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Why Not Be Beatiful?

[Beauty - Part 1]  [Beauty - Part 2]  [Beauty - Part 3] 

( Originally Published 1963 )



Attitudes about eating so often stem from environment. One chance remark from a husband: "Honey, you know I can't stand artichokes!" will probably keep a listening child from ever putting an artichoke in his mouth. This is why fathers and mothers should watch what they say, and why I think they should not assume automatically that what's good enough for them is good enough for their children. Just because you may have been brought up on heavy, overcooked foods, or can't control your own craving for chocolates, doesn't mean you have to teach your children likewise. You have a chance to see that your children form better habits. To me a fat child is an avoidable tragedy. Nine times out of ten you'll hear the mother of such a child saying, "Eat, darling." If children aren't allowed or encouraged to eat ice cream, candy and soft drinks between meals, you can be sure they'll eat at meals and eat well. It's natural for a child to want to eat something when he gets home from school, or for that matter, for you to get hungry in the middle of the day. Fruits, dried and fresh, fruit drinks, natural unsweetened milk, carrots, celery, turnips, cheese and nuts all make good nibble-food. These should be of special interest to the teen-agers who are always complaining while snacking on hotdogs, malteds, candy and soft drinks, about their skin and their weight.


But to be fair to them, and to you, and even to me, I want to say I don't think all our bad eating habits are entirely our fault, because it's getting harder and harder to eat well. Our supermarkets are enormous, beautifully lit, provided with soft music, and offer a choice which is overwhelming. But to read and understand all the ingredients and chemical additives that go into these foods you have to have a Ph.D. in chemistry. Do you know what all those things (hydrolyzed, glutamate, propionate, lysine) mean? I don't. I suppose most of them are o.k., but it gets tougher and tougher to find foods that have some vague resemblance to what they were originally. When I look at all those neatly cellophane-wrapped things I can't even imagine a cow or a fruit tree or a wheat field having anything to do with them. And I'm sure my little girl thinks milk is made in a factory. The bananas are usually ripened by gas, almost all oranges have color added, most fresh fruit is heavily sprayed with chemicals that are not easy to wash off. The vitamins and proteins so many products boast of, having been added to the cereal or bread or whatever, don't come near to making up for what was taken out in new processing.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not putting thumbs down on the whole kit and kiboadle of modern food processing. There's a growing trend towards health consciousness and many manufacturers are trying to cut down on all this taking out and adding in. But I still think that you should keep your eyes open when you shop, and know beforehand what you want, and what you don't. After all, remember your Latin: caveat emĘtor. This means, "Let the buyer beware!"


And then the American kitchen is not what it once was. Without modern conveniences our grandmothers cooked and served six-course meals every night, and mine said she enjoyed it. Instant this and instant that have taken the joy out of cooking and out of eating. The TV dinner is the dirge of our day. These beautiful new kitchens with their gorgeous stoves and refrigerators and electric gadgets should have taken the extra drudgery out of cooking so that women would have been inspired to become even greater cooks than their grandmothers. Instead we have automatic dinners and pre-cooked pizzas coming out of ovens capable of making the most fantastic pastries and roasts. All these "miraculous" instant pies, cakes, and biscuits ... what happens is that you're so grateful for the time saved that you've forgotten what a real pie tastes like. I've never used an instant crust in my life. Honestly, it's really not that difficult to make a pie crust. And it's a lot of fun.

I've laid the law down in my house. I demand that fresh foods and only fresh foods be cooked and served (except when we have an urge for some out-of-season delicacy). I got bored to death with these pre-cooked vegetables, canned fruits, frozen this and that. I can't speak as an authority on how they compare with fresh food from a nutritional point of view (there seem to be differing opinions), but, frankly, frozen peas just don't taste as good to me as fresh peas, and canned peaches don't taste as good to me as fresh peaches, and that's why I don't eat them. There's another reason why I think any woman who takes any pride in the meals she serves would want to avoid frozen and canned foods. It's very hard to make these packaged foods look as attractive as you can fresh food. You can do all sorts of pretty things with fresh foods and above all you can cook them to suit the palates of your family and their individual taste. Remember, the manufacturer prepares his pre-cooked dish according to what his statisticians decide is "the average taste" of about ioo million people. I'm sure you don't really want to have an IBM machine decide how you like your mashed potatoes. I think that's carrying conformity too far. And if many men and women are eating improperly today it's in large part, I think, because we've taken the taste out of food and eating is getting pretty dull.

I want to say right now that while I do have strong ideas about food I do not in any way ally myself with those slightly extreme people who will not eat anything unless it was grown in their own backyard. At the same time I find it very hard to have much respect for people who claim to be intelligent but who know or care nothing about what they feed themselves and their children. I've seen perfectly brilliant men and women give their kids regular lunches of salami on white bread followed by soda pop and ice cream.


Not-eating. On an occasional basis, that is. Don't make it a steady habit. But a Once-in-a-while fast is good for you. (It was the great cure-all of the ancients). And it's the finest diet there is. A few months ago I had to lose weight on short notice to make a film. By the time I arrived on the coast I was twelve pounds less than when I'd signed the contract the month before. Friends asked me for my "miracle diet". I simply hadn't had time to eat very much; there'd been so much to do.

Generally, I do not diet. I eat what I have come to believe are the foods that keep me at my optimum health and best weight. Milk is about 8o per cent water so it meets my fluid needs, but it has nutrients besides so I drink four or five glasses a day. I eat meat twice a day. I often have bacon or ham for breakfast, then meat for dinner, but almost never do I have meat for lunch, which I try to keep very light. I eat as many raw foods as possible (lettuce, all greens, tomatoes, turnips, carrots), and in our house fruit takes the place of sweets and desserts.


When I'm working, breakfast presents the same problem for me that it does for almost everyone with a job. Most people when they first get up are not very hungry. I'm no exception. But if I have only juice and coffee at 8, I'm ravenous by 9:30 or 10, with no time to eat. What to do? Some kind soul will always tell you to force yourself to have a big breakfast when you get up. It's a horrid idea. And then almost everyone I know would rather have the extra twenty minutes sleep than have to get up earlier to stuff in that big breakfast that you don't even want. Solutions? There's a great one for the woman whose duties keep her on the homefront: the double breakfast. Juice and coffee at 8, ham and eggs, or cereal, or waffles, or whatever, at ten. For the white-collar worker or me? Try putting a banana in your handbag. Do not, however, compensate for your mornning's starvation by having a great big lunch of things that are absolutely devastating to your stomach and then sit around feeling stuffed all afternoon.

I hate to feel logy. I hate to eat too much. I do when my appetite ignores my stomach. You see, it's far easier to satisfy your stomach than your appetite. Your stomach is happy when you've stopped it's hunger, which means that you have met your body's needs. But people with "eyes that are bigger than their stomachs" eat to satisfy their appetite which expresses acquired or psychological needs in addition to physical ones. We all know today that excessive appetite usually has a psychological root; that the hungry one is literally trying to fill up some sort of emotional void. It won't work. And the extra weight put on only complicates the situation.


To me the adding and subtracting of all those numbers is a self-defeating operation. Calorie counting becomes more important to the dieter than losing weight, and most of the time she's out to beat the house. How often have you heard someone say, with a slightly wicked smile, "Well, I have 300 more calories coming to me today. I skipped my lightly buttered toast for breakfast. So I guess I will have the chocolate cake after all . . ." She's missed the point. And when this round is over, and she has victoriously lost her ten pounds and had her chocolate cake too, she'll be right back where she started. She'll have her chocolate cake and everything else she used to eat-plus the ten pounds.


My average weight is about 125 pounds. As far as I'm concerned this is fine. I'm very broad-shouldered, solid-boned and fairly tall. The only time I have ever had to resort to dieting was for my first Hollywood film. They put me on a tomato and egg diet, which was very popular with the Hollywood Colony at the time. On the original diet you ate scrambled eggs and tomatoes for lunch and dinner, but to avoid going mad I created my own version. Instead of eggs for dinner, I had a small piece of broiled meat. I also varied the breakfast juices and how I made the eggs. My own version was superior to the original because, though no one knew it at the time, it was discovered that a high cholesterol intake (cholesterol being plentiful in the yolk of an egg) may be dangerous, and may contribute to heart disease. Now, however, new research may clear cholesterol of suspicion.


I lost thirteen pounds on the tomato and egg diet and I felt fine all the way through. But I don't consider 112 pounds a sane weight for myself as a rule. Nor do I believe that anyone can, or should, state that there is any specific weight for any specific height. There is no such thing as a "standard" light frame, or heavy frame, and those charts that give these listings can only suggest what you should perhaps weigh. So don't follow them blindly.

And don't do what I once did. Don't read the movie magazines and determine to weigh what your favorite movie star weighs. That ten pounds less that a movie star carries is the ten pounds she knows the camera will add to her. For the life you lead, that ten pounds is necessary. I used to sit and moan: "My God, Ann Miller is five feet eight inches tall and weighs 118 pounds." I thought I was an elephant. But frankly I look terrible when I'm ten pounds less than I should be. I'm broad-shouldered which means I can carry a lot of weight in my upper frame. But another woman with my height but with two inches less in the shoulders, would look heavy at my weight.

So, I refuse to say what I think a woman should look like and weigh. For my own taste, the hollow-cheeked ghost look is out of style, and, for that matter, the overly-rounded Lillian Russell type is equally passe. I think we've reached a very happy state now: a sense of the moderate, of the in-between, of the normal and the healthy. Our awareness of the dangers of being overweight have helped to make us want to attain that norm.

For those women who do feel that only a diet can get rid of their extra weight, while I will not suggest a diet, because I so firmly believe that each person's needs are individual, I have tried in the charts at the end of this chapter to start you off. By choosing foods that you like from all three lists, and by taking careful note of the LC (Low Calorie) sign, I think anyone with even a small sense of adventure should be able to make up effective weight-reducing diets.