There are so many ways to live like a personal style blogger. Go to Paris. Sleep in a tangle of white bedding. Wear a boho hat. Go to Tulum. Date a photographer. And most fascinating to me-stage decadent multi-course morning and afternoon meals for Instagram. Food styling on social media has always been a thing. Founded in 2014, hilarious Instagram You Did Not Eat That features personal style stars faking it with photogenic food, and while the account hasn’t been updated in a while, it still resonates because-duh-we all know meals on social media are about as effortless as the hair, makeup, and fashion looks.
If you’ve ever tried to compose a flat lay-think lipstick, coffee, sunglasses, arranged just so-you know it’s art, like a cappuccino foam heart. Style stars who post food pictures follow a variation of the same photogenic diet.
Blogger Diet wins:
- Avocado toast with poached eggs
- Brioche French toast
- Chocolate croissants
- Cappuccino art
- Matcha latte art
- Vegan food!
- Any food served on a silver room service tray
Blogger Diet fails:
- Bodega coffee
- Yogurt parfait in a plastic cup
- Instant oatmeal
- Protein shake powder
- The breakfast spread at your office
- Duane Reade sushi
- Any food after 5 p.m.
My everyday diet lives in the fail section because each time you talk to a nutritionist or a celebrity programmed to eat like a nutritionist, the joy of food erodes until all you’re left with is a safe list of non-starchy vegetables. Bloggers thrive on the foods that dieticians discourage. It’s impossible to know how anyone else really eats (or doesn’t eat) in a day, but I’ve seen a popular style star chase a macaroon with a Marlboro. Burnt out on restrictive health food, I tried to emulate the categorically gorgeous meals (many of which do get eaten) posted by the Aimee Songs of the fashion world. First, I enlisted two social media foodie experts as my coaches.
Breakfast: My usual work morning meal is iced coffee and a banana. Snooze. Instead, I wake up an hour early for breakfast at blogger food church Chalait, where the avocado toast is as vibrant and delicious IRL as it looks on Instagram. "It’s all about the lighting, which is why Chalait is so successful," Annie says. "The food is so good and fresh, but that corner location is so good for picture taking." The sun always shines on Chalait.
I order style star diet staples-avocado toast, matcha latte-and mess around with my flat lay composition. "I’m about to do the same thing!" says a girl seated next to me. These are my people now. I eat the whole thing, and later find out this is not the blogger way. "I order the avocado toast without the bread and they do it on greens," Annie tells me later. "It’s not on the menu but you can do that with any of their toasts. Another reason I effing love that place."
Lunch: I am elated when ELLE.com senior fashion editor Nikki is gifted a box of chocolate chip cookies, each one the size of a personal pizza. We take pictures and I work through a plate-sized soft-baked cookie for the rest of the day.
Dinner: Lucky for me, the lunch cookies are super filling and I snack on fruit when I get home around 10 p.m. No pictures. Both of my coaches (and Chrissy Teigen) agree, food photos look disgusting after the sun goes down. "This is because of natural daylight," says Charlotte, when I ask her why we rarely see night food on social media. "Eggs in the a.m.; Sundays are the best time to post, but I take most of my pics in the afternoon because it’s the best light."
Mood: Emily Schuman.
Breakfast: If the Instagram diet worked like Call of Duty, breakfast at Ladurée would mean graduating to the next level. I meet Annie at the bakery mecca, and she shows me how to scan the menu and create a color story. Pastels are a yes, warm beige tones are a firm no. The Ladurée edit includes cappuccinos, French toast, berries, and mandatory macaroons. This is a You Did Not Eat That moment where we flat lay the shit out of breakfast, and soak the French toast in raspberry syrup trying to capture the perfect drip shot. Exhausted, we split the berries and I take the rest to go.
Snack: Macaroon leftovers.
Lunch: I’m lost. There’s nothing pretty enough to eat or Instagram in the cafeteria at work so I relapse on nutritionist food and choose two green apples.
Dinner: Charlotte said it best, "I regret every donut I didn’t gram." Since dinner isn’t documented, I forage in a friend’s kitchen for snacks before going out. With the right light, my evening eats could’ve been so likable: avocado, dark chocolate, flax crackers, goji berries.
Mood: Sincerely Jules in Paris.
Breakfast: A key Blogger Diet level: room service breakfast in bed. The Bowery Hotel obliges my request to order just room service without staying the night. I invite two friends for breakfast and surprise them-"Hey can you slip into this robe and pretend to eat croissants? Cool." Anyone with a wifi connection knows what goes down in bed, breakfast-wise.
I order French toast, baked eggs, fruit, a croissant, mimosas, cappuccino. The breakfast tray setup looks intuitive. It’s not. Getting the money shot takes over an hour, and when we’re done I’m so hungry and anxious that I speed-eat the baked eggs and fruit.
Snack: A matcha latte from the smile. It’s 80 percent milk. The art dissolves before I get a picture. A combination of failure and hunger convince me to quit the challenge. I text Charlotte for help.
Dinner: Charlotte meets me at The Butcher’s Daughter, the photogenic vegan restaurant, and examines my sparse Instagram grid. The photos are blurry and unedited. The hashtags are useless. I’m not a food person. I don’t even like pizza. I quit! "Don’t tell people that," Charlotte says. We start over. In order to succeed at the art of eating (without a pro camera), I need two apps, Snapseed and Facetune. With the right tweaks, the dynamic combo can upgrade a blurry latte to 1,000 likes.
Dessert: Gelato #Ididnoteatthat.
Second dinner: French fries and champagne at Lucien. I am living.
Mood: Viva Luxury Blog.
Breakfast: I wake up at 11 a.m. in starvation mode and order Momofuku cookies. They taste 200 percent better than they look. I post a photo and Charlotte tells me to try again. Impossible because said cookie is in a digestive system.
Snack: Coconut water. "The vegan equivalent of a cheese pull," according to Charlotte.
Dinner: At this point I think I’m a real Chrissy Teigen and invite friends to my apartment for dinner because I am "making pizza."
Those who have never met a slice they didn’t like, haven’t tried this pizza. The apartment floods with smoke, arugula chars, vegan cheese turns to rubber. Tomato sauce fails to penetrate brittle whole wheat dough. I burn the evidence.
Breakfast: I start the day at by Chloe, a photo-ready vegan spot in the West Village where weekend lines often snake out the front door and around the block. The chocolate cookies by Chloe, which I have for breakfast, are made with Xanax and blogger money. Vow to eat a cookie for breakfast every day forever. Take lunch and dinner to go.
Lunch: Quinoa taco salad.
Dinner: Guac burger.
I had planned to resume normal eating after day five, but new habits have taken hold. At breakfast, cappuccino-my blogger coffee order-begs for a photo. "I feel like I waste calories when I don’t document it," Charlotte tells me. "Like why did I eat this cookie, I won’t even get any likes?" At the end of the experiment, my most liked Instagram is a salad by Chloe that I would’ve ordered pre-Blogger Diet. It’s Facetuned for the Gods and it tastes like heaven.