Betty Draper fat

The Mad Men Diet

I’ve been a big fan of Mad Men since it started. I have no idea why–the first season was as slow as molasses and the reality was just too bizarre for me since I’m a 1980’s baby. But for some reason I love it and keep watching. Maybe because it’s a glimpse into 50’s and 60’s when it was the norm for women to be barefoot and pregnant, men getting drunk in the office and everyone smokes cigarettes everywhere they go. It’s fascinating.

In this season, Betty Draper (ex-wife of Don played by Jon Hamm) has gained quite a bit of weight. The actress is wearing a fat suit, which in the first episode of this season tricked me! It was so good I thought she had really gained weight.   Betty’s storyline this season is about her struggles with weight gain, dieting, emotional eating and depression.

Betty - Before
Betty - After

In one episode she sat in front of a TV in a MuuMuu eating an entire bag of Bugles with the shades drawn. Clearly it was depression. She was refusing to go out socially and was embarrassed by how much weight she’d gained.

In a recent episode, Betty joined Weight Watchers. It was 1966, and in articles I’ve read about it, it was a very different version of the program. It was fascinating to watch.

There were several scenes in the episode that I wanted to talk about. The first one showed Betty weighing and measuring her food. Breakfast was one piece of dry toast, half a grapefruit and what looked like cubes of cheese. There was barely anything on her plate. At the end of the episode, they are eating Thanksgiving dinner and Betty’s plate is meager at best. She has one Brussels sprout, one scoop of stuffing, one spoonful of cranberries and one small piece of turkey. It was painful to watch her starving herself.

The next disturbing scene was a Weight Watchers meeting. The whole process made me cringe. The weekly meeting was in a room with a big scale in the front of the group. Everyone took turns weighing in in front of the group and their weight was announced. Talk about horrifying! Public shaming as a motivation for weight loss? Good god!

Words cannot express just how much anxiety I HAD simply watching the process.

The final scene I wanted to discuss was one that really struck a cord with me. Betty went to her ex-husband’s high-rise apartment in Manhattan to pick up their kids and came face to face with the new wife. She was pretty and perky and young and Betty obviously felt self-conscious and embarrassed about how she looked. The second she got home she went straight to the fridge and sprayed whipped cream right into her mouth.

She quickly realized what she was doing and with a mouthful of whipped cream, ran to the sink and spit it out. She’d turned to food in her emotional distress. I could totally relate to that as I had turned to food for so long in my life. Depression, anger, sadness, every emotion made me go straight to the freezer for a carton of ice cream that would soon be gone.

Even as far as I’ve come since the old me, every once in awhile I have a trigger that fills me with those emotions and habits I used to have. A really bad day can  lead me to the soothing effects of chocolate, which I immediately regret. Those old habits may not be there all the time, but they haven’t completely vanished. I’ll be honest, watching Betty in turmoil and turning to food did evoke an emotion in me. I know it’s just a TV show, but I could still relate, and I haven’t been too excited about the number on my scale lately, either.

The progression of this storyline will be interesting to watch. I truly hope the story turns out well, and not leading to the topic eating disorders like it’s hinting at.

QUESTION: Did you see the episode of Mad Men? What were your thoughts?