Many of us have followed a celebrity diet, but few with the tenacity of REBECCA HARRINGTON. Her endeavours to EAT LIKE AN A-LISTER are disclosed in her absurdly humorous book, I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING
In her cackle-inducing diet memoir, I’ll Have What She’s Having, Rebecca Harringon tries just about everything. She tries Victoria Beckham’s Five Hands Diet, in which you eat five handfuls of food a day. (“A fun surprise is that a portion is not actually the size of a hand,” she enlightens us. “It’s the size of a palm.”) She attempts to live, like Karl Lagerfeld, on protein sachets, quail and Diet Coke (“after four [cans] I decide I’m so jittery I can’t eat lunch”) and on Beyoncé’s Salt Water Flush, best imbibed “while looking at yourself in the mirror”. In a quest to better understand that elusive breed known as the celebrity – and to shed a few pounds along the way – Harrington embarks on a journey of self-discovery that takes in Marilyn Monroe’s raw eggs, Pippa Middleton’s haggis and a Greta Garbo celery loaf that smells “like a rotting body”. The result is a brilliantly raucous insight not only into the bizarre foodstuffs of the rarefied, but also more than you’d expect of each starlet’s personality. Here, she gives the lowdown on what happened when she tried to diet like Elizabeth Hurley.
I Tried… Elizabeth Hurley’s Diet
If you Google Elizabeth Hurley, her diets are one of the first things you’ll come across. Liz diets routinely and publicly. She seems especially to enjoy fad dieting and scandalising people who work in nutrition. For example: after she had her son, she confessed she didn’t believe in breakfast for women over 40. I honestly thought the nutritionist at the Daily Mail was going to jump off a bridge.
I plan on doing several of Liz’s most famous diets, deploying white jeans and dinner parties where appropriate.
Day 1: The Daily Mail, in its infinite wisdom, recently reported that Liz was on the “flapper diet” – more commonly known as the Hay Diet – which was invented by Dr William Hay in the 1920s.
Dr Hay was a paunchy man with tiny wire-rimmed glasses, who lost a lot of weight with a system that he made up. He preached that what you ate was less important than the combinations of food you ate together. In the Hay framework, you eat vegetables with proteins, starches with vegetables and melons all by themselves. He also glommed onto the idea that some foods are essentially acidic and others are basic, and if a person eats the correct combination of basic substances (and avoids acidic foods) then they can reduce indigestion and heartburn.
I start the day off with some melon and then, several hours later, snack on some yogurt. By the time lunch comes around, I’m very hungry. I have beans with kale. But what’s the point of beans without the satisfying crunch of bread?
Later, for happy hour, I decide to have a glass of white wine, even though that is not strictly a Liz thing to do. She used to drink wine all the time, until she realised that it often gives women over 40 stomach bloat. At that point she stopped and started drinking vodka sodas exclusively. “Initially it’s like medicine but I’ve got used to it now” is an encouraging thing Liz Hurley once said about vodka soda. The other day she tweeted she was only going to have a vodka soda for dinner.
For my dinner I have steak and asparagus. It’s pretty delicious, but I’m still hungry at the end, which makes me feel full of journalistic integrity, since Liz says she goes hungry to bed every single night.
Day 2: Today I decide to do one of Liz’s most draconian diets: the watercress soup diet. Here is the watercress soup diet – you can have as much gross cold watercress soup as you like and you can sometimes have yogurt. That’s it.
In the morning, after a yogurt, I make the soup. I “sweat” (I don’t know what this means but it was in the recipe) some onions in chicken broth, boil one potato and two whole bunches of watercress and then put it all in the blender. The soup is supposed to turn a “brilliant green colour”, but instead turns sort of brown, with what look like bits of lettuce floating in it. I’m then immediately supposed to put the entire blender jug in ice to cool it, but that seems very time consuming, so I just stick it in the fridge. An hour later I eat a bowl of lukewarm, bitter soup. It’s so bitter, it’s almost extraordinary. According to legend, Liz actually once served this soup at a dinner party. I wonder if that’s how she and Shane Warne fell in love.
In the meantime, I decide to read more about Liz’s love life. Last year, she dated a hedge-fund manager who once made a naked collage self-portrait out of Financial Times articles about himself. He is blond and wears very unbuttoned shirts, which seems to be a type of look she enjoys. I should find a man like that and invite him to a watercress soup dinner party.
Later, I have another cup of soup. Now that it is colder, it is still bad. More bitter even. I also ask my friends over for a watercress soup dinner party. I tell them that Liz Hurley has them all the time, that’s how she met Shane Warne, but they say they are all going to another dinner party where someone is serving roast chicken. It’s very dispiriting. They urge me to come to the other dinner party and even to bring watercress soup in a small Thermos for myself, but I don’t do it. I just sit in the house.
Day 3: I wish I could stop finding diets that Liz Hurley has done. Then I could stop this nightmare. Unfortunately, I find another diet Liz espoused for which she ate only one meal a day, drank mugs of hot water and snacked on things like six raisins at a time and the occasional oatcake (they don’t have those in America, so I substitute digestive biscuits). She did this to regain her figure after her son, Damian, was born.
After so much hunger, one more day of no food seems like torture. I’m rendered completely useless. For my one meal I have a cottage pie from a very expensive natural foods store that sells so many different flavours of kombucha I try never to go there. I buy it because Liz once submitted a recipe for organic cottage pie to a celebrity cookbook. I was planning on eating it with a child-sized fork and plate. This is something that Liz does to trick herself into eating less. But I don’t have a child-sized fork and plate, and there are no cutlery stores near my house. I eat the whole thing. The entire cottage pie. I was not planning on doing that.
Day 4: I’m off the diet. My GOD it’s very hard to be a model. Even harder than being an actress, or a singer. For a woman with such good taste in men, she really does have bad taste in diets.
© 2015 by Rebecca Harrington. Extracted from I’ll Have What She’s Having, published by Virago.
Image by Trunk Archive
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our September issue, out Saturday September 3.
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