Fortune Conferences, Flickr
I tried to live like Gwyneth Paltrow for a week, and it didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned.
Paltrow famously leads an intense life. In terms of exercise, she used to do an hour of cardio and an hour of weights six days of the week. Her lifestyle brand Goop also hawks all sorts of hardcore detoxes and cleanses.
But all that doesn’t really reflect Paltrow’s current reality. She recently told Net-a-Porter that she doesn’t have the time or energy to tackle that grueling schedule anymore: “I’m getting old, my back hurts! It’s depressing. Some days, the gym gives me this rush of energy and I feel amazing, but then my body’s like ‘f— you.'”
She also doesn’t stick to any Goop cleanses for a long amount of time. She told Net-a-Porter she passes on breakfast and eats a low-carb lunch “so my energy levels don’t peak and valley through the day.” Then, for dinner, she typically decides to “loosen the reins.”
I decided to follow her diet as best I could, as well as take up her previous exercise routine. Here are the rules I was determined to follow for a week:
- Skip breakfast.
- Have a low-carb lunch.
- Put in an hour of cardio exercise.
- Go for an hour of weights-based exercise.
- Eat a dinner along the lines of her typical evening meal: “A glass of wine, maybe a baguette dripping in cheese, some fries.”
I didn’t prepare at all for this. I just jumped into it, sparking concerns among the people I know. “You’re going to die,” several coworkers told me when I described my plan. Family members predicted I would “seriously injure” myself and expressed concerns about my shambling running style.
All of this just bolstered my determination to rise to the occasion.
The experiment itself left me somewhat surprised. On the one hand, some of Paltrow’s dietary habits were easier to tackle than I thought. On the other, I ended up pulling my shoulder.
Here’s a look at what happened when I tried to live like Gwyneth Paltrow for a week:
Before this Gwyneth Paltrow challenge, bagels were my go-to morning meal. I’d often grab one — poppy seed with cream cheese or butter — before heading into the office.
But, like some other celebrities, Paltrow skips breakfast altogether. So I had to kick the habit. Instead of stopping by the bagel shop, I’d just hop on the train and head to work.
Truth be told, this wasn’t particularly challenging for me. Back in college, I rarely ate breakfast. It may or may not be the most important meal of the day, but I’ve never had a problem skipping it.
I managed to follow this aspect of Paltrow’s schedule for the entire week, and I think the week-long bagel cleanse worked. I haven’t had a bagel since. Health-wise, they’re far better as an occasional treat than a breakfast staple.
I didn’t have too much trouble with lunch either. Normally, I’d grab a sandwich or a slice of pizza from some place near the office. For the experiment, I needed to spring for low-carb choices instead.
I tried to get fancy and even looked up some of Paltrow’s salad recipes. There were some tempting options in her cookbooks. I figured I’d try to make a few, to tide me over for the week.
Heck, I even bought a jar of cornichons — which are adorable, tiny pickles, btw.
But, to be honest, I ran out of time before I could snag all the ingredients necessary to throw together some of Paltrow’s recipes (what the heck is “silken tofu,” anyway, and where am I supposed to find it?).
So I ended up improvising. My non-fancy salad was pretty good, though. I’d pack it up in Tupperware and eat it at my desk every day around noon with a ginger ale.
I enjoyed the salads, but I was bummed to have to decline a ton of delicious and tempting offerings throughout the week. My coworkers seemed to show up to work with chocolates, cookies, and other sweet treats every other day during my challenge.
By the end of the week, I was getting a bit bored with salad, although I tried to spice things up by switching up the dressings.
In fairness, I probably could’ve gotten more experimental with my lunches — “low carb” can include a whole range of meals, of course.
But I only have so much brain power to devote to planning out and cobbling together what I’m going to eat ahead of time.
Still, I didn’t have much of a problem sticking to low-carb lunches for the entire experiment.
Once I got home from work, I’d hide in the basement, where no one could see me flailing around with a medicine ball and hand weights, looking like a reject from the world’s worst workout video.
I was unsurprised to find out that weights aren’t my strong suit. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I just switched in between different moves for the hour. It was boring and hard. And I’m sure my technique left much to be desired.
Around Wednesday, my left shoulder began to really hurt. An hour of weights is probably too much if you’re clueless about exercise — especially if you’re making a leap from couch potato to workout fanatic, like I was. After Wednesday, I had to cut down on the weights a bit.
Overall, I’d say I truly disliked this aspect of the experiment. I’d rather do cardio for an hour than do weights for an hour. At least you can read while walking on the treadmill. The weight exercises just felt repetitive and tedious after about 30 minutes.
Before I started my experiment, I envisioned myself sprinting around outside, running through twilit parks and drinking in the fresh winter air.
Reality quickly shattered that cardio fantasy. I’m usually home after sundown. Running outside in the cold darkness didn’t sound like a good idea. It’d be really embarrassing to get hit by a car while doing an exercise experiment for work.
So, while I did go on a few night runs, I mostly opted for working out on the treadmill.
I quickly found that I don’t have the stamina, pacing abilities, or patience to full-on run for a whole hour. I’d switch between power walking, jogging, and running.
As I walked, I’d balance a book on the treadmill in front of me to stave off the boredom. I simply don’t have the attention span for long workouts.
The running was fine, but I feel like I could’ve gotten more out of an intensive 30-minute jog than an hour spent switching between paces.
Naturally, dinner was my favorite part of this whole experiment. Bread? Cheese? Wine? What’s not to love?
There was another dinner option I didn’t go for. Homemade fries are a favorite of Paltrow’s — she mentioned eating those for dinner in her Net-a-Porter interview.
I swear, I was going to try to figure out how to make them, but it just didn’t happen.
Working out for two hours a day has a way of draining your interest in putting in any extra effort in other areas of your life.
Plus, I had no complaints about the cheesy baguettes. They tasted a bit like a grilled cheese if you forgot to toast the bread. That description doesn’t sound fantastic, but they were delicious.
Typically, I’d throw some gouda in a frying pan, melt it down, and drip it onto a baguette.
One time, the chunk of cheese was too big and melted weird. I ended up getting a slightly burnt, crispy cheese sandwich and a kitchen full of smoke. Mostly, though, these dinners were easy to whip up.
By the time the evening rolled around, I was usually quite hungry. It was kind of nice to have something decadent to look forward to at the end of the day. But I’m sure I’d get sick of this meal if I had to eat it for more than a week.
I’m also not a dietitian, but I’m fairly certain salads and cheesy baguettes don’t contain all the essential nutrients we need to stay healthy.
Paltrow likely eats more well-balanced dinners than this — homemade fries and baguettes dripping with cheese were likely just her go-to examples, not her only two meal options — but I wanted to follow exactly what she said in her Net-a-Porter interview.
I did pretty well with my experiment, until Thursday. That was the night of our office party. My timing for this health and exercise-based experiment couldn’t have been better.
Back when she was working out for two hours a day, Paltrow said she only kept up the routine for six days a week. I knew I was going to throw my rules out the window at the office party, so I justified that by counting Thursday as my cheat day.
I skipped my workouts. I stopped asking myself, “What would Gwyneth do?” I tried to mitigate things by choosing not to eat breakfast or lunch in anticipation of the party — which is definitely what you’re not supposed to do at an office party.
The results were pretty predictable. I ended up eating a lot of chocolate, drinking wine, and eating a whole plateful of cheese cubes at the party. It was great — but I’ll admit I definitely overstepped on my “cheat day.”
Despite my major office-party hiccup, I was mostly able to follow through on the routine for the entire week.
The diet was pretty easy to handle. The exercise was difficult to keep up with. Overall, though, I was surprised to find there were some things I really appreciated about this experiment.
Two hours of exercise a day is a lot. It’s pretty unsustainable for someone with a nine-to-five and other life responsibilities.
Regardless of whether you’re in shape, that’s a lot of time to carve out of your schedule.
Plus, there’s the issue of safety. If you’re like me — enthusiastic but clueless — you could end up hurting yourself. In my case, my sore shoulder isn’t a big deal and it feels fine now. But it’s still best to be careful.
But the experiment certainly broke me out of some unhealthy tendencies, like my automatic trips to the bagel shop or tendency to chow down on sandwiches and pizza at lunch.
The food portion of the experiment actually worked for me.
I wouldn’t say it’s something I could continue doing indefinitely, but it was pretty helpful if you treat it as a pseudo cleanse.
All in all, I wouldn’t say that I’d recommend this diet or exercise routine to anyone.
And I probably won’t be asking myself, “What would Gwyneth do?” going forward.
But I certainly appreciate that this process has helped me kick a bad habit or two.