The Michael Jackson Diet: What Did MJ Eat?

Some speculate that the pop legend may have had an eating disorder.

July 2, 2009, 5:18 PM

July 3, 2009— -- Newly released videos showing pop icon Michael Jackson's concert rehearsals two days before his death show the singer's gaunt figure -- a physique that has sparked speculation about his eating habits.

With reports from Jackson's autopsy documenting his weight at the time of his death yet to be released, there has thus far been no solid evidence that Jackson was suffering from an eating disorder. But that has not stopped the media from raising such a possibility following his death on June 25.

Some of those who were close to the star said that his eating habits did not point to the presence of an eating disorder -- at least not in the traditional sense.

"He was just careful about what he ate; he just tried to be healthy," said Kevin McLin, a friend of the family and Jackson's former publicist. "He ate turkey burgers, Chinese food, a lot of vegetables. He always tried to eat healthy stuff. ... He tried to stay away from red meat."

Mike LaPerruque, a security specialist who worked for Jackson from 2001 to 2004, and again from 2007 to 2008, said that he "never saw any signs of any kind of eating disorder, and I never saw anything that would raise any suspicion in my mind that this was the case."

LaPerruque further noted that when he was working with Jackson, he was often responsible for taking the food from hotel room service and placing it on the table for the pop star and his children.

"I always saw what they were eating, and it was always healthy -- chicken, brown rice, vegetables," he said. "He was always eating healthy."

But others who interacted with Jackson in the time before his death described a far different routine. In a recent interview, Randy Phillips, CEO of concert promoter AEG, said that a concert director would "cut [Jackson's] chicken breast" for him.

"In the last week, I brought in someone whose sole purpose was to remind him to eat," Phillips added.

And comments from Lou Ferrigno, who personally helped Jackson train for his upcoming tour, suggest that his eating regimen was far from ideal.

"[H]e only ate once a day," Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in "The Incredible Hulk" TV series, said in an interview that aired June 30 on "Good Morning America". "But I just told him the proper supplements to take."

Once-a-Day Meals Could Lead to Weight Problems

Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a nutritionist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., said he would not be surprised if reports that Jackson had only been eating one meal a day turned out to be true -- especially if the singer had been taking a number of different medications, as some of those close to him have suggested.

"One meal a day is not enough, but it is not unusual for someone who was on a lot of medications," he said. "If he was on Demerol, for instance, this slows the gut down, and he may have felt full a lot."

Regardless of the reason, however, Ayoob said he believes Jackson's skinny appearance suggests a problem.

"He may not have had an eating disorder in the sense of anorexia or binging and purging," Ayoob said. "It may be that the medications he was on made food taste funny or suppressed his appetite. So it may not have been an eating disorder in the traditional sense. As far as keeping his weight down, I'm not sure that was Michael's intention."

Still, some have attributed Jackson's apparent low weight to the strenuous schedule he adopted for his upcoming concert tour.

"He was always thin, but he was also in the middle of a very stressful time, getting ready for the tour," said LaPerruque, who noted that he last saw Jackson about four weeks ago at a Beverly Hills restaurant. "I even said to him, 'Michael, this is the skinniest I've ever seen you.' He said, 'Well, I've been rehearsing.'

"It was always a running joke with us, that I needed to put meat on his bones."

During his appearance on "Good Morning America," Ferrigno's statements appeared to support that explanation.

"He might have been a little thin because he was under a lot of stress training for the tour," Ferrigno said. "But when I put him through the routine and everything, I mean, it was just fine -- I mean, very energetic."

Meanwhile, the singer's representatives have said Jackson passed a four-hour physical in preparation for his London concerts.

But Ayoob said he harbors doubt about the veracity of the physical.

"I'm very concerned about all these pseudo-reports that Michael received a 'clean bill of health' to do these concerts," he said. "I don't know who examined him but, at reports of 5'10" and a reported 125 pounds, his body mass index was 17.9. That spells wasting.

"He may have been allowed to do a concert in Spain, but he could not have walked a fashion runway there," Ayoob added. "They have laws about models being too thin to work."

Ayoob said that if the reports that Jackson was only 112 pounds are true, his health situation could have been even more dire than many of his acquaintances knew.

"In terms of his weight, if was still at 125, he was emaciated," he said. "If he was at 112 -- if those reports are true -- he's cachexic."

Men Can Have Eating Disorders, Too

Whether or not Jackson himself had an eating disorder, research has shown that men, too, can suffer from them -- albeit at a rate about 10 percent of that seen in women.

However, certain eating disorders are more common than others among men, research suggests. In a 2007 study, Harvard University researchers found that men account for 25 percent of Americans with anorexia or bulimia and 40 percent of those with binge-eating disorder.

Still, Jackson's acquaintances say that even despite the star's apparent preference for healthy food, he was not always so particular. On rare occasions, LaPerruque said, Jackson would send his assistants out for an order from Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, or an order of hot wings -- another of his junk food favorites.

He believes the rumor that Jackson suffered from an eating disorder is based on "something that someone made up.

"Now, was his appetite the same as mine?" he asked. "Absolutely not."

ABC News' Imaeyen Ibanga contributed to this report.

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