Celebrity diets have been rumor fodder since modern celebrities were a thing. Clara Bow’s contract included a “weight clause,” which caused her to consume just 500 calories a day, and when Judy Garland gained weight, MGM put her on a daily diet of chicken soup, black coffee, and, reportedly, 80 cigarettes.
Today, our extreme celebrity dieters are people like Tom Brady, who has never eaten a strawberry, and Mariah Carey, who once claimed she eats nothing but Norwegian salmon and capers. These are, obviously, two of the quirkier examples, but today, almost no celebrity is free from discussing how, exactly, they “maintain their shape” or whatever euphemism we’re using in 2019 to describe the act of losing weight.
This includes Beyoncé, arguably the biggest pop star in the world and certainly the one most clearly in control of her heavily managed, often secretive public image. In Homecoming, the documentary-slash-concert film centering on the lead up to her 2018 Coachella performances, released April 17 on Netflix, Beyoncé reveals the diet she went on in the months following the birth of her twins and in preparation for the festival.
“In order for me to meet my goal, I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol,” Beyoncé’s voiceover says, “and I’m hungry.”
At the time she birth to her twins, Sir and Rumi in June 2017, she said she weighed 218 pounds. She endured an “extremely difficult pregnancy,” experiencing preeclampsia and an emergency C-section after one of her twins’ heartbeat paused a few times in the womb.
“There were days that I thought I’d never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same,” she says, though from her Coachella performance, it’s clear that she’s the same Beyoncé — with the nearly superhuman stamina it requires to dance and sing onstage for two hours straight — that we’ve come to expect onstage.
It’s not the first time Beyoncé has spoken publicly about her weight loss regimen — in fact, precisely what Beyoncé eats has been a subject of fascination for almost two decades, between the 20 pounds she lost by abiding to the Master Cleanse for Dreamgirls and the 60 she lost in just three months after giving birth to daughter Blue Ivy in 2012 using the “Herculean Diet.” Even when she was just 21 years old, she told Bang Magazine that she’d eat exclusively tomato and cucumber slices for lunch, because “I am not naturally skinny.”
Beyoncé’s career has also spanned a decade in which such diets have been repackaged as the palatable — but often more extreme — “wellness.” Diets that involve types of fasting or cutting entire swaths of the food pyramid, like the one Beyoncé undertook in preparation for Coachella, have become immensely popular. But as Vox’s Julia Belluz notes, they’re trends that spread much more quickly than their scientific backing does. In part, that’s thanks to celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Chris Pratt, and even media thought leaders like New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman and Jack Dorsey, who speak publicly about their diets.
Where just a few years ago it may have been de rigueur for a celebrity, in an attempt to appear relatable, to claim that they despise working out and eat nothing but pizza all the time (while appearing far smaller than anyone who actually does this), these days the “relatable” answer is probably the more straightforward one — that they drastically limit their food intake. It’s because in 2019, the rest of us are expected to follow suit with our own extreme diets, be they Whole30 or intermittent fasting.
Such diets almost always fail, particularly for those people who lack the enormous fame and wealth that allows them the resources of someone whose livelihood depends on perfecting their body for mass consumption. Yet often the message we get from celebrities and wellness influencers is that if we just ate like they did, we’d look like them too.
Fortunately, in Homecoming, Beyoncé does not do this. Instead, she speaks frankly on the toll that her body underwent while preparing for the performance and the immense amount of work put into the show, which included four months of music rehearsals followed by four months of intense dance rehearsals.
“I have children. I have a husband. I have to take care of my body. I definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could,” she said near the end of the film. “And I learned a very valuable lesson: I will never, never push myself that far again.”
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