Life in the Kitchen

Here's What I Learned After Eating Nothing but Pizza for Seven Straight Days

Image Credit: Lauren Naefe/Stocksy

I was a college sophomore when I met my hairdresser. He was an up-and-coming salon superstar, a hair-show headliner with a nationwide fan base. I was a 19-year-old whose unfortunate interpretation of 'The Rachel' made her look like your least stylish aunt. He changed that, and he's the only reason why I no longer share a hairstyle with someone who could tell you where to buy a nice pair of slacks.

Since I never escaped the mid-sized Southern city where I attended school, my relationship with him has lasted well into my 30s, outliving the relationships I've had with everyone except my immediate family and Law & Order: SVU. It's an understatement to say that we've gotten to know each other well, so at my last appointment, when he spun my chair around and said "I have a serious question for you," I was concerned.

He took a deep breath, while I anxiously smoothed out the wrinkles in the bleach-proof vinyl cape I'd been covered with. "Okay, here goes," he said. "If you were stuck on a deserted island, and could only have one record, one movie, and one food, what would you take?" I was stunned into silence, not because of the question, but mostly because I was trying to figure out the logistics of finding electrical outlets on a remote island.

"Hello?" he said, interrupting my intense internal debate about whether the warmth of an original vinyl pressing would be worth the constant hassle of brushing sand off the record's surface.

"Okay, I'd take Ziggy Stardust, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and supreme pizza."

He was shocked. "Pizza?"

I nodded, because clearly it's the perfect food. A well-prepared supreme pie has all four food groups; it's the best possible combination of ingredients, and finishing one always gives me a sense of satisfaction that I assume people with athletic abilities feel when they manage to finish a bike race or make a complicated U-turn without pulling a muscle.

Here's What I Learned After Eating Nothing but Pizza for Seven Straight Days

Regardless, I left the salon determined to prove that yes, pizza is the perfect food and decided that the best way to illustrate that would be by eating nothing but pizza for a full week. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner — all pizza. I was excited and nervous, but not completely overwhelmed. You see, even on the best days, my diet is ... problematic; I live on a combination of frozen, pre-packaged foods, cereals with cartoon characters on the front panel, and Wendy's. Seven days of pizza? No problem.

Image Credit: Jelisa Castrodale

Monday

I weighed myself before eating anything this morning, not because I'm being ultra-scientific in this approach but because I've read all of the Bridget Jones books. I fully intended to start early, washing down a mouthful of cheese and cured meats with a mug full of coffee, but work and deadlines got in the way. So Pizza Week didn't officially begin until lunch, and I had to go with the quickest, most convenient option: a pair of slices from Whole Foods. I told myself that I'd eat the pepperoni slice immediately and save the second until later in the day, but that approach lasted until I'd finished chewing.

For dinner, I called in an order for two lasagna pizzas (tomato sauce, ground beef, mozzarella, ricotta), my favorite pie from my favorite local joint. I'd spent the morning staring open-mouthed and heartbroken at the news reports out of Las Vegas and, several hours later, hearing that Tom Petty had died just added to the emotional achiness that I'd felt all day.

I walked to Burke Street Pizza under an impossibly blue sky, listening to Petty's Southern Accents and trying not to fall apart. I felt the weight of everything and, when it was juxtaposed with that dazzling early evening sunlight, I didn't know whether to feel guilty for doing something as frivolous as ordering pizza, or to embrace the fact that I could.

Tuesday

When I woke up, my face was puffy, my mouth was dry, and my swollen hands both felt like catcher's mitts. All the pizza I ate yesterday might've been too much pizza. "You don't have to eat a week's worth at once," my best friend suggested, which seems like it should've been obvious, but I'm also the dumbest animal in an Aesop's fable about self-control.

I decided to try to stick to an intermittent fasting-style eating schedule, which meant I'd eat all of my meals within one eight-hour window. (I stuck with this for one eight-hour window). Today's pizza was a rerun of last night's pizza, both reheated and straight out of the box while I stood in the cool triangle between the refrigerator door and my sad collection of half-finished condiments.

Wednesday

"You should make a breakfast pizza!" one of my friends enthusiastically suggested when I told her about my week-long plan. She's also the kind of person who roasts root vegetables for fun and owns clothing in a fabric other than sweat-pant material, so no, I should not. Besides, any pizza can be a breakfast pizza, so I had an entire medium thick-crust from Domino's.

For the past few months, a group of friends and I have played Geeks Who Drink bar trivia every Wednesday night, and this week, I felt uncharacteristically thick-headed and distracted. I had a hard time focusing, and on one question I fumbled for Paul McCartney's name, even though I once went through a year-long period where I addressed all of my diary entries to Paul McCartney. (No, you're the creepy weirdo).

Also, despite literally drinking a gallon of water every day, I'm still ridiculously thirsty, and I haven't had a bowel movement since Sunday. This seems problematic.

Image Credit: Jelisa Castrodale

Thursday

I held my gummy vitamins on my tongue for a full five minutes, just because it felt like a treat to taste something that wasn't covered in tomato sauce. While brushing my teeth this morning, I noticed that my face has some new angry red architectural features that stretch from my hairline to the middle of both cheeks. Now that I have zits and forehead wrinkles, my face says "I listen to Chance the Rapper in my sick AirPods" and also "I lecture myself about the potential for hearing loss while doing so."

Eating pizza for every meal does feel like a relief, in a small way, like Steve Jobs opening his closet to find one row of neat black turtlenecks. My lunch today was the fussy Tarte aux Champignons from Trader Joe's. "You might be tempted to call it a pizza," the copy on the back of the box cheekily suggested. After eating it, I was more tempted to call the box a pizza.

My pals and I went to the Dixie Classic Fair tonight, the problematically named annual event where I usually threaten to punch anyone who volunteers to guess my age. I thought about getting pizza there — which I assumed would be deep-fried, filled with gummy worms, dusted with meth, and topped with a denim vest — but instead ate an Amish donut and an Amish pretzel prepared by an impossibly cheerful teen who apologized for making me wait five minutes for a fresh pretzel. I told myself that dough-based foods like donuts and pretzels were basically pizza, minus the toppings.

Yes, I'm full of crap. (Also literally).

Friday

My zit-studded face is still swollen. My calves are swollen. My internal organs probably look like inflatable life vests, crammed together in my abdominal cavity. Breakfast-slash-lunch was more work-warranted pizza by the slice. Dinner was the Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio, which is Italian for "You're Not Pooping Today, Either." It had both oven and microwave directions, and I shoved the entire thing into my tiny microwave because I didn't even care anymore.

Also, I love Trader Joe's and its commitment to making a pumpkin version of literally every food a human can eat, but they cannot do pizza. It all tastes like they figured out how to flash-freeze your middle school cafeteria.

Image Credit: Jelisa Castrodale

Saturday

For breakfast, I had an entire box of 365 Brand Three Cheese Mini Pizzas, which are like Bagel Bites who listen to a lot of alt-J and repeatedly interrupt you with a loud "Actually ... "

At lunch, I walked to Domino's, which is just a couple hundred yards down the street, but it felt like I was trying to finish the Iditarod, while pulling a sled filled with large dogs. Ever since about Wednesday, I've felt sluggish and unmotivated, and when I've stopped chewing long enough to go to the gym, my workouts have been lackluster, with significant decreases in both strength and endurance.

On the bright side, at this point, my descending colon could be used as structural support for an under-construction office building.

Sunday

I stared through the window on the oven, watching the cheese slowly curl around the edges of my naan pizza and wondering if this is how all of my exes felt when they realized that our respective relationships were over.

Some friends and I went to see Blade Runner 2049, and I paid attention to about 45 minutes of its 16-hour run time, because my mind was mostly stuck on how uncomfortable my lower abdomen felt, like I was carrying the Great Pumpkin to term. Afterwards, we went to Mozzarella Fellas for a celebratory (?) final pizza meal. I opted for their Southern Fellas pie, which is topped with house pimento cheese, mozzarella, bacon, beef, and crispy fried onions. I also asked for a bowl of ranch dressing to dip it in, because if this week hasn't killed me yet, I'm clearly immortal.

Final Thoughts on Pizza Week

After 20-ish straight pizzas, give or take, I'm still not quite ready to reassess my initial belief that pizza is the perfect food. I also can't think of anything that I would replace it with in that desert-island scenario. I learned that, for me, eating this volume of carbohydrates every day is not ideal for my own physical and psychological performance (although I did lose almost two pounds). I learned that there is a scenario that will make me start to crave vegetables. I learned that the Walgreens cashier will give you a discount if you look wild-eyed and overwhelmed when you're buying two large bottles of Miralax. I also learned that I'm never doing this again.

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