Onscreen, the Oscar-winning actress deftly handles drama,
comedy and song. But one of her most passionate roles
may be as a lifestyle and wellness coach.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s acting range is no secret. From her Academy Award-winning performance in “Shakespeare in Love” and her dramatic “Sylvia” to her comic turns in the “Iron Man” franchise and on the small screen in “Glee,” to the vocal talent she put on display in “Country Strong,” Paltrow has embraced a diversity of roles that have made her one of Hollywood’s go-to A-list actors.
Paltrow has a strong Hollywood pedigree as the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and the late producer-director Bruce Paltrow. And her marriage to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin helps ensure that the show business bloodline is intact. But Paltrow’s personal curriculum vitae are no less impressive than the show business side of her resume.
For all the glitz and globetrotting, the actress has found common ground with her audience not only by way of her characters on the big screen but from Goop, her four-year-old website and online newsletter (www.goop.com), as well as a cookbook with mostly healthful recipes (see below), that has given her something of a second career as a lifestyle and wellness coach. So what if the exercise routine she embraced from trainer Tracy Anderson was to get in shape for her sultry Pepper Potts role in “Iron Man”? Who hasn’t stepped up the fitness program before a big date or job interview? It’s material that resonates with the average Jane and Joe.
If Paltrow has strengthened her bond with her audience as a result of her lifestyle coaching, it is because the actress tackles subjects in which just about everybody has a stake or has encountered at least once, from social issues like keeping dinner conversation flowing and creating a romantic mood to health and wellness concerns like de-stressing through meditation, getting enough vitamin D and making sure you’re getting the most restful sleep at night. And as a mother—daughter Apple is 8 and son Moses is 6—parenting garners a reasonable amount of her blog’s real estate.
Now 40, Paltrow says she finds herself at a peaceful place in her life. “I’m taking stock and really looking at everything,” she told fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg for an interview in InStyle magazine. “I’m trying to accept myself. There’s a Rumi poem, ‘The Guest House,’ about welcoming in all aspects of yourself: The dark, the light, the jealous, the happy. Let them all in. But know that you’re not defined by any single one of them. I’ve become much more serious after experiencing all the ups and downs of life—heartbreak, the death of people I love…These days I feel pretty grounded.”
A proponent of complementary health practices, Paltrow also waxes poetic about do-it-yourself reflexology and the nuances of Traditional Chinese Medicine. And Paltrow’s annual New Year’s detox cleanse is famous on the glamour magazine circuit. For many of her health insights, she defers to the medical experts she respects, mainly in the integrative health arena (see box
Paltrow’s own education in the wellness topics she blogs about began in earnest in the fall of 1998, when her father was diagnosed with throat cancer. She immersed herself in everything she could read about processed foods, pesticides, growth hormones and preservatives, and the link from these substances to cancer and other diseases, she writes in My Father’s Daughter (Grand Central), her 2011 cookbook that is at once a heartfelt memoir and lovely homage to her dad.
Paltrow learned that the body, given the right tools and treated with care, can heal itself. She embraced a macrobiotic diet, shunned any food that was not organic and local, and ditched dairy, sugar, meat, liquor and gluten. She stayed with and loved the diet until she became pregnant with Apple. Then she could no longer stomach some of the staples of her pristine diet and craved grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream. She returned to organic and whole foods when her daughter began eating solid foods.
Food in Balance
Paltrow writes in her cookbook that the cycle of being drawn to, then somewhat repulsed by, and drawn again to organic and clean foods taught her balance. She equated balance with being less hard on herself. “I would support my local farmers always,” she writes, “but if I needed some tomatoes in winter to slowly roast for soup, I would go to the supermarket.”
Paltrow’s family is central to her journey and the efforts it is spawning, particularly when it comes to food. The actress drew great joy from seeing her father exult in cooking—and from cooking with him. Food was healthfully linked to the warmest of emotions. Often with some red wine to accompany his cooking, her father “practiced incredible care and precision when he was preparing food,” she says in My Father’s Daughter. “It was as if the deliciousness of the food would convey the love he felt in direct proportion.”
In her earliest memories associating the joy of food with her father’s presence, Paltrow recalls that “fun and deliciousness and togetherness” were central to the experience.
Paltrow cooked with her father since she was 18. Although he died in 2002, the link in the chain is not broken: She says she feels closest to her father when she’s in the kitchen. And Paltrow writes that her children now love to cook with her. It’s become an esteem-building exercise that Paltrow learned from her father—giving your kids tasks they wouldn’t expect you to entrust them with.
Straddling the generations of her father and her kids has filled Paltrow with optimism. “My father, even through his deteriorating health in the aftermath of his cancer surgery, when his beloved red wine burned his throat and he struggled to chew and swallow, showed me through his own enjoyment that gathering around a table is the high point of the day. Through shared meals and meaningful togetherness, he made happiness feel achievable. He helped me realize it’s all about the here and now, that happiness happens on a freezing winter night or in the garden when the weather’s warm, often with a good bottle of wine, and always with the people you love.”
3 tbsp real Vermont maple syrup
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3” sticks about 1/2” thick (like French fries)
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3” sticks about 1/2” thick
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3” sticks about 1/2” thick
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup,
mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Place the vegetables in a large bowl.
Add syrup mixture, tossing to coat completely.
3. Spread vegetables on a cookie sheet and roast, stirring occasionally,
until browned and cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Serves 4. Recipe from My Father’s Daughter
by Gwyneth Paltrow. Copyright © 2011
by Gwyneth Paltrow. Used by permission of Grand Central
Publishing. All rights reserved. Photograph from My Father’s
Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow copyright © 2011 by Ellen Silverman.
Used by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved.