You know how, when you agree to something that's a few days or weeks or months in the future, you can kind of gloss over it in your mind, thinking Future Me will deal. It'll be fine.
That's what happened to me when I agreed to try the Wine and Eggs diet that Vogue printed in 1977. First written by Helen Gurley Brown in her 1962 classic Sex and the Single Girl, it has had a viral run on the internet lately, and I was brave (stupid?) enough to try it ... so you don't have to.
The Wine and Egg Diet
As the name implies, this diet includes lots of wine and eggs. Plus some steak and coffee. And that's it. For three days straight. You can have wine at breakfast (and are encouraged to drink up to a bottle a day) and then you're supposed to lose five pounds.
Here's the menu.
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- 1 glass white wine (dry, preferably Chablis)
- Black coffee
- 2 eggs (ideally hard-boiled but poached if necessary)
- 2 glasses white wine
- Black coffee
- 5-ounce steak (grilled with black pepper and lemon juice)
- Remainder of white wine (one bottle allowed per day)
- Black coffee
I would say that in general, I have a pretty OK relationship with my body and don't have a history of disordered eating. That combined with the fact that, as you can see from my photos, I'm in no danger of wasting away made me feel like it would be safe to try this ridiculous diet.
In addition to eating an enormous bowl of pasta, I also prepared the night before by making a batch of hard-boiled eggs, so I had my breakfast ready to go on the morning of my first day: one hard-boiled egg that I ate with a little salt and Dijon mustard, and a glass of Chablis.
One of the things that made this especially hard for me is that I hate hard-boiled eggs and I hate poached eggs even more.
I do love Chablis, though, and the Vincent Dampt Petit Chablis 2017, an unoaked Chardonnay from France's Burgundy region, was what I chose for day one. Like a freshly zested lemon, sunshine, and fresh laundry, this squeaky-clean Chard is a pretty great choice for breakfast wine if you're going to take your life in that direction. Although "real" Chablis was popular in the 1960s and '70s, there was also a lot of inexpensive white wine made in California — that was called "Chablis" — around as well. More on that later.
Dinner was a little better. I had my five ounces of New York strip with black pepper and lemon juice as the diet recommends, and man did I need it. However, even though I think you can chuck most food-and-wine-pairing rules out the window, a lean, crisp white wine like Chablis is awful with steak. I couldn't take the weird metallic, iron-y aftertaste I would get if I took a bite of steak and then a sip of Chablis.
As I woozily prepared for the next day, muttering that I was making my Helen Gurley Brown Punishment Eggs, my girlfriend looked a little worried.
Maybe it was the wine, or maybe the lack of food, but I legit felt sad by the end of the day. Weepy, even. Like, as I was sitting in bed reading, waiting until it was acceptable to go to sleep because I was so exhausted, and I could have burst into tears at any moment.
On the morning of day two I weighed myself and I was 6.2 pounds lighter. That doesn't seem healthy. Did I pee out my spleen or something?
For my day two wine, I had the Beringer Main and Vine Chenin Blanc that I got at Target. I chose this wine because during our girl Helen's heyday, a lot of the cheap white wine that was pumped out in California that was labeled "Chablis" was actually Chenin Blanc (often blended with Columbard and/or Chardonnay). Chenin is a variety that will produce a lot of grapes if you just let it run wild, so it was a popular choice for making cheap wine and lots of it. Back in the day, it was of course not labeled as Chenin Blanc, but this was as close an analogue as I could find.
My little Beringer Chenin was a bit sweet, and not in an appealing way — more in a "stale, store-brand apple juice" kind of way. It was also really not good with my hard-boiled egg and Dijon. I grabbed my bottle of Vincent Dampt from the fridge and tried a splash with another bite of eggs just to be sure — yup, Chablis is the way to go here, people. As delightful as this discovery was, I was starting to feel a little delirious.
That Chenin Blanc was actually much better with the steak than the Chablis from day one. It's not as good a pairing as red wine, but if you're looking for a white wine to pair with red meat that has a little spice and citrus added, off-dry is the way to go.
By the end of the night I was an exhausted, wrung-out rag of a person. This diet is no joke. Helen Gurley Brown did not come to play.
On the morning of day three, I weighed in about 0.6 pounds lighter than the day before, so not as drastic a change, which was frankly a relief.
My day three wine was the absolutely stunning Vieilles Vignes Tour du Roy 2011 from Domaine des Malandes. Unfortunately, this exact vintage isn't available anymore, but you can find a more recent vintage here. Chablis' high acidity allows it to age much more gracefully than other whites, and this was no exception. It still had that bright laser beam of refreshing tartness, but the edges had rounded out, and rather than fresh lemon juice, it sort of reminded me of lemon curd (but not sweet). It had a lusciousness to it that these wines generally don't have in their youth. If the Vincent Dampt that I had on day one was a sunrise, this was the golden sunset. Just delicious.
It was also a precious source of calories that I needed to not pass out that day, so I might have been a little biased.
By the end of day three I was exhausted, cranky, and kinda shaky on my feet. I felt like I had gotten stupider. I couldn't understand simple things people asked me and I definitely couldn't absorb anything new.
How did '70s people survive this? Was it because everyone smoked and Quaaludes were still legal?
The morning after my last day of this diet I weighed another 0.4 pounds less than the day before, bringing my total loss to 7.2 pounds in three days (2.2 more than the diet promises!)
I wasn't surprised by how hungry or spaced-out I was on this bizarre diet. But what I didn't expect was how it would affect me emotionally. The sadness I felt at night was something else. I appreciate how damn lucky I am not to go to bed hungry in a whole new way now.
I love wine, but it is a depressant, and without a more normal amount of food to help blunt the effects of alcohol, I think I was experiencing a little bit of that "sad drunk girl crying in the bathroom" syndrome many of us observed (or experienced, no judgment!) in college.
I think when people read about this diet it seems like kind of a glam '70s lounge-around-in-a-caftan-and-day-drink kind of thing, or like it would feel decadent to drink at every meal and it might distract you from how little you're eating.
It does not feel that way. It feels terrible.
In conclusion, food is awesome, fad diets are awful for your emotional as well as physical health, and you should absolutely not do them and you should ESPECIALLY not drink on a near-empty stomach.
However, Chablis and hard-boiled (or scrambled) eggs is a pretty rad combo. Was discovering that worth three days of suffering? Probably not, but progress works in mysterious ways, my friends. Anyway, please, PLEASE do not do this diet.
Editorial note: We bow down to Diane for taking on such an unappealing assignment in the name of historical research, and we support her final plea to not try this at home. Fad diets suck, boys and girls! Don't do them!
More about Diane McMartin: Diane is a wine consultant, educator, and author of This Calls For A Drink. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America's Wine and Beverage Certificate Program and a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Follow her on Instagram.