Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen: a couple that needs no introduction. They are one part international supermodel, one part elite athlete, and two parts unbearable. Not one single aspect of their life has ever seemed even remotely attainable to me, and thus I’d never imagined I’d spend any amount of time trying to live like them.
But then I received an email three weeks ago from my editor, asking that I try to eat like Tom and Gisele for a week, and I didn’t even question it. After Keto, Whole30, the Master Cleanse, and every fad diet in between, what was one more week of bullsh*t? Surely whatever the two of them eat every day couldn’t possibly compare to the psychological torture that was eating ice cream ten days in a row. Whatever happened, they probably wouldn’t attack me on Instagram and send hordes of rabid followers after me (knock on wood), right? I shot back an overconfident yes, because, I thought to myself, what was the worst that could happen?
In an unprecedented move for me in terms of this diet series, I’m going to come out and tell you right off the bat: I failed at the Brady-Bündchen diet. I failed miserably. I’ve put my body through such laughable amounts of strain over five segments and four years, that it never really occurred to me that I’d get to a point where I wouldn’t be able to follow through on a challenge. But here I was, staring down the barrel of defeat, bested by none other than Tom Brady. Is this what it feels like to be almost every other football player in the world? If so, my condolences to you all.
But before we dive into my experience, let’s talk about what the Brady-Bündchen diet entails. It is, in short, everything you would expect from these two near-perfect animatronic humanoids. In fact, I was so unsurprised by the contents of their diet that I never even contemplated that it would become insurmountable. But here I am, a week later, humbled and angry at every vegetable in a hundred-yard radius.
My initial research came back with fairly consistent information on what exactly the Brady-Bündchens eat on a daily basis. There are a handful of articles that all seem to quote the same interview with Allen Campbell, the family’s former personal chef. Likely subject to an NDA about what exactly Tom Brady deigns to eat (because we all know it’s not strawberries), Allen’s breakdown was frustratingly vague. On a normal day, Tom and Gisele’s diet is 80% vegetables and 20% lean meat, with a small smattering of whole grains like brown rice or quinoa. It goes without saying that every ounce of it is organic.
If you thought that one of the single most famous supermodels in the world had a stricter diet than her husband, a man who literally burns thousands of calories a day as part of his career, you were mistaken. Whereas Gisele and the Brady children are allowed to indulge in fruits, Tom avoids almost all of them except for bananas, which are used in his daily breakfast smoothie. He also steers clear of nightshades, which encompass vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, mushrooms, and peppers, because he fears they may cause inflammation.
Allen offered an example of a comfort staple in the Brady household, which is healthier than something the rest of us would eat during a cleanse. “‘I’m all about serving meals in bowls. I just did this quinoa dish with wilted greens. I use kale or Swiss chard or beet greens. I add garlic, toasted in coconut oil. And then some toasted almonds, or this cashew sauce with lime curry, lemongrass, and a little bit of ginger. That’s just comfort food for them,’ Campell said.” Based on that statement alone, I was left to assume that my weekly comfort meal of Sunday night Hawaiian food was off the table. Just another thing that Tom Brady has taken from me.
It’s honestly easier to list the things that the Brady-Bündchen diet said I couldn’t have, which coincidentally happened to be every food group that has ever brought me joy. If you want to be the most hated decorated quarterback in the world, all you have to do is cut out sugar, white flour, MSG, iodized salt, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, caffeine, gluten, and dairy. Olive oil is only allowed if it’s raw, and to combat that, Allen cooks meals only with coconut oil. You know what gets old really f*cking fast? All of your meals being slightly coconut flavored, but more on that later.
Further research took me down a separate, albeit equally depressing, route: The TB12 Method. It’s Tom’s own diet and exercise book, which details his 12 principles for “sustained peak performance.” The only performance I need to sustain is the one where I show up to work every day and don’t fall asleep at my desk, so TB12 felt a bit like overkill.
The book is pretty widely renowned as nonsense, not necessarily because Tom’s diet is unhealthy, but because his claims are not accurate. Tom’s postulations on inflammation, his body’s pH levels, and “muscle pliability” are all, for the most part, entirely unsubstantiated by science. Also, the “body coach” he wrote the book with, Alex Guerrero, has been investigated by the FTC for “falsely presenting himself as a doctor and promoting bogus nutritional supplements.” Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, I persisted.
Alex Guerrero: Don’t eat tomatoes and you can play football forever
Literally anyone with medical knowledge:
From the TB12 Method I was able to gain a few more parameters that I would, eventually, completely abandon: starting my day with 20 ounces of high-electrolyte water and then following it up with up to TWENTY FIVE MORE GLASSES OF WATER. As I’ve covered many times in many of these kinds of articles, I’m bad at drinking water. The fact that I was reminded of it every single day when one of my 25 alarms went off, urging me to please drink a glass of water for the love of God, only served to add insult to injury.
My first mistake was underestimating the Brady-Bündchens. Or, more accurately, overestimating my own time management. Instead of doing any kind of legitimate meal prep for this endeavor, or maybe putting in an ounce of thought into what the next week would look like, I just went to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s to load up on vegetables (sans nightshades), pre-cooked quinoa (because I truly cannot be bothered to boil my own), and a few fruits (I was subscribing to the Gisele end of this diet). I went home, pre-cooked some aggressively coconut-flavored chicken for the week, and called it a day.
I would describe my typical diet as fairly healthy. I eat a lot of vegetables, generally avoid sweets and carbs, and maybe overdo it on the dairy end here and there (read: every day). Because of this, I assumed transitioning to something more stringent wouldn’t be that wild of a shift. And I was right, to an extent. In a vacuum, I probably could have managed this diet just fine, but I don’t live in a vacuum. I don’t have a personal chef who goes to the farmer’s market twice a day. And I definitely don’t have a schedule that accommodates a whole lot of prep and cook time. In short, I was destined to fail from the start.
After an utterly gluttonous weekend, I was actually excited to dive into this clean eating regimen. I woke up and made myself eggs with side of avocado (seasoned with only the finest Himalayan Sea Salt that Trader Joe’s had to offer) before I realized that I wasn’t even sure if Tom Brady ate eggs. I couldn’t find any evidence in favor or against, and seeing as how I’d actually exerted enough effort to cook breakfast on a work day, I went ahead and ate them. A strong start.
I got to work and immediately spit in the face of one of the pillars of this diet by grabbing a cup of coffee. But I drank it black, because compromise.
At lunch I made my way to New Seasons and crafted an overpriced salad. “This is a breeze,” I said to myself as I walked back to the office. “I am the pinnacle of health, a bastion of self-care,” I thought as I sat at my desk, happily munching away at my bowl of greens. “What the f*ck, I am so goddamn hungry,” I whispered, a mere…40 minutes later. Turns out a diet of 80% vegetables leaves me 100% hungry just four hours into the day.
I sustained myself on pistachios from the office kitchen until I got home to prepare a vague and unmemorable mixture of quinoa, vegetables, coconut-drenched chicken, and absolutely zero cheese, despite my deepest desires. All in all, not the worst day.
It wasn’t until I lay in bed later, nearly asleep, that I realized I hadn’t a single f*cking glass of water all day.
I woke up today determined to rectify the great drought of the day before, and immediately chugged the recommended 20 oz. of water. Unless Portland tap water has an abundance of electrolytes, it likely wasn’t up to Tom’s standards.
I made the bold choice of heading to a workout class before work this morning, which my body rejected more so than it usually does. I was feeling tired, sluggish, and just generally out of it, which leads me to believe that my natural diet consists of more sugar than I’d anticipated.
What followed was a (entirely unexpected) grueling day at the office, in which I ended up skipping lunch and working well past my regular dinner hour. I came home that night angry, stressed out, and in zero mood to cook anything. I warmed up some quinoa and chicken, halfheartedly grabbed a handful of carrot sticks, and went to bed.
I’d managed to gulp down eight glasses of water throughout the day which, to be fair, is the amount that science recommends, but pales in comparison to what Tom Brady demands.
I’d be lying if I said I woke up on the third day of this venture with any kind of positive outlook. I had another day of nonstop meetings and deadlines ahead of me. I had an interview to transcribe, a long-form piece to finish, and a prior commitment that night that I couldn’t get out of. I’d slept terribly, was likely going through sugar withdrawals, and was dreading the thought of getting through the entire day without so much as a treat to motivate myself. In short, I was in a terrible state of mind, and knew that terrible decisions would likely follow.
I built myself a salad at Chipotle for lunch, having already abandoned the notion of preparing food for myself the night before. I snacked on snap peas I’d remembered to tuck away in the work fridge throughout the afternoon. I nearly flipped a table when my boss walked in to the office with a box of brownies, as a reward for the sudden bout of nonstop work.
By the time my event rolled around that night, I was ready to snap. What’s crazy is that, looking back on it, I don’t even know why I was in such a bad mood. I know that things weren’t going well, but it’s almost as if I’d already decided I was doomed, regardless of what came my way. Which means that when I walked into my friend’s house and was offered a glass of red wine, I didn’t even hesitate to accept it. Or the second. Or third.
I’m sure Tom and Gisele indulge on a glass of wine here and there (one that probably costs more than every ounce I drank that night combined), but something tells me they don’t casually drink whole bottles of red wine on Wednesday night because they’ve had a bad week. Or maybe they do. We’re all human, I guess.
Needless to say, I didn’t come close to hitting any kind of water goal that day.
I woke up on what would be the last day of my Brady-Bündchen diet with a dry mouth, a light headache, and a debilitating need for a breakfast sandwich. While I may have succeeded in abstaining from that initial craving, the rest of my day wasn’t as successful.
What started as a minor concession (soy milk in my very necessary iced coffee), became another, slightly larger misstep (cheese on my salad at lunch), and then snowballed into what could only be described as a major transgression (one of the leftover, aforementioned brownies), and ultimately culminated in spitefully throwing the entire diet out the window and getting Hawaiian takeout on the way home from yet another late night. It wasn’t even Sunday.
What was truly strange? I didn’t feel bad about any of it. At all. I had never so brazenly defied the rules of a diet with such a lack of regard for whatever I was meant to write about it four days later. It was as if this time around, under these very specific circumstances, I truly could not bring myself to care.
That was the end of my dieting experience. I didn’t try to start fresh the next day. In fact, I think I just defiantly continued to eat things that Tom Brady would balk at. I just chalked this one up to a loss and vowed to do better next time.
In hindsight, I should have made more of an effort here, but it’s exactly that: hindsight. I sign up for these diets entirely voluntarily, and I typically love throwing myself into them with all the gusto and dedication that they require. But what I learned in the last week is that it can be hard to justify something like this when real life gets in the way.
I have a full-time job, one that is usually pretty cool but can be demanding at times. I work nine to ten hours a day, attempt to maintain a regular workout regimen, and have extracurriculars on top of that. In short, I am busy, just like how most of the people reading this are busy. And busy people don’t always have the time to prepare beautiful and immaculate meals for themselves, especially not three of them a day.
The Brady-Bündchens have a full-time personal chef. They have personal trainers. They have careers that are entirely reliant on the state of their bodies. The rest of us are not the Brady-Bündchens. Thank God.
It’s easy to beat ourselves up for not adhering to meal plans, even those laid with the best of intentions. But all the meal prepping and tedious planning in the world still won’t account for the fact that sometimes, life gets in the way.
Sometimes you’re stressed and upset and there’s a stack of cookies in your office kitchen. Sometimes you’re driving home in the late March gloom, and the very thought of eating a cold, meager salad makes you want to drive your car into oncoming traffic. Sometimes you don’t need any of those excuses and you just want to eat some cheese. And that’s okay! We’re all entitled to missteps; what matters is that you recover from them, and learn to forgive yourself along the way.
Also. F*ck Tom Brady, am I right?
Images: Giphy (4)