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Opinion Donald Trump’s diet is driven by fear. I tried it for a day

OPINION

Donald Trump's diet is driven by fear. I tried it for a day

Chris Johns experiments with eating like the most powerful man in the world, and lives to regret it

Donald Trump is drinking water in this photo, but if it were Diet Coke, it wouldn’t be his only sip that day: According to a New York Times profile earlier this month, he drinks a dozen Diet Cokes daily. Technically that’s zero calories, but it’s a lot of artificial sweeteners, and a not inconsiderable sum of sodium (480 mg). Read to the end of this column to see how much sodium Mr. Trump consumes.

Chris Johns is a Toronto-based food and travel writer.

07:22

The sun's barely up and I'm cracking my second Diet Coke of the day. Only 10 more to go if I'm going to keep pace with the President of the United States.

I don't normally drink soda first thing in the morning, because I am a grownup. Yet after reading enough about Mr. Trump's bizarre dietary habits to form a picture of his daily menu, I'm hitting the aspartame hard to get inside the mind and gut of the most powerful man in the world. I'm adopting the POTUS diet for the day.

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07:50

Mr. Trump isn't much of a breakfast guy, but when he does indulge, he claims to like burnt bacon and eggs, over hard. A metaphor for scorched-earth policies? No, his preference for overcooked food apparently stems from his lifelong germaphobia.

The bacon tastes like briquettes and the eggs are tough as pucks, but washing down this incinerated breakfast with soda No. 3, I come to a realization. If Trump is afraid of the perils of undercooked pork and runny eggs, no wonder he's afraid of other so-called threats: immigrants, Muslims, transgender people, stairs.

Two eggs over hard: 180 calories. Two strips of bacon: 86 calories.


08:52

The soda's caffeine is reacting with charred nitrates in the bacon in a weird way that fills me with the overwhelming desire to berate a lackey. I look around, but fortunately, my three-year-old is at daycare.


10:08

Meet a friend at a little neighbourhood café, the kind of place where the origin of the coffee beans is listed on the menu. I order a Diet Coke. The server looks at me with disdain, a look I imagine Mr. Trump entertains often.

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12:25

Lunch: the meal I've been dreading most. We've known for a long time about Mr. Trump's penchant for fast food but now, according to Corey Lewandowski's new book, we know his actual McDonald's order: two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish and a chocolate shake. I tally up 2,500 calories, more than 3,500 milligrams of sodium and nearly $30 – advanced math POTUS hasn't tackled, or he'd be scared of this meal, too.

Politically, such a meal conveys an everyman accessibility, but in Trumpian style, he makes it grotesque by ordering cheap fast food in such obscene amounts that a meal becomes as expensive as frog legs at Jean Georges. Fran Lebowitz was right: "Donald Trump is a poor person's idea of what it's like to be a rich person."

Mr. Lewandowski claims Mr. Trump eats this monstrous meal without the buns, as if that's going to help matters. But the gesture is indecent: a Big Mac outside of its bun looks like a turtle without its shell. The fish is a wilting brown tile with an obscene splat of tartar sauce. I tackle it with a knife and fork, as Mr. Trump reportedly only uses his tiny hands for grabbing French fries, Doritos and … well, mostly those things.

I'm in a kind of fugue state by the time I get halfway through the second Big Mac and can barely remember the second Filet-O-Fish. The empty sucking sound of the straw running out of shake is music to my ears. I feel as if I've just eaten a welcome mat, my body being wrung out from the inside. The right side of my face goes cold. I'm angry. I literally have to lie down for a while. I barely have the energy to send a deranged, sexist, misspelled tweet.

Two Big Macs: 1,080 calories. Two McDonald’s Filets-o-Fish: 820 calories. One chocolate milkshake: 530 calories.


15:27

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I'd forgotten about the Diet Cokes for a minute. Just caught sight of one of the waiting cans and my mouth feels like it will never get clean. This must be what Jared Kushner's conscience feels like.


15:28

I've decided Mr. Trump's 12-Diet-Cokes-a-day story is fake news. It can't be done. It's just too much liquid, more than four litres. My belief is that 12 times a day, Mr. Trump hammers on the infamous soda button on his desk and commands one of his flunkies – Mike Pence, or Reince Priebus and Chris Christie back in the day – to bring him a soda. He takes a couple sips (the first few sips, at peak fizz, are the best anyway), and lets the rest go stale, a flagrant waste of resources that further adds to the humiliation of his lickspittles.


16:45

Much like the current presidency, at this point, I just want the torture to end.


19:20

Dinner: Eagle-eyed observers of Mr. Trump's dining habits have noted that his order at his hotel in Washington is an aged New York strip doused with ketchup. We also know that the menu at Mar-a-Lago features "Mr. Trump's Wedge Salad": iceberg lettuce with Roquefort, cherry tomatoes, bacon (yes, more bacon!) and red onion. Time magazine reported in May that for dessert, Mr. Trump likes chocolate cream pie, which he enjoys with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, while his guests get one.

I'm not hungry, but I've never looked forward to a wedge salad more. The sweet relief of vegetables is exhilarating, even if the creamy sauce and iceberg lettuce does induce a flashback to this afternoon's denuded Big Macs.

The steak, so overdone and hard it rocks on the plate, is bone dry and tough as nails. Admittedly, the ketchup does add some much-needed moisture, but the condiment's cloying stickiness, in combination with the few slugs of Diet Coke I manage to get down, sets my teeth on edge. Dessert arrives like a threat. The chocolate and sugar onslaught is positively oppressive at this point. There's still half a scoop left, but I have to stop or I'm going to invoke my own Global Gag Rule.

One wedge salad: Calorie count will vary depending on portion size and ingredients, but assuming a medium-sized salad let’s say 360. One seven-ounce steak strip: 250 calories.


23:12

Despite eating about three days' worth of calories, I feel empty inside. This is the diet of a spoiled eight-year-old with impulse-control issues. It is a diet driven by fear. Fear of the new. Fear of the unfamiliar. Fear of the different. As for any pleasure it affords, it is the cheapest type of pleasure imaginable: sweet, soft, literally saccharine.

Beyond the simple fact that eating this way is incredibly unhealthy, it also suggests a kind of ignorance and refusal to acknowledge the fact-based evidence that obscene amounts of sugar, fat and salt are not good for a person. Maybe Trump thinks obesity and heart disease are hoaxes invented by the Chinese.

After a day of eating like POTUS, I feel awful, I feel vaguely sick and I definitely feel regretful. I feel almost … American.


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