The Margaret Thatcher diet

Why is the Iron Lady's drastic weight loss regimen troublesome?

Published February 1, 2010 8:48PM (EST)

Before Margaret Thatcher became the Iron Lady, she was the Iron and Protein Lady. She committed to a crash diet of spinach, grapefruit, steak and eggs -- a precursor to the Atkins Diet -- to lose weight in the weeks before the 1979 general election. Such is the headline-making revelation to emerge from the recent publication of her personal diary: The UK's first female prime minister worried about her figure.

Oof. This news gave me feminist heart burn. Maybe it's the realization that Margaret friggin' Thatcher, that powerhouse of a woman, felt the need to slim-down in order to be elected. Not that she was wrong about that -- she did win, after all -- and it's plainly true that male politicians are subject to strident physical evaluations as well. The superficiality of politics isn't news to me. Still, Margaret Thatcher, crash dieter? It's a dissonant concept, a collision of worlds -- that of empowered female leaders and self-esteem gobbling women's magazines.

But I'll admit my initial reaction was knee-jerk. The truth is this isn't much of a revelation, and the diet was likely just par for the political course. I suppose my strong reaction says a little something about my own expectations, and worries, for the Lady Thatchers of the world: I fancy them as ironclad and immune to even the remote suggestion of a feminine stereotype. Because if they aren't immune, than what woman is?

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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