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Ludicrous diets and alien lifestyles: The renaissance of “day in the life” porn

From the Moon Juice mum to Mark Wahlberg’s 3am post-prayer workout, both celebrity and ordinary daily regimes have captured the digital age.

It feels like every day there’s a new one. Another superhuman who kicks off their day poaching an ostrich egg at 5.15am and ends it in the evening with a shot of wheatgrass and half a Ryvita before a full eight hours of sleep.

Someone with a high-flying career and three young, impeccably looked-after children as well as an effortless daily workout regime with a loving spouse and manicured dog in the background, sharing their ludicrous lifestyle in perfect harmony.

You know the type. They’re usually glossy-haired, perfect-skinned CEOs, entrepreneurs, and straight-up celebrities. They reveal their daily routines in day-in-the-life first-person interviews in which one, extreme aspect of their regime can make a viral story.

The latest is on New York Magazine’s fashion platform The Cut. Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia has had a bit of stick on Twitter for revealing her view in the “How I get it done” column that eating after 7pm “is really sinful”.


“I think that eating after 7 is really sinful,” she says. “If I have to, have to, eat after 7, I will. But I like my body to fast until the next day. I believe in that. I just feel healthier. I feel lighter.”

Of course, Garcia is simply fulfilling the column’s brief. But it’s the perceived sanctimony of people’s lifestyles – which often perpetuate diet myths (like this take on the “don’t eat after 6pm” fake rule) and unhealthy attitudes towards food – that attract readers’ attention.

The best example of this was a 2015 instalment of Elle’s “The Balance” column (which invites “influential women in a variety of industries to share a typical day of eats and fitness”) that went viral, when Amanda Chantal Bacon – founder of a “wellness” product company called Moon Juice – revealed her baffling diet.

She starts the morning at 6.30am with something called a “Kundalini meditation and a 23-minute breath set” – supplemented with “a copper cup of silver needle and calendula tea”. This is before her hot drink on-the-go during the school run (involving things like “Brain Dust”, “ho shou wu and pearl” and “quinton shots”). Her morning is then supplemented with “three tablespoons of bee pollen” and “activated cashews” along with a host of other random ingredients.

Her day carries on in a similar vein up to a dinner of “seaweed salad with micro cilantro and daikon” at her three-year-old’s favourite restaurant, polished off with a “heart tonic” and some cheeky “low glycemic” chocolate.

Discovered by the internet in February 2016, this food diary evoked a Twitterstorm of mockery, as well as further articles off the back of it: one writer tried to recreate the diet using her own ingredients (“help me activate these cashews”), another calculated that it would cost $709.75 to eat like that in one day, and there was this brilliant parody on Medium (“Dinner was a bouquet of tulips with my husband. We flash-boiled those in a marble cylinder full of rose quartz schmaltz and iron filings salvaged from the deck of the sunken French battleship Richelieu.”)

It’s not a new genre of journalism, of course. The public has always been morbidly fascinated with celebrity diets.

Since the 1930s, the Hollywood grapefruit diet – which involves having, you guessed it, grapefruit with every meal – has tempted celebrities and baffled their fans ever since. Kylie Minogue was once a proponent, with this 2003 Mirror report outlining the bizarre regime (which is not advised, by the way):

BREAKFAST: Half a grapefruit or 8oz of grapefruit juice. Two poached eggs with two slices of bacon.

LUNCH: Half a grapefruit or 8oz of grapefruit juice. Ham salad with coleslaw.

DINNER: Half a grapefruit or 8oz of grapefruit juice. Roast beef and gravy with cabbage, peas and green beans.

In 1969, Richard Burton outlined his on-set “Drinking Man’s Diet” in his diary (three whisky and sodas, two glasses of red wine, three brandies, oysters, steak, “a hefty lump of cheese” and a black coffee had him losing four to five pounds, according to this extract in Prospect).

This month, the “wine and eggs” diet outlined in a 1977 issue of Vogue went viral when a Twitter user rediscovered it:


Regimes like this, particularly when followed by famous or successful people, have long been a mainstay of lifestyle magazines. And it’s not just about food – the daily schedules of the great and the good have fascinated fans for decades.

For example, the Sunday Times Magazine’s historic back page feature, “A Life in the Day”, has been running since 1977, and continues to make headlines and fascinate readers with the first-person rundown of a famous person’s day, as told to the journalist.

The actor and oil tycoon heir Balthazar Getty’s 2016 interview in that slot was particularly memorable – causing outrage with his admission that he never gets up before 11am and has breakfast in bed brought to him “by the maid” every morning.

He also tried to suggest he didn’t grow up rich, revealed his six-step facial routine, admitted having “someone over to cook for us” most nights, and claimed he didn’t know how wealthy he was (he was reportedly worth £150m at the time).

I remember transcribing one of these interviews back in 2011 during a stint at the magazine – the journalist’s questions went into boggling detail: What time do you get up? Why do you get up at that time? Do you have instant or fresh coffee? Why are your walls painted white? How many feet long is your dining table? What do you do when you go to bed?

Beauty regimes, too, still captivate an online audience. Most notably, Emma Watson caused a wave of headlines in 2017 by telling beauty site Into the Gloss’s “The Top Shelf” feature that she uses a product called Fur Oil on her pubic hair.

But now that celebrities give us a real-time rundown of their day-to-day lives on Instagram, how do these traditional day-in-the-life formats flourish?

Victoria Beckham, for example, has been Instagramming details of her diet on the site, from her two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar every morning to the creation of her “green monster of the Beckhams” smoothie.


More recently, the actor Mark Wahlberg shocked the world by Instagramming a list of his gruelling fitness and work regimen – including waking up at 2.30am for prayers, breakfast and a workout all before 5.15am. By 9.30am, he’s already in “cryo chamber recovery” long before a second workout at 4pm:


Celebrities are also far more adept at taking questions about their personal lives into their own hands these days. Actor and activist Angela Bassett used a recent Mission Impossible: Fallout promotional interview to answer a TV presenter’s question about how she looks so good at 60 by cycling through her entire exercise and food regime, which went viral. Here’s just one extract:

“Coconut oil, salmon, almonds, almond butter, olive oil, walnut oil, that sort of thing. I don’t do any dairy. All right? I don’t do any bread flour. I do Ezekiel bread, which is sprouted. OK, is that good?”


When celebrities as well as our friends reveal mundane details about their daily lives on Instagram stories, you’d think the day-in-the-life format would be struggling.

Not so, says Moya Crockett, Women’s Editor of Stylist.co.uk. “People are always fascinated in just how other people get shit done, basically,” she tells me. “Part of it is a bit aspirational, it’s a bit vicarious. It satisfies an innate nosiness at how other people live.”

One of Stylist magazine’s most popular weekly features is its “Work/Life” column, which has been inviting women in a variety of jobs to write a one-day diary since the magazine’s launch nine years ago. Regular journal-style pieces online, such as the “Sleep Diaries” series, are also among its most popular pieces.

“Whenever we do anything that’s about routines, it always performs well,” says Crockett. “It’s a kind of sure-fire hit.”

Articles about morning routines in particular attract the most readers, she tells me. “I think if you’re someone who’s terrible in the mornings, always in a massive rush, can’t find your shoes, it’s just a bit of a stress, there’s almost this vicarious thing of ‘oh my God, there are these people who get up at six and do yoga and make a smoothie!’ I think it’s fascinating…

“It’s a very human thing – to [want to] know whether how you conduct your own life stacks up.”

The draw of these pieces is in reading about normal, non-famous women living their lives – a departure from the revelatory celebrity profile. And while you may see your friends’ updates on social media, the written diary format has an enduring appeal – a structure away from the anarchic (and sometimes misleading) nature of online posts.

“Stuff that takes diary form, journal form” intrigues readers, says Crockett. “There’s something quite calming, I think, about reading something that’s almost like someone’s diary entry. There’s something quite soothing about it.”

Recently, when exploring the modern boom in money diaries – daily breakdowns of people’s spending and financial situations – I found that readers have a tendency either to judge or compare their own habits to the authors writing these pieces. This was most common in what writers revealed about their diets and exercise routines through their spending.

Perhaps that’s why the Moon Juice-style diaries (and less extreme versions) tend to go viral with mockery and “hate clicks” as opposed to the positive intrigue and aspiration sparked by, say, Stylist’s career-focused diaries.

“The appealing aspect of a money diary to me is the ‘diary’ bit, not the ‘money’ bit,” one 26-year-old avid money diary reader told me. “Food is the big one for me – I’ll find myself annoyed at people who take packed lunches despite earning lots of money, which isn’t fair of me, but I just want them to live a little!

“People who detail their healthy meals also fill me with a weird mix of rage and smugness – it must be some kind of ego protection where I look down on them for their healthy salads, despite the fact they are making objectively good life decisions about their lives. Eat some chips, friends!”

> Now read Anoosh Chakelian on money diaries: how salacious stories of overdrafts replaced sex advice for millennials

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.