If there's one thing I love, it's cheese-covered gluten. And if there are two things I love, they're cheese-covered gluten and making fun of lifestyle guru and noted Veela Gwyneth Paltrow. So when I came across a copy of Gwyneth's 2014 diet book It's All Good ("delicious, easy recipes that will make you look good and feel great"), it seemed like a golden opportunity: What if I spent a week only eating Gwyneth's gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, meat-free, ingredient-free, my-children's-college-fund-free food? Would I look good? Would I feel great?
I might as well put my money where my mouth is (literally...so much money...) and experience exactly what I'd been making fun of for so long. Did
Polychrome, the Rainbow's Daughter Gwyneth Paltrow really deserve all the shit I gave her for believing that water has feelings and that duck bacon is a "pantry staple"? Was eating vegan and gluten-free really the "detoxifying" miracle cure she makes it out to be? Could I even do it? And, most importantly, by the end of the week, WOULD I BE MORE ETHEREAL?
The answers to those questions, in order: Yes, not exactly, yes, and [FLOATS AWAY ON GOSSAMER WISP].
Turns out, I could do it, but I was kind of a disaster. Here, in chronological order, is everything I fucked up during my week of Goop.
I spent $300 on three days of groceries.
Not my fault, really, but JESUS.
I almost barfed up my wet almonds.
For my morning snack on the first day, I was supposed to eat "a handful of Soaked Raw Almonds." Soaking the almonds is very important, says Gwyneth:
"Almonds have an enzyme in their coating that makes them difficult to digest. The harder anything is to digest, the more work your body has to do to get to all the nutrients and the more you miss out. Good news though! If you simply soak raw almonds in plenty of water for at least half a day, the enzyme will break down and you're good to go."
Something about these almonds was fucking odious to me. You just chew and chew but they never seem to go anywhere—they just circulate around your mouth, breaking into smaller and smaller chunks of nut-flavored eraser. I hated them. I was so hungry. The wet almonds kicked off a faint, latent nausea that would linger for the rest of the week.
I exploded the blender.
Lunch that day was "Beet Greens Soup" (or, as it became known in my house during Goop week, Hot Pink Leaf-Water). I didn't read the recipe all the way through, so I didn't realize until the soup was almost done (and I was fucking starving) that this was a blended soup.
I knew that you aren't supposed to blend boiling hot liquids, but it was 2 pm and all I'd eaten that day was kale juice and erasers. I had to risk it. I poured half the soup into the blender and started slow. A few pulses. Everything seemed fine. I was emboldened. "Liquefy."
I dumped soup all over the floor.
"It's okay," I reasoned. "I'll just pour the half-blended soup back into the pot and call it 'Semi-Blended Beet Greens Soup.' It'll be good. It's all good."
I twisted the blender to disengage it. Instead of coming off intact, the glass pitcher unscrewed from its base, sending soup gooshing out the bottom. I screwed it back tight as fast as I could. There was soup in my shoe. I was so hungry.
I dropped the blender on my foot.
"FINE. I'll just pick up the whole thing and pour it back into the pot with the base attached."
The base fell off. On my foot. I cried.
The soup was actually pretty good.
I set the chicken on fire.
I was basically delirious by the time dinner ("Barbecued Chicken, Spanish Style") rolled around. The rub smelled so fucking good I could have eaten the chicken raw. A real food! Gwyneth didn't even tell me to take the skin off! I threw it on the grill, closed the lid, and turned the heat "down."
Five minutes later:
Boyfriend: "Baby, the chicken's gone."
Me (tearing up): "What?"
Boyfriend: "You set it on fire. You must have turned the heat up instead of down."
Me (genuinely sobbing): "Is any of it edible? Is it at least cooked all the way through?"
Boyfriend (laughing eternally at my pain): "I have no idea. I don't know how long you're supposed to cook chicken at a million degrees."
Me: [crumples to floor]
I never got around to making the asparagus.
I was going to be late for Aqua-Zumba. I had to shovel some semi-cremated, semi-raw chicken with my fingers and run.
I burned about a quarter of the roasted beets/butternut squash/shallots for my quinoa salad, a slight tragedy because this was the best thing I ate all week.
Fuck all other foods. This was so good.
I accurately followed Gwyneth's recipe for avocado smoothies.
Avocado, raw cacao powder, ground hemp seeds, almond milk, coconut water, raw honey. I couldn't find ground hemp seeds, so I tried to pulverize them myself using a mortar and pestle. The result was chunky.
This mixture is giving diarrhea an existential crisis. It tastes worse than it looks. Gwyneth describes the flavor as "beautiful."
I couldn't find a bass.
Me: "Excuse me, where's your bass?"
Brusque Fishmonger: "NO BASS."
My salt was too big.
The salt I bought to bake my "[Not a Bass] Roasted in Salt, Thai Style" in turned out to be more like the kind of salt you use to de-ice a driveway. Inevitably, a few
grains boulders found their way into each bite of fish, making it more like "Roasted Salt, Fish Style."
I hit a fish with a hammer.
Gwyneth told me to break through the salt crust with a mallet. I'm still finding pieces of shrapnel in my bra.
I injured my neck from too much chopping.
Here's the thing about this way of eating. With the exception of the wet almonds and the poo-shake, every recipe I tried was fucking great. But in order to cook two full meals from scratch every day, I had to take hours out of the middle of my workday to chop, essentially, one of every vegetable, and then clean my entire kitchen three times a day. If I didn't work from home, have a flexible, non-physically-exhausting job, have the money to afford kitchen gadgets like juicers and blenders, and have a supportive partner willing to run back-up, I would have been shit out of luck. Not to mention the disposable income needed for groceries alone. And with a full house, I couldn't even bank on leftovers. The workload is CONSTANT. This is a meal plan for people with a housekeeper and a chef.
That's not to say that some modified version of Goop week isn't possible, if that's your priority, but let's not kid ourselves that this shit is easy.
I agreed to host a six hour dance marathon for charity on day four.
Turns out, I can only do two of these three things at once: Cook and eat two complicated Gwyneth meals per day, host a 6-hour dance marathon, and get dressed/bathe myself.
I underestimated millet.
Millet is literally birdseed, and half-cooked millet has the flavor of closet and the texture of moth larvae. But, all put together, this "Millet 'Falafel' with Avocado Relish" was fucking bomb.
I never made the daikon.
I still have the daikon.
I will never make the daikon.
You deserved better than me, daikon.
And that was that! Now it's now. So I guess it's time to assess: Do I "look good," as Gwyneth promised? AM I MORE ETHEREAL? I think the before and after pics speak for themselves:
And what about her other promise—do I "feel great"? Well, that's where it gets a little more complicated.
I expected this to be a goofy, bumbling experiment—full of nonsense about "toxins" and anecdotes about my utter failure as a domestic goddess—and, to a certain extent, I guess it was. But despite being a complete fuck-up at every possible opportunity, and spending half my week mildly nauseous and zoned out from hunger — something I don't plan on incorporating into my everyday routine — I actually kind of...loved it? (Not the hunger part.)
I felt powerful and productive (after lunch, at least). I slept like a bag of rocks.
I cleaned the linen closet I seriously considered cleaning the linen closet. I got to shut off the internet and make something beautiful and nutritious for my family every day (thanks, again, to my flexible job and forthcoming hemp seed reimbursement). I regained a sense of control that I hadn't realized I'd lost somewhere in the race to play catch-up with my endlessly over-loaded life. The food tasted good and I did feel "cleaner" (and, maybe, vicariously richer).
But eating food like Gwyneth's, as a fat person, is political. It comes with a subtext that's either abusive or patronizing—either, "Who are you kidding?" or "Good for you, slugger!" And I'm conflicted because I can't tell if my week of Goop made me happy intrinsically or because, subconsciously, I feel like I finally did my fat person duty—finally achieved "good fatty" status and get to collect my gluten-free, hemp-flour "cookie" at the door.
I don't quite know how to explain this to people who haven't been fat for their whole lives, but there's a very subtle (and very profound) sense of exclusion from "clean eating" lifestyle brands like Gwyneth's. Fat people are not allowed to eat "beautiful" foods that make them feel healthy and strong, because taking joy in meals is for thin people. When fat people do it, it's a vulgarity, an indecent exposure, a slow public suicide.
The cultural messaging is strong. It took 30 years for me to stop letting it dictate my behavior (I don't "diet" anymore), and I honestly didn't realize—until I did this experiment—that I'd lost something significant: the ability to just eat food, without qualifying every choice, and without treating every meal as an opportunity to "fix" myself.
I don't believe in any of the magical-thinking malarkey that drives Gwyneth Paltrow's food philosophy. But my week of Goop was a kind of magic trick. Framing it as a silly professional "experiment" afforded me the distance to shrug off all that cultural baggage and actually engage with what I was eating. To try on, for just a week, what it might feel like to not be at war with my body, to not have to pretend to hate the thing that keeps me alive. It was an amazing feeling, and I'll be chasing it. Not with diets or soggy almonds or penitent hunger, but with—as Gwyneth would say—joy and intention and listening to my body. And chopping.
SO MUCH CHOPPING.
So I guess I owe you a thank you and an apology, Gwyneth. (And you'll get it as soon as you apologize to me for that fucking avocado smoothie.)