“This is interesting,” the nutritionist says. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”
The 1970s Vogue Body and Beauty Book I’ve brought along is open in front of her, alongside floppy pats of rubberized foods—a pile of carrots, a chicken breast, a serving of rice—that she uses to demonstrate portion sizes. I’ve turned the page to show her a recipe for the “Wine and Eggs” diet, a three-day regimen to lose five pounds. She lets the book fall shut and silently slides it back across the table to me.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” I mumble, tucking it into my bag. “Just wondering what your thoughts were.”
She offers no further thoughts. I do not offer her the information that I have, in fact, already done the diet.
In 1977, someone named Bronwen Meredith wrote a compendium of body and beauty advice in partnership with British Vogue. Its target audience appears to be any adult woman who, upon waking one morning and noting her human body, wonders what it is and how it was made. There is a chapter called “Limbs.”
The inside flap of the cover is grotesquely blunt: “All women have bones, flesh, fat, skin, and hair—all these present problems in varying degrees. What they are and how to overcome them are the subject of this book.”
Though curious—what are bones and how do we overcome them?—I am here for something else. Weeks earlier, a Twitter user named Caroline (@curlywine) shared a photo of the “Wine and Eggs” diet on Twitter, and not satisfied to simply let its absurdity wash over me, I went online and tracked down the book containing it and ordered myself a copy. Then, for no reason at all, I committed to bring the tweet to life.
The regimen is, to its credit, very simple. Followers are directed to consume:
For breakfast, one egg, hard-boiled; one glass white wine (dry, preferably Chablis); and black coffee of an unspecified amount.
For lunch, two eggs (hard-boiled is best but poached if necessary); two glasses of white wine; and more black coffee.
And for dinner, a five-ounce steak, grilled with black pepper and lemon juice; the remainder of the white wine (one bottle allowed per day); and, yes, before bed, more black coffee.
But for all its simplicity, questions remain. Why Chablis? Why poached eggs, only at lunch and only “if necessary”? How can anyone drink this much coffee in a day without slipping into a dissociative fugue and taking out a small business loan in another state?
The eating plan is filed under the category of “Crash Diets,” alongside other wildly evocative titles such as “Milk and Banana,” “Banana Drink,” “Honey and Egg,” and “Fruit Only.” In the “Drinker’s Diet”—somehow distinct from the “Wine and Eggs” diet—you are invited to enjoy two shots of clear grain alcohol at lunch and two more shots at dinner.
On a Wednesday morning, with permission from my editor, the breakfast table is set: one egg, one fresh mug of undoctored java, and a chilled glass of white wine.
The first glass of the day is surprisingly natural, too natural—the way it eases you from sleep into the eddy of the workday. Not that I plan on working much during these three days. “I don’t know how anyone would do this diet and go to work or really leave the house at all,” a wide-eyed friend opined as she read the menu.
At first repast, the diet appears to be painless, even easy. The coffee keeps me alert and the egg feels substantial enough. As I build a warm glow from the wine, it really feels like this might be the secret nutritional code to unlocking a sexy metabolic homeostasis. All the Vogue Body and Beauty Book babes are lithe and naturally pretty, their skin taut, their eyes bright, their lips perpetually moist.
I wake up Thursday morning and feel surprisingly not hungover. If it’s possible, I feel refreshed. Much like the joyless drinkers of Soylent, I find relief in knowing exactly what I will eat all day long. Plus, right when the hunger starts to gnaw, the wine kicks in and the world goes all rose-colored. You know how smokers talk about their first cig of the day? That’s my breakfast wine. It feels so right.
I pour a crisp glass of white wine to get the engines going and then cruise through to lunch, where time slows: I take great pains to enjoy the spring of every egg white and the richness of every yolk. I was worried the white wine and the coffee would turn my insides into battery acid, but I feel light. Perhaps I will try some of the stretches the nubile ladies of the Vogue Beauty and Body Book seem to be enjoying so much.
Then, at 3 p.m., I hit a wall.
The jig is up. My body has discovered the ruse and now, like a caged animal, wants its regularly scheduled food. “Where is the yogurt?” it cries. “The vegetables? The bread?” I beg it to be quiet; I promise it wine and steak. I muscle my way to—and through—dinner and pray for sleep.
I wake up on day three feeling truly ill. Uncorking the bottle with a wince, I go, sip by sip, through my glass, like a toddler choking down Pedialyte. The nutritionally dense egg evaporates in my stomach like a star swallowed by a black hole.
By 11 a.m., the situation is deteriorating. My entire body is a hungry mouth and my brain is a torture chamber. I spend the expanses between meals willing time to move along faster; I spend my meals trying to slow it down again. After lunch, I realize there is only one more steak-and-wine to go, but the thought is no solace. I see the hours stretch before me.
Have you ever been psychically dismantled by a handful of peanuts? The Vogue Body and Beauty Book can take you there. I see them, and what begins as a gentle whine progresses to real, honest-to-god tears. I crack and pour roughly 25 peanuts into my greedy palm. They are the most incredible thing I have ever tasted.
I do not remember my final dinner. It is a blur of misery. It’s Friday night and I have plans to see friends, but I have to cancel. By the time I wake up on Saturday morning, thinking about how I will piece my body back together after the crash, I am not as interested in food as I thought I would be. All the better, since my soft palate is extremely tender. I try to eat a piece of bread and it tears at the roof of my mouth. Why am I enemies with the thing I need the most? Will I ever eat again? How did I get here?
Caroline. Caroline from Twitter.
“It’s not the strangest diet in the book,” she writes. “There’s one that calls for daily injections of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin from the urine of pregnant women).”
She tells me she used to admire all the beautiful women in the Vogue Body and Beauty Book when she was little. She came across a copy of it recently, and, like most sane adult humans, chuckled at the suggested regimens. She’s got a baby, so dieting and daytime drinking and dieting by way of daytime drinking are all out of the question.
“Much as I love eggs, and white wine, I didn’t consider trying the diet,” Caroline says. “However, the interest people took in the diet did prompt me to try a bottle of Chablis.”
What a sensible response to a funny internet joke.
As for me, I begin eating normally again by Sunday. My soft palate recovers, and peanuts no longer taste like ambrosia. I surpass the promised five-pound loss and shed a full six pounds in three days. My clothes fit more comfortably. “I mean, it wasn’t worth it,” I say, mindlessly smoothing my hands over my slimmer hips. “I would not say that I recommend it.”
Within three days I gain it all back.