Like many of you, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Forever 21. Sure, they have cute clothes at suspiciously low prices, but the stores are a nightmare, and everything falls apart the second time you wash it. I usually go a few times a year out of desperation, which almost inevitably leads to a panic attack while waiting in the checkout line. It’s super fun. But it turns out that the floor isn’t the only thing that’s messy about Forever 21. They’re now facing controversy over behavior that’s seen as fat-shaming toward their plus-sized customers.
For retailers, it’s not super uncommon to send free samples of products along with online orders. These are usually sponsored samples, so it makes sense that they’re targeted based on the typical people ordering the products. For example, when I rented my textbooks in college, they almost always came with a free can of Redbull. I appreciated it. But when you’re targeting people with products, you have to be mindful that you’re not being offensive. This is where Forever 21 made a big mistake.
Last week, people started posting photos on Twitter of their Forever 21 orders, which had come with Atkins Diet bars. I wouldn’t eat these in the first place, but to make matters worse, all of the customers who shared their photos had ordered from Forever 21’s plus-size collection. Yikes. Customers were surprised by the samples, and offended at the idea that they may have been targeted with diet products because of their size.
— Katya (@wisekatya) July 22, 2019
In a statement to Glamour, Forever 21 provided the following explanation for the samples:
“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”
Okay, so if we take this at face value, maybe Forever 21 really did send the diet bar samples to all customers, not just the plus-size ones. At least then they’re not discriminating, but it’s still pretty messed up to be pushing weight loss products on people who haven’t asked for them. We have enough problems with body image and disordered eating in our society, so no one needs a crappy clothing brand shoving weight loss products in their face.
I went from a size 24 to 18, still a plus size girl, so I ordered jeans from @Forever21 Opened the package, when I looked inside I see this Atkins bar. What are you trying to Tell me Forever 21, I’m FAT, LOSE WEIGHT? do you give these to NON-PLUS SIZE WOMEN as well? pic.twitter.com/ds8kUTs7T7
— MissGG?️? (@MissGirlGames) July 19, 2019
And that’s not even considering that the Atkins diet itself is fairly controversial, with some reports claiming that it can increase your risk for heart disease. It’s pretty troubling if Forever 21 is shilling for Atkins to their customers, plus-size or not.
It’s good to know that Forever 21 has removed the diet bars from all orders, but that’s not to say they won’t do something similar again in the future. Brands tend to have short-term memory loss when it comes to things like this (hi, Urban Outfitters), so if another problematic company offers them money to include samples, they might just go for it. Just let me buy my crappy clothes in peace, and figure out my diet issues separately—is that too much to ask?
Images: Shutterstock; wisekatya, missgirlgames / Twitter
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)
It goes without saying that none of us are Beyoncé.
I am not Beyoncé. You are not Beyoncé. Your coworker with the mug that says “you have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé” is delusional—and also not Beyoncé. If Beyoncé is reading this, then she is, in fact, Beyoncé, but I have a feeling she is not taking time out of one of those precious hours that you apparently also have to read what I have to say. However, if anyone finds evidence to the contrary, please send it my way ASAP so I can ride that high for the rest of my life.
Lest you live in a cave in the Appalachians, you’ve likely heard of the Netflix documentary Homecoming, which follows Beyoncé in the run-up to her groundbreaking 2018 Coachella performance. The film covers her journey from the very beginning all the way through to the actual show, detailing creative concepting, rehearsals, and the kinds of preparation she underwent in order to be ready for such a performance just a little under a year after giving birth to her twins.
How does one manage to look the way that Beyoncé did on that stage a mere 10 months after housing and then birthing two human children? Well for starters, by cutting out every enjoyable food group possible. “In order for me to meet my goals, I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol.” You know what else she said? “I’m hungry.” It’s the only thing we’ve ever had in common.
If this sounds unhealthy to you, that’s because it pretty much is. Doctors say so. My body said so. Hell, even Beyoncé admitted it, going so far as to say that she’d “never…never push that far again.” She was likely referring to the strict diet combined with insane rehearsal hours and general exhaustion that accompanies raising two infants, but I’m still going to use it to validate myself.
In short, and as we have covered multiple times across multiple journeys, extremely restrictive diets are bad for you. Full stop. All of the food groups that you’ve been taught to avoid like the plague—carbs, dairy, anything that isn’t leafy green—have nutrients your body needs, in moderation. But for some people, myself included, it’s easier to deny yourself of something altogether than to limit yourself to small amounts of it. It’s the definition of all-or-nothing and a terrible crutch to go through life with, but this is real, this is me.
You see, I’ve never looked at one single thing Beyoncé has done and then thought to myself “hey, I bet I could do that.” The singing? Not with 100 years of vocal coaching. The dancing? You’d have to replace every single one of my joints with functioning ones, and it’d still be a stretch. The ability to look at Jay-Z post-Lemonade and still want to have sex with him? God given. But this? A sh*tty diet? This is my wheelhouse. At last, Beyoncé and I might be on equal footing. Her footing may be exponentially more coordinated, but equal nonetheless.
Lol, jk. I never stood a chance.
Like almost every other aspect of her life, the exact details of Beyoncé’s diet are shrouded in secrecy, leaving me to make a lot of assumptions and take a lot of liberties. Just the way she would have wanted it, I’m sure. Basically, if she didn’t say I couldn’t have it in that single quote from the documentary, I ate it. This allowed me to introduce legumes and nuts into my regimen, which became vital in both not starving to death and not becoming entirely narcoleptic.
For three days I tried eating like Beyoncé and all in all, it wasn’t terrible. Sure, it could have been a lot better than it was, but I was never truly miserable in the ways that other diets have made me feel. But instead of detailing my day-by-day experience for you, which was relatively mundane, all things considered, I’ll present some learnings that will come in handy should any of you decide to embark on the Beyoncé diet on your own.
1. You Will Have To Try
I live in a vegan-friendly city and know there are a lot of great options out there, but none that I felt like tackling on my own. Rather than expend any real effort on things like meal planning or, I don’t know, actual cooking, I stuck to salads, vegetables and hummus, and fruit. For three days, this was totally fine. Any longer than that and I imagine things would have gotten real boring real quick. I have a feeling Beyoncé has a chef on hand to prepare meals that are far more exciting than my lentil salad but that’s a luxury that, tragically, I couldn’t afford.
2. You Will Be Tired
It’s difficult to come across protein in diet that consists almost entirely of fruits and vegetables. I did my best with the addition of beans and nuts, but it didn’t really compare to the meat I’m used to consuming on a daily basis. I wasn’t brave enough to venture into the world of Tofu or meat substitutes, and wasn’t even entirely sure it was something I was allowed to have, so I spent a lot of time being tired and then trying to compensate with black coffee. You know what doesn’t sit well on a stomach full of greens and almost nothing else? Black coffee.
3. You Will Be Hungry
Not all the time—just more often than usual. Fruits and vegetables can be filling, but not for long periods of time. I found myself needing more frequent snacks than usual, especially in the afternoon during the time I’d typically still be full from a normal lunch. Thanks to an office kitchen stocked with Beyoncé-friendly snacks, I took to walking around with a pocket full of pistachios at almost all times. It’s not a cute habit, would not recommend.
4. You Will Need To Re-Evaluate Meals
You know what I’ve learned over the past three days? Time is a social construct, as is the food we assign to it. Once upon a time, breakfast meant eggs and bacon. Now, it means literally anything I am allowed to eat within the confines of this strict-ass diet. Once you realize that the only thing stopping you from eating dinner for breakfast is yourself, you’ll be unstoppable. A leftover veggie skewer at 8am? Why not! Hummus before work? Do it! Grapefruits for every meal in between? The world is your oyster. Except not really, because seafood isn’t allowed. But given the opportunity, I would have eaten oysters for breakfast.
5. You Should Definitely Drink Alcohol
Yeah, so I realize she explicitly said “no alcohol” but here’s what I learned: Wou will never be a cheaper date than after three straight days of eating almost exclusively vegetables. I’m serious. Wednesday night was the most cost-effective night of my life, and I woke up without even a hint of a hangover. Not sure if I can attribute the second part of that to Beyoncé, but I’m going to do it anyway. Obviously you need to avoid the more sugary drinks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.
After only a few days of trying to live vaguely like Beyoncé, I don’t think I lost any actual weight. This wasn’t unexpected; it was three days. However, I do feel better.
While not sustainable in the long term, I found this diet to be a great way of resetting both your mind and body. The past two weeks have been a bit indulgent on my part, and this was helpful in getting me back on track and curbing the cravings that I might have succumbed to otherwise.
Plus, being hungry as often as I was forced me to drink more water, and it turns out being hydrated feels really nice. Who knew?
While this was a fun experiment, it warrants saying this: Beyoncé does not want you to live like this. That woman loves food. That woman loves life. That woman loves not starving to death, and most importantly, that woman loves you. Do not limit yourself because Beyoncé did, but rather, live a life that Beyoncé would be proud of. One of moderation, with a few cheats here and there. One where you let yourself enjoy things without feeling bad about them. One where you stream Lemonade on Spotify. IDK, just spitballing here, but it feels like it’s what she’d want.
Images: Giphy (3)
Let me just start off by saying, I never wanted to try the Whole30 diet.
Once people find out that you’ve made a hobby of testing out miserable fad diets just so you can write about the trials and tribulations, they start lobbing all kinds of ideas at you. Among some truly horrifying suggestions (the potato diet), and a few that I actually considered tackling (still the potato diet), the Whole30 diet always seemed to pop up.
I had a handful of go-to excuses prepared for when it inevitably came up: too mainstream, too similar to keto, too boring, etc. But much like death, taxes, and the nervous breakdown I’ll likely suffer as a result of numerous fad dieting experiments, Whole30 seemed to be inevitable. And while none of my stock answers were especially wrong, none of them really touched on the true reason I avoided the Whole30 diet up until now, which was, quite simply, that I thought it would fucking suck.
Well guess what? I was right. It does fucking suck.
But before we get to that let’s rewind a bit, because maybe some of you live truly blessed lives and don’t know exactly what this hellhole of a program entails. In short, it’s an elimination diet. Created by Melissa and Doug Hartwig in 2009, the Whole30 diet is a regimen that emphasizes “whole” foods while cutting out sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, legumes, and joy. The logic here is that any one of these things, either on their own or collectively, could be negatively impacting your health, and therefore cutting out every single one without any rhyme or reason will cleanse your body, letting it heal and recover from whatever shit you’ve been putting it through for the last 26 or so years.
Rather than just help you lose weight, the Whole30 diet’s aim is to ultimately change your relationship with food. It’s not just trying to teach to you abstain, but to eventually forget about the foods you love that are supposedly ruining your life. Because of this, they have zero tolerance for cheating and don’t support any kind of alternative replacement treat.
Clearly, I have a few issues with the ideology. For instance, say I were so unfortunate as to be cursed with a dairy intolerance but was unaware of the exact cause of my ailment. By cutting out all the things that the Whole30 diet forbids, I would know that dairy could potentially be the problem, but it could also have something to do with the four other categories of food that I stopped eating cold turkey. At the end of the 30 days, re-introducing these foods to my diet would be akin to traversing a minefield, just waiting for the meal that would send me sprinting to the bathroom for an extended period of time. Honestly, I think a trip to an allergist could save you a month’s worth of suffering and provide you with a definitive answer to your problems.
But hey, that’s just me.
Me: Wow I kind of wish I could have some cheese right n-
Also, as a rule of thumb, I have an instinctive distrust of any diet that allows you to eat potatoes. I appreciate it. I respect it. But I don’t trust it. It is the diet equivalent of “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.”
You would think my general hatred of Whole30 stems from the restrictive nature of the diet, but that’s not even it. I get restrictive, it kind of comes with the territory in these experiments that I voluntarily put myself through. Do I miss dairy and alcohol? More than I’d like to admit. But if I’ve learned anything by this point, it’s that I can put myself through some pretty heinous shit if I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s also usually the added benefit of generally losing some weight, but that’s not the case this time around.
The Whole30 diet has been a miserable experience thus far, in large part because the effort I’ve exerted and suffering I’ve endured aren’t being offset by any kind of benefit. In fact, the results are negligible at best. I’ve withstood sugar withdrawals, blinding headaches, extreme bloating, borderline narcolepsy, mood swings, general malaise, and verbal abuse from friends who find out that I’m abstaining from alcohol for an entire month, all for what? Losing a measly four pounds? Rumored benefits that have yet to kick in? Widespread resentment from every barista in Portland that I’ve grilled over the sugar content of their alternative milk? Cool. Thanks, Hartwigs. My life has truly changed for the better.
In fact, my biggest qualms with the Whole30 diet have come down to the two beverages that have essentially defined my life up until this point: alcohol and coffee. While I’ve had two weeks to come to terms with that single sentence, I’m still not crazy about it. I don’t say it to sound pathetic or try and draw parallels to those Hemingway fanboys who write about drinking whiskey and hating women. I say it because, like most twentysomethings who are trying to reconcile their hopes, dreams, and aspirations with the current climate of the world and their place in it, it’s true. Also, I like drinking. Sue me.
First and foremost, I hate black coffee. I would say 30% of that hatred is due to the actual taste, and the remaining 70% can be attributed to what black coffee stands for. People who pride themselves on drinking black coffee are the same people who list “sarcastic to a fault” in their Hinge bio. The level of pretentious it takes to think that drinking black coffee makes you enlightened is the same level required to loudly discuss your cryptocurrency portfolio at a bar. We all drink this stupid, acidic bean water to make waking up and existing every day just the slightest bit more tolerable. You’re not special because you can stomach it without cream.
Now to the arguably biggest drawback to the Whole30 diet: no alcohol. If you want to get yelled at by your friends for a month straight, boy do I have the diet for you. As if being the designated sober person for 30 days isn’t hard enough, you will also have to deal with every possible drunk person you come into contact with telling you that you’re making the single greatest mistake possible. This isn’t hyperbolic. That is what every one of them will say.
If I’m being honest, the alcohol restriction was the biggest draw of this diet for me, largely in part because it was so challenging. After you do stupid things like eat ice cream for a week straight, food challenges start to lose their gravitas. But a month long abstention from drinking? That’s new territory. In fact, that’s probably the longest I’ve gone without drinking since I was 18 years old, another sentence that truly makes me hate myself.
And while avoiding hangovers for four weekends in a row is definitely a plus, what I didn’t realize is how much I would miss casual drinking. A glass of wine after a long day of work. A cold cider at happy hour on the first sunny day for the year. A vodka soda to cling to at the bar when you find yourself separated from your friends and attempting to avoid eye contact with creepy guys.
In all fairness, I am only two weeks into this ordeal and thus can’t accurately report on any real results. By breaking my experience into two installments, I’m hoping that my thoughts will be easier to both outline and digest. Perhaps two weeks from now I’ll be 10 lbs. lighter, eating my words alongside a bowl full of grilled vegetables and tahini dressing (the only ray of light in this otherwise dreary experience). But right now, I’m not convinced.
Week One: Sleeping (Not) Beauty
Week one is supposed to be a rollercoaster of emotion, starting with a far too confident “what’s the big deal?” phase, which quickly declines into a roaring hangover from the carbs and sugars you stuffed into your body immediately before starting out under the pretense of “well…I’m going on a cleanse.”
After that, you’re likely to fall victim to mood swings that can be very easily mistaken for PMS, followed by two to three days of a full-body tired that you haven’t felt the likes of since high school. If you just read all that and thought to yourself, “but when do the good things start to happen?” you and I have a lot in common. Which means you’ll also be devastated to find out that no real benefit of this diet is due to kick in until around day 12. And yet here I am at day 15, wondering when my will to live will return from war.
My first week of the Whole30 diet can be summed up in a single word: exhausted. I have truly not been this tired since the tender age of 16, when my body was growing at an inhuman rate and required every ounce of energy within me to keep my knees from disintegrating. In fact, on day three I almost fell asleep at lunch, and then crumbled into an absolute pit of despair when I momentarily believed that the reason I was suddenly succumbing to narcolepsy is because I was going through another growth spurt at 26.
Me on Day One: I’ve tackled keto. I drank spicy lemonade for 10 straight days. I ate Halo Top for a week. I’m invincible.
Me on Day Six: *Googling whether or not it’s physically harmful to sleep for 48 consecutive hours*
I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t communicate. I couldn’t muster the energy to pretend to be interested in things that I didn’t even remotely care about. But it wasn’t until I cancelled a workout class, six minutes before it started and with zero regard for any kind of cancellation fee, that I realized something was amiss. It was at this point that I finally decided to do some research into why it felt like I was dying, and discovered the Whole30 diet timeline.
They do caveat that the timeline is subjective and everyone’s experience is unique, but I still decided to blindly trust it. This meant that I was at least marginally justified in sleeping about 30 hours over the course of the next three days, but was still full of dread for what I knew was to come.
There were many lows of week one. Usually that kind of sentence is followed by “but there were also a handful of highs.” There weren’t. Not a high in sight. Every morning that I woke up and remembered that I had to force down black coffee just so I could make it to work unearthed a new level of rock bottom that I personally was not prepared for.
“But what about coconut milk? Almond milk? Any form of alternative milk that is available in Portland, OR—the home of alternative milks?” Great question that will inevitably show up in the comment section. Here’s the thing: most alternative milks have some kind of sugar or preservative in them that isn’t Whole30 diet compliant. If you read the label on any given food item and don’t recognize, or can’t pronounce, one of the ingredients, odds are it’s not allowed. So, short of making my own almond milk, I was out of luck. Did that stop me from having a painful conversation about the sugar content in my favorite coffee shop’s house nut milk trio? No. Did I feel good about that? Also no.
Certain canned coconut milk is allowed, but it’s the kind you cook with. Was I ready to become the girl who came to work with coconut milk and a can opener just because my high-maintenance ass wants something slightly resembling a latte? Idk, talk to me in a week in a half.
Week Two: The Great Bloat
After lamenting the lack of coffee creamer in my life the entire week before, I remembered that there’s a work-around for this: bulletproof coffee. By replacing grass-fed butter with ghee or coconut oil, I was able to drink something that was at least marginally more enjoyable than the black coffee I’d begrudgingly come to tolerate. Just throw 16 ounces of coffee and one tablespoon of your fat of choice into a blender, and mix until nice and frothy. I found that coconut oil coffee was lighter than Ghee and an ideal start for the first sunny day in Portland this year, with the added benefit of keeping your lips moisturized all morning. Ghee provided a richer taste, which I found paired perfectly with the cold, dreary mornings that immediately followed.
Week two was when I really hit my stride with meal prepping. Make no mistake: The Whole30 diet requires an outrageous amount of meal prep. Eating out isn’t easy, so I spent three hours of the last two Saturdays preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week ahead. I didn’t expect to enjoy this part, but I’ve actually begun to find it kind of soothing to know that I don’t have to worry about coming home and cooking anything after work.
Week two meal prep, however, was almost entirely derailed when I woke up Saturday morning feeling like I’d consumed six vodka sodas and absolutely zero water the night before. In my early morning haze, I quickly accepted the fact that I’d waste my morning lying in bed hungover before I realized that there was zero reason to be feeling this way. I hadn’t gone out the night before, definitely hadn’t had any alcohol. In fact, I was asleep by 9:30pm. After an hour of deliberation and the slightly irrational conclusion that maybe I had contracted salmonella, my roommate pointed out that I was very likely going through a sugar withdrawal.
This was news to me because I really don’t consume that much sugar in my normal diet, certainly not enough for the migraine that was slowly blinding me. But some quick research verified her claim, which is how I found out that some health and wellness professionals assert that sugar withdrawals are on par with cocaine in terms of severity. Now, I’m not saying that a cocaine diet would likely have better results for just about the same level of suffering, but I’m also not not saying that.
Throughout week one I developed a heavy dependence on almond butter. It became my life, my love, my reason to be. I went through an entire jar in the first week, usually accompanied by some kind of fruit. Why does a diet that wants you to cut all sugar out of your life allow you to have fruit? Great question. All I can say is that, after what I experienced, it probably shouldn’t.
The closest I’ve come to a peak is when I discovered a Whole30 diet compliant recipe for banana chia pudding, which became my nightly treat. With just three ingredients (banana, coconut milk, and chia seeds), it was easy to make and a relatively guilt-free indulgence. Or so I thought.
I’ve been eating bananas all my life and up until these past two weeks, there have been zero negative side effects. But since starting Whole30, I can’t eat bananas without becoming comically bloated. Like, we’re talking post-Thanksgiving levels of discomfort. At first I thought this might be a fluke, a weird side effect of the diet. But after I (illegally) whipped up some fake banana ice cream the other night and went to bed looking four months pregnant, I realized something was very, very wrong. So in line with the logic of the Whole30 diet, I’m cutting bananas out of my life for the next two weeks. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can never have them again, but I can promise it won’t be rational.
The thing is, even when I wasn’t suffering from banana-induced weight gain, I have yet to feel good throughout this experience. You know when you start a diet and after two days, despite any discernible difference in your appearance, you just feel amazing? You’re confident to the point of hubris, breaking out jeans that haven’t fit in months “just to see,” walking around with a pep in your step, generally just happy with your outlook? Yeah, that has yet to happen, and I’m two weeks into this mess. In fact, I feel worse.
Logically, I know I’ve lost weight—four pounds, to be exact. But that’s considerably less exciting when you take into account that halfway through week two, I was one pound above my starting weight. So I’m technically netting four pounds, but only three below where I started.
Probably my biggest lesson so far is that knowing I’ve lost weight and feeling it are two vastly different things. I understand that there’s more at stake here than just weight loss, but if a diet doesn’t make you feel good, especially one that requires so much effort and upkeep, then what’s the point? Usually you’re miserable and dropping weight left and right, or you’re making slower progress but feeling stronger and energized than usual. I’m not succeeding at either of those things, and it’s even more frustrating when I remember how much money I’ve spent on groceries over the past 14 days.
Today begins week three, and morale is at an all-time low. I know things are getting bad because I found myself watching Tasty videos for 45 straight minutes last night. If you ever find yourself at the point where you’re salivating over the idea of a crunchy taco ring or lasagna chips and dip, you’re in bad shape.
I don’t know what the next two weeks hold for me, but I can promise that I’ll be angry for at least 90% of it. Stay tuned for the second installment of the Whole30 Diet Diaries, and maybe consider pouring one out for my sober ass on St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow.
Images: Giphy (5)