Marilyn Monroe’s Eating and Exercise Habits Through the Years

Frankly, I’ve never considered my own figure so exceptional; until quite recently, I seldom gave it any thought at all.

Trigger warnings apply: Weight loss, weight gain, diet terminology

Marilyn Monroe has epitomised a figure that many consider the embodiment of sex appeal. A tiny waist, combined with large hips and bust has been deemed attractive attributes for decades and Marilyn was renowned for this voluptuous, hourglass figure. Of course, everyone’s physical preferences differ and Marilyn’s body type certainly does not suit everyone.

It’s important for me to point out that the following details regarding Marilyn’s eating and workout regimen are not endorsements or recommendations for personal health or fitness. This is purely to show what she did. Bodies are unique and diverse. Each person’s physiques responds to dietary and exercise routines in different ways based on their DNA and genetics. It’s also paramount that I point out that our value extends infinitely beyond the confines of weight or dress size. Prioritising your mental and physical well-being is key — the rest will naturally align with your health journey.

MARILYN’S WEIGHT AND MEASUREMENTS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS

2nd August 1945 – Blue Book Modeling Agency

  • 120lbs (54.4kg/8.5 stone)
  • 36-24-34

1951

  • 36½-23-34

8th February 1954 – DOD ID Card

  • 118lbs (53.5kg/8.4 stone)

1955

  • 38-23-36

1959

  • Waist 28.5 inches

May 1962

  • Approximately 35½ – 23½ -33¼

5th August 1962 – LA Coroner Medical Report

  • 117lbs (53.1kg/8.3 stone)

“NORMA JEANE HUMAN BEAN”

Growing up, Norma Jeane stood out from her classmates. Naturally, tall and skinny the children at her school nastily nicknamed her “Norma Jeane Human Bean.” A boy in her class also cruelly commented, “I hope someday your legs fill out.”

However, like many girls, Marilyn began developing a shapely figure on the cusp of teenagerhood, resulting in getting attention from the opposite sex. She stated, “At twelve I looked like a girl of seventeen. My body was developed and shapely.”

As Marilyn had no money for a new blouse (and her others were torn) she wore another girl’s sweater, which was too small. Her teacher who was interviewed years later said that Norma Jeane was, “very much an average student, but she looked as though she wasn’t well cared for. Her clothes separated her a little bit from the rest of the girls.” However, the lack of well-fitting clothes accentuated Norma Jeane’s natural curves which drew in groups of boys on her way home from school, which she told Ben Hecht she thoroughly enjoyed.

“Even the girls paid a little attention to me just because they thought, ‘Hmmm, she’s to be dealt with!’ I had to walk to school, and it was just sheer pleasure. Ever fellow honked his horn, you know, workers driving to work, waving, and I’d wave back. The world became friendly.”

These famous curves would later be a household name alongside her films, quick-witted personality, and ethereal beauty.

1952 DIET AND WORKOUT

During her marriage to James Dougherty, Norma Jeane discovered the art of weightlifting, a practice she would maintain for the duration of her adult life.

By 1952, Marilyn Monroe had become a household name, and in that year she shared insights into her diet and exercise routines with Pageant Magazine. That year also saw her photographed by acclaimed photographers Andre de Dienes and Philippe Halsman, with the former’s snapshots being featured in an article by Pageant Magazine, capturing Marilyn engaging with her weightlifting regimen.

These images served to showcase not just her star quality but also her dedication to fitness, presenting a side of Marilyn that juxtaposed her glamorous public persona with her personal commitment to health and strength.

“Frankly, I’ve never considered my own figure so exceptional; until quite recently, I seldom gave it any thought at all. My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat. Now I have to worry about eating too much. I never used to bother with exercises. Now I spend at least 10 minutes each morning working out with small weights. I have evolved my own exercises, for the muscles I wish to keep firm, and I know they are right for me because I can feel them putting the proper muscles into play as I exercise.

She Doesn’t Like To Feel Regimented

Exercise. Each morning after I brush my teeth, wash my face and shake off the first deep layer of sleep, I lie down on the floor beside my bed and begin my first exercise. It is a simple bust-firming routine which consists of 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.

How To Feel Blond All Over

Sports. I have never cared especially for outdoor sports, and have no desire to excel at tennis, swimming, or golf. I’ll leave those things to the men. Despite its great vogue in California, I don’t think sun-tanned skin is any more attractive than white skin, or any healthier, for that matter. I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blond all over.

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. Depending upon 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 Set of Bizarre Eating Habits

Breakfast. 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.

Dinner. 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.

P.S. 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. 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.

WEIGHT GAIN

In the years 1958 and 1960, when Marilyn Monroe arrived to commence filming for “Some Like It Hot” and “The Misfits”, her appearance garnered unwarranted attention from the media, particularly regarding changes in her weight.

During the production of “Some Like It Hot”, Marilyn was navigating through the early stages of pregnancy, a time when it is completely natural for a woman’s body to undergo changes and gain weight. Nevertheless, the focus on her physique by the press was not only unnecessary but also reflective of a broader and persistent issue within media culture—a tendency to scrutinise and often stigmatise weight fluctuations, irrespective of the individual’s circumstances.

Marilyn, despite tabloid rumours, was not pregnant in 1960. It is more likely that Marilyn’s experiences with endometriosis, a condition often accompanied by significant bloating and other painful symptoms, would have likely contributed to her appearance during these times. This highlights a disconcerting reality: the propensity to make superficial judgments without understanding the underlying health challenges a person may be facing.

The narrative surrounding Marilyn’s body, as portrayed by the press, reflects a societal obsession with aesthetic ideals, overshadowing the individual’s well-being and the natural, healthy processes of the human body. It is a narrative that, regrettably, persists today, overshadowing more meaningful discussions about body positivity and health.

Above – Marilyn Monroe on the set of Some Like It Hot

Left – An article from 1960

1000 CALORIE DIET PLAN

In 2016, a diet plan personally owned by Marilyn Monroe and penned by Dr. Leon Krohn was auctioned, fetching a price of $3,437.50.

The document in question, typed and discovered within a notebook from 1958, could feasibly date from the period following Marilyn’s gallbladder operation in 1961. The procedure necessitated a diet low in fat and rich foods, yet the plan’s exact date remains unverified.

The regimen, described as a “Calorie Restricted Diet” allowing for 1000 (!!!) calories and 100 grams of protein daily, was lauded by Julien’s Auctions for its enduring validity. Even by today’s nutritional standards, the guide offers guidance, advocating for a reduction in sugar and fat intake. Carbohydrates were to be carefully selected, favouring whole wheat and prescribing “one small white potato boiled, baked, or riced” as a bread substitute.

As for the diet’s structure, it provided two alternatives for each meal, revolving principally around a selection of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources such as meat and fish.

AUGUST 1961

From “Mimosa” by Ralph Roberts:

Marilyn was delighted with the fact she had lost an awful lot of weight, effortlessly, on the diet prescribed after the gallbladder operation.

“And all the massages are keeping the body firm,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I think I have a better body than I’ve had since the early days at Fox. If you want to give the diet to any of your friends out here, I would certainly recommend it.”

Then, as if I didn’t know it by heart, she repeated it. “Before each meal, half a grapefruit. The grapefruit is better than half a glass of the juice because the bulk helps grind up fat. For breakfast, the whites of four eggs, I poach mine. The whites of eggs are among the highest concentrated protein anywhere – the yellow highest concentrated of fat. A piece of toast. Lunch, a tuna salad with greens and diet dressing. Or, the white meat of chicken or turkey. Dinner, a salad, a small baked potato, and a filet mignon, preferably charcoaled. If I get ravenously hungry mid-afternoon, a few bites of white meat of chicken, a few shrimp. Vary the steak with fish of some kind.

“I never feel the need of stuffing the face with bread, or sweets, and oddly enough, fruit…”

… I thought it’s interesting that in the diet I could pass on to other friends, she neglected to mention the split of champagne before dinner. I think that’s the main ingredient of any diet – relax.

“Along with her diet, Marilyn felt that a huge part of her losing weight was down to receiving regular massages with Ralph. She said to Ralph in September 1961, “Thanks to the diet and to you, I’m sure I could make the best impression for an awfully long spell” before going to a party with Frank Sinatra.

MARCH 1962

Ralph Roberts later comments in the book on how slim she looked in March 1962, ready for “Something’s Got To Give”.

She removed a loose jacket she was wearing and displayed her trim, firm body, very slender.

“Having those massages while losing all that blubber sure paid off. I went to the wardrobe at Fox the other day and tried on a dress I wore in “Gentlemen,” and it was a perfect fit everywhere but the waist and a teensy bit loose there. I’m better than I’ve ever been.”

Like anyone, Marilyn Monroe’s weight and physique naturally fluctuated throughout her life, shaped by the ever-changing circumstances and phases she encountered. Her approach to diet and exercise was not static; it adapted to meet the demands and experiences of her personal and professional life.

To reiterate the central point of this article, the information presented is intended solely for informative purposes. It is crucial to acknowledge that what was effective for Marilyn is not a prescriptive or advisable path for others. Health and nutritional science have evolved considerably since Marilyn’s era, and individual needs and circumstances vary widely.

Before embarking on any dietary or fitness regime, it is imperative to seek personalised advice. Consulting with healthcare professionals—be it a doctor, a registered dietitian, or a qualified personal trainer—is the safest and most effective way to explore and plan for weight management. They can provide tailored guidance that considers your unique health profile, ensuring your physical well-being and nutritional needs are met responsibly and sustainably.

Marilyn Monroe: Unhygienic Slob?

When picturing Marilyn Monroe, we often envision her soft, clear skin, fluffy white-golden locks, and the iconic scent of Chanel No. 5. However, amidst the idolization, there are certain narratives and rumours circulating on the internet that attempt to tarnish her image. In this article, we will address some of these claims, debunking the myths surrounding Marilyn’s alleged lack of hygiene and unkempt appearance.

Trigger Warning: This article contains a discussion surrounding Marilyn’s death.

Lena Pepitone – A Questionable Source

Lena Pepitone, Marilyn’s East Coast housekeeper, had a working relationship with Marilyn, but her book, “Marilyn Confidential,” sensationalises their relationship and includes numerous falsehoods, as expertly debunked by April Chambers. Pepitone makes outlandish claims, including being Marilyn’s confidante and close friend. However, these assertions, along with claims of Marilyn’s lack of bathing, cannot be verified and can be assumed false.

Lena commented on how Marilyn would keep dirty plates under her bed, and would disgustingly let her period spill over her bedsheet.

Ralph Roberts, Marilyn’s masseuse and friend, noted in his book “Mimosa” that Marilyn always referred to Lena as “the Italian woman” rather than by name, suggesting that their relationship might not have been as close as Lena claimed. Additionally, Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece attests that Marilyn never discussed intimate matters with her employees, reinforcing the notion that Lena’s claims are dubious. It is essential to consider these conflicting accounts.

Allan Abbott – Questioning the Appearance

Allan Abbott, the funeral director responsible for Marilyn’s service, claimed in the book “Pardon My Hearse,” co-authored with Gregory Abbott, that Marilyn’s body was unrecognisable when it arrived at the mortuary. The book describes her as an average, ageing woman who had not taken good care of herself. However, it is crucial to remember that the circumstances surrounding her death likely contributed to her appearance not to mention the fact that Marilyn was human. Abbott’s statements, including the mention of Marilyn’s unbleached roots and the need for beauty treatments, are used to shock readers, but they fail to recognise that these are natural aspects of anyone’s natural appearance.

So, was Marilyn a dirty, unhygienic slob who didn’t bathe or take care of herself?

The ridiculous claims made by Lena and rehashed by David Bret, author of “Clark Gable: Tormented Star,” suggest that Marilyn was unhygienic, frequently drunk, and used her sheets as a napkin. However, there are pieces of evidence that contradict these rumours.

Ex-husband James Dougherty stated that Marilyn washed her face several times a day to avoid breakouts, which resulted in dry skin that may have led to her Vaseline baths. In addition, Ralph Roberts, her masseuse, described the incredible feel of her skin, contradicting claims of poor hygiene.

Furthermore, documents and receipts from Julien’s Auctions reveal that Marilyn invested a significant amount of money in personal care and beauty products throughout her life. Spending thousands of dollars on beauty treatments demonstrates her commitment to maintaining her appearance.

It is essential to separate the person from the public image when examining not just Marilyn Monroe but any celebrity. While some individuals aim to destroy the illusion for personal gain, it is crucial to remember that Marilyn was a human being. Like anyone else, she occasionally had days off from make-up or washing her hair, deviating from the image she meticulously crafted. It is unjust to judge her solely based on fleeting glimpses that may contradict the beauty standards of her time. Beauty goes beyond skin deep, and it is high time we appreciate Marilyn Monroe for the icon she was, without perpetuating unfounded myths and trying to scrutinise her appearance.

Marilyn Monroe & Her Endometriosis Struggle

When Norma Jeane reached puberty, she began experiencing extremely painful periods. While most girls suffer from some level of period pain, Norma Jeane’s pain was far beyond a regular menstrual belly ache. In this article, we delve into the story of Norma Jeane, who later became known as Marilyn Monroe, and her battle with (apparent*) endometriosis, a condition that caused her excruciating pain and affected her personal life in various ways.

*I put “apparent” as, despite the symptoms and surgeries demonstrating she had endometriosis, there is no official documentation that officially diagnoses the condition.

The Source of Pain

Despite endometriosis being known since the 1920s, Aunt Ana, who followed Christian Science beliefs, medical treatment was not an option. Norma Jeane had to endure the agonising pain of endometriosis on a monthly basis.

The symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms. Some of these are:

  • pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain) – usually worse during your period
  • period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
  • pain during or after sex
  • pain when peeing or pooing during your period
  • feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee or poo during your period
  • difficulty getting pregnant

You may also have heavy periods. You might use lots of pads or tampons, or you may bleed through to your clothes. For some women, endometriosis can have a big impact on their life and may sometimes lead to depression.

The Impact on Marilyn’s Life

Marilyn’s behaviour on set and her regular lateness for appointments can be partially (but not entirely) attributed to the suffering she experienced due to endometriosis. Despite undergoing multiple surgeries to treat the condition, the disease could not be entirely eradicated.

There are two types of endometriosis surgery. One cuts away patches of endometriosis tissue. The other surgery removes part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, such as surgery to remove part of your colon, your appendix or womb.

In 1952, Marilyn had her appendix removed and stuck a note to her stomach which said, For God’s sakes Dear Doctor no ovaries removed.” This note implies there may have been endometriosis surgery taking place too. Marilyn also had surgery for the condition in November 1954  and was seen numerous times whilst in England in 1956 for gynaecological reasons and finally in 1959. 

The pain, discomfort, sleepless nights and fatigue took a toll on Marilyn’s physical and mental well-being. Endometriosis also impacted her desire to start a family and affected her intimate as well as professional relationships.

During her period Marilyn would have to book time off work, especially for certain scenes such as the bikini scene for The Misfits.

The physical and emotional challenges posed by endometriosis, coupled with Marilyn’s status as a sex symbol, created a complex dynamic. Despite enjoying her sexuality, Marilyn’s inability to have a full-term healthy pregnancy and potentially painful sexual experiences may have affected her self-perception.

A Desire for Motherhood

Marilyn Monroe’s strong desire to have a child was evident throughout her life. She expressed her longing for motherhood through the above note she wrote to her doctor when she had her appendix removed as well as several times in interviews. Unfortunately, due to the complications caused by endometriosis, Marilyn experienced at least two pregnancy losses (1957 and 1958) and was ultimately told that she would never be able to have children. This inability to carry a child full term was a burden for Marilyn, who was considered one of the most desirable women in showbiz. She was consistently being asked by the press if she was pregnant when it is possible she was bloated from her hormones or endometriosis. These incessant questions must have put a lot of pressure on a woman with fertility issues.

Today, there is still no cure for endometriosis, and treatment can be challenging even with modern science. The main goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms rather than completely eradicate the condition. Of course, the type of treatment depends on various factors, including age, symptoms, fertility aspirations, willingness to undergo surgery, and previous treatment attempts. Additionally, self-help groups like Endometriosis UK can provide valuable support and guidance for managing the condition.

Marilyn’s life was marked by her struggle with endometriosis, an incredibly painful condition that impacted her physical and emotional well-being. Her story sheds light on the challenges faced by countless women dealing with this disease. Despite advancements in medical science, there is still much to be done to fully understand and effectively treat endometriosis. By raising awareness and supporting ongoing research, we can strive to improve the lives of individuals living with this debilitating condition.

Beyond the Smile: Marilyn Monroe’s Complex Emotions and Unexplored Joys

In the brief 36 years of her life, Marilyn Monroe is often associated with a melancholic existence due to her untimely passing. While the media tends to portray her as a perpetually unhappy individual, concealing her true emotions behind a radiant exterior, it is essential to question whether this portrayal accurately represents her.

 

Although Marilyn Monroe once remarked to a Marie Claire reporter, Georges Belmont, in 1960 that she was “generally miserable,” it is crucial to examine the context and consider her lighthearted fits of laughter during the conversation. She acknowledged that her sociability varied from day to day, much like anyone else.

 

Considering Marilyn’s tumultuous life and the challenges she faced, such as her troubled upbringing and mental health issues like insomnia, anxiety, and depression, it is natural to assume that she experienced periods of sadness. Depressive episodes, compounded by medication addiction and sleep deprivation, undoubtedly had a significant impact on her overall mood.

 

Examining her notes and journals, one can find dejected and hurtful words reflecting her state of mind. However, it is important to note that most people’s personal diaries often contain feelings of anger, pain, and hurt rather than joy and happiness. Marilyn Monroe should not be held to a different standard in this regard.

 

From a young age, Marilyn was reported as someone in need of stability and reassurance. Her orphanage report stated that she appeared terrified unless approached with patience and reassurance, emphasizing her longing for encouragement, attention, and acceptance. Given her constant moving and lack of a stable family, coupled with the mental, physical, and sexual abuse she endured, it is understandable that she sought security throughout her life.

 

Even in her adult years, Marilyn struggled to find healthy and stable relationships that could provide the level of security she desired, resulting in bouts of anxiety.

 

It is worth noting that some individuals have posthumously speculated that Marilyn Monroe may have had a borderline personality disorder, but diagnosing the deceased is controversial. While claims have been made about a medical card at the Anna Freud Museum stating Marilyn’s diagnosis, it is important to consider the limitations of such posthumous diagnoses.

 

In a letter to her psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson in 1961, during her institutionalization against her will due to her declining mental state, Marilyn wrote, “I know I will never be happy, but I know I can be gay!” This statement, followed by the quote from the poet Milton, implies that happiness is not a constant state for anyone. Marilyn recognized that emotions are complex and that one cannot be perpetually happy or perpetually sad.

 

It is essential to consider that although Marilyn struggled with mental health issues, received therapy, and was prescribed medication, the field of medicine and psychology has evolved since her time. Some of the drugs she was prescribed are now banned, suggesting that modern treatment approaches may have alleviated some of her difficulties.

 

Furthermore, it is important to remember that we cannot fully grasp what someone is experiencing or comprehend their life behind closed doors. People often present a facade to the world, and being the most famous woman on Earth would undoubtedly amplify the pressures and stresses of life. The absence of a smile or makeup on a particular day does not necessarily indicate a bad mental health day. Photos only capture a limited glimpse of someone’s reality.

 

Speculation surrounds many aspects of Marilyn’s life. We cannot definitively determine when she lost interest in her marriage to Arthur Miller or if she intended to rekindle her romantic relationship with Joe DiMaggio. The true meaning behind her last note to Joe can only be understood by Marilyn or Joe themselves. It is crucial to avoid excessive speculation in these matters.

 

We cannot quantify the number of days Marilyn felt happy versus feeling down, nor can we determine her state of mind on her final day. There is much we do not know, and it is unfair to speculate.

 

Memory is a subjective and selective aspect of human experience. People who knew Marilyn may choose to remember her in a certain way, while certain memories may stand out more vividly due to the nature of her death.

 

Therefore, labelling Marilyn as solely a sad person is an oversimplification. Like anyone else, she had good days and bad days. Life is not a binary of happiness and sadness; it encompasses a wide range of emotions that cannot encapsulate an individual’s entire existence. Marilyn’s life consisted of numerous joyous events, some known to the public and others hidden behind closed doors. It is crucial to appreciate her sense of humour, her goofiness, and her fun-loving side—qualities that should not be overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding her death.