An Unofficial Story of Wealthy Ladies and Their Weight loss program –

real society, Doyenne, ever admits that they are on a diet. This had been the case since the turn of the 20th century, when the plumpness was traded as a token of privilege for a slim, taut figure (and the fashion that flatters it), suggesting that one had free time for sporting activities.

Seeing the effort to stay slim is desperately outclassed. Diet is the business crime of the Park Avenue royals: a dirty little thing they do in the dark so they can glow in the light during the gala season. "I'm not really a dieter. It is important to me not to gain weight, but somehow my body puts a gap of its own on me," admits Louise Grunwald, the renowned host of the New York Society, sotto voce.

A woman can never be too rich or too thin. – Probably Wallis Simpson

She can hardly be polite to these wealthy whippets who are undergoing the rigors of portion control. “The most annoying thing about dieting is having a social x-ray meal where you immerse yourself in your regular meal – or, if the food is particularly bad, take one roll at a time and butter it up – while the social x-ray is there sit and chop your food and spread it on your plate! “Grunwald mocks good-naturedly. "I'm pea green with envy that they have this kind of discipline. When starving, of course."

Diets come and go, marketed with variations of the same old spin. Hollywood stars ate a version of the Dukan's protein-based diet in the 1930s, the Scarsdale Medical Diet gave way to Atkins and F-Factor, and then today's allketogenic mentality and Master Cleanse begot Merla Zellerbach's monastic detox. Meanwhile, Nikki Haskell, the infamous creator of StarCaps, is still there, except she's darting between the tables at the Polo Bar these days.

For Grunwald and her cohorts, it was always true that you can also eat your Fürstenberg soufflé, as long as you adhere to strict rules in your private life, exercise moderation and are blessed with good genes. When pushed, they'll lower their voices and talk about what these other girls are doing to stay thin.


Famed poet and lover, Lord Byron, from his birth in England in 1788 to his death in Greece 36 years later, left a trail of possessed countesses who passed out on passed out couches. He was also obsessed with his figure and his crazy diet ideas (some days just bread and tea, others just vegetables and wine) were copied by aristocratic women across Europe and became the first diets of society.


His lasting contribution in this area was the invention of apple cider vinegar cleansing, which returned with a vengeance a few years ago, this time driven by models and actresses like Miranda Kerr, Hilary Duff, and Megan Fox. Scarlett Johansson, who used it on her face, told a UK interviewer: "It's a little smelly but when you're not staying with your boyfriend it's really effective."


In 1931, self-described "dieting masseuse" Sylvia Ulback published Hollywood Undressed, a gossiped celebrity weight loss guide that became a sensation and sparked a national craze for diet tips from famous people that has not been erased.

"Actress Jean Harlow promoted a diet of lamb chops, steak, jell-o and tomatoes to lose six pounds in four days," writes culture and food historian Adrienne Rose Bitar in her new book, Diet and the Disease of Civilization. Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds, meanwhile, promoted Hollywood Special Formula bread, which promised miracle results at just 46 calories per slice. Think of it as the Proto-Dukan Diet.


The British establishment never forgave Wallis Simpson, who became the Duchess of Windsor, for luring the sovereign Edward VIII from his throne in 1936. They gossiped that she replaced her meals with scotch and soda in order to stay thin enough to fit into her wicked Paris fashion. It is true that she preferred Elsa Schiaparelli's slim drapery and heavily pinched waistlines from Christian Dior to boxer designs from Coco Chanel.

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Simpson has been credited with Marie Antoinette's diabolical remark: "A woman can never be too rich or too thin." But while this may be her most famous diet motif, it isn't her best. She is also said to have said to her future husband when he weighed one night to give up the crown: "Darling, you can't abdicate and eat her."


San Francisco, 1942: Celebrity Irma Schlesinger puts her plump 12-year-old daughter on a diet. The girl, the future Nan Kempner, immediately stops smoking as an appetite suppressant. (She chooses parliaments, her mother's brand.) Kempner – along with friends like Pat Buckley (both women are pictured above next to Wallis Simpson) – inspired the term "social x-ray" that Tom Wolfe coined in his 1987 book Satire from Manhattan Manners, Bonfire of the Vanities, to describe the city's skeletal social setting.


As a child in the 1960s, future debut poster girl Cornelia Guest announced to her parents (social couple C.Z. and Winston Frederick Churchill Guest) her intention to become a vegetarian. "When I was very young, I remember an argument with my poor father:" Dad, I won't eat these cows, "she tells the terms and conditions.

C.Z. Gast and Cornelia Gast.

C.Z. Gast and Cornelia Gast

Getty Images

w vegan, Guest says her daily diet includes homemade almond milk, vegetable soup, and popcorn with coconut oil. The lifestyle has prevailed: Your eponymous catering company has supplied vegan organic food for such discerning fashionistas as Diane von Furstenberg, Valentino Garavani and Donna Karan.


The story that after her second widowhood, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis consisted of a single baked potato with a dash of beluga caviar has passed into New York lore – no matter that it might be apocryphal.

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In 1998, however, her longtime housekeeper Marta Sgubin published Cooking for Madam, a book that provides the most tangible evidence of the former first lady's tastes. The flavor-intensive highlights include a cheeseless risotto and a pasta casserole with cottage cheese. wonder Jackie wore those huge dark glasses: she probably couldn't stand looking at the food.


Carolyne Roehm and her then-husband, billionaire Henry Kravis, were icons of the striking success of the 80s. Profiles from that period attributed Roehm's enviable figure – often dressed in Oscar de la Renta, for whom she had been a model and design assistant – likely to Kentucky fried chicken and cookies.

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“Sometimes I just go for pure junk food, like oreo cookies,” she confirms her diet to this day. "Sometimes I clean it up a bit and go for homemade chocolate chips." The irony of the Upper East Side is that Kravis is later portrayed in the book Barbarians at the Gate as a model of predatory capitalism for its aggressive, leveraged buyout from Oreo's parent company. But Roehm insists that she honestly got past her biscuit quirks. "," she says with a chuckle, "that was before my then-husband RJR owned Nabisco!"


In 1984, Merla Zellerbach, a San Francisco celebrity and editor of the b Hill Gazette Chronicle, published Detox, a diet book based on her theory of toxin elimination. "Zellerbach's promotion of detoxification was unusual for her social station," writes Bitar in Diet and the Disease of Civilization. “The diet itself was complicated: the food was divided into families, and then each family followed a rotation every four days. All of these foods could only be cooked with spring water or filtered water and in certain materials. Stainless steel, glass, china, and cast iron were allowed, but aluminum, non-stick, and plastic cookware was prohibited. "

Bitar also notes that Zellerbach “was among the first authors of diet books to use wheat and meat as addictive substances in addition to cocaine and alcohol.” Their message may have been frightening, but the timing was right, and the book's environmental message shut it down a hit among them was the gold-plated muesli on both coasts.


diet pill ever had the glitz of StarCaps, launched in 1986 and advertised for years on a billboard above Sunset Boulevard. Prominent was its creator, the tireless networker Nikki Haskell, who held up a bottle of pills while wearing a range of designer party dresses. Haskell is a former Beverly Hills High School cheerleader who became one of the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street. She maintains homes in 90210 and 10021. Because of her bicoastal lifestyle, she can count Donald and Ivana Trump, Clive Davis, Joan Collins, and Beverly Johnson. and Barbara Davis among her closest friends.

Courtesy of Brand

The label claimed that StarCaps contained a Peruvian formulation made from garlic and papaya, and their reputation for effectiveness made them popular not only among Haskell's star and celebrity circles, but also among professional athletes. Unfortunately, the NFL suspended six players in 2008 after drug tests found other ingredients that the pills may have contained – including a banned substance. An uncomfortable lawsuit ensued and StarCaps was withdrawn from the market.

Today, Haskell plans her return to the diet industry from a corner banquet at Ralph Lauren's Polo Bar on East 55th Street. "Tell the bartender to make me a Nikki-Tini," she said to the confused waiter one February night when Elton John, her neighbor in Beverly Hills, was sitting across from her. "He'll know what it is." (For the record: Gray Goose l & # 39; Orange with club soda and a slice of orange.)


The Polo Bar is located on sacred ground: La Côte Basque, a former temple of society, was once located in the basement. Lunch was the setting for the downtown gossip exchanged in Answered Prayers – the unfinished novel that became Truman Capote's suicide note. Along with other fashionable French restaurants like Le Pavillon, The Colony, and La Caravelle, it defined the heyday of New York's "Ladies Who Lunch" in the 1960s.

But whatever these women did at lunch, they did not eat. Some even took drastic measures. "Back then, everyone was taking amphetamines so they wouldn't go hungry," says Nikki Haskell. “Dexedrine, dexatrim, you took all that stuff. body ate anything. “Of the places of that time, only La Grenouille survives. Diet-conscious guests order the chicken salad, an off-menu dish that the restaurant has been preparing for years.



The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet was all suburban book clubs meeting in their discussion pits could talk about in 1978. She quickly became the leaner bestseller of the year, recommending a low-calorie, reduced-carbohydrate regime that followed the Atkins and South Beach diets that followed decades later. The Scarsdale Diet was also ahead of its time in terms of ketosis – a metabolic condition related to burning fat.

Fast forward 40 years, and today the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet is popular. (All you need to know is that the website for Keto Chow – a meal replacement mix that looks like sand – accepts payments in Bitcoin and four other cryptocurrencies.) Keto is the diet name you should put on Slack or Snap right now, and if you don't know what these are, count your blessings and move on.


On the other side of the low-carb movement is model and singer Caroline Vreeland. The great-granddaughter of legendary fashion designer Diana Vreeland is known for an Instagram feed of endless pictures of herself enjoying pizza, pasta and wine, with funky captions like "Happy #NationalPizzaDay my carbo babys #CaroCarboLoad".

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Her slim figure could make her a prime target for You Did t Eat That, another Instagram account that pokes fun at the trend of very fit people taking shy selfies posing with junk food treats than they would only be relatable people and not the boring ones. We suspect self-obsessed fitness junkies.

"I don't want you to hate me, but I don't exercise," Vreeland said in 2016. "I get discouraged because my breasts are so bouncy. I mean … a healthy sex life seems like exercise enough to me."

Liz and let Liz

Elizabeth Taylor's diet book Elizabeth Takes Off became a bestseller in 1987. While their endorsement of cottage cheese reflected one of the lingering food obsessions of the 1980s, other recommendations – like dipping steak in peanut butter – couldn't inspire an elastic waistband nation.

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You want me to drink something?

In the mid-eighties, society was mad about the master cleaning, a fast whose followers are only allowed to drink a spicy mixture of lemonade, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Beyoncé credited him with a 20 pound weight loss as she prepared for her role in Dreamgirls, but Gwyneth Paltrow later cited a backlash when she wrote that 10 days after cleaning, "made me hallucinate".

The master cleaning made me hallucinate. Warning: A juice cleanse can crash your metabolism and lead to future weight gain. – Gwyneth Paltrow

Paltrow's lifestyle website, Goop, recommends a variation on Merla Zellerbach's detox diet instead, which is rich in herbal tea for breakfast and dinner with broccoli and arugula soup. What the diet lacks in attractiveness, it makes up in the comedy: The first of the barely permitted foods that are allowed every day is a "glass of lemon water at room temperature".


In 2015, the Argentine it girl Sofía Sanchez Barrenechea married the French fashion event producer Alexandre de Betak at a three-day wedding in an international company in Patagonia. The bride followed a very unconventional diet to fit into her Valentino Couture dress. “When I was planning our wedding, I only ate cheesecake. And the more I ate cheesecake, the less hungry I got because it would upset my stomach, ”she says. Her favorite brand was Junior's, Amazon Fresh's legendary Brooklyn cheesecake bakery.

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"At the end of the month I realized that I had hardly eaten anything but cheesecake because it literally upset my stomach and I wasn't very hungry," admits Madame de Betak. Then she crows triumphantly: "And pictures show that I was extremely thin for the wedding!"


Francine LeFrak, the New York real estate heiress-turned-Hollywood producer, almost accidentally started the career of the company's current It dietitian. Tanya Zuckerbrot says LeFrak followed their high-fiber and high-protein plan for health reasons, but the dietary benefits of weight loss have led the social community to demand dates and high-fiber Scandinavian "GG" crackers. Carrot repackaged the program as an F-factor diet, attracting clients like candy entrepreneur Dylan Lauren, reality show specialist Tinsley Mortimer, and MetBall planner who became Melania Trump's advisor Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.

Carrot has seen some crazy and dangerous fads on the Socialite diet over the years – including people using Xanax or muscle relaxants to calm themselves down with meals. "They think the more hours they sleep, the fewer hours they make bad decisions about eating," she told T&C. "The other thing that's growing in popularity in New York City is the use of Adderall. I have actually seen clients with children with ADHD take their children's medication because it really appeals to their appetite. "

Her three most important nutty diets are rounded off by the baby food trend, in which adults only eat a few glasses of the highly processed material each day in order to save calories. All of these diet abbreviations are reminiscent of a cocktail popular in La Grenouille in the 1960s for its low calorie intake and protein firepower – the bullshot, a combination of vodka and beef broth. Joan Crawford was a fan, but it's a recipe that isn't out of place in today's ketogenic diet. Only then did you get a buzz.

This story appears in the May 2018 issue of Town & Country. Subscribe now

Ben Widdicombe reports for T&C on the connection between privilege and power and the bad – and occasionally good – behavior of the very rich.

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