I tried eating baby food for a week
This week, the Daily put three Arts writers to the test: they were told to pick a subject they could immerse themselves in, and then write a first-person narrative about their experience. You can read the other pieces in this issue here and here.
Disclaimer: I don’t endorse diets and I don’t particularly enjoy them, especially this one. I merely wanted to share my frivolous fable of immersion (trying to relate to celebrities and failing). If you’re an infant prodigy reading this right now, please, continue eating your baby food! It was made for you and your underdeveloped masticators!
I’m not cautiously restrictive with my food intake. I don’t follow any specific dietary regulations. Sometimes I caustically limit my gluten consumption to be ironic. Sometimes I swap skim for soy in my morning lattes simply because I prefer the taste. Sometimes I eat too much cheesy bread (who doesn’t?). Sometimes the next day I eat a giant bowl of kale for lunch because #balance. My normal diet is somewhere between eating what I want with sporadic, albeit valiant efforts to maximize longevity — namely, my four weekly guidelines: sipping a latte each morning (self-pampering and espresso are crucial), eating two to three servings of salmon per week, brewing at least two cups of green or herbal tea each day and guzzling water around the clock. The remaining comestibles and libations are an amalgam of overpriced brunches, sugar-fix pilgrimages to Blank Slate Creamery, Espresso Royale dirty chais and the occasional revisit to South Quad Dining Hall with my “I’m an impoverished law student” brother. That’s my sustenance story.
Joan Didion once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I believe that, I repeat it to myself often and I even reduced the quote to an alternative version that I find applicable to my shortcomings — “Caro tells herself lies in order to make up for her missteps.” Last Monday, I did just that as I promised myself I’d embark on a weeklong diet: the baby food diet. Inspired by Rebecca Harrington, New York Magazine’s designated celebrity dieter, and drawn to the possibility of having something in common with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston — two unconfirmed advocates and survivors of the unbranded program — I decided to give the baby food diet a whirl.
After perusing Harrington’s canon of past experiments, I struggled to find one that struck a balance between downright obscure — I was particularly horrified by Elizabeth Taylor’s peanut butter and steak diet — and seemingly doable. So, I retreated to the never-ending remainder of the worldwide web and somehow came across the most bizarre plan of them all. Admittedly, I’ve replaced baby food for applesauce in countless recipes and have shamelessly licked the lid of the pull-top containers to sample it untainted by additional flavors. Prior to this attempted diet, I genuinely found the fruity flavors to exceed expectations, but steered clear of the vegetable varieties.
According to celebrity diet blogs, the unorthodox regimen allots those absurd enough to attempt adhering to the plan (me) a maximum of 14 containers of baby food interspersed throughout the day with one normal, ideally well-balanced meal. I knew it’d be a challenge, but I told myself I could do it!
Mid-Monday afternoon, I realized the essentiality of prep for this thing. Seeing as my barren cupboards house only teabags and Keurig cups, I needed to rush-order a week’s supply of baby food. I opted for three bulk variety packs promising an assortment of fruit and vegetable purees. I chose next-day delivery (spoiler alert: packages didn’t arrive the next day).
That night, I was fraught with anxiety over the application of this extreme regimen. I couldn’t rationalize why I’d ordered baby food earlier that day. Sure, babies for the most part inhabit ideal lifestyles — their cuteness is constantly validated and their to-do list only seldom extends performing basic bodily functions and cooing — but did I really want to eat like them?
Upon waking up, I tracked my package of infant staples. According to Amazon, it wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Wednesday. Excellent! I intended to devote the next two days to a slight-DIY baby food diet, meaning I’d physically shop for the food. Alas, both Walgreens AND Victor’s did not have baby food in stock, so I surrendered to my adult-food cravings and ordered sushi. I later dubbed this Tuesday my “prep day,” essentially meaning my version of a nightcap was a copious amount of fro-yo.
As soon as my iPhone lit up with the automated text message my apartment building sends whenever a package arrives in your name, I was uncharacteristically excited to begin my dabble in dieting. Directly after my morning class, I headed to my building’s leasing office to pick up the dietary delivery.
“It’s kind of heavy!” said the leasing office lady.
“I wonder what it is!” I sheepishly exclaimed. I very well knew what it was, I just didn’t see “ingester of baby food” an accurate first impression to leave this woman with.
As soon as I ascended to the fourth floor, I tore the box open, but all I found was disappointment. Online, the extensive product description promised a variety of sweet potato, corn, pea, apple and banana flavors, yet these “variety packs” merely contained banana, apple and sweet potato flavors.
Since the plan allotted me 14 containers a day, I immediately tried all three, only to find my taste aversion to the sweet potato puree. I was pretty opposite-of-stoked about this since it was approximately one-third of my food intake for the next week. However, the banana and apple flavors were unexpectedly delicious.
After my two delicious and sole containers, I met up with a friend to study. I pretended to read, but actually watched said friend eat noodles as he scoffed at my mention of my new diet. For the remainder of the day, I was uncharacteristically un-hungry, likely due to the combination of conceptualizing a baby food-centric eating plan and my impending evening exam. Following the brutal exam, I limped home and simply passed out.
Thursdays are my early class day with an 8 a.m. lab, but not even this rude-awakening hour could deter my commitment to the diet. After all, each container decorated with photos of smiling babies radiated positivity. Side note: after further examining the packaging, aside from the cherubic infants, the words “made with the help of our tiny taste testers” were printed. Really? Do babies even have taste buds? If so, was I stupid for not knowing this? (I Googled it, and yeah, they do).
My breakfast consisted of three banana containers, but afterwards I made a mental note to chill with my banana intake. I knew I’d really hate myself in two days when I’d be forced to consider ingesting a sweet potato. Post-lab hunger led me to my one “normal meal,” for that day, a monstrous breakfast burrito. For the following meals, I consumed my remaining 11 containers of baby food. I even had an adventurous moment and decided to resolve woes with the sweet potato. After heavily salting, it wasn’t half bad. I was proud for having a successful diet day, yet irked with my bedtime hunger.
After my morning class, two friends and I decided to brunch at Afternoon Delight. Unable to resist my acclaimed brunching spot, I decided to maximize the diet and stretch the concept of “baby food” for more nourishment and less self-hatred for subjecting myself to diet purgatory. I allowed myself a daily intake of mushy foods in tandem with baby food. I justified my oatmeal order by its identifiable mushiness.
I ate a few containers of baby food later in the day, but Friday eventually resulted in a diet flop. (I came to The Michigan Daily’s Editor in Chief election night. I saw the pizza. I ate the pizza.)
Successful Saturday! After two meals of baby food, I was feeling good (but hungry) and ready for a healthy finale. My parents were in town for the game and treated me to a dinner of French onion soup, seared tuna and seaweed salad at Weber’s hotel. The hotel was even hosting a bar mitzvah just begging to be crashed. Seeing as approximately half my food intake had probably knocked me down a few years, I felt juvenile and ready to jump up and down on the dance floor. I didn’t, solely out of mother’s disdain.
Surrender Sunday! I fully realized my stupidity for attempting to swap two daily meals for baby food and vowed to focus on my health. Even on successful days, I was ravenously hungry. I silently praised Witherspoon and Aniston for their strong-willed dieting habits as I scraped a banana container.
That night, I ate seaweed and sushi and felt alive for the first time in a while — from the food and the sweet freedom of releasing myself from the shackles and unsophisticated palate fare of baby food.
Though I couldn’t withstand a week of ingesting baby food, by spotlighting my diet and questioning my food choices more than usual, I actually learned a fucking lot about myself! In most respects, babies do indeed appear to live the dream, but their food is only tasty in small doses and simply trash when overkilled. After alternating between mush and puree, I would only willingly return to the infant stage if I had both the sophisticated palate and mastication mechanisms I do now, paired with the cognitive abilities to appreciate it all. I’ll surely never be a diet-endorsing celebrity, but after removing myself from the day-to-day, I’m content with my brunching, Blank Slate visits and brother lunch dates.