Diet And Fitness Trends Of Old Hollywood Stars, Including The Odd And Amusing!

With celebrity fitness routines and fad diets splashed across social media, it’s hard to get away from the latest and greatest ways stars like to get in shape. That being said, there was a time when SoulCycle and the Keto diet weren’t apart of the wellness routine of stars. Way back when, Hollywood celebrity diet and exercise looked a whole lot different than today.

“Bird Pecking” Helped Avoid A Double Chin

John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

While there might be some strange “slimming equipment” on the market, nothing really compares to the exercise some old Hollywood stars did to avoid getting a double chin. Betty Grable, owner of the $100 million legs and one of the 40s most popular pin-up idols, was all about the “fun exercise,” made by trainer Dick Kline.

One such exercise was “bird pecking,” and the motion is exactly how it sounds. To do the movement, a person pushes their lips out in a pout and pushes this neck forward like a pecking bird. They did this in order to avoid getting a double chin.

Nita Naldi’s “Lamb Chop And Pineapple Plan” Of The 1920s

Nita Naldi's
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Bear with us with this little diet fad that went around during the era of 1920s Hollywood. While it might not have been a huge fad, silent film star Nita Naldi was all about the “lamb chop and pineapple plan.” If the plan sounds questionable, that’s because it is.

Naldi’s meal plan consisted of two slices of pineapple for breakfast, which isn’t horrible. But then you take on a lamb chop and one slice of pineapple for lunch and then two lamb chops and two slices of pineapple for dinner, and you have to wonder how this diet even came to be.

Wearing Tight Clothing And Rolling Around To Lose Weight

Wearing Tight Clothing And Rolling Around To Lose Weight
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

The celebrities of the Jazz Age weren’t above trying out the latest and greatest fad. While Hollywood stars today are all about pilates, cycling, and the occasional diet that makes a person eat solely fats and protein, celebrities back in the 20s did something a bit different in order to lose weight.

To stay under a specific weight, many stars of Hollywood’s Jazz Age would wear tight clothing and roll around the floor. The charade was thought to help a person lose fat!

Some Stars Were All About A “Raw Diet”

Some Stars Were All About A
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Bettmann/Getty Images

Like today, many celebrities back then were conscious of what they put into their body. So, it might not come as a huge surprise to learn that one of the old Hollywood diet trends was eating whole, organic foods that made up a raw diet.

Celebrities such as actress Greta Garbo even dove into green juices before juicing was a fad, sticking with green superfoods and cutting out any and everything that had sugar, caffeine, preservatives, additives, salt, and starches.

Trimming The Waist Started With “The Bargain Basement”

Trimming The Waist Started With
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Trainer Dick Kline was no stranger to inventing strange new “fun exercises” for old Hollywood celebrities. There was “bird pecking” so people could avoid getting a double chin, and then there was “the bargain basement,” which helped stars such as Betty Grable trim down their waists.

Now, during “the bargain basement,” Kline had women shouting, “Out of my way! I want that bargain!” while twisting their waists from side to side and pushing aside other “customers.” There are so many things to unpack with this particular fitness trend. But let’s just say more than one person is happy it didn’t stick.

A Four-Day Tomato Diet For A 33-25-35 Figure

A Four-Day Tomato Diet For A 33-25-35 Figure
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General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

For actresses like Jean Harlow, it was all about maintaining the 33-25-35 body figure. That is not an easy feat, nor was the actress’s dietary plan the healthiest. Either way, the four-day tomato-based diet was a trend back in the day.

Before movies, Harlow would follow a diet that consisted of eating two whole tomatoes and black coffee for lunch and dinner, while breakfast was made up of solely black coffee and some orange juice. Needless to say, this is not an ideal diet for anyone who dislikes raw tomatoes.

Vigorous Dancing To Cancel Out Cheat Meals

Intense Dancing To Cancel Out Cheat Meals
John Miehle/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
John Miehle/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Going to the gym and having a cheat meal a few days later kind of goes hand in hand for something people. And it was no different for some actresses back in Old Hollywood, including Golden Age Academy Award-winning actress Ginger Rogers.

Known for her elaborate dancing, including some films with Fred Astaire, Rogers made sure to work hard on very intense choreographing multiple times a day with Donald Loomis, MGM’s in-house trainer. This was also to ensure she could indulge in her favorite meal — Southern chicken and gravy.

Different Forms Of Dancing Was Huge

Different Forms Of Dancing Was Huge
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Ned Scott/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

For a lot of female celebrities in Tinseltown, there was a specific form of exercise that was very big: dance. “The Love Goddess,” actress Rita Hayworth, for example, maintained her figure by dancing an alleged eight hours a day! That’s a whole lot of arabesques, pirouettes, and grand pliés.

Once such dance program Hayworth found herself joining was called the Bagot Stack Stretch and Swing system, a fitness program that specialized in dance-inspired, aerobics-style movements and prided itself on utilizing zero equipment.

For Some, It Was All About A High-Caloric Diet

For Some, It Was All About A High-Caloric Diet
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When people hear the term “diet,” they might break out in a cold sweat and hide the frozen pizza, candy, and chips from whoever is thinking to put them on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Well, for some stars like The Night of the Iguana actress Ava Gardner, it was just the opposite.

Gardner’s strange diet consisted of everything good in this world: a high-calorie diet of carbohydrates, sugar, buttery foods, and dairy. The actress chalked the backward diet up to her nervous stomach that left her unable to eat and a busy schedule, which had her forgetting about meal times.

Eating The Same Food Day In And Day Out

Eating The Same Food Day In And Day Out
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Most people enjoy switching up their diets, enjoying new foods, so they don’t get sick and tired of what they’re consuming. Well, that wasn’t the case for some old Hollywood stars, such as actress Joan Crawford. In fact, writer Katherine Albert wrote about Crawford’s unusual diet in a 1929 article for Photoplay.

In the article, Albert says, “I have seen Joan Crawford make an entire luncheon on a few tablespoons of cold consomme, a dish of rhubarb, and a half a dozen crackers thickly spread with mustard, And this a day after day performance.” At least she always knew what to get at the store?

Weight Training Was A New Thing In Hollywood

Weight Training Was A New Thing In Hollywood
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Bettmann/Getty Images

Even today, many people look to Old Hollywood celebrities as having the ideal body type and figure. Actresses and models such as Marilyn Monroe have the epitome of what has been dubbed the hour-glass figure. So, what was her secret? It was actually something pretty new to Hollywood.

On top of doing a lot of yoga and swimming for a full-body workout, Monroe picked up something that wasn’t popular quite yet: weight lifting. Her exercise and fitness routines gave her a stronger and more toned look than a lot of other stars of the time.

“Elevenses” Was A Thing Before Lord Of The Rings

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Bettmann/Getty Images

The hobbits in The Lord of the Rings might have made an entire meal for their “elevenses,” but that’s not exactly what the term means. The phrase actually means a time before or at 11 in the morning in which people have tea, coffee, and a small snack, such as granola or fruit.

For actresses like Grace Kelly, this particular time was a prime snacking hour since she only had a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. So, she would walk on set prepared for “elevenses,” with some carrot and celery sticks and some dried apricots, to make sure she wouldn’t binge eat during lunch.

Jane Russell Cut Out Happy Hour

Jane Russell Cut Out Happy Hour
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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

It’s no secret that cutting out happy hour has helped more than one person lose extra pounds. Even some of the more modern-day Hollywood stars have cut out a glass of wine at dinner or celebratory champagne at award shows. It was no different back in old Hollywood.

For example, the 1940s and 1950s actress Jane Russell notoriously hated dieting, never counting her calories, preferring to enjoy her food instead. The thing is, she did cut one thing out of her diet: any and all adult beverages.

“Just Say No” To Dessert

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Bettmann/Getty Images

Cake, cookies, pudding, cupcakes, and pretty much anything else that can be smothered in chocolate or icing was forbidden for actresses such as Grace Kelly. In fact, the actress had a pretty strict “say no” policy when it came to any sweets offered to her after dinner.

Instead, she would stick to smaller portions of yogurt mixed with berries to stave off her sweet tooth. But seriously, a bit of natural sugar isn’t nearly enough to satisfy the need for gooey chocolate cookies!

Hula-Hooping, Archery, And Other Fun Activities

Hula-Hooping, Archery, And Other Fun Activities
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Bettmann/Getty Images

Niche workout facilities are all the rage in the world of modern fitness. But back in old Hollywood, stars opted to start their own trends, more often than not, preferring to do things they enjoyed in order to lose a few pounds for their upcoming roles.

For example, actress Jane Russell hated the idea of dieting but didn’t mind working out. As long as working out included fun activities, such as archery, hula hooping, swimming, golf, dancing, and even tennis.

The Contractual “Weight Clause” Of The 1920s

The Contractual
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Eugene Robert Richee/Getty Images

In the 1920s, it wasn’t abnormal for actresses to have something called a “weight clause” in their contracts. For some silent film and “talkies” actresses like Clara Bow, this meant they had to stay under a startling low 118 pounds.

To be sure she wouldn’t breach her contract, Bow, for example, lived off 500 calories per day! Her typical meals consisted of only a glass of juice for breakfast, a salad sans dressing, and toast for lunch, and a dinner that consisted of anything but meat.

High Protein And High Nutrient-Based Foods

High Protein And High Nutrient-Based Foods
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M. Garrett/Murray Garrett/Getty Images

Exercise and fitness are key to losing weight, but so is incorporating some semblance of a diet. And, considering some of the modern-day fad diets, this one might not seem too out there, well, aside from the raw nature of the eggs.

Anywho, one diet trend that stars such as Marilyn Monroe indulged in was comprised of no breakfast and a high-protein and high-nutrient based lunch and dinner. For the former, Monroe would crack two raw eggs into a glass of warm milk, with a side of one multivitamin, while dinner was high-nutrient meat, such as liver, lamb, or steak.

It Was All About Clean Eating And Yoga

It Was All About Clean Eating And Yoga
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Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Like today, many stars in Old Hollywood actually enjoyed clean eating. Actresses such as Gloria Swanson were a bit ahead of the times, cutting out foods such as meat and white sugar from her daily diet. Ever the Hollywood actress, clean eating, and vegetarianism weren’t the only things Swason indulged in.

In the 50s, Swanson became a devote yogi, using her status as a three-time Academy Award-nominated actress to educate the public on the benefits of practicing yoga and fitness in general, as well as the importance of clean eating.

“Fattening Up” Before Roles

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

While a lot of celebrities, both older and modern aim to obtain a slender figure, there are actresses such as Mae West, who preferred a more voluptuous figure. West actually strove to maintain her shape by indulging in quite the diet.

Instead of snacking on celery and carrot sticks in between takes, West liked something a bit heartier. West’s meal of choice was creamed chicken slathered on top of buttered toast, chocolate cream cake, and lobster Newburg. According to the San Jose News, West enjoyed “fattening up” before her movie roles.

Three Full Meals A Day, With At Least One Being Red Meat

Three Full Meals A Day, With At Least One Being Red Meat
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Bettmann via Getty Images

There are fad diets, and then there are some diets that make more practical sense. One such diet actually comes from Audrey Hepburn. The Golden Age actress was a huge proponent of females eating three full meals each day, with at least one of those meals having some sort of red meat.

Like many other stars of the time, Hepburn didn’t snack, relying solely on those three meals to fill her up and maintain her slim ballerina figure. At a suggestion made by nutritionist Adelle Davis, Hepburn took Vitamin A, C, and powdered liver supplements.

Black Coffee, Chicken Soup, And…80 Cigarettes?

Black Coffee, Chicken Soap, And...80 Cigarettes?
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Back in Old Hollywood, if the studio wanted an actress to lose weight, she did it. No questions asked. That’s how Judy Garland wound up on the very low-calorie diet of nothing but black coffee, chicken soup, and 80 cigarettes per day! How MGM studio got away with that is remarkable.

The low-caloric intake was then topped off by some diet supplements. Needless to say, a strict diet made by a production studio would most likely not fly with the stars of today.

Frances Starr Did 20 Somersaults To Aid Indigestion

Frances Starr Did 20 Somersaults To Aid Indigestion
Nickolas Muray/Condé Nast via Getty Images
Nickolas Muray/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Old Hollywood is no stranger to weird diet and fitness trends. But if there is one that exceeds all others, it was the trend of doing somersaults before bed, something that supposedly aided indigestion. Frances Starr went on record saying she did 20 somersaults each night before bed.

During an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Starr said, “Now that my liver has turned over 20 times, it will behave.” Talk about a very peculiar night-time routine.

Using A Stocking To Keep Facial Muscles From Sagging

Using A Stocking To Keep Facial Muscles From Sagging
Elmer Chickering/Wikimedia Commons
Elmer Chickering/Wikimedia Commons

While some stars had strict fitness plans, others took shortcuts. This fitness shortcut might come as a shocker, though. To keep facial skin tight and youthful-looking, instead of hitting the gym and eating good foods, some actresses used one thing: a stocking.

They would take the stocking and tie it from underneath their chin to a knot on the top of their head. During an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, actress Mildred Holland spoke of the strange fitness method, saying, “locking up the face’ prevents the muscles from slipping downward. Keep anything in a mild for a third of a time, and it will take on the shape of that mold.”

Mixing A Bit Of Salt Into Cleansing Cream To Workout The Skin

Mixing A Bit Of Salt Into Cleansing Cream To Workout The Skin
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Instead of hitting the gym or eating good foods to help facial muscles keep a sense of youthfulness, some old Hollywood stars went above and beyond. Director Ida Lupino, for example, swore by two things that helped her maintain her young appearance.

The first was adding a bit of salt to her daily facial cleanser to give her face a “gentle workout.” Pretty much she exfoliated. The second method she used was actually slapping her jawline! During an interview with Screenland magazine, the director said, “Slapping briskly along the jawline with the back of the hand encourages a firm, youthful line.”

Swinging From A Doorframe To “Stretch The Spine”

Swinging From A Doorframe To
Print Collector/Getty Images
Print Collector/Getty Images

If there is one old Hollywood fitness trend that would have people scratching their heads, it would be what Wizard of Oz actress Billie Burke did to stretch. Instead of doing normal stretches, like bending over and touching her toes or even sitting on the ground and doing some yoga, she had a very peculiar way to stretch her spine.

To stretch, Burke would actually swing from any available door frame! In doing so, the actress believed she was tightening her arm muscles, lengthening her spine, and expanding her chest.

Leisure Activities Went A Long Way

Leisure Activities Went A Long Way
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Bettmann/Getty Images

For many actresses in the 1940s, it was all about maintaining the figure the studios wanted, which meant diet and exercise. But for stars like Jean Harlow, that didn’t mean dropping everything and going to the gym for hours on end. She was actually a huge advocate for exercise that didn’t feel like exercise.

In other words, she enjoyed leisure activities that just so happened to double as exercise. One such activity was swimming, as it got her heart rate up, toned her muscles, and allowed her to show off new, stylish swimwear!

Jumping Rope In High Heels

Jumping Rope In High Heels
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General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

One thing that hasn’t changed when it comes to Hollywood and exercise, it’s efficiency and results. Way back when those results came in the form of jumping rope for long periods of time. But this isn’t schoolyard jump rope; this is the big leagues.

For actresses, like June Knight, jump rope could only be done one way — while wearing heels. By “raising the body on the toes,” Knight says she was able to sculpt her waistline, backside, and calves.

Famous Nutritionist Recommended Eating “Wonder Foods” For A Longer Life

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Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Maintaining a healthy weight is all about eating the right foods and going through a routine exercise regime. That being said, even old Hollywood was subjected to the occasional fad diet, such as the “wonder foods” actresses like Greta Garbo ate.

On the recommendation of nutritionist Gayelord Hauser, Garbo would consume food such as wheat germ, molasses, Brewer’s yeast, and even “celery loaves.” Apparently, these foods were going to make the consumer live longer, at least, according to Hauser.

For Katharine Hepburn, It Was All About Sports

For Katharine Hepburn, It Was All About Sports
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Bettmann/Getty Images

Some stars are all about dieting and exercise. And then there is Katherine Hepburn, an actress who straight up said, “I deny myself nothing…I’ve never been on a diet in my life.” And for a good reason! The actress never needed to worry about the foods she consumed or a workout routine because she was always on the move.

A self-proclaimed sports enthusiast, Hepburn was always playing some sort of sport, getting her exercise by playing baseball, tennis, golf, or even cricket. Doing so allowed her to enjoy anything and everything, including her favored dessert, brownies.

The Cabbage Soup Diet Was Used To Lose Weight Fast

The Cabbage Soup Diet Was Used To Lose Weight Fast
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John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The seven-day cabbage soup diet was a fad in the 1950s for more than one celebrity. During the week, they’d consume two to three meals of solely cabbage soup and perhaps some fruits and vegetables if they felt a bit weak.

It was a quick way to drop weight fast, even if it wasn’t the healthiest. And, when it comes to dropping weight for a role, there was little some of the stars in old Hollywood wouldn’t do, including consuming nothing but what’s pretty much water and cabbage for seven straight days.