I Ate Only Pasta for a Week and I Thrived

Life & Love


Go ahead, open any social media app, what do you see? A meme about failed resolutions? A political rant? Fit Tea (#spon)?

For me, as the festering year that was 2017 came to a close, I noticed an uptick in detox posts. Friends, family, and social media strangers were extolling the benefits of cleanses and fasts that would Kirakira+ their bodies, minds, and balance their gut flora. All of a sudden, 2018 was shaping up to be the year of intermittent fasting, gluten-free diets, dairy-free Halo Top, and taking down the patriarchy.

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And, for a brief moment, I bought into it. Not the patriarchy part (still into smashing that), but cleansing.

To understand how scary this is, here’s a little about me—I’m fastidiously against anything that implies eating is bad (barring allergies, illness, etc.). Want to alienate me? Tell me something has “too many calories.” It doesn’t take a stable genius to know cookies have calories and that those calories are delicious. Food, to me, is about community and celebration, not anxiety and calorie counting. Having first-hand experience with an eating disorder in my teenage years, it comes as no surprise that women are particularly besieged by disordered eating.

So, for me to consider a traditional detox, something that hasn’t been proven effective for anything other than temporary weight loss, I knew the food police had gotten to me.

Waving 2017 goodbye, I decided in 2018 I would start fresh and go on an elimination diet. Everyone from my mother to my close friends have had opinions on what I eat, and maybe they were right. Perhaps my high gluten, carb, and dairy diet was holding me back. Maybe my skin would glow, perhaps I’d be more mentally acute, or, as one person noted, maybe my back pain would go away.

Except, my elimination diet would be a little different. I didn’t want to cut out the food I eat every day. Instead of nixing “the bad foods,” I’d do the opposite. I’d only eat pasta for a week. Surely if gluten, carbs, and dairy were clogging up my insides I’d feel awful, sluggish, and potentially (gasp) gain weight by the end of the week?

Why pasta?

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    Cleanse Rules:

    • Zoodles aren’t pasta. They’re zoodles.
    • Scurvy can’t be contracted within the span of a week, so on this cleanse, I will stick to pastas the way they were intended (i.e. I can’t have a bowl of broccoli with a sad, singular linguini flopped on top).
    • No alcohol and no coffee.
    • No calorie counting. I’d eat when I was hungry and have breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
    • No extra working out. I work out on average 3-4 times a week.
    • Only pasta! Nearly every country has a version of pasta. While Chinese cuisine invented noodles, for this cleanse, I will focus on how Americans typically refer to pasta, the Italian way. What’s the Italian way?

      Designed by Mia Feitel

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      Let’s dig in.


      Day 1:

      Mood: Starring role in the indie reboot—Requiem for Caffeine

      I woke up early, motivated, and decided that I wouldn’t make just any pasta, I’d make a breakfast pasta. Brimming with energy and life (caffeine withdrawal takes hours to slowly chip away at your soul) I concocted a wilted kale pesto and yogurt orecchiette which was delicious. I left my apartment feeling invincible. This did not last long.

      Eating pasta with a healthy fasting tea is one of the more logical things to happen to me. Pasta cleanse day 1. Started by making a kale yogurt pesto (see, health!) I saw a similar recipe for this on @food52 but like with most things in life, I was too lazy to look it up at 6AM and winged it (trying to not drink coffee this time). Was delicious. • What you need: • 🌿 1 bunch (about one cups) of kale, chop it/no stems! • 🍝 1 onion chopped • 🍝 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped • 🌰 handfull of almonds… you’ve seen me hold sandwiches so whatever that is • 🧀 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese • 🍋 Juice of 1 lemon • 🍝 Kosher salt and pepper • 🍝 2 tablespoons olive oil • 🍝 1/4 cups olive oil • 👂 1 cup dry orecchiette pasta • 💦 1/4 cup pasta water • 🥛 2 teaspoons of yogurt What you need to do: • You only need a few tablespoons of this pesto so you’ll have enough for at least 4-6 bowls. It tastes amazig so I would recommend doubling the recipe and freezing half. • Start by dicing your onion and plopping in a pan with a nice healthy glog of olive oil. While that’s cooking, smash your garlic. Throw it in. Remove stems from kale and chop, add that in and cook it down until the onions are sweating (maybe a little brown) and the kale is cooked. Throw in a food processor and blitz a few times. Add your almonds and olive oil (the 1/4 cup). Blitz again. Toss in your almonds. Blitz. Toss in your lemon juice, salt, pepper, you guessed it, blitz. Remove from food processor and stir in your cheese. • In your saucepan (that’s right, not a pot), fill with water and put your pasta in. Let it simmer stirring often. If the pasta is starting to have no water (i.e. not able to cook) add a cup and bring to a simmer again. You don’t want the orecchiette fully submerged but you do want them to be about halfway submerged. When the pasta is very al dente (about three minutes), and the pasta is about halfway submerged in water, add your pesto and cook down so the pasta is fully coated in the stuff. When you’re done take the pan off the heat. Add a dollop of yogurt. Mix. Serve with another dollop of pesto. #eeeeeats #bonappetit #foodandwine #feedfeed #bareaders #f52grams #pastacleanse

      A post shared by Charlotte Palermino (@charlotteparler) on

      Cutting out coffee, when you’ve had six shots of espresso daily for over a decade, is predictably a terrible idea. First lesson of the cleanse: keep expectations for yourself low.

      In an attempt to ignore the searing pain that was beginning to spread to my jaw, I left early for lunch at Spaghetti Incident. Perhaps carbs and subzero temperatures would distract me.

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      My spaghetti and meatballs were delicious, but, it didn’t solve the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal which evolved to manifest a fun new symptom—short term memory loss. I ended up in Harlem when I meant to go to midtown.

      For dinner, I went to Scampi with a fellow foodie friend of mine, Jeremy. Let us all take a minute to bless Jeremy for ordering as I could barely string a sentence together that didn’t contain the words “I miss coffee.” Thankfully, the carbs were delightful and day one, other than the headache and memory thing, was a breeze.


      Day 2:

      Mood: I’m a runner now?

      Woke up feeling like a pile of New York City trash that’s been left to cook on a steamy July afternoon. When my eyes wouldn’t focus I came to the realization that I’m either allergic to pasta or I’m completely caffeine dependent. Because I’m still deluding myself as to the extent of my addiction, I soldiered on.

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      Hoping a workout would clear my head, I attempted Sweat with Bec. Limited mental capacity and the MTA generally being awful, I missed the class and went to the gym instead. Typically I avoid treadmills after an unfortunate incident involving me and a hand towel but today, I had energy, and I wanted to warm up.

      I ran for 60 minutes. I’ve never done this before.

      Post run, I went to Gaia Italian Café and met with the owner, Gaia. Feeling high off my run I refused coffee and had a traditional Genoese pasta. I’d heard a lot about the owner, but after spending an hour here I wanted to become her pasta apprentice. She summarized why eating what makes you feel good is important.

      “Food is life. It impacts your mood, how you treat other people, your skin, your biology, food feeds your soul! You shouldn’t feel bad about good food.”

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      I’ll be embroidering this on a pillow.

      Feeling high on carbs, good advice, and multiple “alloras,” I spent the next hour in bliss.

      The rest of the day, quite frankly, was a haze. Whether it was the coffee or pasta overloading, my expert application Touche Eclat didn’t hide my exhaustion. I heard on no less than three occasions that I looked “so tired.”

      Trudging through my day I had rigatoni and offal for lunch and an amazing ravioli from Lighthouse in the evening, but my brain was completely fried. Little did I know caffeine withdrawal can last for days. Wanting to make a shakshuka pasta in the morning, one of the incredible owners of Lighthouse, Naama Tamir, was kind enough to scrounge up some leftovers.

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      Day 3: Hump day

      Mood: More confident than Steve Bannon endorsing Roy Moore

      Charlotte Palermino

      Waking up irritable, tired, and in pain, I caved. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. At this point, I was skewing the scientific results of my “cleanse.” In the name of a clean data set, I housed three cups of coffee. Within 20 minutes I became convinced every Disney song wasn’t about finding love or self-fulfillment but about coffee. Everything good starts with coffee. Defeat tasted great. I washed down the coffee with a bizarre avocado pasta that was marginally successful.

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      Little did I know hump day was going to be the best day. I had not one, but two transcendental carb experiences at some of the most lauded pasta establishments in the five boroughs—Vic’s and Lilia.

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      Hillary Sterling’s Cacio e Pepe inspired me to compare my experience to a medal-winning Olympic performance and Lilia’s carbs were so on point I demanded leftovers which I ate walking home. Missy Robbin’s ravioli proved two things to me—carbs can be the classiest plate in town and pasta doesn’t always need a fork when you have two functioning hands.


      Day 4

      Mood: Thirstier than the thirstiest thirst trap

      Waking up from whatever manic pasta dream I had involving Vic’s and Lilia, I was parched. While I eat out a lot—something that’s quite common in New York—the metric tons of parmesan I was adding to everything probably didn’t help.

      After five glasses of H20, and a healthy dose of paranoia around bathroom situations on my commute, I was out the door and forgot to eat my breakfast carbonara.

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      I had a pretty busy day and decided I would use the beautiful kitchen that no one at the office seemed to use. Turns out, there’s a good reason. If machines ever take over I won’t be the hero that saves the world… I’ll still be busy trying to turn on this stove.

      Starving at this point, I quickly apologized to every generation of Italians in my family and microwaved it. From the egg to the shakshuka to the pasta. I want to say it was bad, but Lighthouse’s base managed to salvage the mess I made.

      Charlotte Palermino

      Sorry grandma, grandpa, all the Palerminos.

      It’s at this point I realize I have too much energy. Whether it was the reintroduction of caffeine or the carbs, I can’t say, but I suddenly wanted to run instead of walk. This is frowned upon in office settings. I settled for speed walking to Carbone for dinner, approximately 40 blocks. Meeting my friend Heeseung, she obliged my pasta cleanse and we ordered the spicy rigatoni and vongole. Aside from the staff giving us about a million free cookies that I had to mantra myself out of eating, the pasta at Carbone was predictably delicious.

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      Day 5:

      Mood: Why isn’t this water working?

      Maybe it’s the gratitude of having coffee back in my life, maybe it’s the carbs, but I felt great on carbs, cheese, and carbs. I had energy, no back-pain, no lethargy, I felt like this was all too good to be true, that the other shoe would drop and that shoe, for me, would be all my teeth falling out of my face from malnutrition.

      However, dampening my mood, was the fact that 30 glasses of water a day did nothing to quench my thirst.

      Scarfing down some leftover Vic’s and Lighthouse, I met Tyler from ELLE.com to take a quick picture with one of my favorite dishes, bucatini all’amatriciana from Maialino. The trick with this pasta is you cook the guanciale first, then reduce the tomato sauce in it, then finish off your bucatini it. Extra points if you try to look cute without getting sauce all over your face (I didn’t get extra points).

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      Tyler Joe

      I wonder if gluten gave me the glow up.

      One of Tyler’s first comments to me was how good my skin looks so not only do I instantly become a fan of Tyler, but I wonder if gluten gave me the glow up.

      Realizing I haven’t worked out much this week, I decided to double headline workouts going to Sweat with Bec and Sweat Yoga. Never, in my life, have I double worked out. I’m more of a double-double kind of girl. I breezed through both classes and felt like an athlete. Typically, I’ll flop out of a class but I was bouncing off the walls ready to take on more pasta.

      For dinner, I went to the classic Lil’ Frankie’s and ordered three kinds of pasta with one of my best friends, Britt. Ordering simple penne pomodoro, broccoli spaghetti, and gorgonzola spinach gnocchi, Britt also ordered a salad. I really, really wanted a bite of the salad, which made me (and Britt) sad. Luckily, Lil’ Frankie’s vibe is that of a house party you’re not cool enough to get into. The fun we had was enough for me to forget I was craving crudité and a tumbler of red wine.

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      Day 6

      Mood: Embracing my inner Sophia Loren

      Waking up with a smile on my face, I finally understood Sophia Loren’s famous quote; “everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” You apparently can go clear with carbs.

      Kirk Douglas scoops up some spaghetti and Sophia Loren is obviously delighted. New York, New York, June 1958.

      Getty ImagesPeter Stackpole

      After thanking the patron saint of spaghetti for my good fortune and sound digestive tract I made a quick linguini with butter, garlic, basil, and lemon before heading out for the day.

      Visiting one of the best spots in New York for fresh pasta, I stopped by Un Posto Italiano and stared at two gluten gods lovingly make a few of their signature pastas.

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      Getting a box of their best-selling chitarrina—a thin, squared off noodle made with re-milled semolina flour and organic egg—I made my way to Larina where I discovered smoked noodles. Inspired by a trip to Napa, Silvia Barban used some seriously delicious dark arts to concoct this pasta.

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      I finished the second-to-last day of my cleanse at Barano, a spot I typically go to for their mozzarella. Turns out, they were one of the of the best meals of my journey.

      The hot Cheetos looking pasta was one of the biggest surprises of the cleanse—Saffron Gigli with Calabrian Honey, Pecorino, Black Pepper.

      Charlotte Palermino

      With two of my favorite people, Vanessa and Keisha, we managed to polish off nine plates. Even though we were all incubating pasta babies, we were having too much fun for the night to end and ended up out at Trophy Bar until 2AM. At this point, even hearing a cocktail shaker triggers a Pavlovian response, but the good thing with carbs is it does give you energy and stamina to hang while aggressively seat dancing.


      Day 7

      Mood: I’m over it, someone give me a fibrous substance

      It took a while, but waking up on Sunday, I just wanted a leaf. Or a piece of bark. Perhaps a root. Anything but pasta. Having already failed on the coffee front I was determined to see the day through and met a friend at Osteria Morini.

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      The funny thing about pasta is even when I got sick of it, after the first bite, my body became ready. Doesn’t hurt that Osteria Morini had a killer Bolognese ragu and an egg stuffed raviolo. For a fleeting moment—it felt like brunch.

      In the final hours of my cleanse, which at this point I was officially done with, I went to Rucola with two friends. The manager, John, commended me on my “pasta fast” and, like with all good meals with good friends, we laughed, we ate, and we made some memories.

      Funny how friends help you forget the glass of nebbiolo you were craving all day.

      I’d done what many thought was impastable, I thrived

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      At midnight, I met another friend at my favorite bar in Brooklyn, we got two Vieux Carrés, I ate four chocolate chip amaretti cookies from Rucola (thanks John!), and I thought about the chitarrina sitting in my fridge.

      The week was over, I’d done what many thought was impastable, I thrived.


      Takeaways:

      The science behind cleansing and detoxing is dubious, but you shouldn’t eat pasta for a week. After speaking with Isabel K Smith, MS RD CDN, she explained that “our bodies do a pretty good job of detoxing themselves.” She went on to note that certain fiber filled foods can help improve “detoxing” in addition to lots of water and that generally, your body needs nutrients no matter what you’re doing, so, fasting for long periods of time, or extended juice cleanses aren’t a great idea.

      Everyone should get to know the pasta community in New York. From artisan pasta makers to the chefs that fed me, it’s clear in this part of the world people take food seriously and I’m grateful to have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world.

      It’s not the food group, it’s how it’s made. While I wouldn’t recommend eating only pasta for a week, part of the reason I felt fine could be attributed to the fact that I was eating high quality products. Smith notes that you start to get into trouble when you’re eating processed foods and gluten. As Antonio from Un Posto Italiano explained, the way you mill the flour also matters. If you are using an industrial method that crushes the grain to powder, it loses a lot of its natural components. Gently milling it, like their flour is, maintains the integrity of the grain.

      Everyone is different. How healthy you are, your portions, how your body processes food, and your age all impact how you feel. I didn’t exhibit any signs of gluten intolerance or celiac (both of which are very real and terrifying), and was for the most part reasonable in my portions, but that doesn’t mean everyone can down a few bowls of pasta and go for a five-mile run.

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      Weight loss. So, did I lose weight? Yes, of course I did. Restricting your diet, cutting out alcohol, and not snacking led to me shedding over five pounds in a week (two of which I’ve already gained back, I love a negroni).

      My biggest learning? Stop listening to social media and focus more on how you feel after eating. Just because your friend feels bloated after a baguette doesn’t mean you do. If negative feelings around food crop up because of someone’s post or comment, maybe it’s time to put the internet away, go for a walk, and pick up a bowl of pasta.

      It also might be time to ditch those that food shame. After a week of incredible food and friends I was reminded that a good meal brings people together and allows for memorable conversations and laughs. While most detoxes and cleanses are isolating, the pasta cleanse brought me closer to old friends and I’ve acquired new ones.

      I don’t recommend the pasta cleanse. If anything it made me even more dubious of detoxes. But, one thing’s for sure, I feel great after pasta, particularly when it’s shared with someone I love. And, it might not be for everyone, but I’ll be aging gracefully with gluten, and a glass (or two) of wine.



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