Warren Buffett is well known for his lowbrow brand of literal conspicuous consumption. Omaha's favorite billionaire recently joked in Fortune that he's "one quarter Coca-Cola." He estimates that he drinks five 12-ounce cans every day, often accompanied by Utz Potato Stix. He'll even have a Coke with his breakfast, which — the morning of that particular interview — consisted of chocolate chip ice cream.
The Berkshire Hathaway CEO offered a perfectly charming explanation for his unlikely eating habits. “I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among six-year-olds. So I decided to eat like a six-year-old," he said. "It’s the safest course I can take.”
Taking a page from Buffett, I decided to eat like a six-year-old on Friday: Five cans of Coke, ice cream for breakfast, and Potato Stix galore. Could I pull it off? Would it be more humiliating if I didn't, or if I did? What if my insides were to explode like the increasingly gaseous corpse of a beached whale? Is it possible to order insulin on Seamless? I had all these questions and more.
At 84, Warren Buffett is nearly 60 years my senior and, with a net worth of $72.3 billion, he's approximately $72.3 billion richer than I am. But we have this in common: My love of junk food is deep, abiding, and utterly unironic. I am wearing a cheeseburger pendant around my neck as I write these words.
Nevertheless, I was intimidated, particularly by the 60 ounces of Coca-Cola. On a normal day, when I'm not taking a cue from America's second wealthiest citizen, I'll have at most one can of Diet Coke, but Buffett's diet means getting two thirds of my recommended daily carb intake from soda.
That said, man cannot live on sugar water and potato-based snack foods alone — at least, this woman doesn't expect to. Besides my ice cream breakfast, I'd lunch on a Buffett staple: Chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and a strawberry malt, a diner meal he's shared with the likes of Jay-Z and Bill Gates. (Something told me I wouldn't need to plan on eating dinner.) In total, including the ice cream and malt, I was set to consume about 300 grams of sugar. That works out to 60 teaspoons, or a cup and a quarter. The mental image alone is enough to make me queasy.
On Thursday night, I stock up at CVS, in which Buffett's holding company was once heavily invested. Instead of Utz Potato Stix (what are those, even, and where can I buy them in bulk?), I settle for potato chips, and in the absence of chocolate chip ice cream, for chocolate chip cookie dough.
My alarm rouses me at 6:30 the next morning and I take a shower, having happily forgotten what's in store for my stomach. It's only when, on autopilot, I start to make coffee (which, like any six-year-old worth his weight in high-fructose corn syrup, Buffett abstains from) that I remember.
I fill a bowl with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, swallow a Lactaid tablet, and crack open the day's first can of Coke. I'm less than thrilled by the prospect of disappearing 64 grams of sugar down my gullet just minutes after sunrise, but it occurs to me that, if presented with this very same meal 20 years ago, I might have literally peed myself in excitement. I resolve to make the best of it.
I've got to be honest with you: Ice cream is a surprisingly pleasant breakfast. You should try it sometime. But with Coke? Not so much. I finish the can, though the sugar-on-sugar beverage pairing makes my teeth ache.
It's just below freezing when I leave my house, and with ice-cold soda instead of hot coffee sloshing around my insides, I find myself shivering on the train platform. I hadn't counted on that.
By 9:30, I'm at work, fully defrosted and ravenous. I dive right into the chips, and before I know it, I've inhaled half of them. Chips, you see, are really, really good — working with an open bag beside you is genuinely dangerous. There's a three-foot radius of potato dust around me and my keyboard is distinctly greasy, but even so, I'm in a great mood.
I start on Coke number two at 10:15 and find that I'm actively craving the chemical jolt. With my second can (each contains 34 mg of caffeine), I'm still a ways off from the 95 mg or more you might find in a single cup of coffee. The things I do for you, Warren Buffett.
But thanks to the sugar hit alone — or, okay, maybe thanks to the placebo effect — I’m surprisingly productive. The rest of the morning flies by. At noon, a well-meaning soul brings two cakes into the office for public consumption. He knows not what he does. To the extent that inanimate masses of sugar, flour, and butter are capable of unkindness, they're mocking me, I know it.
But then it hits me: No, midday cake isn't canon Buffett, but I want some, because cake is delicious. WWWBD? Eat the damn cake is what he'd do, especially if it's free. So I do, and I feel a bit sick immediately afterwards. But again, cake is delicious, so no matter.
I'm into my third soda by 1:30. This time, it's difficult to get down. I wince like it's freshman year and I'm throwing back a shot that's more kerosene than vodka. I have the beginnings of a nasty headache.
At 2:30, on my way to retrieve my lunch, I burp at a stranger. I don't relish telling you this, but that's the truth, and you should know. He holds the door open for me and I thank him, but words aren't all that come out of my mouth. In my defense, by this point, my bloodstream is itself non-negligibly carbonated. Do you think this could be what Warren Buffet's life is like, every day? After a liter of Coke, every conversation is a minefield.
I pick up the gravy-slathered chicken-fried steak (which comes not only with mashed potatoes, but glazed carrots and cornbread) from Duke's on 19th and swing by Potbelly on 17th for my strawberry malt.
There's easily 1,000 calories on that plate alone, probably more. I couldn't be further from hungry, but this food smells amazing. Of all the tempting mouth-garbage before me, there's nothing I want more than those carrots. It's like my body is begging for a shot at some actual nutrients. As much as I'd like to eat them, Buffett's disdain for vegetables is a matter of public record. WWWBD? He'd scoop this vitamin A-heavy poison right into the trash. With a heavy (and increasingly clogged) heart, that's exactly what I do.
I handily finish the mashed potatoes, the malt (chased by the day's second Lactaid pill), two thirds of the steak, and one bite of the cornbread (it's really dry, and neither Warren Buffett nor I have the time nor the stomach capacity for that) before I'm suddenly drained of all momentum. As I toss my leftovers, I realize that I'm surprisingly sweaty, despite the chilly February weather.
By 3:30, I'm sugar-crashing, hard. For the first time, I'm aware that there's a non-zero possibility of my becoming physically ill. I'm also slightly dizzy. But my biggest concern is my now throbbing headache, and the sensation that all the blood vessels in my skull are constricting tighter by the minute.
"I think my body is shutting down," I Gchat my boyfriend at 4:05.
"Add that to your story," he replies.
Oh god — the story. I'd literally forgotten what I was doing or why I was doing it, which is probably why my coworkers keep glancing over solicitously and asking how I'm feeling.
My plans for the evening fall through, which is a blessing, considering I'm ready to sleep this off under my desk. I hydrate aggressively, and after staring into space for half an hour, I miraculously get my second wind.
I finish my fourth Coke before packing up to leave, then drink the fifth (I actually enjoy this one) and polish off the remaining potato chips on the train home. I've eaten something like 3,500 calories in the span of 12 hours, yet I feel surprisingly energetic. Maybe this is the key to Buffett's dietary genius. Does he tolerate the late-afternoon slump because the vigor that follows can carry him through the night?
Turns out, not so much — at least not in my case. I make it through one and a half episodes of House of Cards before abruptly passing out at 10 p.m. I sleep for 11 hours and wake up feeling vaguely hungover. This was not meant to be.
Would I spend another day on the six-year-old diet? Unlikely. Did it do anything for my bank account? I refreshed Mint.com throughout the day, so I can tell you conclusively that it did not. Do I believe that Warren Buffett is a cyborg from the future with a custom-built titanium digestive system? I'm not ruling it out.
But I'm glad I gave it the old elementary-school try — if only because, as it turns out, there are plenty worse breakfasts than ice cream.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.