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Foods Elizabeth Taylor Actually Ate (And All Of Her Weird Dieting Hacks)

Perhaps you love Elizabeth Taylor because of her role as a plucky child star in National Velvet, or as a frustrated wife in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, or as the Queen of Egypt in Cleopatra, or in the original father/daughter comedy Father of the Bride. In fact, Taylor’s acting resume is one of the most impressive in Hollywood. She even scored two Oscar wins and three nominations. But she’s famous for so much more than just her on-screen appearances.

Some people think of Taylor as one of the most beautiful American women ever, thanks in part to her large violet eyes. She was married eight times to seven different men; British actor Richard Burton served as husband number five and seven. Plus, she had a flair for drama that came across in everything from her tempestuous relationships to her love for enormous diamond jewelry, and, of course, her appetite.

In her 1987 memoir and diet book Elizabeth Takes Off, Taylor actually wrote,

“I guess my life’s been very dramatic, very black or white, although at the moment I’m trying to cultivate the gray… Still, I can’t help believing that no matter what I do, as far as the public’s concerned, my life will always be perceived in extremes.”

However, even when she was trying to cut calories, she made no apologies for loving food. She had a true appreciation for a good meal, sharing, “I’m a lady who believes a good meal is up there with priceless art.”

Here are all of the foods Taylor adored and some of the dieting tips she used to maintain those killer curves.

Elizabeth-Approved Foods:

1. Farmhouse Breakfast

The perks and perils of being a Hollywood child star.

After appearing in a couple of smaller film roles, Taylor got her big break starring in National Velvet. At 12 years old, she played a horse-mad, wannabe jockey. But life for a child star in 1940s Hollywood could be as tough as it was glamorous. In her book, Taylor recalled, “In reality, I never could kick up my feet like other kids… My life was overscheduled and overdisciplined.”

Like the character that first got her noticed, Taylor loved horseback riding.

In fact, before going to work or to school on the studio lot, the actress went riding and then had a farmhouse breakfast at a restaurant called Tipps.

This delicious-sounding feast included some staples:

“Two fried eggs, hamburger patties, hash brown potatoes and a stack of silver dollar pancakes and maple syrup.” Although Taylor eventually traded the decadent meal for a simple breakfast of seasonal fruit, whole-wheat toast, and tea or coffee, she said:

I still have a big appetite. I think I could happily polish off a huge Tipps breakfast today, though I wouldn’t dare try.

2. Hot Fudge Sundaes

Through thick and thin.

Taylor loved and lost many times throughout her life. But she was steadfastly loyal to her favorite foods even while dieting. She especially loved to indulge in ice cream milkshakes or sundaes.

At 16, Taylor adored peppermint milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes from Will Wright’s Ice Cream Parlor.

That Southern Californian dessert chain famously made thick, rich ice cream. It was also popular with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

Decades later, hot fudge sundaes remained Taylor’s go-to celebration or comfort food.

In 1968, a journalist reported that Taylor ended a lunch of “lima beans, corn on the cob, steak and kidney pie and mashed potatoes” with a hot fudge sundae.

In her lifestyle book, the actress says that she’s an emotional eater, adding:

Put me in a hospital, tell me that I must look forward to weeks of tooth, back, neck, or leg pain, and the first thing I think of is a hot fudge sundae. You know, the real kind with as much fudge as ice cream.

3. Chocolate Martini

The best drink ever.

Tayor eventually swore off alcohol and became one of the very first celebrities to openly discuss her addiction to booze and pills. She also publicly checked into the famous Betty Ford Center in 1983. However, while filming Giant with Rock Hudson in 1955, the star coped with “the heat, humidity and the dust” with alcohol-fueled parties.

“So we stayed out drinking all night and luckily were young enough and resilient enough to go straight to the set in the morning,” Taylor recalled.

She invented her own favorite drink – “a chocolate martini made with vodka, Hershey’s syrup, and Kahlua.” Taylor noted, “How we survived [the drink] I’ll never know.” Now most famous as James Dean’s last movie, Giant earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination despite all the backstage partying!

4. Queen Mary Wedding Cake

Sinking spirits.

She grew up in Hollywood. So it’s not surprising that Taylor felt ready to become a woman and wife before many of her peers. In her first romantic lead role in 1949’s The Conspirator, she starred opposite Robert Taylor. At 38, he was more than twice her 17 years.

And in 1950, Taylor married the first of her husbands, Conrad “Nicky” Hilton (yes, that Hilton, heir to the hotel chain).

The lavish event included 3,000 guests, rose petals by the truckload, a $1,500 satin gown (paid for by MGM) and a five-tier wedding cake. Before setting off for their honeymoon in the South of France on the Queen Mary luxury ocean liner, Taylor and Hilton cut into a cake shaped like the ship. It even had tiny, illuminated portholes.

However, Taylor’s first marriage was not smooth sailing. In her book, Taylor said:

Before our honeymoon was over, my eyes were opened… By the end of the voyage, it was clear that my husband was having great difficulty in reconciling himself to me, as well as my celebrity. He became sullen, angry and abusive, physically and mentally. [And] he began drinking. He taunted me in public.

Eight months later, the couple divorced.

5. Ham And Corn On The Cob

Tough love on set.

Although Taylor faced malicious gossip about her weight, she wrote, “It is interesting to note that the first time my weight became the focus of attention it was because I was too thin.” And in 1958, while working on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Taylor lost her third husband, Mike Todd, in a plane crash. In Elizabeth Takes Off, she said, “I have had two great loves in my life. Mike Todd was the first.”

Taylor was so distraught after Todd’s funeral that she couldn’t bring herself to eat.

Consequently, she lost a dangerous amount of weight. When she eventually returned to the set of Cat, she no longer fit in the costume. The cast and crew were so worried about her that director Richard Brooks came up with a secret scheme to help her eat.

In one scene in the movie, the characters eat a big dinner.

Taylor recalled the meal included “baked Virginia ham, biscuits, corn on the cob and a lot of other food I adored, food I could barely look at,”  Brooks told Taylor to eat the food. Then he shot the scene over and over again. Ever the good actress, Taylor obliged, forcing the food down.

When they wrapped, “the whole crew applauded,” and Taylor found out that Brooks orchestrated the entire thing. And it worked. By the end of the day, she got her appetite back.

6. Mashed Potatoes

Keto-free zone.

Apparently, Elizabeth Taylor loved mashed potatoes. From her Giant days to her diet days, Taylor could always find time to enjoy her favorite side dish. And clothing designer Vicky Tiel recalled that a typical Taylor dinner in the ’60s consisted of crispy fried chicken.

How did she round out the meal?

With mashed potatoes, gravy, sides of cornbread, biscuits, green peas, and trifle for dessert. In fact, in 1976, Taylor conducted an interview over plates of mashed potato and chicken.

And ten years later mid-diet, she ordered:

“Sirloin steak, mashed potatoes, peas, and mixed salad with Russian dressing on the side.” Even when monitoring her food, Taylor believed in the power of the cheat meal, which she called a pig-out.

7. Roast Dinner


That’s made for Taylor, not by her. The actress didn’t know how to cook! But when, in 1986, Taylor and her boyfriend, George Hamilton, got hungry in a hotel, the British-born knew what to order.

She requested “roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pudding with Devonshire cream.'”

Unbeknownst to the couple, the meal came courtesy of famous chef Anton Mosimann. He was sleeping, however, when the A-listers put in their order.

So he got out of bed to prepare their dinner from scratch.

Taylor appreciated his effort, noting, “I will never forget that diner, and I count it among the most memorable and serendipitous experiences of my life.” Spoken like a true mashed potato connoisseur.

8. Chasen’s Chili

To-go, Taylor-style.

Elizabeth Taylor was a woman who knew her own appetites and how to satisfy them. So when she craved one very specific dish, she didn’t let being on the wrong continent stop her from getting it.

Specifically, Taylor was shooting epic catastrophe Cleopatra in Rome in 1962 when she decided she wanted chili from Chasen’s.

Founded by ex-vaudeville performer Dave Chasen, the restaurant that stood on Doheny and Beverly in West Hollywood catered to the rich and famous. Notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover thought of it as the best chili in the world. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt requested a batch (and got it for free). Plus, Clark Gable supposedly ate it for his last meal.

But Taylor proved to be the most committed fan. In 1962, she sent Dave Chasen a letter that read:

The chili is so good. All gone now. Please send me ten quarts of your wonderful chili in dry ice to 448 Via Appia pignatelli. – Love and kisses, Elizabeth Taylor.

It cost Taylor $200 – a small price to pay when you’re earning $1 million to play a queen.

9. Burgers And Fries

A Taylor tradition.

If you ever wandered over to the fridge to find a snack, almost without thinking, because you were bored or sad, you unknowingly grapple-snapped. Taylor and her older brother, Howard, invented the term as children.

It refers to hunting down food, grappling for it, and then snapping it up.

Taylor later described it as “extra-curricular eating.” She got into it again while on the campaign trail for her sixth husband, Republican politician John Warner who became a Virginia Senator in 1978.

So she even dabbled a bit in politics.

As the couple traveled around Virginia in a less-than-A-list fashion, shaking hands and raising votes, Taylor noted that foods like burgers and fries felt like her only remaining luxuries.

10. Fried Chicken

Drama at dinner.

Elizabeth Taylor faced a few near-death moments in her life. Perhaps the most serious occurred in 1961 when she contracted pneumonia that put her in a coma. Doctors initially declared her dead but finally saved her with an emergency tracheotomy. Taylor kept her sense of humor about another brush with death.

Fried chicken was one of Taylor’s favorite foods.

But it briefly turned on her. While on the campaign trail in Big Stone Gap, VA, she and Warner went to the kitchen of a restaurant to meet the chef.

Taylor took a bite out of a piece of fried chicken.

And a bone wedged itself in her throat. She tried to shift it with bread, but that made things worse. The actress had to rush to the Lonesome Pine Hospital for surgery.

“The headlines were as lurid as might be expected,” Taylor commented dryly

Elizabeth Taylor’s Diet Tips:

1. Be Happy

Shrink your mind before you shrink your body.

Taylor had to hit the bottom before she picked herself back up. But she was a born fighter. In Elizabeth Takes Off, she said that it took her stay in the Betty Ford Clinic to get her serious about changing her diet.

Addressing that part of her life enabled her to tackle other addictions.

Taylor believed it’s much easier to lose weight when you feel satisfied with other aspects of your life. To her, it all depended on a sort of balance.

The actress wrote:

Every woman knows it takes less effort to diet when she is happy. Though I always adore good food, the call of the double-chocolate fudge in the freezer is a lot softer when I’m busy and content. The Perugina chocolate creams I left out for guests don’t whisper in my ear as I try to fall asleep when my life is filled with work and people I care about.

2. Don’t Starve Yourself

The best Hollywood diet ever?

Taylor seemed to think that she used food as an emotional crutch. But our mashed potato-munching, fried chicken-feasting food lover was not about to starve herself. “Sensible dieting and diligent maintenance are one thing, starvation and abject deprivation are quite another,” she wrote firmly. “Being too thin is as dangerous as being too fat.” Consequently, she kept her inner foodie satisfied while also maintaining the weight that felt healthiest to her.

Taylor allowed herself a “controlled pig-out.”

For one meal a week, she would eat whatever she wanted, returning to her healthy diet the rest of the time. In addition to fried chicken and mashed potatoes, Taylor noted, “I’ve also eaten an entire pizza, followed by a hot fudge sundae.” Now, this is a diet we can get on board with.

3. Pick Your Magic Number

Don’t keep losing weight for the sake of it.

As someone prone to extremes, Taylor was seriously against the message that thin is always better. Instead, she advised people to get to a point that suited them.

She wrote:

Banish pipe dreams about your ideal weight. Just because you weighed 115 pounds at 18 doesn’t mean you should weigh the same at 35. Pick a reasonable weight for your age and bone structure… Remember, when you diet, you are the only judge and jury. You have to answer only to yourself so ease up on the prosecution and hurry over to the defense.

4. Keep Your Sense Of Humor

Courtesy of Debbie Reynolds.

Taylor wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself. And she believed that not taking herself too seriously helped put her diet into perspective. It also lead directly to what she called, “one of my most effective diet tricks.”


After Mike Todd’s death, Elizabeth Taylor got close to his best friend, actor Eddie Fisher, who was married to Debbie Reynolds. Eventually, it became obvious that Taylor and Fisher were having an affair, and Taylor became the most famous other woman of her day – the Angelina Jolie of 1959 if you will.

Later, a friend told Taylor that Reynolds kept a photo of Taylor at her heaviest on her refrigerator door.

She used it as motivation to not give in to comfort food. Taylor had the last laugh, though. She copied the trick, sticking a similar photo of herself on her own fridge door. The actress shared:

That sight was an excellent deterrent to bingeing. If you think a picture of me as Miss Lard will inspire you, go ahead and put it on your refrigerator, I have no objections. Certainly, there are enough photographs to choose from.

5. Dress To Impress

Bodycon for everybody.

Taylor admitted that at her highest weight, “I positively enveloped myself in clothing, usually caftans that could have sheltered an entire Bedouin tribe.”

But after her food epiphany, she stopped trying to hide her body and said:

One trick I learned the moment I started maintenance was either to take in or give away the old sacks, pup tents and tarpaulins I used to conceal my bulk. I know I’ll never again buy clothes with elastic waistbands. They’re dangerous because they allow you to put on pounds and feel comfortable.

She also recommended that people on diets celebrate their current bodies, noting:

I think you should dress yourself with pride and interest even if you plan to start your diet only next week. Pay attention to your total appearance, not just the size of your waist.

What do you think of her tips?