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)
At the start of the summer, I decided to go vegan. Before you come at me (plz chill) I know there are a billion articles about how it ruins my health, destroys the environment, and exists only as trendy holier-than-thou diet (thinking of you, Gwyneth Paltrow!)
People loveeeee to hate on vegans. Sure, we have a rep for being pretty judgmental hypocrites (like Phoebe from Friends and her love for her fur coat in that one episode—but tbh in the spirit of journalistic integrity, she was vegetarian, not vegan, but still). And I was one of those haters. I used to think veganism was a fad diet that wasn’t even that healthy. Also, how do you even get enough protein? Tofu, a chalky white sagging blob I’d seen at my dining hall’s salad bar, didn’t seem a particularly appealing alternative.
So what changed? Well, I moved to California and was brainwashed started learning more about veganism. One of my best friends at college is vegan, so I learned more about it this year by eating with her. Obviously, we went to the most extra vegan restaurants in LA, but that was the first thing that convinced me: I actually liked the vegan food.
Judging by my super healthy diet of vodka and brownies, by the end of the school year I felt like crap. I needed a lifestyle change, and this summer was the perfect opportunity for that. I would be cooking all of my own food for the first time while living in a dump old frat house on the Row at Stanford.
My family was concerned by this idea—well, actually, I didn’t tell them initially because I knew they’d freak out, but had I informed them of my plans before, these are the questions they would’ve asked:
What will you eat for breakfast? Ummm….seaweed and hummus? Some nuts? Kale chips? Tofu? Realistically a really weird assortment of food, but also, like, who even eats breakfast? I’m in college. Coffee counts.
What do you eat at restaurants? Since one of my best friends is already vegan and since California is the Mecca of vegan restaurants, it isn’t hard to find restaurants that served, like, salads and tofu.
Can you still drink? JK, my fam wouldn’t have asked me that, but for all the concerned alcoholics out there, vodka is vegan. In fact, all liquor is, though some wines and beers are processed with animal products. Yet another reason shots reign supreme.
It’s 11pm and I’d just arrived at “The House,” aka the
trap fraternity house where I’d be living this summer. Even though it’s no longer a frat house, it still feels like a frat house. The state of the house may seem irrelevant to my diet, but the kitchen is a disaster. It’s a place where we’d all made blackout quesadillas at 2am during the school year, so using the same pans crusted with our drunk food seems rather unappetizing.
After moving all of my stuff up three flights of stairs alone (chivalry is dead), I head to Whole Foods to scour their vegan options. This being California, they have loads of options. I buy what would become the starting lineup for my summer diet: eggplant and tofu from the salad bar, a few pre-made salads, kale chips, seaweed, pickles, hummus, and vegan jerky. I feel so healthy.
A few vegan days pass. Do I feel any magical results? No. I do not feel less tired, as some people have promised. I do feel healthier though. Like those vegan models that I follow on Instagram, with my Bragg’s Nutritious Yeast (vaguely cheesy powder?) and zucchini noodles (these taste like zucchini, not pasta, don’t let others convince you otherwise).
That Friday my friends and I go to San Francisco. It all fun and games until everyone decides they want to go to IHOP for some drunk 3am pancakes. I then realize I can’t have any because they aren’t f*cking vegan. I eat some kale chips instead to soak up all the extra vodka in my stomach. The next morning I want to kill myself. Kale chips aren’t a good drunk food. My hangover is deadly. Who would’ve f*cking thought?
Weeks 2 & 3
The glow of being healthy is fading. First of all, I’m worried I’m anemic because I’m tired, like, all the time. Literally, allll the time. All I want to do is sleep. I went from being fine on six hours of sleep to wanting to sleep 12 hours. What college student sleeps for 12 hours? HOW IS THIS OK.
Also I really, really, really want something sweet. I’m craving chocolate like mad. So I buy some Hu Chocolate from Whole Foods and happily eat an entire hazelnut-butter dark chocolate bar. It’s vegan, so ha!
Realistically, there isn’t much more to say about these weeks. They pass in a sort of foggy blur of vegetable eating. I don’t go out because of my summer courses. This is shaping up to be the best summer ever, wow!
I questioned stopping. But that would be giving up, now, and I’m no quitter.
This weekend, I drive down to LA with my vegan best friend, and naturally, she brings me to all of her favorite vegan restaurants. The Green Temple for the best tofu sauce (literally I want to drink the sauce). Café Gratitude has absurd buffalo cauliflower and honestly it’s expensive ($11 for a side of cauliflower? What is the profit margin here?). By Chloe (there are multiple in New York too!) has the best vegan kale Caesar salad I’ve ever tried in my life. It has shitake bacon and almond parmesan and literally, this is why I became vegan. Also, there’s a little sign that says how much waste you’ve prevented by eating vegan food inside By Chloe, which just made me feel like a really great person.
The next day I get a migraine and lie in bed for the entire day. Soooo fun. Exactly what I drove six hours for! We go to Whole Foods that night though, to find dinner stuff, and I’m delighted by their eccentric chip selection (jicama chips. WTF?) and extremely elaborate salad bar selection. They also have about five types of vegan mac and cheese, which is like, absurd.
We head to the Farmer’s Market in Hollywood the next morning. Everyone makes fun of me because I buy a jar of pickled brussels sprouts and a tin of soy shitake mushrooms to eat for breakfast. Yes, I get that’s a really weird breakfast. But seriously, anyone who knows me by now should realize that I thrive on eating really strange foods. And pickled (well, technically fermented but stick with me) foods are good for your gut health. It’s why so many people are obsessed with drinking apple cider vinegar!
We drive home, stopping at the Ostrich Farm on the way through Santa Barbara. This trip has taught me:
- LA has the best vegan restaurants. New York may have By Chloe and Candle 79, but LA just has sooooo many more options.
- I actually can drive for seven hours without killing someone. Genuinely a miracle!
- Ostriches are vaguely cute.
- There is nothing to do in LA besides workout, eat food, and sit in traffic (while occasionally visiting ostriches).
I feel less tired, so maybe my body was just adjusting. Or maybe I am anemic and should start taking iron supplements. My doctor keeps bugging me to do bloodwork and I keep putting it off because I’d have to fast before getting it done and that’s so annoying. Yes, I am a responsible adult, thanks for asking.
I make the mistake of telling my mom that I decided to go vegan, and receive a whole lecture about how it’s a horrible idea. You will ruin your health and become anemic and are you getting enough protein and don’t you know about living life in moderation?
I give her a speech about animal rights and the environment (yes, this is a little late to the game, but I started following all these vegan Instas because I needed more motivation), and the environmental benefits of veganism. It really tugs at the heartstrings. But photos of cute little pigs with the caption “is eating bacon really worth it?” kind of make me want to cry.
Now that my mom hates my vegan diet, I’m even more motivated to continue. I’m massively stressed studying for my summer course midterms, but at least I’m stress-eating seaweed and hummus instead of cookies. After I finish midterms we go out that weekend to celebrate one of my friend’s birthdays. Personally, I blame my later behavior on the restaurant for lacking vegan options. A plain salad is not an ideal pre-drinking meal, tbh, and my lack of memory for the rest of the night can be entirely explained by my meager dinner of iceberg lettuce in conjunction with the seven shots of ginger vodka I had later.
Weeks 6 & 7
These two weeks are also a blur. My family comes to visit the first weekend and are genuinely incensed that I refuse to eat meat. We all go out to dinner to some non-vegan place where the only thing I can eat is a kale Caesar salad without dressing (because of the fricking anchovies). So I basically eat a bag of dry kale for dinner. Yummmmm. But I can’t back out on being vegan now. That would mean my mom was right. Again. I abandon my family after dinner to run to Whole Foods to buy a late night snack of eggplant and hummus (why am I so weird?!).
The next day, my mom treats me to dinner at Nobu, which opened in Palo Alto at the start of the school year. I’d been dying to go the entire year, but it’s not exactly a place you go with your friends when you’re in college on a budget. My mom orders sashimi for the entire table and I eat a piece of tuna.
YES, I BREAK MY VEGAN DIET. NO ONE IS PERFECT K?!
Seriously though, the tuna is fine. High-quality fish, but ultimately not even that tasty. Honestly, one thing I’ve realized is that food tastes good because of the sauces and spices on it, not because of the base. It could be cauliflower or steak, chicken or tofu, all that really matters is the sauce. (Okay, clearly I’m not a steak connoisseur. Red meat has always grossed me out and I know theoretically a good steak doesn’t need any sauce. This is why I’m a mostly successful vegan, and my brother will never be a vegan. He thinks vegans are wussies and real men eat wagyu beef.)
My family leaves, and I’m getting bored of eating the same 10 foods every day. So I start exploring some of the other weird vegan foods that Whole Foods sell. Vegan cheese dip, for example, is disgusting. It’s a mix of pureed potatoes and cashews, and it does NOT taste like cheese and now I feel nauseous. I also buy chocolate covered chickpeas a few times, which sound gross but taste like chocolate covered pretzels. They are as addictive AF so consider yourself warned. Banana brittle (pureed dehydrated bananas with coconut flakes) is also incredibly addictive. As is chocolate mousse made with silken tofu and cacao powder.
If I sound like a raving lunatic who has lost all concept of what good food actually tastes like, it is quite possible that veganism has addled my brains.
I spend the entire week studying for my finals. Woohoo. All I want is to go home and sleep. The fatigue never entirely left, so maybe I really am anemic. But I honestly feel much healthier. My body is more toned, my hair is thicker, and my complexion is brighter. Most importantly, I don’t feel gross every time I eat. It’s nice to finish a meal and not regret eating junk, but instead feel happy knowing that I’ve put healthy nutrients into my body.
Even though I’ve been eating less protein, I feel more muscular too. Until I have to move all my crap and I realize I still lack basic upper body strength. Veganism forced me to abandon my mini fridge since I don’t have enough strength to carry it down three flights of stairs (if anyone wants a mini fridge HMU. I warn you though, the freezer has about an inch of congealed apple vodka on the bottom because my idiot friend put a bottle of vodka in it sans lid). I fly back home to New York and eat a bag of coconut chips for dinner because the airplane has no vegan food.
Week 9 – ???
Now that I’m home and no longer cooking for myself, I guess I could stop being vegan. Despite the fatigue, I really have enjoyed it. It forced me to cut the unhealthy junk out of my life but still allowed me to treat myself by eating things like chocolate covered bananas or vegan brownies. Moderation!
I did finally get some bloodwork done and it does turn out my iron levels are dangerously low (oops?), I can always start taking a supplement to fix that and start drinking blackstrap molasses because apparently, that has 20% of your daily iron per serving. Yum. Besides that, I really do feel much healthier. I feel fit again, instead of constantly stressed about what I’m eating. My hair and skin both feel amazing.
It’s honestly not hard to find food to eat, either. I just eat the vegetables my mom makes for dinner and heat up some tofu for protein. Now I’m campaigning for my dad to join me since his cholesterol is through the roof and I know he’d benefit from less butter and red meat. (I’m really trying to not become one of those preachy vegans that try to indoctrinate everyone though, don’t worry.)
If you’re still not convinced
a) I don’t care
b) it’s fine, you can join my family, who are still convinced that I went to school in California and became “some sort of new-agey hippie.”
Realistically, will I stay vegan forever? I have no clue considering it’s been only 10 weeks and forever is, like, a really long time, but I have no concrete plans to stop anytime soon. Unless I actually do become anemic from an iron deficiency. Then my mom might start force-feeding me red meat again…