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Steak and peanut butter: the Liz Taylor diet


Daisy Dumas

Old school Hollywood diets make today's food fads look tame, writes Daisy Dumas.

High fat diet ... famously curvaceous Elizabeth Taylor stars in 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer.

High fat diet ... famously curvaceous Elizabeth Taylor stars in 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer. Photo: Reutersr

An effective diet entails a balanced intake and plenty of exercise, right?

Not exactly, if you follow the dietary advice of Elizabeth Taylor.

We've heard our fair share of questionable dietary tips - not from least Karl Lagerfeld, who champions the highly dubious nutritional content of Diet Coke as key to slimming down from fashion heavyweight to fashion's dahling.

Diets of days of yore Click for more photos

Diets of days of yore

Diet fads are nothing new - and questionable nutritional advice has come from some unlikely sources, especially when it comes to Hollywood. 

He's not alone. Who can forget the baby food diet (possibly not you, Jennifer Aniston), or those who are said to order water and Red Bull in place of a meal (we're looking at you, Paris Hilton), or those who favour ADD drug Adderall (Britney Spears, that was once you, we hear)? There are those who have experimented with laxatives and, of course, those who resort to a surgeon's scalpel to shift a few pounds.

Grapefruit diets - à la Kylie Minogue – may be less terrifying, but watching calories is nothing new. Nietzsche and Henry James were strict weightwatchers, while the Huffington Post reports that Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson were ahead of their time in another way, choosing a vegetarian diet in days when meat was all but obligatory.

Reportedly a proponent if the distinctly unappealing steak-and-peanut butter sandwich, Taylor doled out some eyebrow-raising weight-loss tips, pushing a high saturated fat diet that has well and truly fallen by the wayside with current nutritionists (and anathema, surely, to those who criticise the Atkins diet).

Audrey Hepburn in 1957. The actress preferred to stay active rather than take any exercise - but seemed to eat ...

Audrey Hepburn in 1957. The actress preferred to stay active rather than take any exercise - but seemed to eat worryingly few proteins.

What a difference 23 years makes - along with her take on steak, the Cleopatra actress mixed cottage cheese with sour cream and advised nothing but plain toast for breakfast in her 1987 diet book, Elizabeth Takes Off.

Not that the actress didn't have a good innings - she died in 2011 at the age of 79.

We may be better off taking a leaf from Audrey Hepburn's lifestyle. According to Pamela Keogh's What Would Audrey Do?, she preferred organic produce and the odd plate of pasta, treating herself to a square of dark cooking chocolate in the afternoons. She drank wine, but was partial to the "occasional Scotch", said the Daily Mail.

Greta Garbo in 1929. Close friends with Gayelord Hauser, Garbo was a vegetarian ahead of her time.

Greta Garbo in 1929. Close friends with Gayelord Hauser, Garbo was a vegetarian ahead of her time.

There seems however, a notable lack of protein on the Hepburn table - and the fashion icon never took exercise, instead staying active by way of her daily routines, walking wherever she could.

Lagerfeld may agree with her mores - he dodges exercise, fearing that it stimulates appetite and weight gain.

Protein was high in Marilyn Monroe's diet. In 1952, she told Pageant magazine that she drinks a glass of warm milk with two raw eggs stirred into it for breakfast. As rich in some nutrients as it may be, the Huffington Post points out the meal has high cholesterol and at risk of contamination - but then, the star herself admitted that she had been told her eating habits were "absolutely bizarre".

Less unorthodox, though certainly ahead of her time was the admission that the blonde bombshell exercised with weights, taking care of her very best assets.

Like Garbo, the star would undoubtedly have been influenced in some way by Hollywood diet maven Gayelord Hauser, who shared his dietary tips with stars of the silver screen after moving to Hollywood in 1927. Sanguine and down-to-earth, Hauser's fruit, vegetable, broth and herb-heavy food tips make many a contemporary diet seem more faddish than ever.

For some stars of the 1950s, enviable figures went beyond food. According to the LA Times, Maria Callas, the troubled soprano, took an alarming route, injecting iodine into her lymph system to help her lose weight.

Spin the years back further and Lord Byron, as dashing and devilish as he may have been, had a "morbid propensity to fatten". According to the BBC, the Don Juan writer subsisted on "biscuits and soda water or potatoes drenched in vinegar" while at Cambridge University, where he wore woollen layers to help shed pounds. He smoked cigars to supress appetite and was seen as a bad influence on the impressionable youths of circa 1818.

The poet, who died aged 36 in 1824, was in good company. One of the very first diet books was Brillat-Savarin's Physiology of Taste, written in 1825 - making the odd jar of baby food ingested by a 2012 A-lister seem as old hat as it is plain unappetising.


  • Not sure where you got your info from about Audrey Hepburn never exercising but she danced ballet most of her life

    Date and time
    August 29, 2012, 3:47PM
    • Oh OH, the LIZ TAYLOR DIET....hahahahaha.
      How to be chronically ill.....from 30 years of age.
      Kept alive evil scientist's... catalogue of pharmaceuticals.
      ..and kept looking weekly, monthly, yearly visits to cosmetic manipulators(surgeons)
      ....What about ''the Elvis Diet''....???? know one...where...even the greatest brains in the medical sciences can't keep you alive.
      Not a big stretch to the ''average Australian's diet...IF you want to live like these rich and famous people....just multiply what you are doing now by six(if you can afford it)

      Date and time
      August 29, 2012, 4:04PM
      • If you can afford to lock yourself away under medical supervision for 2 weeks while you live on a handful of calories a day, slimming down is easy.

        Unfortunately those of us who don't act for a living and have somewhat more bourgeois social circles and commitments can't really get away with doing that.

        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 4:14PM
        • Do you mean proletarian? Because locking yourself into some kind of expensive diet spa seems extremely bourgeois.

          Date and time
          August 29, 2012, 7:01PM
      • Most of these actresses were also heavy smokers - Audrey Hepburn stayed thin largey due to her consumption of cigarettes (that iconic Breakfast at Tiffanys pic was quite true to form).

        Out there
        Date and time
        August 29, 2012, 4:27PM
        • Best of both worlds is to eat any food you feel like, but don't swallow. If swallowing does occur, I heard about tapeworms somewhere.........

          Date and time
          August 29, 2012, 9:12PM
          • Let's not forget Liberace's watermelon diet.

            Date and time
            August 30, 2012, 8:33AM
            • This article is dribble, I've lived in Paris and experienced all the decadence foods on offer, butter, chocolate, pastries, the key to everything MODERATION.

              Pickled Herring
              Date and time
              August 30, 2012, 10:09AM
              • I think the important thing to take away from this article is that people have long been foolish for following fad diets that they think (for no scientific reason) will work and be the end of all their insecurities, and there is always some celebrity to use their status to take money out of the pockets out of those who have these fanciful beliefs.

                Simply follow what the common health professional will tell you ie. healthy diet and exercise, rather than some silly fad requires a celebrity's name to be stamped on it to be sold as it has no credibility.

                Date and time
                August 30, 2012, 10:24AM
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