A few weeks ago, I asked my little sister if she had ever heard of vagina steaming.
She isn’t the most pop-culture-savvy 19-year-old, but even for her, “vagina steaming” is synonymous with the name Gwyneth. Last year, Gwyneth Paltrow touted its alleged restorative benefits on her lifestyle website, goop, and was widely ridiculed for suggesting women should spend 50 bucks to blow hot steam on their lady parts.
This wasn’t the first (or last) time the actress and lifestyle guru’s advice was subject to scrutiny. She’s known for her hybrid vegan, gluten-free, macrobiotic diet, she indulges in many holistic healing and detoxifying treatments that fall into a scientific gray area, and she frequently recommends outrageously expensive products (think $185 bobby pins and $45 socks).
But skepticism from science experts and fans hasn’t stopped the star. Her 2013 cookbook, It’s All Good ($20; amazon.com) was a New York Times Best Seller, and her follow-up, It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook ($20; amazon.com) comes out April 12. She also recently released a much-ballyhooed organic skin and beauty line with Juice Beauty. And the goop brand, as far as anyone can tell, is thriving.
So as polarizing as Paltrow’s lavish, all-natural, spa-heavy lifestyle may be, a lot of people are taking her advice to heart—and for a week, I did too. (No, this is not a tale of getting my you-know-what steamed—that’s actually one of the 5 Things You Definitely Should Not Be Doing to Your Vagina.) I walked away with hydrated skin, an offensively expensive grocery bill, a slightly tighter tush, the stomach flu, and the urge to mail Paltrow a handwritten apology letter.
Here’s why I semi-loved the Paltrow life, for better or worse.
First step to channeling Gwyneth: meal prep—which I knew would be a huge challenge, because I’m pretty clueless in the kitchen and I rarely craft meals that take longer than 15 to 20 minutes. I decided to roughly follow the 2016 goop Detox as a jumping off point. I switched out certain recipes and relied on leftovers to save myself time and money, and I also adjusted for personal pickiness (curry, yuck) with alternative dishes from goop or It’s All Good.
My boyfriend helped me with grocery shopping at Whole Foods. Several embarrassing Google searches later—Is Himalayan sea salt the same as regular salt? What does miso look like? Where can you buy Moon Juice?—we emerged $146 poorer, sans Moon Juice.
When we got home, I put him to work on the salmon burgers, which required skinning the fish and putting it in the blender. I opted to keep my hands fish-gut-free and bake instead. I took a stab at these zucchini and carrot muffins, made primarily from gluten-free baking mix and applesauce.
The end result: dinner was divine. The salmon burgers were filling and flavorful, and the side salad crunchy and light. And with an extra few teaspoons of cinnamon, the zucchini bites were…edible.
To wrap up the evening, I drew myself a hot bath. I hate baths; I overheat quickly and see no value in pruning in my own filth. But Paltrow takes one every night with Epsom salts. (On the plus side, it’s a Health-approved move; a soothing bath is a known stress-reliever.)
The 6 minutes I lasted weren’t awful, to my surprise.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with avocado on Ezekiel bread
Lunch: Grilled chicken with steamed bok choy
Dinner: Five-spice salmon burgers with Asian detox salad
Paltrow revealed on goop that her new year’s resolution is to meditate more. I woke a few minutes earlier than usual to try it myself. I didn’t have high hopes that I’d find Zen; I get antsy quickly, and I’m not good at letting go of nervous thoughts. But it was still worth a shot: Mindfulness meditation has been linked to lowering blood pressure, easing anxiety, and even aiding digestion. My coworker recommended the Meditation Studio by Gaiam app, which features a 5-minute practice for beginners. It took some major concentration to get through those 300 seconds.
Breakfast called for GP’s morning “smoothie.” The quotation marks should have been warning enough that Gwyneth’s version of a smoothie would be nothing like the fruity, frosty ones most of us enjoy. I skimmed the recipe with horror: it called for several ingredients I’d never heard of, including vanilla mushroom protein powder, cordyceps (?), and sex dust (?!). And that’s when I finally realized what Moon Juice is: it’s a company that sells organic juices, milks, and snacks, as well as supplements and several “dusts” meant to be mixed into cold or hot liquid. Moon Juice’s products are sold in the goop Shop and on moonjuiceshop.com. I placed an order for each of the tiny, expensive jars required for this recipe, and had the chia pudding recommended in the detox for breakfast instead. At first, the mixture looked gloppy and gray. The reality? It was so yummy and dessert-like that I went to bed excited to make it again.
Eating like Gwyneth obviously tried my patience, but when it came time to sweat like Gwyneth, I felt back in my element. She has been a Tracy Anderson loyalist for nearly a decade, taking five to six classes with the fitness guru each week. For the unfamiliar, Anderson is a fitness instructor (and a Health contributor!) whose method builds long, lean muscles through dance-inspired cardio and toning exercises. Being a former dancer myself, I was dying to try it out, so I signed up for a 7 p.m. class.
I took a spot in the front, introduced myself to the instructor, and followed along. Tracy Anderson teachers don’t talk during the class—you hear nothing but good music. Space heaters warm the room, where chic clients dance in unison like a music video. Even as a total newbie, I was immediately hooked. I left feeling a gentle soreness in every mini muscle and forced myself into another lavender bath before bed.
Breakfast: Chia pudding
Lunch: Soba noodle salad with grilled chicken
Dinner: Leftover salmon burgers with Asian detox salad
RELATED: 15 Gluten-Free Recipes
“TRACY ANDERSON” flashed on my cellphone screen when my alarm went off at 6. I dragged myself out of bed, heated up a cup water, stirred in fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds, then booted up my laptop while my beverage cooled. Normally I hate tea—I think it tastes like warm, dirty pond water. But this DIY breakfast beverage was mild enough that the flavor didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it was energizing.
But it didn’t top the energy I had after doing a Tracy Anderson workout from the comfort of my studio apartment. I pulled ankle weights from my drawer of workout gadgets and streamed the online master class. Now I really felt like a badass—it was only 7 a.m. and I had hot tea, a workout, and soon enough, GP’s morning “smoothie” already checked off my to-do list.
Yep, the Moon Juice holistic supplements had arrived. The smoothie on the website appeared light and creamy, and I was excited to finally try it myself.
…until I tried it myself.
The powders were messy, brown, and smelled like cardboard. My kitchen counter looked like the aftermath of a science project, which made sense because the smoothie tasted like a science project. I plugged my nose, forced the rest down, and sponged up the Brain Dust residue before getting ready for work.
A stale, lingering aftertaste stayed with me until later that day, when a special delivery from our assistant beauty editor arrived at my desk: a colorful selection of makeup and skincare products from Gwyneth’s collaboration with Juice Beauty. Being the makeup minimalist that I am, I saved the foundations and funky lip shades for later, and played it safe with a sheer gloss. The Naked hue instantly became my go-to. It was smooth, non-sticky, and I didn’t feel like I needed a layer of lip balm underneath.
Dinner was cauliflower risotto, followed by a meditation session and another in-and-out dip in the tub. Then it hit me: these goop recipes had been time-consuming to prep, but hey, I did it—and they’d mostly turned out delicious, save for the “smoothie.” And the baths, filth and all, were beginning to feel like a mini reward after a long day. I started keeping pouches of seeds in my desk drawer to make tea at work. Having morning and night me-time made me feel like 140 bucks. (Actually, that’s just how much the goop by Juice Beauty replenishing night cream costs.) I was catching the goop fever.
Breakfast: GP’s morning smoothie
Lunch: Leftover soba noodle salad with grilled chicken
Dinner: Cauliflower and spinach risotto
My alarm went off at 5:45 with a reminder note that I had a Tracy Anderson class at 7. My body felt achy and stiff—residual effects of late-night meal prepping and crack-of-dawn living room workouts, I assumed.
An hour later I had settled into a spot in the heated studio, donning zebra-print leggings and a red tank. But today the ankle weights felt really heavy. My temples pounded to the music. The heat felt nauseating.
Suddenly, as I extended my leg behind me one of Tracy’s classic butt-busting moves, I was sure I was about to throw up. I picked myself up off the floor, weights still Velcroed around my ankles, and took a spot on the bench outside the studio door with my head between my legs.
“Especially hard routine this week?” asked the girl at the front desk.
“I think I’m just overheated,” I muttered.
I slogged through the final 20 minutes before making my way to the office. I had just enough time to hit my regular gym that’s in the building to use the sauna—a page from Paltrow’s recovery playbook—and to take a shower. (There’s some research that suggests saunas may help ease cold and flu symptoms, but my one-time effort was certainly not enough to prove that to be true. Plus, no one wants to sit near a sweaty, sick person.) A quick rinse, blow dry, coating of Juice gloss later, I settled at my desk with a chia bowl and cup of tea and powered through my day job.
When lunch rolled around, I took one look at the slimy, sushi-like nori wraps staring at me from my Tupperware. Me? No appetite? Blasphemy. This never happens. Something was up. The rest of the day felt like a blur before I could finally head home and curl up in a feverish fetal position until the morning.
Breakfast: Chia pudding
Lunch: Kimchi and chicken nori wraps
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I trudged through another day like I was straight out of the Walking Dead. Against my better judgement, I still went to work. I bailed on the meal plan and packed plastic snack bags of saltines instead. Nine long hours later, I arrived home, found my candy-cane print Christmas pajama pants, and fell asleep.
The sound of my iPhone jingle startled me awake. It was my doorman calling.
“June’s here,” he said.
“I don’t know a June.”
“O.K., should I tell June to leave?”
“Can you ask her why she’s here?”
“She says she’s the nurse.”
There’s a trendy service called a “vitamin IV infusion” that celebrities pay for that purportedly makes skin glow, provides an energy boost, eases sore muscles, and cures hangovers. And it’s exactly what it sounds like (aside from complete BS): A nurse comes to your home and inserts an IV with a vitamin and antioxidant concoction into your arm, and you sit there on the couch while it drips into your bloodstream.
Well, Gwyneth does it. It sounds crazy, but as long as a a real MD is in charge, it’s unlikely to cause you any harm and may make you feel a little better. Minimal sleuthing earlier in the week led me to the company she uses, The I.V. Doc. I spoke to a doctor over the phone, scheduled a home visit from a registered nurse—and there I was days later.
The embarrassment of introducing myself to Nurse June in PJ bottoms and an oversized sorority t-shirt quickly subsided when I realized the next 45 minutes could be the stomach-flu miracle I’d been hoping for.
“JUNE! Yes, send her up,” I said before scurrying to make my bed and change the channel. (Jason Segel’s nude scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was on TV.)
I heard a knock and greeted June at the door. Mary Poppins-style, she pulled an extendable IV drip out of a black bag and set it up next to the couch.
“I’m squeamish with needles,” I warned her before offering up every detail of my tummy woes.
All smiles, June listened intently while she checked my blood pressure and hooked up the IV. “This will be good for you. This is all about hydration,” she assured. “This is a bag of electrolytes and water, and I’m adding an antioxidant, and vitamins C and B12.”
“So you’re putting a Gatorade in my arm?”
She laughed, but it was a serious question.
Things were going smoothly for several minutes—until all of a sudden I felt warm. Then hot. Then all of the hairs on my arms stood up. “You’re looking a little flushed,” June said calmly. “Look away from the IV and take a deep breath.”
The feeling passed. I had a slight vasovagal reaction, she explained, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to drop as a response to certain triggers (like blood or needles, for me). We moved on to talking about life and work, and Nurse June assured me I wasn’t the only one who’d ever experienced a dizzy, light-headed feeling during the treatment. (A former Miss America contestant almost took a woozy spill recently while getting an infusion, she said, without naming names.)
Whether it was the infusion or my pal June, I stopped shivering, found myself chatty and giggly, and fell asleep that night. I didn’t wake up once with stomach pains.
I didn’t want to feel better after the infusion, simply out of stubbornness and the fact that I have little faith in pseudosciencey, A-list wellness treatments. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wake up feeling 100% better. Maybe it was all in my head (more likely, it was just a 24-hour bug)—but whatever it was helped me do a 180 from how I’d felt on day 5.
I plugged my nose through another smoothie and experimented with taking a bath before work. I brought some life back to my face with the enriching face oil, topped with Juice foundation, a little mascara, and a brighter pink lip.
I even felt well enough to stream another Tracy Anderson master class, although I skipped the cardio portion for fear of diving back in too quickly. In order to spoil myself just a little bit more, I made coconut flour pancakes that were just plain enough to be gentle on my digestive system, but still fluffy and satiating.
Breakfast: GP’s morning “smoothie”
Lunch: Chicken noodle soup
Dinner: Coconut flour pancakes
As I toasted the final hours with a dinner of Gwyneth’s favorite slow-cooked turkey ragu and a dirty vodka martini, it hit me that there’s some good in the Paltrow health scripture. I did feel, er, detoxified, and not at all deprived. I felt energized, sans stomach bug. I felt exhausted, yet accomplished, after sticking to a routine.
Sure, Gwyneth Paltrow may occasionally come off as tone deaf or insensitive. (See: “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.”) Her extravagant wellness regimen and expensive, in-depth cooking style is far from realistic for someone with a traditional full-time job and salary. Her practices aren’t always medically sound. But I already planned on the salmon burgers making an encore in my dinner repertoire in the upcoming week. Another batch of Chia pudding was gelatinizing in the fridge. I was thrilled that my Tracy Anderson online subscription would last a month.
Before I kicked off the week I put a quote from Paltrow on my fridge: “I’m all goop all the time, baby. For better or worse.”
Well, I’ll never be Gwyneth Paltrow—but I’m all right living with just a smidgen of goop in me (baby), for better or worse. Just take everything with a grain of Himalayan sea salt.