Katie Parker puts The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life to the test - and finds that being lazy doesn’t come cheap.
In the three short years since Matilda Rice and Art Green made it out of the first Bachelor NZ not only alive, but inexplicably in love, they have become somehow akin to Kiwi royalty in our small strange country. They are pretty. They are nice. They are mischievous and fun and beloved in a way that no unfortunate dress up party is apparently able to tarnish.
They are the paleo prince and princess of our fair nation - an aspirational, but not untouchable picture of bbq n’ bach Kiwi contentment that feels just within reach of us lowly plebs - and never more so than now.
Which is why, with the release of Matilda’s first book The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life last week, my interest was piqued.
I am, in the sense I suspect Matilda means, a “lazy girl”: I have a gym membership but I don’t often go; I buy healthy food but I don’t like standing up long enough to prepare it into healthy meals; I make little plans to do fitness-y things in my head but then get up too late in the morning and feel too sleepy after work. Basically, I’m perpetually sitting on my butt, playing Plants vs Zombies, thinking things like “gee, I’ve got to get my shit together” while somehow life just wooshes by.
So can Matilda help a lazy bitch like me live a beautiful life? Or is she no better than Gwyneth “stick this expensive egg in your vag” Paltrow?
I wanted to know. I wanted to try. I wanted to live the Instragram filtered lifestyle of a reality star turned lifestyle guru (minus the spon-con and weird paleo bf). So I bought the book and incorporated her instructions into my week. This is what I found.
DAY ONE - ENTER THE VOID
The book is $40 which seems expensive (a key theme in this experiment, I discover) but I get a free [item from redacted makeup brand that Matilda endorses] which pacifies me.
The book takes about an hour to read (plus approx 20 minutes spent staring grimly at all the pictures of Matilda in various forms of leisure wear) and by the time I’m done I have learned more about Matilda and her beautiful life than I ever dreamed possible.
Matilda has never been a “do-er”. Chronically “lazy and disorganised” for much of her life, she thought there was no way this could be remedied - until somehow it was!
“It’s about embracing and recognising everything that is already awesome about yourself - including your chilled approach to life - at the same time as creating some great new habits to help your life be even better”, she writes. “It’s not even hard work.”
Newly inspired to begin my effortless ascent to health and happiness glory, I decide to go to the supermarket to get supplies.
Matilda subscribes to a “Lazy girl paleo” diet which apparently means she follows it about 90 percent of the time. “It's really as simple as paleo pie!” she says. Given that the book very loosely describes the paleo diet as some kind of caveman cosplay exercise, this is in a way true, and while I don’t plan on going full paleo I am interested in trying the gross sounding food she so highly recommends.
While I decide to pass on the “Meatzza” (a pizza base comprised of a big slab of meat) and the ”paleo porridge” (literally just Art Green’s own brand of breakfast cereal put in a blender) I decide that a couple of the smoothies and some of the simpler (and less disgusting) dinner items look doable.
Sadly my hopes of recreating Matilda's daily chocolate breakfast smoothie (“Chocolatey Dream Smoothie”) are dashed when I realise that it costs $12 for about one cup of Cacao powder and that each smoothie uses a ¼ of a cup. I don't do maths but I surmise this is not good value.
Instead I get a bunch of kiwifruit and spinach so I can attempt the green smoothie (“Green Smoothie”) but end up forgoing the coconut milk she recommends because it’s $7.20. I also get a bunch of zucchinis even though I hate them because guess what, Matilda just lovvves Zoodles (more on those later).
DAY TWO - THE SWEATENING
I make the green smoothie for breakfast and realise the recipe asks that the kiwifruit be blended whole with the skin on, as well as a raw egg, which seems gross and also dangerous. MATILDA, WHAT ABOUT SALMONELLA?
Anyway, it was actually ok even though I peeled the kiwifruit and used cursed cow’s milk instead of liquid gold/coconut milk.
Despite what one might gather from the definition of ‘lazy’, Matilda is very hard out about exercise. She seems to work out about five days a week which makes sense because, as the many, many bikini photos in the book demonstrate, she is very cut.
In the spirit of this, I go to the gym after work where I do all the usual stuff I do (treadmill, cross-trainer, weird weight machine that I may or may not be using horribly incorrectly) but with maybe a tiny bit more effort and purpose. Matilda says that not only can exercise make you happier, skinnier and more energetic, it can help you make friends!
On this particular day at the YMCA, where my only companion is an old man reading a full-sized newspaper while cycling gently on an exercise bike, I do not make any new friends but I vow to remain on the lookout.
DAY THREE - DOES MATILDA FRY EGGS AT HER WORK?
I do the green smoothie again partly because it was basically ok yesterday and also one of the only breakfast items in the book that doesn’t require protein powder from Art Green’s own line of Paleo foodstuffs. I leave the kiwifruit skin on this time which gives it a, shall we say, earthier taste.
According to “a day in the diet of Matootles” a standard lunch is fried eggs, smashed avocado and bacon. While this sounds delicious, it is unfortunately not particularly feasible in an office without adequate frying facilities and I honestly can't afford to go and buy it at a cafe. Are you able to do a full on fry up in your office? I didn’t think so. Instead, I eat a nice healthy salad I made at home - pretty good right? Oh except that Matilda says she hates salads. Oops.
After going to the gym again (!) I go home and attempt what is definitely the nicest looking and also easiest recipe in the book, which is kumara fries cooked in maple syrup.
As I suspected they would be, these are very yum. Thanks, Matilda!
DAY FOUR - CACAO v COCOA
After feeling bad for not fully committing to the Matilda way of life, I gave in and bought the $30 of ingredients needed to make the chocolate smoothie, except for Art Green’s paleo protein powder which for some reason all the breakfast recipes require (I just use no protein powder). Did you know cacao is different from cocoa? I had honestly never thought about it beyond the Portlandia bit. They look the same and are basically the same word just slightly jumbled around, but no they are not the same. You can tell this because one costs about a million dollars more than the other.
You know how a lot of healthy food that’s trying to be fun food just tastes like a weird bunch of stuff stuck together with another flavour over the top? That’s what this is like. Sure, I can’t taste the spinach but I know it's there, y’know?
In what is absolutely a personal record, I go to the gym for a third day in row. There’s an anecdote in the book about how when Matilda did the Auckland half-marathon she had just come back from Fiji and got a stomach bug which gave her (and I quote) “explosive diarrhoea”, so the whole time she had to keep running into strangers' houses begging them to let her poo. I think about this while running on the treadmill and for some reason it helps.
DAY FIVE - ZOODLES
With the week in full swing, I decide that this is the day to finally try and embrace one of Matilda’s favourite things: eating zoodles.
There are few foods stupider than zoodles. Basically just zucchini shaped into noodles, the liberal media have been trying to persuade us that they are legitimate substitutes for actual pasta for years now - a lie that only a select few (like Matilda) have come to believe. And given how many times she recommends them, boy does she ever.
Matilda uses a veggie spiralizer which I do not have (they’re like $150 or something), so I used a knife instead (and tbh, when I got sick of that, a cheese grater). The deal is you shred a zucchini into millions of noodly bits and then sort of boil it and voila! A mound of soggy zucchini!
In spite of taking ages, being basically impossible to drain, and looking like what a cat voms up when it eats grass, the zoodles were actually slightly better than expected, though I suspect that is at least partly due to the amount of Dolmio I put on them (sorry Matilda, lazy girls do not make sauce from scratch).
If you close your eyes and imagine Art Green frowning at you, they even kind of taste noodle-esque!
DAY SIX - CHILLSVILLE
For about the first third of the book we learn how Matilda has improved her life and ability to do things via various holistic approaches, all of which can be more or less boiled down to that timeless and always useless advice to ‘be more positive’.
“I’ve found”, writes Matilda, “when you rid yourself of negative thoughts and energy, life seems to improve. More opportunities, more experiences, stronger friendships - all because you’re simply concentrating on letting positive energy into your mind.”
Matilda has a variety of methods she suggests can be used to achieve this: ‘Get a reality check’; have an ‘attitude re-set’; take risks’; ‘let it go’ and my personal favourite ‘chill’.
In honour of this I try out her “chillsville” playlist (sample tracks: a cover of ‘Ultralight Beam” by Emir Taha; ‘Just Like Heaven” by The Cure), gaze at the many soft focus pics of Matootles in her bikini and wonder what life is like without any overwhelming existential dread.
DAY SEVEN - WHAT I LEARNED
It’s the last day of my half-arsed Matootles life and what a wild time it has been. Sunday, for Matilda is a day of “rest and pancakes” but since I do not have any pancakes I decide to replace this with ‘quiet reflection’.
In a lot of ways I can see why The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life has sold so well it’s already gone to second print: it’s a cheerfully benign tome that is just affordable enough to work as a gift for family members you don’t know that well this Christmas.
It is, however, nothing new. Utterly useless platitudes offered by women’s magazines for centuries (“don’t compare yourself to others!”; “do what you love!”; “see what works for you!”) are juxtaposed with images of Matilda’s own insanely toned bikini bod; paragraphs waxing lyrical about laziness give way to bizarrely complicated workout instructions and recipes (sorry, but a 14 ingredient recipe for a pizza made of mince is not “lazy”).
Add to that all this stuff - the ingredients, the gear, even the $49.95USD (plus tax) Myers Briggs test she suggests you take - doesn’t come cheap, and you’ve basically got everyone back to where they started: unhappy with their lives, bodies and diets, standing before a skinny white blonde lady who says it's actually all really easy.
But it’s not that easy. In fact, all up, it seems like quite hard work. Here are all the things I didn’t do:
- The ‘Matootles’ hair mask’ - I learned my lesson as a teen: never put food in your hair unless you want to spend several days with hair that smells like old food.
- A bunch of the recipes: I was a good sport and I did the zoodles, but there’s only so many weird healthy substitutes one can bear in a single week. I passed on the bunless lettuce burgers, cauliflower rice, avocado whipped into chocolate mousse and the many, many other recipes trying to make zucchinis as pasta happen.
- Her prescribed workouts (squats, bear crawls,*shudder* burpees etc): Sets? Reps? Four-step instructions? COUNTING? I thought we were supposed to be lazy here.
Perhaps this is all a bit unfair on Matilda, who seems like a nice girl with a good sense of humour and I guess a lot of time to sculpt veggies into the shapes of other foods. I know she’s not forcing anyone to do any of this. She didn’t hold a gun to my head and say Katie, eat these zoodles or it’s lights out. She just wanted to teach me a lesson about health and wellbeing and the joys of Art Green’s paleo products.
But Matilda, girl, let’s be real - the real lesson here is obvious:
If you wanna be lazy, you’d better be rich.