s what the fashion editor/stylist was going for. She was talking about the older supermodels, who tended to be a bit bigger and more of the glamazon variety, like women who looked like they could stomp entire cities into dust beneath their high heels, and the idea that looking that way could be “empowering” for a woman.

      But if your interpretation is correct, and she’s basically trying to normalize the thinking of a person with an eating disorder, then that needs to be called out for what it is and not just parroted as yet another way a woman can find “empowerment” by being a sexy bunny, you know?

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  5. I disagree with “BTW, the very fact that she’s being monitored by nutritionists tells me that they all know she’s doing something potentially dangerous, and they are taking every precaution to ensure she doesn’t develop a serious health problem as a result.”

    The comment is speculative and a bit too judgmental.

    While Adriana may not be consuming solids, she is intaking protein-powder, which is probably more protein than what my father received growing up in a remote, farm-land corner of the world. Growing up, he ate meat, once maybe twice a year, interspersed with a dozen or so eggs. It wasn’t because of an “eating disorder” but more like, the-cow/sheep/goat/chicken- takes time to grow, and limited food had to be shared among people.

    But guess what? He lived. And was Happy. And had a Family.

    Adriana also hails from a remote corner of the world. Where relationship to food is much different than that in our modern society. Maybe that’s a part of her success?

    I see a lot of kindness and goodness in Adriana, and wish her all the best, especially now that she’s a mother.

  6. Congratulations are in order for Adriana Lima. The 31-year-old Victoria’s Secret Model has delivered her second child, a baby girl named Sienna. According to ET, the bundle of joy was born on Wednesday, September 12 at 1 P.M., weighing in around 7 lbs at time of birth.

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