Rebecca Harrington is not a star, but she eats like one. Fueled by curiosity, an appreciation for the bizarre and a sense of humor, the writer tried 14 celebrity diets to see what it was like to stay slim when you’re rich and famous.
“All of them were pretty weird… all of them left me really hungry,” Harrington told TODAY about the eating regimens. “You do end up feeling bad for celebrities.”
Harrington chronicles the results in her new book, “I'll Have What She's Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting,” which includes stars from Greta Garbo to Cameron Diaz.
She got the idea for the experiment after reading about William Howard Taft, “America’s fattest president,” and his efforts to lose weight by eating boiled sole in the morning, mutton at night, and glutinous biscuits for snacks.
Harrington found the diet so bizarre that she tried it herself. The experiment was born.
The rules were simple: Whenever possible, she would buy a cookbook written by a celebrity (or their chef) and use its recipes as a guide. If that wasn’t available, she would research the stars’ diets online, something that’s “extremely easy to find” because all famous women are asked about their eating habits, she said.
Harrington tried each diet for about 10 days, though she could only make it through a few days for some of the regimens.
She smeared peanut butter on steak, like Elizabeth Taylor. Tried a liquid cleanse, like Beyoncé. Ate one baked potato a day, like Jackie Kennedy. And drank raw eggs in milk, like Marilyn Monroe.
Many of the foods made her gag, like the time she prepared a “loaf” made from pureed celery – a Garbo staple. Some of the older diets were particularly gross, Harrington found.
And she was often famished. Very, very famished.
Here are some of the diets of the stars:
Victoria Beckham: The singer reportedly follows the “Five Hands Diet,” which means eating five handfuls of protein a day, Harrington said. You can have as many vegetables as you want, but the serving sizes of meat or seafood are limited to the size of your palm.
Verdict: “It’s just a very, very difficult diet to follow,” Harrington said. “It’s extremely little amounts of food.”
Madonna: She follows the macrobiotic diet, which eliminates animal products and includes lots of vegetables and seaweed.
Verdict: “I was very hungry on it, but again, I’m a big animal product eater so I missed butter, that kind of stuff,” Harrington said.
Gwyneth Paltrow: The actress is sensitive to gluten, eggs, and various other foods, so her cookbook “It’s All Good” features recipes without those ingredients.
Verdict: Paltrow’s diet is extremely delicious, but very expensive, Harrington found. For a week, she spent $140 on food just for herself, not including any fish. “I would definitely live that way if I had an unlimited budget,” she noted.
Beyoncé: The singer reportedly used the Master Cleanse -- a diet of water, lemon juice, organic maple syrup and cayenne pepper -- to lose weight for her role in “Dream Girls.”
Verdict: “You definitely can lose weight on that because you’re not eating solid food,” Harrington said. “I was able to do it for about three days. It’s pretty horrible.”
With each diet, Harrington found that she gained a “weird insight” into stars when she ate like them. Mostly, she felt bad for celebrities.
“There wasn’t one diet, aside from the Gwyneth Paltrow diet, where I was like, this is sustainable and I can totally do it forever,” she said.
As for her own regimen, Harrington now drinks more green juices after the experiment. She leaves the other stuff to the stars.