The Beautiful People’s Diet

Princess Luciana Pignatelli by Henry Clarke, 1966
Luciana Avedon

Princess Luciana Pignatelli was a normal Italian girl who married into royalty at age 19, to a prince who was also an executive at Gulf Oil. After rising to the noble class, she embarked on a life of parties, socializing, raising children, divorce, occasional plastic surgery, and writing books. Her most famous, published in 1970, is The Beautiful People’s Beauty Book. 

Today, we leaf through the pages of the follow-up advice book she published three years later, The Beautiful People’s Diet Book. By the time she wrote it, she’d gotten remarried to a cousin of Richard Avedon’s and changed her name, hence the byline. Still: once a princess, always a princess.

Pignatelli’s qualifications to write the book are as limited as they are credible: she is beautiful. Truman Capote described her as “impossibly serene and lovely," with “every strand of golden hair just so." In private, the Princess was a little tormented about her looks. But aren’t we all?

Here, a few tidbits from a very glamorous lady. ITG does not endorse this advice.

How to lose a few pounds: “My technique is to eat my regular breakfast, about half my average lunch, skip dinner and go to bed with an apple and a book. To go to bed in a quiet room and feel snug helps take your mind off food.”

Dealing with cellulite: “I rely on my gym instructor, who uses heat lamps followed by strong massage. I follow up at home with towel flagellations twice a week."

Books as a weight loss tool: “One of the unsung merits of reading is that it keeps your hands so busy that it’s awkward to be messing about with food at the same time, especially in bed—you wind up with splotches on the book and crumbs in the sheets.”

On canned spaghetti: “Prefab spaghetti makes my blood run cold.”

On liquids: “I am a mineral water fiend, like most beautiful people; in my case it’s because I drink very few other liquids. Alcohol is poison to my life, although I do have wine or champagne when I go out.”

On alcohol: “Watching what you eat will not keep you thin if you drink yourself fat."

On salads: “I see no reason for special dressings when olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and wine vinegar exist.”

On restaurant salads: “Why is it that in restaurants they are all jazzed up, the salad tossed with bottled dressings and other extraneous matter such as croutons, hunks of stale cheese, and garlic? Whatever happened to plain salad vinaigrette?"

On carbs: "Must you have bread? OK, but have it as the French and the Italians do, without butter at mealtime—there is already enough butter and oil on the rest of the food."

The anti-bloat formula: “Limit your fruit and vegetable intake to artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, avocados, and grapefruit to combat water retention.”

Zip it: “Never say you are on a diet. A pall of gloom will descend on the table as fellow guests realize that maybe they should be dieting too."

The American diet: “When I do promotion tours in the United States, my eating gets down to a formula. For breakfast I have tea, as usual, plus an egg. If I have to grab a fast lunch out between appearances, I do not expect the mozzarella and tomato I would have in Rome. I order a hamburger with French fries, push off the bun, scrape aside the potatoes (they have to be there so I can snitch five with my fingers) and concentrate on the meat. No soft drink, no milkshake. If I am still hungry, thank God for cottage cheese!"

The Atkins Diet: “I think such diets should be embossed with the Stars and Stripes, because high protein is now the All-American way to reduce, and needless to say, the affluent way—quality protein does not come cheap."

The C. Z. Guest diet: “I have been aware of what is fattening all my life, and I never eat it—I can’t stand fried food, and I always have sauces served separately. I like meat: I was brought up to eat roast beef, steak and lamb chops. Meat is what gives you strength and energy. I am not a dessert person. I never take sugar in coffee. For energy I often eat protein toast with honey and I have honey with my tea.”

The Merle Oberon diet: “Merle Oberon puts both protein powder and vitamins in her yogurt and has replaced coffee with herbal teas.”

The Francoise De La Renta diet: “Stay on [only] vegetable bouillon one day a week, it’s marvelous for you. You drink three quarts in 24 hours, preferably while resting, because lying down makes it more diuretic.”

Ugh: “If you watch slender people eat—people still slender past 30—you see that they demand both good food and little of it.”

You can be too thin: “I am over my adolescent longing for the down-to-the-bone model look. You can look fantastic in clothes, fantastic in a bathing suit when you have the freshness and supple skin of the early twenties, but there is a moment when the look turns dried-up and haggard. The thinness thing can go too far. It has gone too far when it has not only become unflattering but made you a nervous wreck."

—Molly Young

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  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    We're dealing with the ur-Goop here, aren't we? I can so hear her saying most of this stuff.

    • magicmollys

      Good call.

  • Allie

    She lost me at towel flagellations

    • Lucinette2

      What?! That's where I got on board!!

  • morgan

    Have this book and her first and I love them! So funny! You left out the best one, the weekend diet (that she tells us men enjoy as well) where you have a glass of white wine for lunch and breakfast and then finish off the bottle at dinner (along with very little food). I am always meaning to try that one!

    • magicmollys

      Helen Gurley Brown also recommends that "diet"! Maybe I should try it and report back.

  • Tatiana Depetris

    *towel flagellations* is the best thing I've heard in ages

  • Guest

    Actually, much of this advice is not bad at all. I have never had a "towel flagellation," but I'm going to see if I can get my husband to give me one tonight. ;)

  • mlle p

    I have to agree about the canned spaghetti - ugh!

  • caryrandolph

    ITG, why not endorse this advice? Most of it is actually great!

  • bunnygrrrl3000

    I know ITG posts these beauty books to be funny, but I ALWAYS find myself using some of the tips. TOWEL FLAGELLATIONS HERE I COME.

  • melissa

    Interesting! I will definitely check out this book! love that you put in some highlights though:)

  • Genevieve

    Haha I agree, some of this advice is not that bad. I would hang out with her.

  • Fabiana Pigna

    I like the bit about "artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, avocados, and grapefruit to combat water retention" it's true...but regarding alcohol, kinda eerie she actually dyed of alcohol and drug poisoning...

  • poppy

    wow this is possibly the worst advice you could give anyone. cray

  • Lauren

    this is the best: “Watching what you eat will not keep you thin if you drink yourself fat." it's so bitchy, but it's so true.

    • bunnygrrrl3000

      yeeeaaahhh thats one of those tips I know is true, but always conveniently forget when I go out :/

  • Franquie

    The number of amazing vintage books I buy because of ITG... :)

  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    It's the classy way of saying you smack yourself in the butt with a towel to keep it firm (Actually I believe the Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans are big on doing this with birch branches after saunas). Or think of it this way - high school boys are actually proto-aristos when they're doing it to each other in the locker room?

    • Colleen

      lol i'll have to try to get my bf on board

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    Well her cellulite principles sound like a medieval version of what is available today. They might have helped a little. Better then the wooden butt roller or the smacking strap contraption at my grandparents country club gym!

  • Corina

    Give it a few more years! ;)

  • guest

    i would never fall asleep! i know from repeated experience if my body is hungry it will not sleep until i eat something. it's not good for you to go to sleep hungry because it kills your metabolism your body goes into starvation mode and actually holds onto everything instead of burning it.

  • guest

    wow! that is the real moral to this story! don't love money. if you do, you won't want to live without it! "however mean your life is, live it." meaning, nothing in life should be so bad as to make you want to kill yourself if you have healthy self-esteem. she clearly put ALL her esteem and confidence in how much money she had and what she looked like. sad!

  • kneelbeforetigers

    A lot of this sounds like socialite thinspo... not too cool.

  • Grace Gold

    You know, if you find a work out you love and do it regularly, you can eat food and look great, too..