I am VICE's resident healthy person. As the editor-in-chief of the health vertical Tonic, I am on the receiving end of sheepish looks from my smoking co-workers (good lord why haven't you quit yet?) and sent questions about oral herpes (it's probably just a pimple, but if it's actual herpes, chill—everyone has it). I have a healthy relationship with what I eat. I love food, and it loves me. Rarely a day goes by that I don't grace my digestive system with things green and fibrous, omega-3-rich, lousy with phytonutrients. My friends have labeled my proclivities "monastic." So when some of my co-workers cooked up the evil little idea that someone should eat like Donald Trump for a whole work week, I was the obvious person for the job.
So what does Trump eat? Mainly, he loves fast-food chains because, he says, they can be counted on for their cleanliness. They have to hold themselves to "a certain standard," as he once told CNN. He's mentioned loving Burger King, KFC, and McDonald's. He also likes Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits, which I enjoy so much I served it at my wedding. So there was at least one thing we could agree on.
Every story about Trump's food intake indicates that he doesn't much care what he eats. "It's always whatever he is craving, which is more often than not McDonald's," is how one of his aides phrased it when talking to the New York Times. He loves the Filet of Fish, which he calls the "Fish Delight." Big Macs. Quarter Pounders with cheese. He loves their fries. There is some dispute over whether or not he removes the buns from his burgers. When he eats pizza, he scrapes the toppings off and doesn't eat the dough, believing this saves him precious calories. Would you still call that "eating pizza"?
He drinks Diet Coke, and eats See's Candies. He loves cherry vanilla ice cream. (I hate cherry vanilla anything, haven't had any kind of soda since college, and the thought of See's makes my teeth hurt.) His least favorite meal is breakfast (my favorite), but if he eats it, he has eggs, bacon, or cornflakes, though the latter was something he said as a cheap ploy to get votes in Iowa. He is a diehard fan of meatloaf. He likes his steak so well done "it would rock on the plate," as his butler at Mar-a-Lago once famously said. He likes spaghetti with meat sauce.
Trump does not appear to eat fruits or vegetables. He does not drink alcohol. He also doesn't drink coffee or tea. These were the details that were truly alarming to me; I can say with confidence that I have never gone a week without these things.
I was going to spend five days walking in the shoes—walking with the stomach?—of the new president, learning what makes him burp, and maybe why he looks like that. I'd get to eat all the junk food I wanted, in the name of journalism. This was going to be fun. It was going to be the greatest, most incredible diet I had ever been on. Yuge. I was going to be yuge.
Channeling Trump's distaste for breakfast and dislike of planned meals, I spring for a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips from the office kitchen. They're fucking delicious; why had I not eaten these for breakfast before?
Since the Brooklyn VICE office is in a fast-food desert and I don't want to pay $47.50 for Postmates to deliver a $7 Popeye's meal, I Seamless a fried chicken sandwich from tried and true Williamsburg comfort food staple Pies 'n' Thighs. My cursor hovers over the side salad option, a little bit longingly, before I remember myself and click on the side of fries. I select "hold the bacon" and then unselect when I remember I should probably eat the bacon, too. To reach the delivery minimum, I add in an order of hush puppies; I'm vague on what those are, but I figure channeling Trump means grabbing this diet by the puppy, so I order them.
Once the food arrives, I scarf it down alongside a cold Diet Pepsi (the office kitchen is out of Diet Cokes and I figure the Pepsi will have the same ill effects on my metabolism and gut bacteria anyway, so cool). I'm shocked by how horrendous fake sugar tastes after years of not touching the stuff. I'm lightheaded almost instantly. Is this what power feels like?
My friends, who are at my apartment for dinner, convince me that the sausage and pork-belly choucroute, a pile of meat that my husband made, is Trumpy as hell. So I agree to skip the trip to Taco Bell, with poor meal planning and impulsivity as my spirit animals.
OK, so for some reason, I feel intensely hungover this morning, even though my friends drank last night, and I abstained, true to Trump's ways. I'm queasy, and my brain feels like it's been slammed into submission by a meat tenderizer.
At work, I know I'm not supposed to have coffee, but the brain fog is too much to bear. Cutting one little corner feels kind of right, kind of Donaldesque. When my co-worker points out my cheat, I tell him he's a nasty person.
Also: Hush puppies, leftover from yesterday, appear to be some kind of fried cornmeal that are great with coffee, even though the coffee turns out to do nothing for my fucked-up meat-hangover brain. If Trump ate breakfast, he would definitely eat hush puppies. He also wouldn't eat anything for the rest of the work day, because they sink like rocks.
The first couple bites of my Popeye's dinner are tasty, redolent of Americana, something that seemed innocent enough only a few months ago. But then I hit some kind of wall and can't keep eating. I go to bed with the sweats, starting to doubt my hardiness.
I wake up from a dream in which I'm eating the most tantalizingly fragrant, juicy pear, to face the reality of another meaty day in Trump hell. I'm sluggish and spacey, and leave the house having forgotten to brush my teeth for the first time in my adult life. I get winded climbing the stairs to the subway. I hate life. I am loping and irritable. The fruit in the office kitchen is taunting me.
The friend I'm supposed to have lunch with flatly refuses to join me at McDonald's, so I go bougie-junk again and order chicken and waffles at a local restaurant, figuring Trump would do this, take a picture of himself with it, and then claim to love black people. I'm not hungry at all; it's as though all the meat and grease have permanently stolen my appetite. So I grimace through the meal and practically cry over my lunch date's arugula salad, which looks so crisp and refreshing.
I plan to go to the gym after work, since the rules didn't mention exercise, but instead I collapse on the couch, floored by my exhaustion. I rant at my husband, who is gleefully serving me leftover sausages from the other night. Mid-speech, I realize this is precisely how Trump gets exercise—emphatic speaking is a workout, he feels—and now, schvitzing from the exertion, I understand that if you subsist on the Trump Diet, it is.
Every time I burp, I get a mayonnaise-y Whopper taste and worry my co-workers can smell it. The words on my laptop screen have no meaning. I read and reread a story about psychedelic integration three times before giving up and sending some half-assed notes to the writer. I save all my emails as unread because I don't have the will to reply to any of them. I muddle my way through two meetings, barely keeping up with what we're talking about. The only thing I really have the mental strength for is social media, so I tap out a few work-related tweets and call it a day. Huh.
For dinner, at a Manhattan restaurant with friends who laugh off my Trump Grille suggestion, I order a burger well done since there's no taco bowl on the menu. I can hardly gag the dry bites down my sad esophagus, and I don't hear much of the conversation over my furious internal monologue, which is mostly about whether the Trumpish authenticity of cheating would be canceled out by the inauthenticity of drinking a beer on the Trump Diet.
Fuck this. Fuck fucking Trump. My husband delights in snapping photos as I barfily nibble at a McDonald's hash brown and an Egg McMuffin. We're on our way to my mom's in Massachusetts for Christmas, and all I want to do is cheat and then lie about it. I impulsively grab a grapefruit out of my husband's bag and sink my teeth into it like a feral animal (what? That's how you peel it). He raises an eyebrow at my transgression, and I call him crooked. I spend the rest of the afternoon breaking the rules. "I heard you were on the Trump Diet," my mom's partner says as I snack on a banana.
"That is a tremendous lie," I reply, explaining that there's a global conspiracy out to get me. "I never, ever said that."
Over dinner, which is vegetable soup for everyone but me, I tell my family I'm seriously considering going vegetarian in 2017. As I chew my last bites of fish filet (gotta say, that bun is delightfully pillowy), I get some exercise (by pontificating, obvs): Sure, I've been put up to this, but my five days of Trump have served as an excuse for skipping the gym, my reason for being snippy, my justification for availing myself of irresponsibly raised meat. I can't resist the larger analogy: Trump had been an excuse for all my basest behaviors, just as his approaching presidency has inspired America's grossest recent acts of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia.
I now have the most visceral sense of this dark force, and also know that the sheen we often see on his orange brow is the fucking meat sweats. These five days have given me a focused taste of Trump—and of the next four years, and it makes me want to puke.
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