Would I have to start planning outfits around the tattoo like I plan for weather?
Helen Gurley Brown should be my hero. She ran Cosmopolitan for over three decades, helped redefine feminism in the ’60s, and, judging from her lifestyle how-to book, "Sex and the Single Girl," she possessed infallible self-confidence and a wicked sense of humour.
Her book encourages single women to live independently, be smart about money, and take risks to get promoted at work. In a time when “single” and “spinster” were practically synonymous, Helen claimed that ladies could not just survive on their own, they could thrive. However, some of the diet advice she provides in her book sets off alarm bells in me. In terms of eating, Helen’s goal, it seems, was to stay “scrumptious,” not necessarily to be healthy. She suggests a meal plan -- consuming six eggs, two steaks, and two bottles of wine over 48 hours -- that can knock off six pounds quickly. This doesn’t sound scientifically possible, but Helen says that this kind of extreme dieting makes her feel, “sexy, exuberant, full of the joie de vivre.” Though I find her methods questionable, maybe I’m missing out. I’ve decided to try Helen’s two-day “crash” diet to see how it makes me feel -- glamorous? Sleek? Scrumptious? Losing weight will just be a bonus.
Breakfast: One Hard-Boiled Egg, One Glass of White Wine
Helen recommends trying this “crash” over a weekend. “Sufficient nutrition is here,” she writes, “but you get fuzzy.” No kidding. I eat eggs for breakfast all the time, so I confess, I’m most excited to drink wine at 9 a.m. Fuzziness sets in almost immediately. My stomach feels full, and the wine has made me quiet and warm. I’m back in bed, asleep, by 9:30.
Lunch: Two Lightly Fried Eggs, Two Glasses of White Wine
I wake up 45 minutes later with a mini-hangover. Because Helen doesn’t say anything about staying hydrated, I assume that the wine plays a major role in burning the six pounds away. I’ve heard of body builders purposefully dehydrating themselves so that their skin sticks to their muscles for a thin, gaunt look (so Hollywood). I look in the mirror and my face is puffy. I try to sit down and reply to work emails, but I can’t focus. I end up watching YouTube videos for two hours, and suddenly half my day is gone. My lunch wine hits me even quicker than breakfast, and by 1 p.m., I am officially crashing.
Dinner: One Steak, The Rest of the Bottle of White Wine
In an effort to keep myself awake, I walk to the grocery store to buy my dinner steak. It’s not a far journey -- about a mile -- but my limbs are so heavy, I might as well be in one of those nightmares where you have to run through Jell-O. The pencil-legged man in front of me at the checkout is buying ingredients for the most beautiful Italian dinner of all time: gorgeous green lettuce, fresh mozzarella, and a vine of tomatoes. I “treat myself” by grabbing a giant bottle of water and guzzling it on my way home, even though it produces bubbling, Pinot Gregio-flavored burps. Cooking the steak is tricky, partly because I’m light-headed and partly because I’ve never cooked a steak before. Thanks to my extensive YouTube viewing earlier, I know to salt the steak, let it sit for a few minutes, and then place it into hot oil. I salt the steak, the counter, the stovetop, and my yoga pants, but otherwise, all goes according to plan. Even though I overcook the meat—the inside is completely brown and the outside corners are a little burned—the steak is by far the best part of the day. Somewhere deep inside me, my savage hunter-gatherer ancestry stirs: eating an animal makes me thirsty for wine. I finish the bottle easily. Before I go to bed, I weigh myself. I’ve gained two pounds.
Breakfast: One Lightly Fried Egg, One Glass of White Wine
I must have burned a ton of calories in the night, because I feel weak. My head aches in dull thumps, my stomach is clenched, and my heart is beating really hard. Without thinking twice, I chug half a litre of water and go back to sleep until 11 a.m. How, Helen, did you run an internationally famous women’s magazine and do this diet? Maybe this is how powerful women spend their weekends. Maybe this kind of lifestyle made sense in the ’60s when there wasn’t Netflix. Maybe this is what skinny feels like.
I force down an egg, gulp my glass of wine, and put some pants on. I won’t make the same mistake as yesterday by falling asleep. Lunch: Two Lightly Fried Eggs, Two Glasses of White Wine
The only reason I’m still on my "Sex and the Single Girl" quest is for tonight’s steak. Because I gingerly hop onto the scale and I’m once again two pounds heavier than when I began, I call a doctor in the family. He tells me that to digest protein, your body requires fat to aid the process. “If you’re only eating eggs and steak, which are very high in protein,” he says, “then you’ll use stored fat, which could lead to weight loss.” “What about the white wine?” I slur. “Well,” he pauses. “I don’t know about that one.” The alcohol’s purpose remains a mystery. I wonder if my insides are being fermented by the wine -- what else could it be doing at an empty 122 calories a glass? I start investigating what I’m eating (thank you, Internet). Each day’s meals (sans Pinot) contain 1,122 calories and 190% of the recommended daily amount of protein. These would appear to be healthy numbers, especially if you’re tricking your body into using stored fat to break down the protein, but over three-fourths of the calories come from the steak (oh, my beloved steak) and altogether, one day of eating like this builds up 333% of your recommended daily amount of cholesterol. But Helen could have been onto this -- working my heart so hard could help me burn more fat.
Dinner: One Steak, The Rest of the Bottle of White Wine
"Sex and the Single Girl" urges ladies to be confident, to enjoy taking care of themselves, to live life to the fullest. Well, it worked. I am confident. Very confident -- that this diet is not for me.
I now know I would never be able to be a functioning alcoholic; I’d be a messy, lazy, woozy one. Over the course of two days, I’ve only managed one shower, six meals, and one face of lopsided makeup. I’m tired, I’m dehydrated, and, after weighing myself, find that I take up the exact same amount of space I did when I started. And that’s okay. If Helen Gurley Brown taught me anything, it’s that you should never settle for less than the best. Turns out that eating enough cholesterol to kill a bear isn’t best for me, but I’m going to keep searching for a way to feel “scrumptious.” Maybe next time, I’ll try red wine.