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.