Well-toned Hollywood stars tackle obesity epidemic in Philly

Actress Diane Guerrero, of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, was among half-a-dozen celebs at an anti-obesity luncheon at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

What happens when some of Hollywood's sculpted, professionally toned bodies come to town?

Over plates of grilled chicken, quinoa, and haricots verts, they talk about the obesity epidemic.

Along with policy makers, physicians, and health advocates, a half-dozen screen stars attended an anti-obesity luncheon in Old City Wednesday, funded by drug company Novo Nordisk.

The company, which has U.S. operations in Plainsboro, N.J., makes an injectable medication to treat obesity. But several of the celebrities on hand were quick to stress that diet and lifestyle are important weapons against the condition.

The main point of the event, said actress Alison Pill of HBO's The Newsroom, was to emphasize that obesity is a disease.

"It's an opportunity to change the narrative about what it means to be fat," Pill said. "It's not a moral failing."

She and the other celebs represented The Creative Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group of the entertainment industry. There was nary an excess pound in sight, except maybe on Dean Norris, famed for his role as agent Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad.

"I'm not exactly a slender guy," Norris acknowledged before the event got underway at The Chemical Heritage Foundation on Chestnut Street.

Perhaps, but the actor looked trimmer than he did on the TV series, clad in close-fitting jeans and a trim, pewter-gray blazer.

Then there were Elizabeth Banks, of Pitch Perfect and 30 Rock, and Diane Guerrero, of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, who would barely top 200 pounds if you put them on the scale together.

Guerrero acknowledged that genetics play a role in obesity. She also attributed some of the problem to a phenomenon that researchers have labeled "food deserts" - urban areas where fresh produce is scarce.

"In a lot of these poor areas, there's no healthy grocery stores," Guerrero said. "There's no Whole Foods. There's no Trader Joe's. All the options are junk food."

Physicians on a panel at the event said one effective anti-obesity tool is nutrition counseling, but they lamented that health insurers often do not pay for it.

Other stars on hand included Billy Baldwin and Reid Scott, of HBO's Veep.

Advocacy aside, several said they were jazzed to be in town for the political scene. The Newsroom's Pill said she caught up with U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, of Delaware, and somehow ended up talking about linguistics.

"As a nerd," she said, "I've got to say, it's been really fun."

tavril@phillynews.com

215-854-2430

@TomAvril1