There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and sometimes, if you’re a celebrity, there’s no such thing as a proper lunch at all. I went on a slew of celebrity diets for my new book, I’ll Have What She’s Having, battling my way through the protein powders, maple syrup cleanses and cabbage soups championed by some of the world’s most famous men and women. Here’s what I found out - and which diet you really should try at home.
Victoria Beckham is probably the world’s greatest dieter (she apparently once ate a fruit plate instead of cake for her birthday). In recent years, she has reportedly tried two - the Honestly Healthy Alkaline diet (which advocates eating basic foods such as nuts, seeds and vegetables and avoiding acidic foods like meat, butter and fun) and the 5 Hands Diet, which advocates eating only 5 handfuls of protein a day. I did both. Which was worse? Well it depended. The Honestly Healthy Alkaline Diet was pretty brutal when I realized I was going to make falafel that consisted of seeds and carrots. But the 5 Hands Diet was absolute torture. 5 Handfuls of protein a day is something that no one should willfully try to experience.
Results It did work sort of, but I cheated kind of badly under the draconian regime.
During the middle of her 5th marriage, Elizabeth Taylor’s weight went up to 180 pounds (12 stone). She eventually went on a diet, lost a huge amount of weight and wrote a book about it called “Elizabeth Takes Off.” The book itself is completely amazing. Most of it is about her marriages and how rival Debbie Reynolds once pinned a fat picture of Liz to her fridge (which Liz advocates other people doing if it helps them say skinny). The diet itself is really weird. No exercise (Liz was NOT a fan) steak with peanut butter on it, a terrible blue cheese dip you had to put celery in, a ratatouille recipe that made very little sense and a drink she made with Rock Hudson on the set of Giant that included Kahlua and Hershey’s syrup (that was good).
Results This was one of the weirdest diets ever. I don’t even know if the food was actually low calorie, but it was just so gross I didn’t eat anything.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Karl Lagerfeld went on a dramatic diet and lost about 5 stone. The diet was so successful he wrote a book about it called “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet” which was a bestseller in France. In it, he advocates a very Spartan eating regime and spouts several aphorisms about how dieting is incredibly superficial but so is the world (or something.) The diet is simple and horrible - fried eggs in the morning, scoops of protein powder for snacks and quail for dinner. Karl also drinks 10 diet cokes a day. Karl says that when you are on a diet, “you are a general and you have a single soldier in your army. You must give him instructions and he must carry them out. It may annoy him but he has no choice.”
Results Well, I got skinnier, but I had to eat quail and I couldn’t go to sleep because of all the diet cokes.
Beyoncé once went on the Master Cleanse in an effort to lose 20 pounds for her role in Dreamgirls. The Master Cleanse is a diet in which you only imbibe lemonade consisting of water, lemons, cayenne pepper and grade B maple syrup. That’s it. No solid food at all. Sometimes you drink hot water filled with salt. The lemonade is sort of spicy but since it’s all you drink you eventually get used to it. I also tried the diet she went on to lose her baby weight, which is a more boring protein-based affair.
Results The Master Cleanse was brutally effective, if scary. Eventually, I lost all capacity to enjoy food. I didn’t even feel hungry anymore. The protein based one was more typical, but also quite effective.
In order to lose weight for the Royal Wedding, Pippa went on the Dukan Diet, a French, protein-based diet that advocates the consumption of things like shrimp and steamed vegetables. The one carb you are allowed to eat (at least initially) is something called “the oat bran galette” which is like a very tough, very dry pancake. Pippa is also a massive exerciser (which she chronicled at length in the Telegraph) and so I also tried her many fitness regimes. I went to a boxing workout (I was truly terrible) and Aqua spinning during the polar vortex (which was a spin class immersed in a spinning pool).
Results I think I got more muscular?
THE WINNER: Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth recently wrote a cookbook on healthy eating called “It’s All Good” which is about all the good foods in the world (goji berries) and none of the bad. I was skeptical. Would this be a good diet? I don’t even like goji berries. Let me tell you, this diet was actually amazing. Despite the fact that most of her recipes eliminated foods like deep water fish and tomatoes, everything in the book was delicious, healthy and filling. I still make stuff from her cookbook today. The only problem—it’s rather expensive.
Results I lost 4 pounds and I didn’t really try
Dolly Parton is a veteran dieter. She once said, “'I tried every diet in the book. I tried some that weren't in the book. I tried eating the book. It tasted better than most of the diets.' She also has the dubious honor of having a diet named after her. The Cabbage Soup diet is apparently known as “The Dolly Parton Diet” in some circles and so in that spirit, I went on it. This was one of the worst diets ever. You make a soup out of cabbage and tomatoes and that is the only thing you can eat for several days, aside from the occasional vegetable. The soup itself is absolutely disgusting. It’s very bitter but also has no taste. Poor Dolly.
Results Ugh. I can’t.
Watch Gwyneth Paltrow chat to Amanda de Cadenet about healthy eating and exercise: