Major US mezzo says: Give up dieting. Now

Major US mezzo says: Give up dieting. Now


norman lebrecht

July 30, 2019

Jamie Barton has come out on Twitter as an occasional binge eater who is recovering from the effects of multiple diets:

I wanna tell you guys about my walk away from dieting….

Diets do more harm than good for the vast majority of people. Health is possible at every size. There are plenty of people out there who will argue this, and it’s not surprising. Diet culture is pervasive. It’s also a very lucrative industry, and there is little pushing back.

But I just want to be a little voice in a big crowd saying this out loud, because I think it’s important for anyone who has struggled with this. I am healthier in every single way for walking away from dieting.

Read Jamie’s fascinating thread here.



  • Andrew says:

    “Health is possible at every size.” Simply not true.

    • sycorax says:

      Are you a doctor, specialized on this subject? No? Then please, spare us such comments!
      It’s much more complex as most people believe and while a line like “health is possible at every size” is too flat, the belief that only slim is healthy is even more flat. In some cases – like cancer or even reha after heart attacks – some overweight can even be helpful.

      • Acastos says:

        Jamie Barton definitely is not a doctor, so she shouldn’t have made this comment to begin with.

        Also, nobody said anything about slim being healthy, either.

        Maybe read and think before relieving yourself?

      • Sarah says:

        Misguided! If people want to be fat, it is more often than not their choice. But please don’t preach to the rest of us that fat is beautiful and good for you. Maybe that is the advice in America but I somehow doubt it. In Britain you do not need to be a doctor to understand nutrition. You need yo.have a knowledge of what is causing a person becoming a human dustbin full of unsuitable food in large quantities. There is an underlying problem. Excess weight is absolutely no good for either your heart or your joints. You can get that far by sheer common sense. This singer will sadly run into trouble as a female singer in her 40s.

      • Bruce says:

        People like to make the jump from “scrawny” to “350 pounds” without acknowledging that there’s anything in between.

        Jamie Barton has never (as far as I know) been stick-thin. She also doesn’t have a giant belly hanging down to her knees and she can walk onstage without breaking a sweat, but you’d never guess that reading some of the comments here.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Overweight is bad for cancer, and heart attacks. However, slightly overweight doesn’t, generally, have any particular effect on life-expectancy. Anything more than “slightly overweight” has effects on long-term health.

  • Olassus says:

    Singers eat in the late evening and into the night. Often all the wrong things — Alessandra Marc used to eat entire cheesecakes. A certain tenor from Malta stuffs his face with pasta long after final curtain. When they lose control of the diaphragm, the career comes to an end. Basta!

  • Araragi says:

    She may have been dieting in an unhealthy way. That does not mean regulating what you eat to avoid fatty foods is harmful. She should learn about healthy ways to diet rather than swear off dieting altogether. Because contrary to what she says, health is *not* possible at every size.

    • LK says:

      In the thread she says she is now working with professionals on intuitive eating, which is a lifestyle change, not a traditional diet. She doesn’t say that now that she’s not dieting she’s only eating cookies and fatty fried food all the time. She’s just not restricting herself like most traditional diets require. She’s learning how to avoid emotional eating and to just eat when she’s physically hungry. She says in the thread that moving away from diets and focusing on intuitive eating has helped her overcome an eating disorder- in her case binge eating. How is this not a good, healthy thing? She may not be losing 5 lbs a week like some diets claim you can do, but she is mentally healthier now which which help her to continue to try to be physically healthier.

      • Araragi says:

        LK – I agree that Barton may be dealing with deeper issues, such as eating disorders, and I don’t discount her efforts to deal with those issues. Indeed, I applaud them. Dealing with those issues may, right now, be more important for her than shedding a few lbs. I also agree that many ways of dieting are unhealthy, like so-called “yo-yo” dieting. But for those not dealing with eating disorders, learning to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and veggies and low in saturated fats is crucial to both physical and emotional well being, particularly for those who are overweight.

        I think the larger issue is that we often make the fallacy of that which is best for me must also be best for others. Everyone is an individual. We all deal with our own unique problems. “Umbrella rules” don’t typically work. Which is why central planning inevitably ends badly.

    • sycorax says:

      There’s no “healthy way to diet”. Every known diet can provoke the so called “jojo” effect which is very unhealthy.
      It’s a very complex subject and even a lot of doctors have no clue about. Hence laymen should stay away from it – and if they then could stop the body shaming, too?

      • Acastos says:

        It’s a very complex subject, so sopranos (let alone laymen) should stay away from it!

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Sycorax writesL “There’s no “healthy way to diet”.

        Yes there are healthy ways to diet. It is just that you need to make sure you still get all the nutrients you need in a balanced diet (hence most ‘named diets’ which exclude food groups are a bad idea). You should also avoid losing too much weight too quickly.

  • Marie says:

    As long as she is getting work, she probably doesn’t care. It’s when you no longer get hired that singers start to realize they have to take action.

    • Yes Addison says:

      She also has her voice type and repertoire in her favor. She is a mezzo with a big voice, and some of her roles have been Brangaene, Fricka, Azucena, Jezibaba. She will probably eventually add Ulrica, Quickly, Zia Principessa, Baba the Turk. Stephanie Blythe is older and has stayed busy for a long time in such roles, although not so many Carmens and Dalilas.

      As talented as Barton is, if she were a 37-year-old lyric soprano who hoped to sing Mimi, Micaela, Tatjana, and Lulu, she would be having a harder time.

    • Una says:

      But limited at that size given the opera productions of today. All you need are dodgy knees and you’re not able to do.rhe production.

  • Wagner says:

    Another singer using celebrity to voice their so-called authority on matters of science. Being and remaining overweight is a health hazard. Purely a fact. You may be emotionally healthier from leaving the stress and challenges of dieting but ultimately remaining very overweight can be deadly in the long term.

    • The View from America says:

      Anything is deadly in the long-term.

    • sycorax says:

      And you know that based on wich authority? You’re a specialized doctor for this subject?
      No? Then your ideas about aren’t more competent as the singers.

  • John S Orel says:

    Lay off the carbs – or diabetes will clip your wings.

    • Una says:

      And sugar … the easiest way to lose weight quickly cut out starchy carbs – rice, pasta, wheat flour batter, potatoes and bread – and anything with sugar. The keto diet.

      • Bruce says:

        Losing weight quickly is relatively easy. The difficulty comes when you’ve lost the weight you wanted to lose, and now you want to go back to eating like a normal person: how do you do that? That’s the problem I’ve seen with the keto diet. I do have one friend who seems to be all right living on that diet long-term, but he has a stay-at-home wife who prepares all his meals and researches new recipes to keep him on the wagon. He’s acknowledged that he couldn’t stay on it by himself.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Excluding food groups like that is a very bad idea. If you want to lose weight you need to ensure that you maintain a balanced diet which gives you all the nutrients you need.

  • Bruce says:

    C’mon, people. Please don’t conflate “not going on a diet” with “eating any and every goddamn thing I see.” It is possible to eat a healthy, balanced diet without “being on a diet.” I’m sure some of you very, very knowledgeable people do just that.

    Keep in mind that if she was skinny, you’d have criticisms for her about being too thin. Or if she lost all the weight she “should” lose, you’d have criticisms about what it did to her voice (including her training & technique that she allowed it to happen, never mind that the great Callas sounded better when she was fat). To escape criticism, she’d have to have the face of a Vogue model, the body of an Olympic athlete, and the voice of Simionato — and even then there’d be sniping about whether she could act, what she wore, and whether she’d had work done.

  • Edgar says:

    Performing artists do tend to live against their natural body rhythm, and therefore live unhealthy. Philippe Jordan gave an illuminating interview on the topic to Manuel Brug from the German paper “Die Welt” in 2011.

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    Where is the incentive to be an in-shape opera singer? Its a field of bigguns.

  • Brettermeier says:

    “It’s also a very lucrative industry”

    Because people want to believe that they can eat themselves slim.

  • Gus says:

    Fats don’t make you fat, sugar is pure, white and deadly.

    Just – Eat food. Not too much. Mainly plants.

    Love Jamie, warm, engaging, and with a super voice.

  • Ramon Figueroa says:

    The problem is how we understand the word “diet.” We all have a diet, but some of us have an unhealthy one. Losing weight is simple, but it is the hardest thing to do, particularly if you have been fat all or most of your life. I speak from personal experience. It takes a long time to do it right. And for somebody as large as Barton, losing weight sensibly is extra hard, because as an in demand singer she doesn’t have a stable life.

  • Cantantelirico says:


  • Una says:

    What stupid advice to blanket broadcast!


    Losing weight on a diet is easy. Mostly anyone can do it. Keeping it off and practicing consistent healthy eating habits and maintaining a realistic ‘sustainable’ weight is the issue here. Jamie is likely someone with a chronic weight problem, probably with a history of yo yo dieting, as most binge eaters have. And for the binge eater, who loses control with food, success with losing weight on a diet can be usurped frighteningly fast. It’s not unheard of to gain 20 lbs or more in a week binge eating, all the while feeling completely out of control, disgusted with yourself, yet unable to stop eating. The binge eater is back to where he/she started in no time, weight lost regained….so what was the point of dieting in the first place when all of the effort led nowhere? (It’s like sitting in a rocking chair. Lots of action, but you don’t go anywhere). Small sustainable changes to eating habits and continual effort in this direction are preferable in this case. I applaud Jamie. The binge eater who works to address the binge eating habit, underlying issues, and learns to eat mindfully, to develop self control by learning to make good choices, eating from hunger / fullness, learning to practice moderation, and other good eating habits (all like normal people do)…..and to ignore urges to binge, can and do recover. It’s working from the inside out and it’s a long haul to regain control, but it can turn around a debilitating lifetime habit, and positively effect weight. Letting go of outward weight concerns and focusing ‘in’ mindfully is a part of the process. Binge eaters usually started rigid dieting in their early teens, a woeful occurrence as normal brain processing around food / weight is forever marred and the lifetime binge + yo yo dieting habit is often coupled now with a lowered metabolism, making it even harder than the average person to lose weight. Sustainable weight loss and maintaining good habits – all may take some time to achieve. I wish Jamie all the best.