Welcome back to the Fad Diet Diaries, a series in which I knowingly decide to try out horrible diets and then am still shocked when I have a bad time. It’s been a while since our last venture, because it turns out that your body can only take so much abuse before it straight-up decides to stop cooperating with your editorial schedule. But we’re back, stronger than ever and ready to make more terrible decisions when it comes to our metabolism. Shall we?
About two years ago, in my fad diet heyday, a tweet about a “wack ass” Vogue diet from the 70’s went viral. It had all the makings of one of my next experiments: it was funny, it was dumb, I would likely suffer for it, etc. But I passed at the time, not because of any of the several, valid objections to the diet itself, but because the thought of learning how to cook a steak felt too cumbersome.
Now, two years wiser, in the midst of a pandemic, and in the possession of a real kitchen, it felt like the stars had finally aligned. When the same diet went viral for a second time, now being advertised as the ideal quarantine diet, I knew that it was time for me to step up. Have other people already tried this? Yes. Did anyone actually ask me to do it? No. Did either of those things matter? They never do.
quar seems like the perfect time to finally try this diet from 70s vogue pic.twitter.com/p176EdsXC1
— crissy (@crissymilazzo) August 2, 2020
It wasn’t until halfway through my first “breakfast” that I thought do any actual research about this diet beyond the confines of the initial tweet because I am, before all else, a very serious journalist. Much like any other time in my life that I’ve tried to learn something that I probably should have already known, Wikipedia was there for me.
According to the Egg and Wine Diet page, this abomination was in fact published in Vogue in 1977, but it first gained notoriety after being printed in Helen Gurley Brown’s book Sex and the Single Girl: The Unmarried Woman’s Guide to Men in 1962. As a single woman in 2020 who was under the impression that the last way to attract a man was to smell vaguely of white wine and hardboiled eggs, I was intrigued, to say the least.
Helen Gurley Brown was an American author and businesswoman whose work, according to my best friend Wikipedia, played a part in the sexual revolution that took place from the 1960s–1980s. Most notably, Brown was the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan from 1965–1997, during which time she transformed what was once a female-focused literary magazine written entirely by men into the Cosmo we know, love, and sometimes make fun of today.
Say what you will about present-day Cosmo, but under Gurley’s tutelage it became one of the first American publications to recognize the very outrageous notion that women like sex. Gurley built the archetype for the “Cosmo Girl”—the glamorous, career-focused, party girl that shaped the representation of single women in pop culture for decades to come. Her feminism, while seemingly outdated and at times offensive today, was revolutionary in the 60s Mad Men era that she came up in. She paved the way for the Samantha Joneses and Carrie Bradshaws, who went on to pave the way for the Hannah Horvaths and Ilana Wexlers, and so on and so on. Basically, any show about white women living and having sex in New York? That was, in part, Helen Gurley Brown’s influence.
The success of Sex and the Single Girl: The Unmarried Woman’s Guide to Men was what put Brown on the path to Cosmo, serving as an introduction to the culture and discourse that she would go on to instill at the magazine. It’s a how-to guide for the (then-) modern single woman, covering everything from relationships, sex, and affairs to careers, dieting, and throwing the perfect dinner party. It sold two million copies in three weeks during its initial publication in 1962 and was re-released in 2003 with an endorsement from none other than Kim Cattrall. This is appropriate, given that it’s basically the prequel to Sex and the City.
I had every intention of reading the entirety of Sex and the Single Girl: The Unmarried Woman’s Guide to Men this weekend, but it turns out that it’s really difficult to do so when you’re wine drunk and malnourished for three straight days. In fact, it’s difficult to do anything but lay in bed and start a re-watch of The Vampire Diaries for reasons that still escape you in the cold, sober light of Monday morning.
From what I’ve gathered through research, reviews, and light skimming, Sex and the Single Girl reads like a toned down, non-satirical Babe Walker from the 1960s. Tonally, it reminds me of an old magnet that my great-grandmother had on her fridge of a joyful, pudgy cartoon pig holding a measuring tape over the words “Taste Makes Waist.” Having not read it fully, I am hesitant to speak to the book as a whole, but I think it could be described as well-meaning but problematic. Gurley seems like a woman I would love to get drunk with, but probably wouldn’t want managing the HR department of my office.
I did, in an egg and wine haze after my third and final dinner, manage to read the chapter that the diet was featured in, titled “The Shape You’re In.” The diet itself is presented as an admittedly insane crash course for losing six pounds in two days rather than a sustainable or rational way to live, so at least we know Brown wasn’t quite as unhinged as I initially believed her to be. In fact, had I followed her advice rather than Vogue’s, I probably would have been better off.
Here is the screenshot from Vogue that started this whole mess.
And here is what Gurley wrote in Sex and the Single Girl.
To the naked eye, these may seem to be very similar diets. To someone who would have murdered a man for an egg that wasn’t boiled come breakfast the third day, they are very different.
Please note that Helen does not place limitations on the size of your daily steak. She also doesn’t purposely tell you to cook it with pepper and lemon juice but neglect to mention salt. She does not suggest you drink three cups of highly acidic black coffee per day on an almost entirely empty stomach. She does not dictate Chablis as the wine of choice, sending you to multiple shops around town until you’re able to locate a bottle of white wine that went out of style decades ago. Most importantly, she recommends two days of this unreasonable diet rather than three, all of which means that someone who worked at Vogue 50 years ago owes me 24 hours of suffering and one potential ulcer. Anna Wintour, I’ll be awaiting your response.
Once I got past the realization that I had been making things harder for myself than I actually had to, this single chapter of the book was one of the most entertaining things I’ve read in months. Reading a wellness guide from the 60s is wild because there are nuggets of what we now know to be absolute truths but are presented as radical notions, mixed in right alongside absurd suggestions that sound like they came directly from the mouth of a drunk Kitty Forman.
Hindsight makes fools of us all, and I’m sure 50 years from now people will look back on the wellness trends we all abide by today as archaic and, frankly, entirely unsubstantiated (I’m looking at you, Oat Milk*) but it’s still vaguely comforting to know that, even at my lowest, I never thought cooking with powered skim milk in lieu of regular bottled milk made for clean living.
*Authors note: Please put down your pitchforks, I love Oat Milk. But let’s stop pretending it’s healthy.
According to HGB, single girls require a very special diet that will ensure we stay “sexy, vibrant, and unmorose about being single.” And guess what—this one is not it! Suffice to say, I’ve never felt less sexy, vibrant, or unmorose in my life than after three days of nothing but hardboiled eggs, wine, black coffee, and over-cooked steak.
First, let’s talk about the diet prep. There is, admittedly, not a ton to do here, but what there is I still managed to f*ck up.
In front of God, the internet, and you, dear reader, I am ready to announce a deep shame: I had never hard-boiled an egg before this event. I didn’t think that this was all that big of a deal, considering hard-boiled eggs are not a typical staple in my diet outside the rogue salad bar and also you can buy them pre-boiled at Trader Joe’s, but apparently, I was wrong about both of those things. Sue me! I love convenience! Moving on.
But now an entire ocean away from Trader Joe’s, I figured it was time to grow up and drop an egg into some boiling water. Turns out there’s more to it than that, which I found out at breakfast on day one when I bit into what I can only describe as the saddest, sandiest egg yolk of all time.
Luckily, Chrissy Teigen was there for me in my time of need, with a full proof hard-boiled egg recipe. “But boiling eggs is, in itself, a foolproof task,” you are likely thinking to yourself. Congrats on your culinary training.
There are few things in life I despise as much as black coffee. There are few things in life I love as much as an incredibly milky coffee. You can imagine how this went for me.
To add to that, I learned that drip coffee is not nearly as prevalent in Amsterdam as it is in America, which meant I was either going to be drinking Americanos three times a day and potentially having a heart attack, or I was going to have to do some investigating.
I ended up finding a café that sells bottled cold brew, but in quantities that wouldn’t kill me. This was a welcome reprieve from the cold brew at home that allows you to peek into a new dimension if you drink even one tablespoon over the prescribed amount.
If you’re someone like me who doesn’t have any kind of concept of measurements (metric or otherwise), you probably didn’t realize that 5 oz. is not a lot of steak. It’s certainly less than you would like it to be after only consuming three eggs and three glasses of wine.
It’s small enough that you need to go to a butcher to specifically ask them to cut a piece of meat for you that size, and small enough that they’ll tell you no. But then you’ll ask again with a look in your eye that’s probably a little bit concerning considering you’re already three eggs and three glasses of wine into your day, so they’ll relent.
It’s small enough that you’ll find it incredibly difficult to not overcook, even after you send your mom a “you up?” text at 7:30am her time and ask her to FaceTime so she can walk you step by step through the process.
It’s small enough that you are definitely drunk after pairing it with one (1) cold brew and at least two thirds of a bottle of wine.
But then you’ll be kind of glad it’s that small, because you’ve also never had steak without salt and you’ll never really want to again.
It will be no surprise when I tell you that this was the most enjoyable part of the entire experience. Given how few rules there actually were here, I tried to strictly to adhere to the limits that were offered, meaning I drank only Chablis. I’d never actually had it before but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was like a more mellow Chardonnay, without any of the oaky flavor that I truly dislike.
My strategy was to make my breakfast and lunch wines as socially acceptable pours as possible, leaving the bulk of wine for dinner and socializing. While I think this worked a bit, there’s no arguing with the fact that I spent most of these three days in a light daze—a fun combination borne of starvation, alcohol, and caffeine. So basically, like college but with a significant improvement in the quality of ingredients. You know what they call that? Growth.
Kind of like anything else that you think will be fun, it turns out drinking a bottle of wine per day for three days isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I recognize that the recipe says, “up to one bottle of wine,” but chose to ignore that. We’re an all or nothing household.
Me to my bottle of Chablis on the third day:
As is the case with any of these diets, the first day was a bit of a novelty and therefore as close to enjoyable as you can get in this kind of situation. There were a couple minor obstacles, like the nearly inedible egg yolk and the severe oil burns I got from drunkenly attempting to cook a steak, but all in all things were looking positive.
I started out with a very strategic regimen for each meal, trying to sandwich the wine between enough egg and coffee to offset as much of a buzz as possible, but I can’t say that it was all that effective. Also, that strategy fell to the wayside as soon as I got to lunch because I was too hungry to actually moderate anything.
It wasn’t until I was on my way to a dinner with friends (them: nachos and sweet potato fries, me: cold brew and a hydro flask full of Chablis) that I began to worry what drinking coffee this late in the day would do to my sleep schedule. It turns out that it didn’t matter, because starvation trumps caffeine. I took two Melatonin that night just in case, but was asleep before my head hit the pillow, The Vampire Diaries playing in the background for only my cat to watch.
Any kind of optimism was abandoned the minute I woke up on the second day, starving, irritable, and still exhausted despite the fact that I’d just slept for nine hours. I had, foolishly, decided to buy ingredients on a day-by-day basis instead of stocking up on everything beforehand, which meant I had to actually get up and get out of the house if I was going to consume anything. The plan had been to go buy more eggs and try and redeem my first attempt at cooking them, but after it took me fifteen minutes to get from my bed to the bathroom to the kitchen, I gave up and settled for another sandy abomination.
Although this is not the first time I’ve had to navigate a somewhat functional lifestyle while doing one of these diets, it was my first time doing so since moving to the Netherlands. Living in Amsterdam means two things: biking wherever you need to go, and then inevitably climbing a lot of stairs once you get there. I did not take any kind of physical exertion into account when planning for this, which meant my shuffle from my apartment, to an eyebrow appointment, to the café, to the wine store was the slowest recorded movement on a bike in Dutch history. Tourists on foot were lapping me. There is a maximum two-foot elevation change across this entire city, and it was still too much.
By the time I had gotten home from my Odyssey-caliber journey, it was lunch time, which meant I had to drink my breakfast and lunch wine back to back. This, plus the successful second attempt at the hard-boiled egg, had me feeling so nice that I decided to reward my efforts with an afternoon nap. This felt like a good idea at the time (working title of my memoir), until I remembered that on a regular day with a normal amount of food, I tend to wake up from naps ravenous and disoriented. So needless to say, I got up around 5pm resembling a wet gremlin more than anything else.
That night I took my slightly less overdone steak and remaining wine to a park to picnic with friends, which led us to a bar, which led me to a couple more glasses of wine than my allotted bottle per day. Something tells me that Helen Gurley Brown would approve. You know what did not approve? The rest of my body.
I woke up at 6:30am on the third day, with what I can only describe as a stomach full of battery acid and hot flashes that make me truly fear menopause. In my half-asleep stupor I reached for a bottle of (carbonated) water on my bedside table carbonated and immediately chugged half of it, which only exacerbated the situation. It felt like the visual equivalent of pouring Sprite into a middle school science fair volcano. Unsure of how to handle the situation, I did what any self-respecting adult would do, and laid on the floor until the feeling passed.
Around 9am I managed to crawl out to my kitchen, where upon opening the fridge I was greeted with what felt like a solid wall of hard-boiled egg odor. Nothing another 20 minutes on the ground couldn’t solve.
Breakfast was a bleak affair, edging closer to brunch hours at the rate I was moving around. I ate my egg in one bite and washed it down with a Chablis spritzer that was 70% sparkling water. I managed to bike my way to a lunch with friends, which I think I only managed to navigate to because it was downhill from my apartment. My judgment was impaired enough to put on a full sweater vest in a heat wave in August, to give you an indication of where I was at mentally.
I had the wherewithal to go to the grocery store on the way home so that I could be sure there would be food when I woke up the next morning, but was unprepared for how emotional standing in a room full of food would make me. An unreliable shopper at the best of times, I truly outdid myself by leaving with a cart of black beans, a single red onion, kettle corn, sliced cheese and raw salmon.
I abandoned half of my lunch, opting to starve rather than look at one more perfectly boiled egg (a six on the Chrissy Teigen scale). After choking that down I retreated to my room for an undetermined number of episodes of The Vampire Diaries, before emerging for the last of the cold brew, Chablis, and steak. These were all consumed, cold, in my bed.
As I lay there that night, willing myself to the sweet release of sleep, the immortal words of Helen Gurley Brown came to me as if she was floating in the corner of my ceiling like Toni Collette in Hereditary: “Single girls need lecturing. You are the world’s dumbest about nutrition.”
In the end, I lost 4.5 lbs, which puts me just shy of what both Vogue and Sex and the Single Girl promised. Not that it matters anyway, because as I sit here, 12 hours after my final weigh-in, I have already gained all of it back. Spoiler alert: that’s how crash diets tend to end.
Was this worthwhile? Absolutely not. I know far less insane ways to lose a few pounds in a short period of time, and none of them involve hardboiled eggs. But I’m sure Helen Gurley Brown is looking down from above, smiling fondly, and lamenting the fact that I went out first thing and ate what was effectively cake for breakfast. All things in moderation.
Images: adnanroesdi / Shutterstock.com; Giphy (4); crissymilazzo/ Twitter
In a recent turn of events, science has found diets that favor the “cavemen” way of eating might not be the best health bet. What a shame, considering the Paleo and its stricter high-fat cousin, the Ketogenic diet, have both quickly risen the ranks to become two of today’s trendiest diets.
A study published in July 2019 in the European Journal of Nutrition looked at the gut microbiome (the bacteria) of 90 subjects. Half of the subjects were on the Paleo diet, and the other half were the control group. The study followed these subjects for over a year, focusing on looking at the impacts of decreased resistant starch consumption on serum trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO, for short). TMAO is a by-product from our digestive system’s breakdown of fatty foods, and elevated levels of TMAO have been associated with a higher risk for heart disease. The study also looked at the diet’s impact on the abundance of gut bacteria.
The participants of the study were separated into control and experimental groups. The control group was required to make no changes to their diet for the year and practice a well-rounded diet that included dairy, grains, and legumes (the latter are restricted on the Paleo diet). The experimental group was required to follow the Paleo diet, and consume no more than 1 serving a day of grains and dairy products. Because that’s a pretty f*cking strict rule to stick to for a year, they ended up dividing participants into two groups, those who stuck to the rule (the die-hards) were under the Strict Paleo group (SP) and those who broke the rules were under the Pseudo Paleo group (PP). OOP! They pretty much called a whole group of them fake, and I am here for it.
The study found that the TMAO levels in the Strict Paleo group were much higher, due to significantly higher levels of red meat consumption. Gut flora (microbiota) levels were also disrupted, with an abundance of the bacterium Hungatella. This bacterium is a producer of TMAO, so that makes sense… more TMAO producer, more TMAO. Two other bacteria, Roseburia and Bifidobacteria, were found to be significantly less abundant in the Paleo groups. These two strains are found to be abundant in subjects that consume starches. The authors of the study suggest that the lower overall fiber consumption levels in subjects that were in the Paleo groups and the lack of starches (that are necessary to help microbiota thrive) in the long-term may have negative implications on gut and heart health.
SIDENOTE: Now of course, just because the subjects in this study had low levels of fiber does not mean your BFF that is on the Paleo diet is also low in fiber because she/he/you could be getting your leafy greens in (a wise tactic on or off Paleo). But because this wasn’t the case here, they don’t have data on your guys’ gut environment, sorry.
So then I, of course, did further research. Roseburia and Bifidobacteria are key bacteria that impact overall health of the host (us). In obese individuals, the levels of Bifidobacteria are reduced and disrupted levels of gut bacteria could be a factor in obesity. But I think the key takeaway from this article is less about demonizing the Paleo diet (so anyone on Paleo and Keto, don’t come at me in the comments) and more about realizing that so many factors of our health, beyond the number on the scale or the pant size, are influenced by nutrition. By restricting your diet too much, or by completely ignoring a food group, you are also impacting certain biological systems and environments in our body.
My message here is this: Our body is an insane system that works together. The fact that a bacteria that lives in our digestive system to digest fat and protein can create a gaseous byproduct that can cause heart disease is just one of the many complicated engineering systems of our bodies. Like, how are you going to live in me and try to kill me? But it’s a way of suggesting your body needs balance. So the fact that fad diet creators and followers have attempted time and again to reduce our entire system to sets of rules should warrant careful observation and monitoring of how your body and mind feels and functions on these diets. Be careful about cutting food groups out completely, be careful about any diets that push their own products on you, and do not only what makes you healthy but also happy.
Images: Giphy (2)
Hey, it’s me. The girl who tries terrible fad diets and writes about them. You may remember me from the time I ate Halo Top ice cream and nothing else for a week. Or the time I accidentally set off a war in the Whole30 community. Or you don’t understand either of those references and are just here today to learn about the confusing and scientifically unfounded lifestyle that is Food Combining. Regardless, welcome.
A few weeks ago I found myself at a happy hour discussing, what else, fad diets. Usually once people hear that this is something I do willingly, they start throwing out wild suggestions that only lead me to believe that they are hoping I die in the process of attempting. May I present to you, a shortlist of diets that have been suggested to me by friends and strangers alike:
- The Potato Diet in which you eat, you guessed it, plain cooked potatoes and nothing else
- That insane Vogue diet that circulated Twitter and allows you an entire bottle of wine, three hardboiled eggs, and one steak a day (still not off the table tbh)
- The sushi and Jamba Juice diet, which is less a fad diet and more the very real eating habits of my suburban Californian high school self
- “Just like…eggs?” – a man who wasn’t even involved in the conversation but had to stop and offer his two cents
- “Vegan!!” – any Vegan in a two mile radius
But this particular happy hour was different, because a woman there offered up a viable and interesting option that I actually hadn’t heard of before: Food Combining. In its essence, Food Combining is driven by the principle that the less energy your body exerts on digestion, the better. To achieve that, the goal is to eat food in a certain order or in certain combinations to aid digestion and promote weight loss, better nutrient abruption, increased energy levels, and various other benefits.
While the origins of Food Combining are a little cloudy, like most modern wellness trends it can be traced back to the Ayurvedic medicine practices of ancient India. Shout out to the ancient Indians for providing 90% of my subject matter. I can never thank you enough for the Golden Milk.
Food Combining reemerged into public consciousness in the mid-1800s and then again later in the early 1900s, rebranded at those times as Tropology and the Hay diet, respectively. But no matter what you call it, the sentiment is the same: different foods should be combined in different ways for optimal digestion.
It became immediately clear in my initial research that scientists do not agree with the logic behind Food Combining. The theory is this: different enzymes in your intestines digest different food groups, so by eating those groups separately you are creating the most optimal digestive environment. If you were to combine those groups, the digestive process would take longer, giving the food in your stomach time to rot or ferment, which leads to bloating. It’s not the most insane thing I’ve ever heard, but that probably shouldn’t be the litmus for effective diet practices.
It turns out digestion is an incredibly complicated scientific process that can’t just be hacked by eating foods in certain orders. In fact, digestion starts in the mouth, which kind of negates the entire idea that all the food you eat is sitting wholly untouched in your gut waiting to turn you into Violet Beauregarde if those enzymes don’t get working ASAP.
All that being said, just because Food Combining’s principles may not be entirely based in scientific reason doesn’t make the diet unhealthy by nature. In fact, I found it to be helpful for kickstarting a cleanse that I’ve been trying, and failing, to get after for weeks now. At its heart, Food Combining is just a process that promotes clean eating and mindfulness, because you have to think exceptionally hard before you eat anything. It wasn’t so much that I found myself unable to eat things I wanted, just that I had to plan when I could do so effectively. In fact, I had to create an Excel sheet just so I could plan out my meals, which, tragically, is my most efficient use of Excel to date.
I would like to make it clear that even after 10 days, I am not an expert here. In fact, I think I merely scratched the surface of what I believe to be the Titanic-sized iceberg that is Food Combining. If you are someone who follows it religiously or, better yet, grasps anything beyond the basics, you’re probably going to be annoyed from here on out. My sincerest apologies.
There are many nuanced rules to this diet that, to be completely honest, I do not understand. While there are many articles about why Food Combining doesn’t actually make sense, there are very few that offer hard and stringent rules to follow. I am but a simple girl looking for a Buzzfeed list of recipes to follow, but no such thing existed, apparently. So without any official (reputable) source to go off of, I found myself cobbling together bits and pieces from various blogs, one poorly designed website, and information shared with me by the woman who turned me onto Food Combining in the first place. This, combined with a general sense of disregard for anything that would complicate my life more than necessary, led to 10 fairly regimented days of vegetable-laden salads with varying bits of protein, because previous fad diet endeavors have left me with what I now believe to be a pathological fear of ingesting carbs.
The first thing you need to understand about Food Combining is the food groups, which are broken out as follows:
- Protein – any meat (red or otherwise), dairy, or eggs
- Starches/Carbohydrates – any kind of grain, bread, legume, pasta, or starchy vegetable like potatoes, squash, and corn
- Neutral Vegetables – pretty much any vegetable that isn’t a starch
- Fresh fruit – self-explanatory perhaps, but this encompasses all fruits
There is much dissent amongst the Food Combining community about where certain foods belong—the one with the greatest effect on my daily life being avocados. After much deliberation and a little bit of self-interested research, I decided avocados were neutral. It was a controversial move, but I stand by it, because a vegetable sandwich without any kind of dairy or avocado attached to it is a sad site to behold.
From there, you have one cardinal rule that you must follow: you cannot mix protein (meat, eggs, dairy) with carbs (all the things you love). Ever. There are about 100 other limitations or regulations stemming from that, but this mantra is the foundation upon which your new life is built.
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After ample research, I landed on a few other rules that I thought gave me an authentic enough experience for the sake of this experiment. So for the past week and a half, these are the guidelines that have dictated my life:
No combining carbs/starches and proteins: This is the single phrase you will find yourself repeating ad nauseam to friends, family, and coworkers when they inevitably ask what half-cocked diet you’ve decided to take up this time.
Fruit on an empty stomach only: Fruit takes the least amount of time to digest and thus should be eaten first, lest you fall victim to bloating.
You must wait three hours between meals when switching food groups: No one offered any real logic here, so I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s because the enzymes are tired.
But if you do get hungry between meals, eat neutral vegetables: Apparently the enzymes are never too tired to digest a leafy green composed of nearly 70% water.
Drink lots of water, but not while you’re actually eating: Hydration is a pillar of most diets, but what’s wild about Food Combining is you’re not actually allowed to drink anything during meals. The idea is that doing so will dilute the enzymes and stall digestion. So guess what happens when you eat something exceptionally spicy at the beginning of a meal?? You suffer.
No nuts/legumes in the first week: Both of these groups have long digestive periods, so most followers of Food Combining recommend forgoing them during your first week as your body adapts to its new lifestyle.
Start every meal with some kind of raw vegetable/leafy green: This supposedly kickstarts the enzymes and/or wakes them up from their nap. Idk.
No added sugar: The digestive period of sugar was never mentioned, but I think this aligns more to the general idea of eating healthy than anything else.
A couple of blogs also recommended that you pair your regimen with Intermittent Fasting, something that I attempted with varying degrees of success throughout the 10 days. Sometimes you’re on top of your sh*t, and sometimes you go to a work dinner and the entrees don’t even arrive until 9:00pm. Sue me.
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Days 1 – 3
The only way I can describe the onset of this experience was overwhelming. If you were to have come across me while I was researching this diet, you’d probably have thought I was studying for a test. I had notebooks out. Word docs up. More tabs than I’m comfortable with open on my computer. I was manically highlighting things without reason. It was like finals week all over again, but without the Adderall or sense of impending doom. But once I took a step back and really thought about it, I realized that Food Combining was less a diet and more of a lifestyle. That sentence in itself makes my skin crawl, but bear with me here.
Food Combining isn’t meant to restrict what you can eat, rather it’s just there to make you think about what you’re eating. By slowing down and actually recognizing each individual ingredient, I found I was able make better decisions than if I had just ordered something at a restaurant and assumed it was all healthy. It was tedious, but….rewarding? I don’t even know who I am anymore.
Day 4 – 7
The enlightened wisdom of days 1–3 slowly waned as I realized that I hated salads without cheese. Food Combining isn’t a fan of premade dressing and highly recommends a combo of olive oil and lemon juice, which while light and refreshing, isn’t exactly packed with flavor. But then it was like God heard my cries for help and threw down a single olive branch in the form of this list that I found online of neutral cheeses.
Listen, I know this website looks like it was created on a word processor in 1998. I know that some of the info on it directly contradicts rules that I’d already established for myself above. And I know that you shouldn’t blindly trust things you read on the internet, but none of that mattered. Suddenly I could have feta on my salads and ricotta on my avocado toast, and I was a woman renewed.
Day 8 – 10
After my first week, the routine of Food Combining was so completely ingrained in me that I didn’t even realize I was still following it. I had abandoned the Excel spreadsheet long ago, and no longer eagerly counted down the seconds until noon when Intermittent Fasting allowed me my first meal. The sight of the rampant baked goods in my office didn’t send a painful jolt through my chest like they had a mere few days ago. I was drinking water without setting reminders for myself to do so. In short, I was behaving in the ways that I think a functional human being might, and it felt good.
But then, on the eve of my last night, disaster struck in the form of a fancy work dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant full of fancy pasta and fancy desserts and the social expectation that you eat those things to avoid looking like an asshole.
Food Combining is a proponent of moderation, and so I thought, why not? I’ve worked hard, I’ve been diligent, what’s the issue with one little bowl of pasta, even though I had a meat entrée on the way? What could one tiny dessert hurt, after already having combined the cursed carbs and protein? What could possibly happen to me and my pristine, temple-like body at this point?
Uh, everything could happen, it turns out. I learned this on the drive home, at which point my stomach expanded to what I can only describe as a second trimester level of bloat. I waddled into my apartment and threw myself onto my bed, immediately passing out from what I’m assuming was the over-exertion of my sad stomach enzymes. I woke the next morning to find myself still in terrible shape, and dug out the loosest possible outfit to wear to work. I continued to feel like sh*t for the rest of the day, eventually going to bed without dinner because the thought of eating anything at all made me nauseous.
While I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by the serenity of my new routine, in the end Food Combining ended up being like every other lifestyle/diet I’ve tried thus far. Sure, you feel great in the moment, but one misstep sends you on a downward spiral of shame and despair that leaves you feeling slightly betrayed and with a lingering sense of guilt.
Over the 10 days I tried Food Combining, I lost about five pounds. Over the course of a single Italian dinner, I gained two of them back. Nearly half my progress, erased by a moment of weakness. This isn’t an experience exclusive to Food Combining, but indicative of the fallout of any drastic lifestyle diet. You feel invincible during the highs, but you have to remember that there will be lows. The honest truth is that most of these regimens are not sustainable. You know what is? A healthy lifestyle of moderation and exercise. That’s it. That’s the secret.
Eat healthy. Be active. Treat yourself on occasion. Don’t rely on scientific hacks to fool your body into weight loss. Your enzymes know what they’re doing without your help, I promise. But most importantly, be kind to your body. It endures all the stupid sh*t you inflict upon it on a daily basis, the least you can do is put up with a little weight fluctuation here and there.
Have any fad diet ideas that eclipse the stunning suggestions above? Leave them in the comments section and maybe I’ll find myself feeling brave enough to try them out in the future.
Images: Giphy (2); Amy Shamblen / Unsplash; dietstartstomorrow / Instagram
For upwards of four years now, I have been testing out various fad diets and writing about my experiences, typically to the detriment of my metabolism, mental stability, and overall health. Sometimes, people enjoy this. Sometimes they tell me to kill myself. It’s a mixed bag, really.
Despite the many things I have written to the contrary, I love doing these diets. I love pushing myself to limits that literally no one asked me to push myself to. I love the adverse reactions I get from people when I explain why I’m buying Grade B Maple Syrup in bulk. But mostly, I just love attention and suffering, so this is truly my calling.
While doing research for my next diet, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some of my more outlandish ventures. While this was initially a move of pure procrastination, it made me think that it could be fun to reminisce on the simpler times in my life when I walked around with ice cream in my purse or incited social media rants from unnamed wellness influencers.
Without further ado, here is the ranking of the most ridiculous sh*t I’ve ever put my body through in the name of art.
Full transparency, I loved Keto. I try to still adhere to it, albeit in the loosest terms possible. But in those early days when I had no idea what I was doing, before I truly understood macros or what it meant to measure food, sh*t got weird. How weird, you may ask? Please refer to the photo below of me, sitting on my patio, eating rotisserie chicken straight out of the bag at 9pm on a Tuesday because I had abruptly realized that I was still 790 calories short of my daily goal. This is not an ad for Frank’s Red Hot, but also, I would not be opposed to this being an ad for Frank’s Red Hot. Call me.
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pictured: me at 9PM on a Tuesday night, eating a rotisserie chicken directly out of the bag after I found out that I was still 790 calories short of my daily goal. read all about this & more truly horrifying antics in the latest installment of the Fad Diet Diaries. link in bio.
Keto is a dream once you can break down that mental barrier that tells you that you can’t eat things like butter. If that sounds like an easy feat to you, congrats on never having had an eating disorder. The idea that I was not only allowed, but encouraged, to eat buttery, creamy, fatty foods on a daily basis was so outrageous that for a second I understood the extreme resolve with which Flat Earthers stand by their beliefs. The ground doesn’t curve when you walk on it! Butter is fattening! These are indisputable facts, and I refuse to hear anything to the contrary!
But once you’ve moved past that simple obstacle, life is different. You know how many kinds of cheese are sitting in my fridge at this very moment? Six. SIX. Sure, there hasn’t been bread in my kitchen in months, but SIX KINDS OF CHEESE. It’s liberating, in a way that prison yards are liberating. Like yeah, there’s lots of fresh air and more activities to take part in, but also you’re still being held captive by a system built to deprive you of your humanity.
Diets are bad. Don’t do them.
4. The Master Cleanse
You would think that a diet that forced me to consume nothing but spicy lemonade for 10 straight days would be further up on the list of stupid things I’ve done, but that’s because you don’t understand the supreme comfort of not having options.
Most of the other diets on this list have a large margin for error. You can unknowingly eat the wrong ingredients or even too much of the right ingredients. You can be tempted by “safe” foods with hidden pitfalls or fool yourself with meaningless words like “moderation.” But that’s not the case with the Master Cleanse, because you’re allowed one thing and one thing only: cayenne lemonade. Two liters of it a day. For 10 days.
There’s no room to justify cheating, because there’s no gray area here. Every day is the same question, a thousand times over. “Is whatever I want to eat in this moment a liter of spicy lemonade? No? Then I can’t have it.” It’s crazy how easy life gets once choice is taken out of the equation. That’s usually a sentiment that dictators in movies use to justify their regimes, but I won’t waste time drawing any parallels there.
3. The Cabbage Soup Diet
I’m gonna do this wack ass crash diet vogue printed in the 70s and die pic.twitter.com/DbHCWBJ4cf
— Open Heart (@Rayoflightray) April 28, 2019
No diet in my entire history of diets has gone off the rails faster than the Cabbage Soup Diet did. It came too early in my career, before I’d broken my will enough to truly understand self-control. Perhaps tackling it today would be a different story, but at the tender age of 23, I was unprepared for what the Cabbage Soup Diet would offer me: too many options.
Remember what I said about the Master Cleanse just few paragraphs up? This is the opposite, in every way. Every day the Cabbage Soup Diet gives you merely a parameter of the things that you can eat, without an inkling of portion sizes. To an adult with the ability to stop themselves from eating an entire flat of blackberries in a day, this probably wouldn’t be an issue. To me, an animal without the foresight to realize the mass outbreak of canker sores that would result from eating that many blackberries in a mere 24 hours, it was a hellscape of my own making.
The Cabbage Soup Diet is not a diet, it’s a social experiment. Some sadistic asshole wrote down on a website designed in 1984, “you can eat three steaks today” and then waited to see if some idiot would actually do it. Well, guess what! That idiot is here! And time has given her the wisdom to fight back! Or at the very least, yell about it on the Internet!
Despite the fact that I willingly opted into this experiment, I still somehow feel like the Cabbage Soup Diet took advantage of me. It’s a sentient being from another universe, sent here to prey on weak-minded people who think eating four bananas a day is something moderately within the realm of healthy behavior. That cursed website is the dieting world’s version of Tom Riddle’s Diary: another second longer and I would have been found in a dungeon, cradling a bucket of mushy vegetable soup. I don’t even know where I’m going with this anymore. F*ck you, Cabbage Soup Diet.
As far as diets go, Whole30 wasn’t that crazy. Sure, I didn’t remotely enjoy it. But, all things considered, it’s not like the premise was insane. In fact I discovered, one of my favorite recipes of all time, a lovely Whole30 compliant Zuppa Toscana, during my 30-day trial. The entire experience was kind of like that time I (accidentally?) ate a bunch of edibles at homecoming senior year of high school and then puked all over my blackberry—it didn’t ruin my life but I’m not exactly in a rush to do it again anytime soon, you know?
So why does Whole30 hold the number two ranking on this coveted list? One that could be taken by Kourtney Kardashian’s godforsaken avocado pudding? For one very important reason, reader: this video.
(Please excuse the recording methodology—my roommate and I are incapable of grasping technology released past the year 1997)
On Monday, March 19th, 2018, the founder of Whole30, one Melissa Hartwig, posted a series of stories to her Instagram. This in itself isn’t out of the ordinary; she’s an influencer, that’s what she does. Except, on this fateful day, these videos were about me.
I think it goes without saying when I tell you that this kind of thing doesn’t usually happen to me. Except for that one time one of the kids from MTV’s Scream retweeted one of my recaps about his show, this is the most public attention I have ever received for my work on social media. I am 100% sincere when I say that I will cherish this series of impassioned statements about what a sh*tty person I am for the rest of my life.
I cannot stress enough to you how often this video gets broken out in my day-to-day life. At work. At bars. In Lyfts. At bars. When I’m home for Christmas. Mostly at bars. Drunk people love this stuff.
The fact that this woman exerted the effort to not only post a swipe-up to my article but then immediately tear it to shreds over the course of five consecutive videos will never cease to delight me. It makes every bloated, exhausted, sober second of Whole30 worth it. Guess I did find that life-changing journey, just not in the way she expected.
1. The Halo Top Diet
Nothing will ever top this, in terms of preparation, dedication, fervor, or absolute insanity. The absolute wildest thing about about the Halo Top Diet was that it’s not even justifiable; eating ice cream for seven days is, despite what I told everyone around me, not a diet. Period. This series is dedicated to the trials and tribulations of documented fad diets, and yet somehow I managed to convince a company, an editor, my friends, my family, and my coworkers that this was a viable idea. To this day, I don’t understand how it happened.
To have known me during the Halo Top Diet is akin to having known someone during war, except only one of you was at war and the other was bemusedly watching from the comfort of their home while eating a hot dog. Also your friend at war kept asking if they could smell your hot dog. Shut up. It’s fine.
Friends of mine still reminisce on the Halo Top Diet like it was a nostalgic era of their youth and not the most surreal seven days of my entire life. Let’s ignore the obvious physical ramifications at play here—do you understand the mental strain you endure when you set out to eat ice cream and nothing else for a week? Can you even grasp it? Let me answer that for you: you can’t. I thought I could, and I was wrong.
After two days, the laws of polite society cease to exist. There is no social norm too big to surmount, no simple civility that you aren’t willing to trample. You transcend faux pas and exist in a serene yet somehow also ominous realm of ultimate inner peace, save the unrelenting headache and constant nagging reminder that every meal you eat for potentially the rest of your life will be cold and sweet.
That realm makes things possible that you would never have believed yourself capable of before. Things like standing in front of your entire office and begging them not to touch the ice cream in the freezer because it is both your breakfast and lunch. Things like looking at a waiter in the eye, saying “I’m good, thanks,” and then pulling a pint of melted ice cream out of your purse to eat in front of them. Things like attempting to pour hot sauce onto your ice cream in a fevered search for something savory, only to be stopped by people who do, in fact, care about your dignity. You know, to name a few.
In short, if you can’t handle me at my Halo Top, you don’t deserve me ever. That’s it. That’s the deal.
Have an idea for a diet that could potentially rival the ones on this list? Leave it in the comment section and I just may hate myself enough to try it.
Images: Giphy (2), Instagram (@marykatefotch, @melissa_hartwig)
Welcome back for another installment of the Fad Diet Diaries, a series in which I slowly but surely destroy my already fragile relationship with food, one dumb celebrity regimen at a time. The celebrity in question this time around is one Kourtney Kardashian, a woman who manages to look better middle-aged and after three children than I looked at 21 and before I discovered Postmates. Today is Kourtney’s 41st birthday (not that you’ll be able to tell by anything about her), and in honor of that I did the only thing I know how to do: emulate her diet and then complain about it. These are my stories.
While this particular diet was short-lived, a mere three days, my journey to get to this point actually started a little over a year ago. In February 2018, Kourtney Mary Kardashian released her daily meal plan on her app. These were pre-Poosh days, practically prehistoric. I paid $2.99 for said app (and then forgot to unsubscribe for months, leading to many subsequent payments) so I could get the dirt, and then write this piece about it.
While it’s the cardinal rule of the Internet to not read the comment section, I literally always do because I’m a masochist in constant need of validation. Sometimes it’s rewarding, sometimes it’s soul crushing, and very rarely will I actually respond to things. But a year ago, one kind soul asked if I’d be embarking on the Kourtney Kardashian diet, which seemed like a fair question considering what I do here. Me, being a naïve fool, threw out a cheeky “stay tuned” and left it at that, not realizing the financial burden I was about to undertake.
Well ThristyIPhone, you have stayed tuned for a whole year. Thank you for your patience. I am finally ready to tell you about my journey to becoming Kourtney Kardashian.
I don’t know if you’ve all heard, but Kourtney Kardashian is rich as f*ck. After a little research back in 2018, I learned that her supplement regimen alone was going to be over $100, and that was before I even got to groceries. In news that should surprise no one, Kourtney’s honey of choice costs $40. $40!!! In that moment, my dreams of eating like a Kardashian, even for a short period of time, died. I bid Kourtney farewell and set out in search of other, more cost-effective way to destroy my metabolism. It only took us a full year to realize that companies might actually donate to our cause.
We’d like to give a huge shout-out to our friends at Bulletproof for sending me their Collagen Protein and Brain Octane MCT Supplement, both of which I enjoyed enough to continue using in my regular day-to-day life. Unfortunately we weren’t able to source Kourtney’s blue-green algae or bone broth powder of choice in time, but I think that may have been a blessing in disguise.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad experience. In fact, without having to buy most of the expensive items for myself, it was pretty manageable. Turns out it’s not that hard to be a Karadashian, assuming you have a chill five hours to spare in the morning and limitless funds to fuel your antics.
Kourtney’s routine is very morning heavy. She wakes up, immediately takes collagen on an empty stomach, waits 20 minutes and then drinks a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, waits an undisclosed amount of time and then has a vegan probiotic shot followed by a supplement-stuffed avocado pudding that she makes herself, works out, then comes home and eats breakfast. That all sounds super nice for someone with a flexible schedule, but I have to be at work by 9am, which means I was waking up at 5:30am every day to try and work all this in.
The schedule that I painstakingly built out the night before fell apart almost immediately. There was a significant learning curve here for me, someone who has never had collagen or attempted to eat a blended avocado in her life.
- 5:30 – Wake up and immediately drink collagen
- 5:50 – Wait 20 min – 1 tbs ACV with water
- 6:00 – Probiotic shot
- 6:10 – Avocado smoothie (with MCT oil)
- 7:00 – Workout
- 8:30 – Oatmeal
Things were off to a rocky start right off the bat. I now know that the vanilla collagen that Bulletproof sent to me tastes great mixed in coffee, or likely most beverages that aren’t a glass of room temperature water, but Kourtney said she takes her on an empty stomach. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, and it was 5:30 in the morning, so I mixed two scoops into some water and hoped for the best.
I, uh, wouldn’t recommend it. I would, however, recommend mixing it into some mint tea, which makes for a lovely wake-up, and is what I proceeded to do for the next two days.
Twenty minutes after that, I poured a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into another full glass of water and basically chugged it. As someone who loves vinegar, this wasn’t as bad as most people might expect. As someone who hates being hydrated, it was a struggle.
Next came the guess work. Kourtney didn’t specifically detail how long she waits between the apple cider vinegar and the probiotic shot, but I had a schedule to maintain. My goal was to finish everything at least 45 minutes before my 7am cycling class and then just pray that was enough time to keep my from puking it all back up. It’s a glamorous lifestyle I lead, but someone has to do it.
I take back everything I’ve previously said about vegan probiotic shots, because it was a dream (not to be confused with Dream Kardashian, who is a baby and not a vegan supplement), truly the highlight of my entire Kourtney experience. I went with the Vanilla Chamomile GoodBelly Super Shot, which I ended up having to actually buy but was fairly affordable, all things considered. Kourtney drinks two of these a day, one in the morning and one at night, and it became the one thing I looked forward to most in the day. A light at the end of a very long dark tunnel full of avocado pudding.
Let’s talk about this avocado pudding.
Every single day of her life, Kourtney blends one whole avocado with one cup of organic coconut milk and two teaspoons of her exorbitantly expensive honey, tosses in some MCT oil, bone broth powder and blue-green algae for good measure, and then proceeds to actually eat it, like a complete and total sociopath.
Full disclosure: I did not buy Kourtney’s bourgeoisie honey. Yes, it has health benefits. No, I do not care. I used regular, poor person honey. I don’t think that my experience would have been any different otherwise, but I guess we’ll never know.
To every food blog that convinced me it would be delicious: f*ck you. Truly, from the bottom of my heart. Consider this my declaration of a formal blood feud. My grandchildren will be forced to murder your grandchildren in the streets, full on Hatfield-McCoy style, all because you lied to the Internet in a misguided attempt to impress Kourtney Kardashian. Was it worth it? Was it?
It’s not like I’m avocado adverse. I’m a millennial. I am a white woman. I am a millennial white woman from California. I’m a walking billboard for avocados. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of them, smeared across every surface imaginable, actual flavor profiles be damned. During Whole30 I ate guacamole with a spoon for lunch on more occasions that I’d like to admit. But this avocado pudding is an affront to God. I managed to swallow two whole spoonfuls before I poured the entire thing down the drain, where it continued to torture me by emitting the most offensive odor I’ve ever encountered when I started spraying it with hot water in the hopes that it would cleanse it from my sink, and memories, forever.
Taste aside, there was no possible way that I could eat an entire bowl of coconut milk avocado soup and then continue to go about my day in any kind of functional way. I sure as hell wasn’t going to be able to work out after. Maybe Kourtney’s schedule allows for more flexible timing, but I was cutting it close on my agenda as is. I’m not going to wake up at 4am and then further punish myself with that concoction. I had, at long last apparently, found my line.
Me: This pudding is the single worst thing to ever happen to me
So needless to say, the pudding was removed from my regimen immediately. I opted to pour the MCT oil into my morning oatmeal and call it good. I haven’t looked at an avocado the same since, which is unfortunate because Kourtney eats about three of them a day.
As anyone who’s ever watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians knows, those ladies love their salads. But considering the fact that I don’t live in Calabasas, and I’m assuming the Health Nut doesn’t ship lunch orders, I was on my own here. Kourtney’s description of her daily lunch salad was vague at best, only telling us that it usually involves chicken or salmon and some kind of homemade dressing. Enter Poosh: my source for all things Kourtney.
Much of this diet was built out by merging the information disclosed on Kourtney’s app with what I was able to uncover through Poosh and assorted food blogs. It wasn’t an exact science, but it felt like the best route considering I couldn’t just text her and be like, “Hey girl, why do you hate God and love avocados? Also, $40 honey???”
Poosh directed me to Kourtney’s Signature Salad, which became the base for my lunch for all three days of the diet. I added arugula (because honestly, what the f*ck) and salmon to round it out and keep myself from starving, but otherwise stuck with the recipe. You know what smells really good in an open-space office at noon? A salad full of salmon and hard-boiled eggs.
For snacks Kourtney opts for fresh fruit, raw almonds, or (you guessed it) more avocados. Specifically, avocado hummus with fresh vegetables. Do not come within 100 yards of that woman with a pita chip, so help me God.
I will admit, the hummus was a bop. Not only did it taste great, but nothing makes you feel quite as smug and self-assured as telling people you made your own hummus. It’s literally the easiest thing in the world, but in just ten minutes I had fully transformed into a lifestyle blogger.
“I diverged from the recipe and added extra lime juice, which I think balanced out the avocado nicely, but it’s really what you make it!” – something I actually said to a coworker, as if I invented hummus or limes. Kourtney was changing me.
After work I would come home and do another round of apple cider vinegar and a probiotic shot. These became so par for the course that I am comfortable saying I could probably drink straight vinegar at this point. Call it an added perk I guess.
Dinner had perhaps the least parameters of any meal thus far. Kourtney’s app said she likes a “homemade asparagus soup, sometimes a healthy turkey chili when it’s cold,” and Poosh gave me absolutely nothing. Luckily the weather was horribly depressing this week, the perfect conditions for a healthy turkey chili.
The chili wasn’t bad. In fact it was pretty good, considering I couldn’t add a heaping amount of cheese and sour cream as I usually would. But, it did get old. Fast. I have a feeling Kourtney doesn’t make one (far too large) pot of chili, and then proceed to eat it every night because she maxed out her weekly grocery spend on three days’ worth of organic groceries and probiotic shots. In fact, I’m willing to bet that Kourtney has a freshly prepared dinner every night of the week, one that is both incredibly healthy and tasty, and likely prepared by someone who doesn’t pat themselves on the back for managing to blend garbanzo beans and avocados together without incident.
Because the reality of the situation here, and something that I probably didn’t need to tell you all, is that Kourtney has the resources to make these this diet both manageable and accessible. She’s got time, limitless money, and what I’m assuming is a full-time staff at her disposal. I, tragically, have zero of those things.
The next two days continued the same as the first, albeit with a few less hiccups. I woke up at 5:30am every day, worked out, and painstakingly accounted for every single thing that I ate. And, against all odds, I actually felt better for it. Obviously three days isn’t enough time to inspire any real change in my body, but I can’t discount the fact that I just feel better. Despite waking up earlier than I usually would, I’m more rested than I can remember being in a long time. I’ve slept better this week than I have in months. My thoughts are clearer, my skin is brighter, and I’m generally more confident in what I’m consuming. Sure, all of that could be a placebo effect, but I don’t really think that’s the case.
While time consuming, this routine has had the positive effect of making me stop and take stock of every single thing I’m putting in my body. As a result, not once in the past three days have I felt guilty about something I’ve eaten, or worried that I’m indulging. Arguably I shouldn’t feel like that on a normal day, but that’s a discussion for another time.
It’s no secret that better ingredients make for a better lifestyle. It’s even less of a secret that money unlocks those opportunities, as well as a wealth of others. What I’m saying here, is that we shouldn’t be surprised that Kourtney looks as good as she does. If I continued living like this, worked out like she did, and didn’t have to worry about trivial things like money, I probably would too.
Coming out the other side of this endeavor, all I can say is that we as a society can no longer claim that Kourtney Kardashian has no talent. She’s a mother. She’s an entrepreneur. She’s potentially a witch with access to a fountain of eternal youth. But most importantly, she manages to eat that cursed avocado pudding every single day, which makes her a stronger woman than I will ever be.
Images: Giphy (4)
To all my chronic dieters,
To start, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to define what a “chronic dieter” is, because it’s one of those things where if you think that kinda sounds like you…it probably is. And I want you to know that I’ve been there. For most of my life, I have tracked every calorie, lost weight, gained the weight back, and either gone back to counting/measuring/tracking calories or hopped on the new diet trend (I was vegetarian for a year in college, back when going meat-free for weight loss started getting its share of limelight). I was completely miserable, and if you’re one of us chronic dieters, then I want to venture a guess that you are unhappy too.
For most of my teenage/adult life, I forced myself to live within food “rules.” I used to eat ALL JUNK FOOD, just because it had nutrition labels and I could correctly track the calories in it. When you’re on the go, it’s easier to track calories in a Pop-Tart than calories in an apple. It’s easier to track calories in a McDonald’s meal than calories in a meal you cook yourself. (You just cooked, are you really about to start punching in numbers of all the ingredients?) I would bring Lean Cuisines to family dinners, guys. I felt insane and my diet, quite honestly, was sh*t. The only rule I often had was to stay under a certain number of calories a day. If I went over that number, I felt like I failed. I didn’t care about the quality of the calories in the least. I couldn’t really eat out with people, because I’d freak out about not knowing the calories of the dishes. So if I had to eat out, I’d say “f*ck it, it’ll be a cheat day” and go crazy that whole day. And by “crazy”, I mean I’d eat it all. I would eat until I felt sick, just because it was “cheat day.”
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This went on for almost a decade. My relationship with food was always a bottom line. It’s funny, because I went on to become a personal trainer with a master’s degree in kinesiology, and I used to preach everything health related—everything that made a lot of sense, and that is scientifically proven to work for people. But my own situation was so f*cked up. I knew better, but I didn’t know how to do better for myself. I was helping people achieve their dream bodies, but me? I was being controlled by food.
Eventually, I got so tired of it. So I remember setting a challenge for myself. I challenged myself to just stop counting for a week. I told myself to start approaching food as I would if I was suggesting it to a client. Before I ate, I’d ask, “Would I tell my client to eat this?” For such a long time, I was telling my clients the things I wanted to do for myself, but I was too scared to commit.
I’ll be honest. That first week was rough, and my God, I was so tempted to track everything. I felt like Bambi. I was learning to walk, but by “walk,” I mean trust my instincts and trust that I can treat my body better. I avoided temptation to quantify my food, and I began to FEEL (instead of just knowing in my academic mind) that all calories are not equal, and instead I started to look at the quality of food.How my body reacts to fresh, home-cooked food like baked chicken and chickpea pasta is MUCH BETTER than how my body reacts to junk food, no matter the difference in numbers.
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Day by day, I started to see the freedom in trusting my instincts. Despite the initial fear, I soon was able to eat at any restaurant I wanted and cook food for myself without reaching sky-high levels of anxiety. I don’t have to stuff myself to the brim anymore just because it’s a f*cking “cheat day,” because I didn’t need a “cheat day.” I didn’t have to eat yet another fast food meal just because it fit the calorie quota for the day. When all you’re used to is confining yourself to rules, leaving those rules behind is terrifying. That’s probably why I, and you, my dear reader, stayed in that cycle for so long. As long as we stayed within the rules, or under a certain amount of calories, we felt “safe,” like we did something right.
So, if you are a chronic dieter, my challenge to you is this: stop forcing yourself to live within these rules for the next 48 hours. Stop quantifying your food, even if it’s just for a few days. Trust yourself, and trust that you know how to treat yourself beyond the numbers at the end of the day. Stop letting these confines ever make you feel like you’ve failed your body, because nothing and no one should ever give you the power to feel like you’ve failed your own body. I trust you, and so should you. I know that it’s scary, because now your choices are literally endless, but once you re-establish that trust with yourself, it’s like a brand new world. And it’s super worth it.
Images: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash; dietstartstomorrow / Instagram
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)
Before I give you my thoughts on Shrill, here’s a little context. The first time I sat on a guy’s lap, he jerked back and pushed me off. “How much do you weigh?” he demanded, rubbing his legs in pain. I was 13 years old, standing in the aisle of a school bus filled with my 7th grade classmates. Over a decade later, I barely remember the guy—but his comment, I remember. The same way I remember, later that year, comments under pictures of me on my cousin’s Myspace: “Who’s your fat friend?” Or in 4th grade, when another girl and I broke our ankles at the same time and had to be carried down a flight of stairs. “Looks like I got the light one,” a teacher joked, picking up the other girl.
If you haven’t yet watched Shrill, the new Hulu show starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant, I highly recommend it. (I also recommend tuning out of this article, because duh—spoilers.) Shrill, in six too-short episodes, tells the story of Annie (Aidy Bryant), a fat woman who finds herself taking far too much sh*t from her mother, her boss, and her f*ck buddy-slash-boyfriend. While Annie’s struggles are not solely derived from her size, Shrill emphasizes the harmful assumptions made about fat people (namely, that their size is a result of being lazy, or lacking willpower), and how licensed people feel to treat Annie differently because of it. From well-meaning “concern” expressed by strangers to her boss telling her to her face that she doesn’t “take care of” herself, the sheer fact of walking around as a woman of Annie’s size translates to an onslaught of uninformed, unsolicited opinions about her character.
All this is to say: though I have not, in my adult life, been overweight, I expected to relate to Annie while watching this show. From my own memories of middle school fat-shaming, I was ready to raise a glass in solidarity and share in Annie’s triumph as she gained the courage to issue a massive f*ck you to her haters. But while I did find the show highly relatable, it wasn’t, ultimately, Annie’s struggle in which I saw myself. Instead, I felt my stomach sink every time a passive-aggressive barb was thrown out against her—and I heard it clearly in my own voice.
To fill you in on the decade between being cyber-bullied on Myspace and now: just before high school, I lost about 25 pounds and grew three inches. (Don’t hate me; it was the last time I lost weight effortlessly in my life, I promise.) From that moment on, likely because of how I’d been treated when I was bigger, I have been obsessed with getting, and staying, thin. From 8th grade on, no diet was off-limits—from South Beach in 2009 to keto about six months ago. (Am I crazy BTW, or are those diets basically the same?) All that dieting was successful, depending on how you define it. While I’m perpetually in a state of wanting to lose “the last” 5-10 pounds, I am by no means overweight. And importantly, my body allows me to suffer none of the public shaming and discrimination that Annie receives every day.
So, let’s take Annie being accosted in a coffee shop by a personal trainer, who grabs her (apparently, tiny) wrist and says earnestly: “There is a small person inside of you dying to get out.” Watching that scene, I had no idea what it was like to be Annie. I did, though, have years of memories of grabbing my own wrists and admiring their smallness, of looking in disgust at the rest of my arm and hating myself for the way it (in my mind) ballooned outward. When Annie’s mom tells her, “you always feel better when you exercise, I can tell,” I hear the same lie I tell people about going to the gym. Sure, it makes me feel better—but only, I’m pretty sure, because I know it’s helping me lose weight.
I came into Shrill thinking it would be a feel-good empowering romp, with twinges of painful memories from my past. I was mostly right (it felt great! and super empowering!), but the twinges of guilt I feel are from how I think about my body right now. I hope that my constant desire to be smaller doesn’t spill out in how I treat other people—but I can’t imagine that it doesn’t. If I hate myself for struggling to zip up a pair of size 27 jeans, how would I not judge someone who wears jeans that are two, four, or ten sizes larger? When I look around in envy at the tiny women NYC is riddled with, have I been kidding myself that I’m not, also, looking at fat people with pity? How many people, beyond myself, have I actually been harming with the constant internal monologue of self-directed fat-shaming?
I won’t say that Shrill cured me of these habits. Midway through writing this article, actually, I stopped to measure myself to decide which size pants to reference (every company is different, y’all know this). Then I measured myself again—and three times after that, with different tools, because I wasn’t happy about the number I was getting. This can’t be right, I thought, furiously switching out a charging cable for a piece of ribbon to wrap around my waist. Never mind that reading a different number off my tape measure has exactly zero effect on my actual body. My negative body image, clearly, is still in effect—but Shrill is the first show I’ve seen in a long time that made me want to do something about it.
If I can recognize how sh*tty people’s treatment of Annie is, I reason, I should be able to apply that same logic to myself. And hopefully, if we can all be a little kinder to ourselves in private, we can be kinder to others in public too. I’m grateful that Shrill brought my fat-shaming into clearer view, but the most pressing issue the show elucidates is our policing and shaming of fat people for simply living their lives near us. And whatever personal struggles you may or may not be dealing with, that kind of bullying on a societal level has got to stop.
Images: Hulu Press; @aidybryant, @dietstartstomorrow/Instagram