This week, Deadspin and Jezebel swap beats to celebrate America’s most dangerous and controversial pastimes: football and fashion, two sports that have far more in common than you think.
At 5'11" and 183 pounds, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill is a small man compared to his teammates and other players in the NFL. At 5'2" and around 100 pounds, this is also true of me compared to most of my colleagues at Gizmodo Media Group. For this reason, I used Hill’s meal plan as a rough guide for my day of eating like a football player.
The meals and snacks seemed like significantly more than I eat in a day though not unmanageable, so I dismissed my colleagues when they said things like “you are going to die” or “you are going to barf and die.” I thought I would prove them wrong and maybe teach them a lesson about underestimating me. This is what happened instead.
In order to get his weight up to the mid-180s, Troy Hill tells Bon Appétit, he has adopted a daily diet of about 5,000 calories. “Just eat,” he says. “Just eat eat eat.” This is chill and I like it. For his first meal of the day, Hill has waffles, bacon, an omelet, and a protein shake. I feel like I can do this one.
After editing a couple of blogs, I walk to a nearby diner and order a Belgian waffle with a side of bacon. The meal comes with the option of “two eggs on top.” I ask the waiter how many eggs there are in an omelet; he says three, so I ask if I can have my two eggs scrambled with cheese to approximate an omelet. I know my employer, Univision Communications Inc., only uses its money carefully and with great consideration, so I try to hold myself to the same high standards. I’d also like to imagine this is what Troy Hill would do in order to avoid expensing two breakfast entrées.
Next, I get a Muscle Milk at a bodega and sip it on my way to the office. It tastes like blood mixed with Splenda. Once at my desk, I lay out the rest of my breakfast on a plate. I start in on the eggs first. So far so good.
But the Muscle Milk, which I am trying to sip with my food, has quickly made me feel both overly full and a little nauseated. I decide to abandon it on account of it being too disgusting. The bacon goes down easy enough, but I’m not really a breakfast person in general and am quickly losing food steam. On an average morning, I will eat—and I know this is embarrassing so please know that I am at least self-aware enough to feel shame—chia pudding that I make with yogurt and an almond-coconut milk blend. I will top it off with pumpkin seeds and some fruit, maybe grab a couple of slices of deli turkey to eat afterwards as added protein.
In an effort to get more of the waffle down, I start eating it, without syrup, with my hands. I probably get a little more than three-quarters the way through everything before I feel like I’ve reached capacity, the metallic sweetness of the Muscle Milk still lingering in the back of my throat.
Because I am an iron-deficient blogger and not a football player, I stop. Though it is not part of the menu, I have a cup of black tea to try to wake myself up.
Troy Hill says he snacks on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout the day, which I will not do because I don’t have the ingredients at the office. However, other NFL meal plans I have read suggest that some players eat a lot of eggs. As a compromise, I buy two RxBars with eggs, peanuts, and dates, which to me is kind of a hybrid of eating eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all day. Around 40 minutes after finishing breakfast, I eat an RxBar without incident. It doesn’t feel great, but it doesn’t feel terrible. I know that only tech creep dipshits are into Soylent and the whole “eating without eating” thing, but it can be nice to sometimes get protein in a tidy little package that requires zero effort. Troy Hill understands this, I think. “I get kinda tired of eating,” he tells Bon Appétit.
While there is nothing in the Bon Appétit piece about exercise, I assume Troy Hill is also exercising or playing football while consuming this many calories. Or at least walking around? Maybe he has a large house and he walks around the large house. I injured my left arm a few weeks ago while doing something normal and non-injurious, so I haven’t worked out in about a month. And today, like most days, I am sitting at my desk, neck angled down at a laptop, for around nine hours, which eventually will kill me.
Between meals and snacks, I am periodically harassed by colleagues. “I don’t see you eating,” one says as he walks by me. Fuck off.
Troy Hill has “pasta and chicken for lunch, double-portion on the pasta,” according to Bon Appétit. (Double pasta because “the nutritionists are always pushing him to eat more food.”) I can relate to this. As a frail youth, my mother would make me drink Ensure in an effort to help me gain weight and maybe grow a little. It never really worked, and I spent most of my teen years, while my classmates bought going-out tops at Express, wearing awkward children’s clothing.
I am not hungry, but it is time to eat again. While walking to find pasta, in the spirit of “eat eat eat,” I eat another RxBar, which activates the over-full feeling I had this morning. I search “pasta near me” on my phone and am overwhelmed by choices. I decide to go to Whole Foods, a famous pasta restaurant. Because I am not entirely clear on what double pasta means in terms of actual portion size, I buy $19 worth of pasta and chicken from the salad bar. The pasta is served cold, with smoked mozzarella, spinach, and what appears to be red peppers. I add both grilled chicken and chicken wings, though I try to keep the chicken wings separate from the pasta. The box is heavy.
Back at my desk, I try to approach lunch like it’s an eating contest, pinning back my hair and shoving as much food into my mouth as I can without stopping. I don’t bother cutting up the grilled chicken, I just bite it off in hunks. I find myself making small, unintentional whimpering noises as I eat.
This experiment is strange in part because the food I am eating is normal for me, but the portions, ratios, and timing are not. I find myself reacting negatively to foods I actually love. The sweetness of the pasta salad somehow reminds me of the Muscle Milk, and I feel a pang of fear that I have unintentionally ruined one of my great loves—shitty deli pasta salad.
After finishing half the pasta, I am sleepy in a way that feels like I have taken a sedative. I begin to eat more chicken, almost mechanically, while sweating a little and staring blankly at my computer. I realize I am not doing a lot of work, but it’s Friday and I think everyone feels bad for me because I am eating too much food, so no one mentions anything.
While I’m still eating, Jezebel’s video producer, Jen Perry, comes by my desk to discuss a video series we’re working on. I find myself out of breath and struggling to talk, as though I have just run up multiple flights of stairs. I can’t really remember the names of the organizations I want us to reach out to for interviews. I apologize. She asks me if I am training for a marathon. “No,” I say.
I realize that I have a jar of peanut butter and a package of rice cakes at the office, so I slap some peanut butter on one and eat it for Troy Hill. I feel like I am in a coma and concentrating on work gets harder. Jezebel contributor Esther Wang messages me about midterm stories we’re working on and I do not respond without realizing I have not responded. Swallowing feels hard, like I am trying to take a big vitamin but it’s just air.
By 6:30 p.m., I am editing the last blog of the day and ask Jezebel deputy editor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd and Jezebel managing editor Megan Reynolds if we can change our dinner plans from a Japanese spot in our neighborhood to a nearby Italian place so that I can complete my meal plan as Troy Hill would: with lasagne and chicken for dinner. (Hill’s girlfriend makes it for him, he tells Bon Appétit.) Both advise me to abandon the project and eat a dinner that will make me feel good. I tell them I feel a lot better after drinking a couple of glasses of water, which is true at the moment, and say that I will get my lasagne and chicken to go and we can eat wherever after that. Megan Greenwell, editor-in-chief of Deadspin, asks me how I am feeling. She puts a hand on my shoulder and I wonder if it is because she feels bad for me. (It is.)
I leave the office with Julianne and Megan Reynolds, and everything starts to feel really bad. The walk from the office to the subway and from the subway to my apartment has reminded my body that it is alive, and that the food I have eaten is too much food. It was as if all of the food in my body hadn’t known the other food was there until that moment. Then, almost all at once, it merged together, filling up my arms and legs and where my blood should be with a substance with a consistency not unlike the gummy, oil-slicked RxBars I had eaten earlier in the day. All I am anymore is the food.
I tell Julianne, Megan, and our friend Clio Chang that I am not going to eat the lasagne, which would probably make me sick, and we walk to the Japanese place. The night air is crisp and it makes me feel a little better. But when we arrive at the restaurant, there is no air conditioning, and an all-consuming sense of despair washes over me. The woman working the front counter seems to be going very slowly, though she is probably moving at a normal pace. I feel as though I can’t stand anymore, and sit at a table. I put my head down on the table. I look at the counter, which feels far away. I look at my friends, who feel far away.
I consider leaving. I consider asking Julianne to order for me so that I can stay sitting, maybe forever. Instead, for reasons that I still can’t fully understand even as I write this the next morning, I stand up and order the heaviest item on the menu: Japanese curry over rice. I get a glass of wine, too. All of it is a mistake, but something compels me to do it. I am only starch and heaviness now, and I am drawn to more of it.
We walk upstairs to get a table on the roof, where we wait for our orders. There is a large wooden bench along the front wall. It looks like something inside a sauna. I imagine the thick heat of a sauna and feel nauseated. I am overcome with an urge to lie down. Deadspin deputy editor Barry Petchesky texts me with a reminder to drink water. “It really will help,” he writes.
The waiter brings up our food, and I eat half of it. I forget to take a picture. I look at my phone, I look at my friends. I look at my phone again. I am so tired. I feel a sense of incredible heaviness impressing itself upon every part of my body. My neck hurts, somehow. I feel a preemptive sense of embarrassment for having an intense reaction to the food. I wonder if people will read it and think, “That is not too much food.” Or, “I could have eaten that and been fine.” Or, “I eat that on an average day.” I want to go home, but I don’t want to move, either. I stay at the restaurant, listening to the warm conversation of friends I love, catching half-sentences. I stare into the darkness of the first cool evening of our dying summer. Troy Hill is somewhere in California, where the sun is still out, eating some kind of starch and protein and preparing for his first game of the season against the Oakland Raiders. In Brooklyn, light pollution has swallowed the stars and the neighborhood is quiet. I am done eating for the day. The sky is endless black in all directions.