The Marilyn Monroe Diet: Eggs, Meat…And Ice Cream?

Marilyn Monroe diet

Even 50 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe is still hailed as a classic beauty–though her famous figure would be considered “plus-size” today. But how did the soft-voiced starlet maintain her appearance? According to FitPerez, who found an interview with her in an old issue of Pageant magazine, the Marilyn Monroe Diet isn’t exactly one we’d advise following today.

Here’s what Monroe said a typical dietary day looked like, from to Glamour‘s Vitamin G blog:

Breakfast: She would warm a cup of milk on the hot plate in her room, then crack two raw eggs into it and whip the whole thing up with a fork.

Lunch: None.

Dinner: Marilyn would stop at the market near her hotel on the way home to pick up steak, lamb or liver, which she would broil and eat with 4 or 5 raw carrots.

Evening snack: She would stop at a local ice cream parlor for a hot fudge sundae, saying, “I’m sure that I couldn’t allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is composed almost totally of protein foods.”

Pretty sure that meal plan isn’t one that would be recommended by most experts. It’s lacking in key nutritional groups (those four or five carrots aren’t really enough), and pretty high in cholesterol and fat. Also, it sounds pretty icky. No lunch and eggs in milk? Oh, Marilyn.

This isn’t the first time that this particularly revealing 1952 spread has been revisited, either for laughs/ewwwws, or as a way to examine how much diet and nutrition information we’ve learned in the past six decades. In 2001, Glamour featured an actual image of the spread as their Photo of the Day, which is the photo you see above.

In it, you can see Monroe’s description of her exercise regimen–at least 10 minutes per day of light weight lifting, to “firm” the areas she used the most. Which is way more healthy-sounding than her diet. It also explains this classic photo of her pumping iron in denims and a bikini top:

Marilyn Monroe diet

The Marilyn Monroe Diet may not be the next paleo craze, but it is indicative of the ever-shifting perception of what’s healthy and nutritious. Because while we may be highly concerned about America’s obesity crisis, we have figured a few things out.  7Up is no longer considered a healthy, nutritious drink for children, for example. These days, our expanding waistlines are mostly due to the fact that our portion sizes have ballooned since the 1950s, and because we’ve acquired a taste for prepackaged convenience foods.

Still, I’m pretty sure that if someone came along and wrote a self-help book called The Marilyn Monroe Diet and recommended skipping lunch in favor of ice cream sundaes, there would be plenty of die-hard disciples in no time.

Images via Glamour and by Phillipe Halsman

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    • Jenn

      Not to be a nit-picker but the Marilyn would be plus sized is getting silly… She was teny-tiny. According to her dress maker/costumer throughout her career she ranged from a 22-23 inch waist, 35-37 bust and 35-36 hips. So she was curvy but a 22 inch waist by no means qualifies a girl as plus-sized. There is talk about her being a size 12/14 but the sizes were smaller back then and I would imagine most designers followed the british system which is still smaller.

      I’m guessing the rumour was largely born of women being obsessed about their weight and being comforted by the idea that such a gorgeous icon was within normal and therefore attainable for themselves. However, it is fiction…

      • hannah

        Yeah, there is no way that she is plus-sized in the photo above. Unless the new thing is ‘everything over size 0 is plus-size.’

        Also, what she seems to be describing as her typical breakfast sounds like an omelette. What’s so weird about that?

      • Lauren

        THANK YOU! Not enough people do their research before they speak about her, it’s sad. She didn’t have an exact dress size since everything had to be altered but she was not overweight or plus sized by any means! I saw something yesterday about her never having plastic surgery – also false.

    • Norma Jean Pilates

      Miss Norma was such an amazing woman. She had an awful childhood and overcame many obstacles but was still able to find the strength to climb the steps of stardom. She is still the sexiest woman in the world. xo NJP

    • Maud

      That article was probably put together by the dairy industry. I don’t believe for a second that she ate that way, for one thing, why would she shop and cook for herself?

    • Sam

      This has got to be one of the most ignorant articles ever produced … in this solar system anyway.

    • Ann

      When did a 22 inch waist become plus-sized? Or 34 bra size (whatever the cup)? She was tiny: kind of like Sarah Shahi today… certainly not like Kirstie Alley.

    • Xiaoding


      the Marilyn Monroe Diet isn’t exactly one we’d advise following today.”

      Wrong. It is EXACTLY the diet that is needed today, fatties!

      “Pretty sure that meal plan isn’t one that would be recommended by most experts.”

      That is correct, because most experts are morons and hacks, in the pay of the food industry.

      “These days, our expanding waistlines are mostly due to the fact that our portion sizes have ballooned since the 1900s, and because we’ve acquired a taste for prepackaged convenience foods.”

      Again, ignorant. Not true at all, except for the “convenieince” part. You can litereally stuff yourself, all day long, on meat and dairy, and not gain a pound. Because the quantity of food, does not have anything to do, with the absortion of food.

      I read, day after day, of people who follow this “diet” (really, just healthy eating) and have success, after DECADES of being fatties.

    • MarkB

      Your knowledge of diet – and of the thinking among diet experts – is woefully outdated. To quote Walter Willet – head of Harvard’s Dept. of Nutrition: “Fat Isn’t the Issue”.

      And Cholesterol? Seriously? Experts have known since the early 2000′s that dietary cholesterol has essentially no impact on risk. Yes, there are still plenty whose idea of nutritional advice is to hand out “Healthy Eating” brochures printed in the 1990s but the science is pretty clear.

      Yes – a bit less ice cream and lots more vegetables would be better.

      Also, I’m with the others here – the idea that Marilyn was “plus sized” has been debunked so many times that including it makes it appear that you are just phoning it in…

      • Linda R

        Excellent! Could not have posted better.
        When will the so-called nutritionists wake up and get with the program?

    • Ken Green

      The “Marilyn Monroe Diet” IS paleo. About the only quibble could be over milk consumption, but many in the paleo community would even say that the milk was okay, if she tolerated it well, as that proved her gene line had adapted to it. The ice-cream is another issue, mainly because of the added sugar, though in those days, it was real sugar from sugar cane, and not high-fructose corn syrup.

    • super

      She was definitely not plus size. I have seen some of her costumes up close. I’m a size 4 and her clothes would be too small for me. Although she supposedly wore a size 8, the waist of her clothes would be equivalent to today’s 2 (or even a 0) , and the bust probaby equivalent to a size 6 or so.

    • Voyager

      All I know is, when I live off of meat, eggs, and lift weights, I lose weight fast, and build strength fast.

      Then I have a morning meeting at work supplied with fruit and muffins, and I’m back on the sugar crazy and gain the weight back, and lose the strength.

      Maybe its not what your nutritionists recommend, but what they do recommend sure doesn’t do me any good.

    • Mickey

      According to her bios, she also regularly took enemas to keep her weight down. So if someone wants to write a diet book, they may want to include that critical point.

    • Brinker

      “I’m sure that I couldn’t allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is composed almost totally of protein foods.”

      Amazing how this bit of ancient wisdom (protein & fat = good; carbs = bad) was so quickly forgotten in the modern era. Long live the federal nutrition guidelines and their obesity-inducing carbohydrate-heavy recommendations.

    • Sardondi

      Now before you go off changing regulations and rewriting textbooks (which is the usual Chicken Little response by so much of the media when “experts” announce some shocking, new finding about food which flies in the face of common sense and experience), let’s stop and think this through. At least ask the questions that the announcement raises.

      And in this case, that question is, exactly what is it about MM’s fabulous diet claim that makes you think there’s a shred of truth to it?

    • Jay

      Inflation is not just for dollars and women’s clothing…

      I have been using the same brand of mens dress shirts for almost 10 years. I always wore a size 15, but the past few years the size 15s are HUGE on me and I have to size down to a 14.5, which is still bigger than the oldest size 15s.

      I suspect the clothing industry has been secretly compensating for the average american getting fatter by making clothing bigger and bigger.

    • makennanj

      Yes, look at “how much diet and nutrition information we’ve learned in the past six decades” and yet we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic. There was no obesity epidemic six decades ago. We’re just so smart today, though. More like arrogant.

    • Marissa

      Marilyn was not “plus-sized”. She was smaller than today’s misses size 2. Some of her costumes were auctioned off, measuring a 22-inch waist and 32-inch bust.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-24/hollywood-auction-ends-myth-of-zaftig-marilyn-virginia-postrel.html