Diet Tips from Audrey Hepburn

Annex - Hepburn, Audrey (Sabrina)_03.jpg
Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, 1954.

Audrey Hepburn’s son, Sean, authored a lovely and loving memoir about his mother. There are no scandals, no beatings, no abuse. Hepburn was a genuinely good woman who valued family above career. In this brief passage, Sean discusses his mother’s famously trim figure.

My mother didn’t snack, but when she had a dessert, it had to be sweet. She loved a scoop of vanilla ice cream with maple syrup dribbled over it. After her afternoon nap, which she had learned to take because of the early calls and long hours of film production, she would often have a piece of chocolate—one piece! She said that chocolate chased away the blues.

Here is another secret: my mother really wasn’t so thin. She used to refer to herself as “fake thin.” Her upper body, especially her thoracic cage, was thinner than average, thus her thin waist. The early whooping-cough incident, combined with malnutrition during the war, led to asthma in her youth, and she had somewhat weak lungs throughout her life. She smoked—like most dancers and just about everybody else at the time—and was told throughout her life that she might be in the early stages of emphysema. Her ballet training also played an important role in the development of her physique. Although her upper body was slight, her arms and her legs were athletic and she was well proportioned overall.

So if you want to be in good shape, it’s pretty simple: Grow up during the war, suffer famine in your early life, exercise every day, and later in life eat reasonable amounts of everything and feel good about it. What this really means is that if we don’t feed too many fats or sugar to our children, they will have an easier time of it later in life.

—Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers by Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

My thanks to Seraphic Secret reader Bill Brandt for bringing this fine book to my attention.

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  1. Posted November 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much for these very helpful Diet Tips from Audrey Hepburn! Keep us always updated with cool diet tips!:)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Miranda Rose Smith
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    My only (totally neurotic of me to even say it) comment is that not everyone is capable of eating sweets in moderation.
    Dear Ms. D: It’s easier for me to not-start than to stop once I’ve started.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Bill Brandt
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    PCD – where? 😉

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  4. PCD
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    When I was on contract assignment in Zurich, all the locals used to complain to me that all the good chocolate was shipped to America.

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  5. Bill Brandt
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Jackie – you are far from alone. My weakness is dark chocolate – especially dark chocolate.
    Nirvana for me was years ago – on leave in the Army – finding a chocolate vending machine in the Zurich main train station – and trying different kinds until I was almost sick.
    Which brings to mind Clint Eastwood’s **other** famous quotation in Dirty Harry:
    “It’s good that a man know his limitations”.

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  6. Posted September 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always loved her. Thank you. G’mar chatima tova!

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  7. DrCarol
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Too bad it’s not in Kindle format yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    This is really lovely.
    My only (totally neurotic of me to even say it) comment is that not everyone is capable of eating sweets in moderation. Sugar creates a phenomenon of craving a la alcohol for alcoholics. I say this only because a lot of people berate themselves for not being able to have just one square of chocolate or one scoop of ice cream, when the truth is their body wasn’t built to allow them this. Luckily not everyone is so afflicted!

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  9. Bill Brandt
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    In addition to the dietary advice, several things from that book really stayed with me, Robert.
    Her father, deciding that for safety moving the family to Holland once Britain declared war on Germany (and having the Nazis invade a short time later). Her memory of seeing friends in Holland put onto railroad cars, never to be seen again.
    Eating turnips to survive….and her permanent estrangement from her father. The one
    section, where she attempts reconciliation with her father in Dublin in the late 60s, and realized there was nothing there for her.
    I enjoyed reading about her friendship with Hubert De Givenchy, his creations made her unforgettable and a fashion icon.
    And how they met – she wanted her own “look” for the movies – Robert – with all the knowledge you have given us with the Hollywood designers – can you think of any other actress who was allowed to pick her own fashion designs outside of the studio? –
    Anyway she was looking for some outfits for Sabrina and phoned Hubert’s office for an appointment.
    On the appointed morning she went in and Givenchy, thinking that “Miss Hepburn” was the “other” Hepburn (Katheryn), told the young lady that he had an appointment but she was welcomed to look through the rack of last year’s fashions.
    Which Audrey, humble spirit that she was, did without comment or “do you know who I am?” drama.
    They laughed about it later, and were lifelong friends.
    It was years later, when Audrey was diagnosed with terminal cancer, that Hubert arranged with a wealthy client to fly her home to Switzerland in a Gulfstream jet.
    You are right – it wasn’t a “tell all” – just a book written by her son as a loving tribute to his mother.
    One other thing – I believe that she will be known as much for her humanitarian work through the UN as her screen career – her heartbreak over the suffering of children – brought about by her own childhood in Holland…
    She was an elegant spirit.

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