As a teenager, I was not one of those girls who mooned over magazines about their favorite celebrities, but as a grown ass woman in her forties, I am all over any article I can find about my celebrity boyfriend Jimmy Fallon, which is exactly how I nearly sent myself to the hospital after trying something called “bulletproof coffee.” I’m blaming the goddamned Internet for this one.
According to the worldwise Interwebs, my famous, future second husband, the great Mr. Fallon, drinks coffee with butter in it, and coffee with butter in it apparently fixes everything. Literally. Everything.
Are you a mess like me? Do you have a collection of old Chick-fil-a bags all over the floor of your car? Does your kid get too much screen time? Did you get passed over for that big promotion? Is your hair dry? Does your poop sink in the toilet? Because it’s supposed to float, did you know that? Is everyone else significantly hotter and better dressed than you? Obviously you have not been putting butter in your coffee, and you are a loser, and if you put butter in your coffee you can absolutely change your entire life.
One day I was messing with my phone, which is not a surprise because 95 percent of my life is spent messing with my phone. I’d like to say that I at least use my phone to read The New Yorker, but I don’t. I read lame ass articles that friends I’ve never met in real life, and distant cousins in other states share on Facebook, and this is my main source of learning what’s going on in the world at any given time. I know nothing about the growth of the economy, but I am an expert on “Eleven Little Things He Does if He’s Super Into You,” plus videos of alpacas skipping, and of course Jimmy Fallon’s beverage choices.
I am even more ashamed to admit that I am the person who reads the “suggested” articles that show up in my feed, which are actually ads, and not even stories shared by people I sort of know. That’s like the lowest form of reading that exists, and I have a terminal degree and I still read it although you’d think I should know better. I think it’s written by robots. Not that that has stopped me, obviously. Basically nothing can stop me from reading garbage, especially if it involves Jimmy Fallon. That’s how I found out that Jimmy Fallon “totally swears by” something called bulletproof coffee.
Bulletproof coffee sounds badass as hell, and I consider myself a wimp. The most badass thing I’ve ever done in my entire life is one time, when my husband was out of town, the breaker on the water heater flipped leaving me without hot water. In a death-defying feat of bravery, ignoring the terrifying buzzing sounds coming from the electrical box in my laundry room, I flipped the switch back on, thus restoring hot water to my house and saving myself from having to wash my hair in seventy-degree water. I felt like a god-damned super-hero, if that gives you any idea of how not a badass I actually am.
I can’t even program the clock on the stove after a storm, yet I long to be the sort of woman who can change a tire, although I make zero effort to learn how to do things like that because I am lazy and like to sit around and read “The Kind of Blowjob He Likes Based on His Zodiac Sign.” So if I could be a badass by doing something with as minimal effort as drinking a cup of coffee, which I did all day long anyway, and if Jimmy Fallon was all about it, well, I was in.
As far as I could google, there was nothing unpleasant about bulletproof coffee — fancy coffee beans, butter, coconut oil, and that’s it. I liked all of those things, and when I read the words “bulletproof coffee,” in my brain I heard Sia singing them to me in her pouty growl, which only added to the appeal. Obviously, this new adventure was going be nothing like the time I watched Dr. Oz at my grandmother’s house in rural Delaware and decided that the cure to all that ailed me was drinking a slurry of chia seeds and tart cherry juice. Rural Delaware has no Whole Foods, but so determined was I to FIX MY LIFE NOW with chia seeds and cherry juice that I managed to find the only natural foods co-op within a sixty-mile radius, and I swear to you this place hadn’t changed at all since 1976, and it reeked of vitamins and brewer’s yeast. It had chia seeds and tart cherry juice, though, so forty dollars later I was choking down some crunchy, snotty assed chia seeds stirred into a horrifying, black, Harry Potter looking juice for which the term “tart” was a very tragic understatement, all because Mehmet told me it would make me skinny. IT DIDN’T.
But bulletproof coffee would. I mean, it even has its own Instagram account. Chia seeds don’t have a hundred and seventy five thousand followers, do they? Exactly.
Part of the reason I felt like bulletproof coffee might finally be the thing that worked for me is that I love coffee. My favorite flavor of Haagen Dazs is espresso cookie crumble, after all, and I think it makes a reasonable, or at least wonderful, breakfast. The chia seeds were disgusting, so I had a hard time sticking to Dr. Oz’s regimen, because no one in their right mind wants to ingest several glasses a day of gritty slime. Coffee, however, was a whole different story. So was butter.
I love both coffee and butter so much that if someone told me I had some tragic disease that prevented me from ever having coffee or butter ever again, I might actually consider euthanasia, because it would be a more humane ending for me than spending my last years drinking mugs of hot water and slicking vegan margarine on a desiccated square of gluten-free “bread.” I’m just assuming the bread would have to be gluten free, because why on earth would wheat be okay if butter and coffee weren’t, you know?
Very few rap lyrics are as relatable to me as the line from the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” which says “I like my sugar with coffee and cream.” In a nutshell, or perhaps 67 packets of raw sugar, this pretty much sums up my coffee problem. I love coffee so much that sometimes (a lot of times) I go to bed at night excited to get up in the morning, just so I can have my next cup, but I think that it’s not so much the coffee I love as much as the sugar. Cream is a close second. Without those two magical ingredients, my morning cup of coffee may as well be a can of synthetic motor oil. I realized this at my friend’s house.
My good friend is a barely size-zero, successful executive. On paper she is that woman who “has it all.” She is an independent mom, who in every way lives up to the mainstream beauty standards. She even has huge boobs. Her six figure income affords her all the things, brands, stuff, vacations, and leisure activities that we’ve all come to unconsciously associate with success, and her Facebook proves that she is indeed having a lot more fun than the rest of us. Her only fault is that she can’t make a decent cup of coffee to save her life.
My friend was all excited because she had a new Keurig coffee maker, and when she offered to pop a K cup in the machine I was nothing short of enthusiastic. Until she plopped a box of artificial sweetener and a bottle of organic, non-fat, almond milk creamer on the table in front of me.
“What is this?” I asked.
“What are you talking about?” she said, pouring half a yellow packet into her oversized café au lait bowl.
“Chemists discovered that shit when they were trying to make a new pesticide. You’re basically pouring pesticide in your coffee. You won’t put it on your lawn because it causes cancer, but you’re totally cool with drinking it?” I asked.
She nodded. “It doesn’t have any calories.”
“And what is this?” I wondered, twirling the bottle of “creamer” in my hand trying to read the nutritional information that explained that there were 900 servings at fourteen calories each.
“Creamer! It’s healthy and so delicious!” she chirped.
I poured some into my coffee, winced in pain, and asked her if she genuinely enjoyed drinking this, to which she replied, again, that it was delicious.
“Do you have half and half?” I demanded.
I sighed. My friend was so thin that she didn’t even know what half and half was.
“How about real sugar?” I needed to know. “Do you have real sugar?”
“No! Of course not. Do you?”
“It’s not like I asked if you had cocaine or something.”
“Oh, cocaine? I don’t like it, but I probably know someone -”
“Jesus Christ. No! I just want some real sugar for my coffee, and yes, at my house I have sugar – brown, white, coconut palm, honey, agave, maple…”
I decided to poke around in her fridge where there was so little to eat, that I began to wonder how my friend stayed alive. It was painfully obvious now that I had two choices: drink my coffee black, or dress it up with artificial sweetener, dilute it with nut water, and hope for the best. I went with door number two, and I swear I must have used at least 700 of the 900 servings of whatever that almond creamer stuff was and it still stayed black. That’s when I realized that I don’t really like coffee. I like sugar and cream, and coffee is just a more socially sanctioned vehicle for those things.
The joyless coffee I had that day made my soul ache. It sort of looked like coffee, but that was deceptive, because it tasted thin and bitter, and was mildly redolent of the ant killer aisle of Home Depot.
“Have you ever heard of bulletproof coffee?” I asked her.
She shook her head, and then I explained it to her.
“Butter?” she said scrunching her nose.
“Yes!” I said.
“In coffee? Eww. No. I haven’t eaten butter since I was in middle school. Aren’t you scared?” she wondered.
“Of what? Butter is amazing!”
“The fat,” she whispered. The word was so repugnant to her that she couldn’t even say it aloud. It was like the Voldemort of food – the spread which cannot be named.
“I fucking love butter,” I said. End of conversation.
True. Butter in coffee sounds weird on the surface, but think about a traditional breakfast. You’ve got a nice cup of coffee and some toast on the side, and the toast has butter, so technically, we’ve all already, at some point, had coffee and butter. It’s not a stretch. In fact, there are stranger combinations. For instance, I love pineapple and I love pizza, and while I understand that there is some controversy over this and that the two things together sound almost terrifying, pineapple pizza is one of my favorite things on earth. Butter coffee wasn’t nearly as unusual a combo as tropical fruit on Italian food.
The next morning I found myself standing in front of a blender with a brick of Kerrygold, a bulk-sized tub of coconut oil, and a pot of freshly brewed Starbucks Breakfast Blend. I was ready to be slender, focused, motivated, and self-assured. I was also a little bit ready to be Jimmy Fallon’s future second wife material.
“Bulletproof, nothing to lose,” I sang.
Pleasantly surprised, I held up the finished product in a ray of morning sun that shone through my kitchen window. My coffee cups are clear glass, so I could see the bulletproof coffee pretty well, and it wasn’t what I expected. As promised, and let’s face it, none of these things are ever what’s promised, the bulletproof really did look like a latte. I feared it would stay black and that the butter would melt and rest on top in a queasy layer of oil like one of my daughter’s science experiments, but it didn’t. The Vitamix had emulsified the butter and coconut oil into the coffee, so that it looked almost like normal coffee with cream, and this brought joy to my heart.
Maybe I was going to be okay. Maybe I really could stick with something this time. My only fear was that this coffee wasn’t allowed any sugar. Like none, and technically, you weren’t supposed to add any sweet tasting, calorie free pesticides either, but I’d already broken a few of the other rules, so…what could a little pink packet of cancer powder hurt?
I guess I should state here that I didn’t exactly make real bulletproof coffee. Instead, I made poor(ish) people’s bulletproof coffee. First off, you’re supposed to get some kind of really expensive coffee beans that are supposed to not mold or something, that I felt sounded a bit ridiculous and snake oily, so I splurged on Starbucks because that felt fancy enough, and also I bought them at Whole Foods and not Walmart, which I feel counts for something. Next, you have to get grass fed, unsalted butter. Fine. I bought the five dollar Kerrygold that’s made from Irish Riverdancing cows. Done. After that you have to pour in something called MCT oil, which is mostly coconut oil, but if you buy the real stuff it’s basically seven thousand dollars for three ounces, and my credit isn’t good enough to obtain a second mortgage, so I was going with the coconut oil I already had.
As a side note, I had a lot of coconut oil to use up since my failed oil pulling experiment. According to an online slide-slow a year earlier, which I didn’t finish because the ad-filled pages wouldn’t load on my phone fast enough, if you swish coconut oil in your mouth and then spit it out, some kind of health miracle is supposed to occur. I googled it extensively, and apparently there’s something in coconut oil that can kill bad bacteria in your mouth, and when your mouth is healthy, the rest of your body is too, so oil pulling isn’t totally bogus, unless you’re talking about the texture.
At first, I thought swishing a spoonful of coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty-minutes sounded pretty simple. I liked coconut after all, so what could be so bad? The texture made me want to hurl almost instantly, and sucking a mouthful of saliva and grease through my teeth repeatedly, while letting the resulting slime coat my tongue was flat out disgusting. I found it nearly unbearable almost instantly — except it didn’t feel like it was instantly. I thought for sure I’d had the oil in the mouth for longer than the prescribed twenty-minutes, but when I looked at the timer I’d set, only three minutes and forty two seconds had passed. I spit it out in the trash as instructed, because the oil clogs up plumbing, and spent the rest of the day feeling like I’d rubbed lip balm not just all over my face, but inside my mouth. I guess that I just didn’t have the patience for oil pulling.
Which is exactly why I convinced myself I needed bulletproof coffee: I had no attention span. My preschooler had better focus than I did. I mean, the kid could play with Legos on the floor for hours, whereas I spent most of my days repeatedly walking into rooms and forgetting what I’d gone in there for. I’d open up the refrigerator and stare blankly inside unable to remember what ingredient I needed or what I was craving. My daughter asked me all the time to sit on the floor and play with her, but it was like torture for me to sit and stack blocks without grabbing my phone to scroll through Facebook and see what everyone I went to elementary school with was having for lunch. I couldn’t pay attention to much of anything for very long, and the second I’d begin a task, I’d start to worry about something else, feel compelled to open an app, or I’d feel like I needed to turn on the TV to compare what was on all three major news channels. I heard a lot about highly effective people, and I was not one of them. But maybe with bulletproof coffee, I finally could be.
I have long suspected that I may have a mild case of Attention Deficit Disorder, which, in recent years, has been greatly exacerbated by the distraction wonderland of the Internet. I’m not concerned enough about my functioning to get an official diagnosis — my medical file already looks like an alphabet soup of acronyms, and frankly, the medication for ADD scares me. At the same time, it also intrigues me because I know a ton of women who take it because it makes them skinny. Some of them, adult women here, even take the pills, crush them and snort them.
I will never forget the day I learned this secret. Apparently it is a thing, a common thing even, and I’d had no clue that everyone was illicitly snorting their fidgety sons’ meds. I was pissed when I found out.
Being a woman today, for me, was an Olympic feat. I was expected to be a super mom who looked like a supermodel. I was supposed to have money, a successful career, an enviable relationship with my husband, and a car that was not held together with duct tape because I couldn’t afford the insurance deductible to get it fixed from two accidents in one day. I was supposed to be smart and organized, a clever conversationalist, and an expert entertainer, and I was required to look good in the middle of all this, and everyone knows that part of looking good is being thin. I was trying so hard to do it all, to the point of utter mental and physical exhaustion, and still failing to qualify for the medal round, while these bitches were doping to win the game, Lance Armstronging their way through life and it wasn’t fair.
I wasn’t willing to risk my health to have it all, because everyone with any sense knows that snorting amphetamines is probably not a long-term strategy for success, but I theorized that bulletproof coffee could work in a similar, if milder, fashion, and that it could actually afford me some health benefits instead of, you know, landing me in rehab and probably killing me. Caffeine is, after all, a natural stimulant, so if I drank enough of it, then it would likely have the same effects on my concentration as ADD meds.
I drank three large cups of bulletproof coffee that morning alone.
It was like coming home again. It was like finding everything that I’d ever lost.
It was like I IMMEDIATELY NEED TO SCRUB ALL THE TOILETS AND WASH BOTH THE INSIDES AND OUTSIDES OF ALL THE WINDOWS OF MY HOUSE AND NOW I WILL FINALLY TAKE THE FOUR GARBAGE BAGS OF OLD CLOTHES THAT HAVE BEEN IN THE TRUNK OF MY CAR FOR SEVEN MONTHS TO THE GOODWILL AND AFTER THAT I WILL GO GROCERY SHOPPING FOR ONLY HEALTHY FOODS AND THEN I WILL TAKE THE HARD YOGA CLASS AND NOT GO INTO CHILD’S POSE EVEN ONCE AND THEN I WILL SERVE SOUP AT A HOMELESS SHELTER AND FOSTER 15 STRAY KITTENS WHILE RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE AND PAINTING A MASTERPIECE ON CANVAS BECAUSE I AM THE GREAT CORNHOLIO THIS IS AMAZING I HAVE LOST AT LEAST THREE POUNDS ALREADY AND I FEEL FABULOUS LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL SKINANDHAIRANDLEGSOHMYGOD I THINK I AM GOING TO HAVE DIARRHEA.
I’ve never tried cocaine. I’m such a goody-goody that I’ve barely even seen it in real life, but as I spent the next hour confined to the bathroom, I surmised that the jittery, amped up, I CAN DO ANYTHING RIGHT NOW feeling that I was currently experiencing must be why so many people (at least in movies) are willing to pawn their TVs for a bump of blow. Except for my stomachache, I liked this new energetic, productive version of myself. I didn’t want to lie in bed. I wanted to make the bed, and properly, with those hospital corner things my grandmother does! A mild case of diarrhea seemed like a small price to pay in exchange for actually getting things done for once in my life, and doesn’t everyone need a good intestinal purge once in a while? I had an organized kitchen AND I’d lost two pounds of water weight. Bulletproof coffee for the win.
Since it was working so well, that afternoon, after skipping lunch, because this stuff really did suppress the appetite, I made myself another enormous mug of coffee with butter and coconut oil in it. I figured I needed the extra energy, because I had to babysit at yoga that evening.
I’d been babysitting at the yoga studio on and off for a couple years now, and I enjoyed it a lot, because it was my way of showing up and being part of a community that I felt good supporting. A lot of nice and interesting individuals practiced yoga, and many people came there to heal. I was one of them, and I wanted to help others on their journeys (yes, I just said that). At the time, I figured the best way that I could lend a hand was by babysitting, so some other moms could get a break and have 75 minutes alone in a hot room to stretch their joints and process their emotions for once without tiny humans climbing all over them with sticky hands and snotty noses. It was the least I could do, and it made me feel good.
But babysitting did require a bit of stamina, in some ways more than an actual yoga class, because instead of keeping track of one kid, I now had to supervise about ten of them, in a very small room, with a DVD of Frozen playing on a loop, and a bin of donated toys. The job required focus — I had to watch the babies to make sure they didn’t choke to death on a Shopkin that belonged to a preschooler with separation anxiety, while keeping the kindergartners away from the surly middle schooler who wanted to be left alone to play Minecraft on his iPad, in addition to protecting the little girl with allergies from the boy whose mom didn’t know and dropped him off smeared head to toe with peanut butter, at the same time that I bottle fed an infant and made funny faces at a fussy six month old bouncing in a jumper. Bulletproof coffee was exactly what I needed. So I had another cup.
The yoga studio is about fifteen minutes from my house in traffic, and when I was about halfway there my stomach began to feel a little…off. Okay, I’m being delicate. My stomach had become Kilauea.
Before a volcanic eruption, there are tell-tale signs: a series of small earthquakes, rumbling, and the sounds of small explosions beneath the surface. The volcano will begin to swell, or bloat, with increased emissions of hot gas from the mountain. Small animals will flee in terror.
I was about to explode, and this wasn’t going to be pretty.
Waiting until I got to yoga wasn’t an option either, and not just because the studio was still about eight minutes away. No one at yoga pooped. I figured their systems were so balanced and efficient from their vegan paleo diets that they’d transcended shitting altogether. Clearly I hadn’t, and I’d like to issue a formal apology right now for what I did in the Starbucks restroom that day.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The seismic event at Starbucks was merely a precursor for what lie ahead.
My little Starbucks detour had made me a few minutes late to babysitting for the first time, and when I finally stumbled through the door, probably looking more than a little tweaked out on caffeine, there were already seven children and their harried mothers waiting for me.
“We’re late for class! They’re already in child’s pose setting their intentions!” one mom complained.
I apologized profusely, blaming traffic, as my stomach made a noise much like a draining bathtub.
I cold sweat my way through the next hour and a half as toddlers squirmed and writhed en masse on the padded floor of the babysitting room. I didn’t supervise them as I should have. There was no story time that day, no cut and paste craft. I could barely tolerate another Disney film, because every ounce of my energy went into not shitting my pants. I actually envied the little ones for the convenience of their diapers.
That day, my favorite couple was there. Like everyone else at yoga, I’m convinced these two didn’t go to the bathroom. They were vegan and lovely. The wife’s bodily proportions were that of a Malibu Barbie, whereas if I were a doll, I’d be shaped more like a Raggedy Ann. People who look that good don’t have embarrassing experiences, and they certainly don’t have diarrhea, especially not in public places, because their gut health is perfectly balanced. Mine clearly was not, and by the time class let out and all the children had been retrieved, I was convinced I was dying.
“You look dehydrated, and on edge. Are you okay?” the wife commented.
“You should try meditation. It changed my life,” her husband added.
“You should drink LIVING water! Did you know the water that comes out of your faucet is actually dead? So is bottled water, so it doesn’t actually hydrate you and 99% of people in America suffer from chronic dehydration - look it up!” said a random stranger.
This sort of thing happens a lot in a yoga studio. If you mention any kind of not feeling well 35 people will pounce on you with different reasons why Western society is making you sick, and give you 35 different remedies for it that Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about.
“I think I ate something that didn’t agree with me,” I said, and this was not a lie, because five cups of coffee (maybe, I lost count) and at least a stick of butter definitely did not agree with me.
I don’t know how I made it home, but as I spent the rest of the night feeling like I was near death on the bathroom floor, with bolts of jagged pain knifing through my abdomen. I was sick. Like food poisoning sick, and I convinced myself that I’d given myself a gall bladder attack. At one point I seriously considered an ER visit.
Nearly a bottle of Pepto later, I decided to do a little more research on this whole bulletproof coffee thing. There were many articles and blog posts touting the benefits of bulletproof, but there were just as many others calling Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey on his supposed bullshit. The New York Times went so far as to compare it to a cult, while yet another article alleges that Asprey takes performance enhancing stimulants banned in the sports world, plus off the label use of thyroid meds, and that these things are responsible for his ripped abs, not “magic butter coffee.” Others accuse him of faulty logic and bad science. Asprey apparently claims that he “discovered” bulletproof coffee in Tibet (and we all know every New Age hipster will gulp down anything that comes from the Himalayas, home of the Dalai Lama) where he observed the locals mixing yak butter into their tea (eww). He then concluded that their spryness and longevity was because of this, and not, as some studies have suggested, a genetic adaptation to living in high altitudes.
So what did I think? Hard to say. Bulletproof coffee, at least my more affordable version of it, tasted good, but technically what I made wasn’t exactly REAL bulletproof because I had to wing it on a few ingredients.
It did suppress my appetite, but I mean, that’s what caffeine and fat do, so no alchemy there. I also lost weight, albeit from severe gastrointestinal distress, but still, I’ll take it, and I couldn’t really blame the coffee for my stomachache. That was my own fault because I went overboard. My verdict on this one is that it probably does work to some extent. It tastes great and it’s unlikely to hurt you unless you lose your damn mind and drink too much. Don’t do what I did. I guess I wasn’t titanium after all.