Hollywood transformations have long been a subject of intense public scrutiny. From Christina Bale’s incredible body transformations for what seems like most of his movies to Charlize Theron’s weight gain for Monster, we the consumer have read in amazement at the lengths actors seem to go to in order to secure a part.
This, it would seem, is not a recent phenomena. Something that became clear to me recently as I read Heather Addison’s excellent monograph entitled Hollywood and the Rise of Physical Culture. Dealing primarily with the period 1910 to 1940, Addison showcases how both male and female stars of the age faced an almost daily struggle to keep and maintain a svelte physique.
One such technique was the ‘Lamb-Chop and Pineapple’ diet, the topic of today’s post which was favoured by many females actresses during the 1920s.
What was the diet and who created it?
Simply put the diet involved eating lamb-chop and pineapples three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What the diet lacked in innovation or variation, it apparently made up for in effectiveness. According to the rather dubious science surrounding the approach, the acid within the pineapple would negate the fat contained within the lamb chops. This seemingly miraculous negation was never truly explained by those promoting the plan. What is more likely is that the severe calorie restriction encouraged by the diet was the key to its ‘success.’
While no one seems to have laid claim to inventing the plan, the actress credited with popularising the diet was Nita Naldi. Typecast primarily as the seductive lead in silent movies, Naldi was for her time, one of the more popular actresses of the age. Thus her private comings and goings tended to attract regular attention in the media, both American and further afield. More importantly, Naldi was an actress who regularly came under scrutiny for her supposed dietary excesses. Indeed, so fierce did such scrutiny become that Naldi would eventually take certain papers to court.
You can imagine the interest in the Lamp Chop and Pineapple diet then when Naldi claimed in 1924 that she lost over twenty pounds in quick succession thanks to the two-food diet. A claim which Addison believes encouraged countless others to take to the diet in the hope of losing weight for the big screen.
Was it effective?
Yes but to a point.
Like all imbalanced diets, the price for weight loss would soon become too much for dieters. Indeed even Naldi, the supposed promoter of the diet claimed that
As nearly as I an tell the lamb chop and pineapple diet cuts down your weight because it plays hob with the stomach….the finest lamb chops and freshest pineapple have lively scraps within me
Such effects obviously took their toll on Nita who went on to reveal
The old saying that one must suffer to be beautiful is true, but it doesn’t tell all the truth. One must suffer Hades to be thin….One day I was giving an interview for publication I nearly fainted.
My stomach yelled, “Eat.” I didn’t and it turned everything black before me and I was dizzy. Vertigo? Yes, I was ashamed to tell the interviewer I was faint because I was starving. All I had taken into my tummy that day, and it was five o’clock, time for tea, was water.
Nita Naldi’s Diet c. 1920s
Breakfast: A Cup of Black Coffee
Lunch: One broiled lamb chop with pineapple
Dinner: Two lamb chops and two slices of pineapple
Was it advisable?
Nope, not even close.
Though the diet was undoubtedly effective for actresses being pressurised to keep their figure, the diet itself was drastically long in calories and other vital nutrients. The sparse nature of this particular nutritional program was reflective of the need for actresses to stay slim despite the effect this had on their overall health.
Is the approach interesting? Undoubtedly. Would I recommend it to a friend? Not unless they really annoyed me!
For those seeking sensible and sustained weightloss methods, our previous post on old school weight loss will undoubtedly be of use.
As always, happy training!
Addison, Heather. Hollywood and the rise of physical culture. Psychology Press, 2003.
Nita Nadley’s 1920s interview available here.