The recent 50th anniversary of her death has put Marilyn Monroe back in the spotlight, but many could argue she’s never left. Just this year the iconic bombshell was crowned ‘best beach body of all time’ according to a poll commissioned by a UK department store chain, and numerous images of and tributes to Marilyn can be found on Pinterest and Facebook.
People often ask me what I think of the famous Monroe's figure. Was she fit and healthy? It’s a tricky question, because while Monroe certainly was not overweight, she wasn’t necessarily healthy either, at least based on the reports of her diet and relationship with food. Like many women, Monroe's weight and measurements fluctuated.
According to her dressmaker, she was 5’5 ½ and fluctuated between 118 and 140 pounds, with measurements that ranged between:
At either weight (118 and 140), her body mass index (BMI) would fall within the normal range from 19.3 (on the low end) and 22.9 (at the high end) so even at her heaviest, Marilyn was by no means overweight. And it’s also reported that she suffered two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy during her three marriages, which would certainly explain some weight fluctuations.
But what I find most interesting is the diet she claims to have used to control her weight. Sixty years ago in the September 1952 issue of Pageant magazine (a monthly magazine that covered celebrities, health, and popular culture) she revealed a usual day in her diet:
1 cup of warm milk with two raw eggs mixed into it
Broiled steak, lamb or liver with 4-5 raw carrots
Hot fudge sundae
My verdict: don’t try this at home. It’s not nutritionally balanced (check out a recent day in my diet) and I don’t think Marilyn could have maintained such a strict regime for any length of time (remember, that’s an early 1950s hot fudge sundae portion, which was tiny by today’s standards). Could you? Over the years I’ve read numerous reports about Marilyn’s indulgent periods followed by crash diets, and I’ve counseled many women who struggle with the same battle, including those who do and don’t work in the spotlight. Bottom line: Marilyn wasn’t overweight, but even women with the most enviable bodies—curvy or not—may not be healthy. Check out my previous post "Do You Suffer From Disordered Eating?" which includes 10 questions that may indicate that you could use some professional help regarding your relationship with food.
How do you feel about Marilyn, her diet and her figure? Do you agree that you can’t tell if a person is healthy based on how they look in a bathing suit? Please tweet @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.