The weird world of celebrity diets

Book Cover Handout of I'll Have What She's Having, by Rebecca Harrington, published by Virago. See PA Feature BOOK Harrington. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Virago. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature BOOK Harrington.
Book Cover Handout of I'll Have What She's Having, by Rebecca Harrington, published by Virago. See PA Feature BOOK Harrington. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Virago. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature BOOK Harrington.

Bookshelves are now groaning under the weight of new diet books, as a raft of celebrities offer advice on how to minimise those curves and reach so-called physical perfection.

Liz Earle’s telling us to juice, Davina McCall’s banishing sugar, while TV presenter Anna Richardson uses psychology to help us master our muffin tops, all in new books.

Every year, we gorge on advice from the rich and famous, from Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz to Victoria Beckham and Miranda Kerr, as to how we can achieve their enviable physiques.

Serial dieter, New Yorker Rebecca Harrington has tried them all, from the weird concoctions Elizabeth Taylor would consume to retain her hourglass figure, to the ‘sea vegetables’ Madonna existed on and the ‘salt water flush’ she used to channel her inner Beyonce.

Today, Harrington, 29, is the same size she has been for a while – she won’t reveal her weight or her dress size – but she stresses that with every celebrity diet she’s tried, she put any weight she lost back on again immediately afterwards.

Now, she has rustled up I’ll Have What She’s Having, a witty, tongue-in-cheek book which charts her experiences of the weird and wonderful celebrity diets she has followed and the effects they had on her – a mix of fainting spells, spots and potential salmonella.

“When you Google celebrities, you get celebrity diets at the top of the page. Almost everyone famous provides an eating plan, so it was an easy one to follow,” says the journalist and author.

“I think that Gwyneth Paltrow’s diet is a really good one, if you’re a millionaire, because all the ingredients cost so much, but a lot of the older celebrities followed regimes that were really gross. In many cases, dieting is just making normal food disgusting.”

She cites the late Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor, who would take a potentially delicious fillet steak and place it on a piece of bread slathered with peanut butter. Harrington tried it but couldn’t eat the concoction, despite being starving hungry.

“The steak’s juices mix with the peanut butter in an unappealing, oily way. I have three bites then throw the rest out,” she recalls.

Legendary Thirties actress Greta Garbo dieted throughout her life, loved fad diets and was a great follower of self-styled ‘doctor of natural science’ Gayelord Hauser, nutritionist to the stars. Harrington found her regime strange, to say the least.

“Some publications even speculated that the two were having an affair based around their shared love of disgusting food,” Harrington observes.

She tried to follow Hauser’s principals - he believed that if you fuel your body with ‘wonder foods’, such as brewer’s yeast, wheat germ and molasses, you would live to be 100.

But finding edible yeast in the shops was difficult, although she found some in a health food store which she could sprinkle on cereal.

“Dinner was terrible, based on Hauser’s meal for Garbo the first night he met her - a veggie burger consisting of wild rice and chopped hazelnuts, mixed with an egg and fried in soybean oil, plus a dessert of broiled grapefruit with molasses in the centre.”

Harrington recalls that the veggie burger tasted predominantly of eggs, the hazelnuts were an unpleasant surprise and the grapefruit dessert tasted medicinal.