Did Marilyn Monroe have an eating disorder?

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In this blog post, we shall answer the question, “did Marilyn Monroe have an eating disorder?” and look at the life of Marilyn Monroe. We shall also look at the diet and workout routine Marilyn followed, and discuss what eating disorders are, and their types. Finally, we shall look at ways we can prevent eating disorders.

Did Marilyn Monroe have an eating disorder?

No, Marilyn Monroe did not have an eating disorder. Many people differed in opinions when it came to the health of Marilyn and how she maintained her figure. While many believed she had an eating disorder, others believed though her diet plan was a bit weird, she did not have disordered eating.

People did not have awareness of eating disorders and so there were no certain records that could determine whether she had an eating disorder. People made conclusions from her physical appearance, eating habits and exercise routines. Before we look at Marilyn’s diet and exercise routine. Let us look at who Marilyn was.

Who was Marilyn Monroe?

Marilyn Monroe, whose original name was Norma Jeane Mortenson, and later Norma Jeane Baker, was an American actress born on June 1, 1926. She became a major sex symbol starring in many successful films during the 1950s and is still considered a pop culture icon.

She had a rough childhood since her mother spend most of her life in asylums for a mental illness. She was brought up by 12 different foster families and was in an orphanage from time to time. She took her screen name Marilyn Moroe after taking up a contract as a popular photographer’s model in 1946.

She has starred in many films with modelling jobs in between. As she continued to act, her fame grew steady globally and she became the object of unprecedented excess admiration. She was married twice, once in 1942, another marriage in 1954 and a last one in 1956 and they divorced in 1961. 

She died from an overdose of sleeping pills (barbiturates) in her Los Angeles home. Her death was ruled as a possible suicide though some believe she was murdered after threatening to expose her relationship with the Kennedy brothers.

Marilyn Monroe and eating disorders

Marilyn seemed to be very comfortable with her body and had many pictures of her taken looking bubbly and contented. She had been deemed a sex icon and many admired her curves and figure. Unlike the current generation of celebrities who starve themselves to a point of seeing their bone structure so as to maintain beauty standards, Marilyn did not skip meals or restrict her meals. 

In a 1952 article in Pageant magazine, titled “how I stay in shape”, the confident Marilyn was modest about her physical appearance. “Frankly, I’ve never considered my figure so exceptional. My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat.”

Her meals

She stated that she started her day with a nourishing breakfast for her busy day. “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 prescribe a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.”

Marilyn’s dinner, which she termed simple, comprised of steak, lamb chops or liver, which she bought at the market every evening. She then broiled them in her oven and eat four or five raw carrots with her meat. She also said that she ate simple during the day and had developed a habit of stopping for a hot-fudge sundae on her way back from evening drama classes.

Many people feel her diet was okay as she ate healthy unprocessed food and did not skip meals. She also treated herself every evening after a stressful day.

Marilyn’s exercise routine

After getting out of bed and brushing her teeth,  she did a bust-lifting routine with 2 5lb weights. About exercises, she says, “I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it… I spend at least ten 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.”

Experts feel that the best routine is that where one listens to their body as Marilyn did. 10 minutes of exercise were sufficient per day to nourish her body instead of doing hours long of cardio.

Marilyn’s story can inspire many people who have a negative body image to appreciate their bodies more and practice healthy eating and exercising without tiring and punishing their bodies. It is important to listen to our bodies and not practice restrictive feeding as this can lead to the development of an eating disorder.

Influence of media on the development of eating disorders

Many celebrities have come out and opened up about their struggles with eating disorders. Though there are some who have not spoken about it, they are speculated to be struggling with eating disorders from their physical appearances and behaviours. Media contributes to the development of eating disorders in the following ways:

The societal standards of beauty

Many people perceive beautiful women to be petite or skinny. The internet today is filled with beautiful women with petite figures and they represent the standards of beauty today. Marilyn was known to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. The ladies must have a certain body shape, failure to which they will receive backlash from their management and their fans. The most famous models and those who model for Victoria’s secret are extremely slender and are portrayed as beautiful or “sexy” and this has been accepted as the standard for beauty.

Diet culture 

Diet culture is an extreme belief that one’s appearance and body shape is more important than one’s general well-being. It gives the idea that controlling what you eat and how much you eat is normal. Marilyn had a strict diet that she followed so as to maintain her shape. Examples of diet culture include:

  • Having guilt or shame for eating
  • Feelings of unworthiness due to your physical appearance
  • Suppressing appetite with caffeine, nicotine, water, etc.
  • Labelling food as good or bad

On-screen sexual objectification

Most of the time, women and sometimes men on-screen are seen as sex objects than cognitive beings. This is clearly seen in Marilyn’s story and how the media scrutinized her. People ‌focus on the parts of their bodies. Influencers, musicians and actors/ actresses are criticized for how they look, their physical appearances and their body shapes. Sexually objectifying women in media can lead to self-objectification, body dissatisfaction, sexist beliefs and increased tolerance of violence against women.

Demand for their jobs

Most celebrities have demanding jobs that leave them little or no time to relax and engage in healthy eating habits. Most of them get used to having fast foods or snacks in between their busy schedules just like Marilyn did. Those in the film industry are forced to cut weight overnight so as to fit certain roles and these factors can be triggers for eating disorders.

These influences by the media have led to the development and increase of disordered eating among the young generation‌. We hope that the media will realize the negative impact the appearance pressure is putting on the celebrities and fans as well.

Ways of preventing eating disorders

Do not judge others based on body weight

A person’s weight is not an indicator of their health, personality or character. Marilyn was criticized for having an eating disorder due to her body size. Avoid judging people from how they look and if you find yourself constantly judging people from how they look, then look for a professional therapist and address those issues.

Mute the media

Many girls envied how Marilyn looked and even tried to copy her eating habits and exercise routines. Avoid letting what you see in the media influence how you behave and what you eat. Know how to filter information from the media that is not important or that is harmful to you.

You also have a right of reporting material that you feel is making you feel bad about your body or stigmatize. You can also show support for programs that promote healthy living and acceptance of our bodies.

Value yourself based on achievements and success

How you look should not determine your value and affect your normal routine. Value yourself based on your goals, accomplishments, talents and character. Focus on what your body can do and not what it looks like.

Express concerns in a gentle way to those you feel have or might be in danger of developing eating disorders

Be careful when expressing concerns regarding one’s eating habits. Be gentle but firm enough for the person to seek treatment. Be careful not to use insensitive words or label the person as fat or thin.

If you have an eating disorder, do not let it control your life anymore. Call the nearest health provider and enquire about the treatment programs available for treating eating disorders. 

Conclusion

In this blog post, we have looked at who Marilyn Monroe was, and whether she had an eating disorder. We have also discussed ‌her diet and exercise routine that she used to practice. Finally, we have looked at ways to prevent the development of eating disorders.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: Did Marilyn Monroe have an eating disorder? 

What did Marilyn Monroe’s diet consist of?

Every evening, she had to pass by the market and get lamb chops, steak or liver, which she broiled in her oven and ate 3-4 raw carrots.

What was Marilyn’s Monroe favourite food?

She loved to have steak, lamb chops or liver every evening. This means that she was a fan of a protein-rich diet that she accompanied with her favourite vegetables, raw carrots.

Did Marilyn Monroe lift weights?

Her daily exercise routine comprised of a 10-minute bust-firming routine that included lifting 2kg weight above her head when lying on the floor. She did the workout fifteen times until she got tired.

Citations

Pack M.J., (August 29, 2021). 6 Terribly Tragic Things You Didn’t Know About Marilyn Monroe. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/m-j-pack/2015/05/6-tragic-things-you-didnt-know-about-marilyn-monroe/

Maitland H. (April 7, 2021). Marilyn Monroe’s Diet & Exercise Regime Was Predictably Bizarre. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/marilyn-monroe-diet-and-exercise

Siegel R. (December 22, 2019). FOR THE VEGAN WEARY, MARILYN MONROE’S STRANGE DIET AND EXERCISE ROUTINE. Retrieved from https://crfashionbook.com/celebrity-a9146775-marilyn-monroe-diet/

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