When I was a medical student in my native Oklahoma, I treated a young woman with a calm smile and severe anemia. I ran the usual diagnostic tests and had the usual conversations and hurried importantly along the endless hospital corridors. But no one could figure out the cause of her anemia until someone asked her more carefully about her diet. “Oh yeah,” she said, “sometimes I like to go up to the hill.”
Everyone in the room other than me knew what she was referring to. She, like a lot of young women in rural Oklahoma, ate clay. She wasn’t crazy (the current bible of psychiatry, DSM-5, has an entry for “pica and rumination disorders” to cover this sort of thing), pregnant, or desperately seeking detoxification—she just liked it.
So I am not surprised that clay eating, also called geophagy, has become the latest cooler-than-thou thing for the Hollywood crowd looking to firm up, slim down, and distance themselves ever further from the seeming poison of daily life on Sunset Boulevard. Divergent star Shailene Woodley says she nibbles terra firmafor its cleansing effect, whereas Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny, became a geophage in order to lose 20 pounds for her next flick, The Road Within. She too swears by the feel-good aspect of the diet, claiming it’s like eating a “Mason jar of pureed vegetables a day and running,” apparently a familiar feeling to some.