Was Marilyn Monroe Paleo?

In 1952, Marilyn Monroe (aged 26 at the time) gave an interview to Pageant Magazine called “How I Stay in Shape” that detailed her daily diet and exercise regime. Upon reading it, I was surprised that it seemed remarkably paleo.

What she described isn’t a strict model of paleo – it leans more towards paleo/primal given the inclusion of dairy (milk and icecream). But noting her penchant for eggs, lamb chops, liver, vegetables, lifting weights, getting plenty of sleep and putting an emphasis on reducing stress, I’d say she was pretty close.

So how exactly was Marilyn Monroe paleo?

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Her diet was lower in carbs and higher in fat and protein.

Her meals consisted of eggs and milk for breakfast; steak, lamb chops or liver with carrots for dinner; and a hot fudge sundae for dessert.

“I’ve been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don’t think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it’s hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I’m dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry. “My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots. “It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I eat simply during the day, for in recent months I have developed the habit of stopping off at Wil Wright’s ice cream parlor for a hot fudge sundae on my way home from my evening drama classes.”

She also doesn’t mention lunch – intermittent fasting between breakfast and dinner, perhaps?!

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She kept her meals simple.

Marilyn Monroe’s meals weren’t time consuming or complex: eggs; meat and veg; an occasional dessert.

Her lack of processed food is great, however I realise this is better attributed to the food environment of the time and less so her personal preferences. Nonetheless, this is a key element of a modern paleo diet: keep it simple, eat whole foods, and ditch the processed junk.

While we’re on the topic of processed food, Marilyn did say she drank milk and indulged in a hot fudge sundae once in a while. While consuming dairy doesn’t always have a place in a paleo diet (although it does in primal), the milk and ice-cream in the 1950s would have been full-fat and unprocessed – unlike the products currently on shelves that have been mucked with until they’re practically unrecognisable. (Nestle’s  “Low Fat Chocolate Mousse” is made from skim milk, sugar, milk chocolate (made with soy), inulin, gelatine, cocoa, thickeners (made from corn) and two types of sweetener (aspartame and acesulphame potassium). Yuk!)

Her fitness routine was weights-based.

Marilyn said she preferred weights as a means of toning, building muscle and keeping fit. Although her daily weighs were only 5lb (2.2kg), regular weight-bearing exercises fit much better into a paleo/primal lifestyle than other sorts of exercise like chronic running.

“I spend at least 10 minutes each morning working out with small weights. “After I brush my teeth, I lie down on the floor beside my bed and begin my first exercise: lifting five-pound weights from a spread-eagle arm position to a point directly above my head. I do this 15 times, slowly. I repeat the exercise another 15 times from a position with my arms above my head. Then, with my arms at a 45-degree angle from the floor, I move my weights in circles until I’m tired. “I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it.”

I also love that she wanted being active to feel natural and not “regimented”. Modern celebrities like Jessica Alba have been quoted as saying “I hate working out, it’s boring!”, so I like the principle of finding something you enjoy rather than something that feels like a chore.

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She made an effort to get enough good-quality sleep.

“Depending on my activities, I sleep between five and ten hours every night. I sleep in an extra-wide single bed, and I use only one heavy down comforter over me, summer or winter. I have never been able to wear pajamas or creepy nightgowns; they disturb my sleep.”

A solid nights’ sleep is invaluable. As well as being a time to rejuvenate our bodies, catching enough zzz’s ensures our hormones that control appetite and satiety (ghrelin and leptin) are in check – and so a good nights’ sleep sets you up for better eating patterns.

She took time out to relax.

“By nature, I suppose I have a languorous disposition. I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness.”

Making an effort to reduce stress is incredibly important for being healthy and happy. On top of getting plenty of sleep, I love that she wasn’t keen on springing out of the bed (but maybe that’s just because I’m partial to a sleep-in too!) and let herself enjoy the simple pleasure of staying in bed as long as she wanted.

So how’s that – definitely a woman ahead of her time!

Do you know any other celebrities considered paleo?

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