What's the "Emoji Diet?"

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If you’ve ever idly thought, “Gee, there really ought to be more food emojis,” here’s proof that you’re right: The Atlantic’s Kelsey Rexroat recently spent a week on what she calls “the emoji diet,” wherein she ate only foods represented by emojis — and there’s definitely a dearth of edible emojis out there. Hear that, Emojipedia?

Like so many before her, Rexroat recently found herself wondering why there were such gaping holes in the world of emojis. Unlike many, though, most of Rexroat’s observations involved her favorite foods. Accordingly, she embarked on a week-long experiment using herself as a human guinea pig: Could a person survive entirely on foods represented only by emojis? The short answer is yes, but it won’t be very satisfying. Here’s how it went down.

Rexroat’s rules for herself were simple:

  1. For seven days, she would only eat foods represented by emojis.
  2. She would eat every food represented in the Emojipedia by the end of the seven days.
  3. Different emoji foods could be combined into recipes.
  4. Animal emojis could not be substituted for meat (so, pigs didn’t count as bacon, cows didn’t count as beef, and so on, "Meat on bone" was fair game, though).
  5. ASCII art couldn’t be swapped in, either. All emojis, all the time.

So, with these rules in mind, Rexroat set out to explore her options.

The first thing she realized is that food emojis are strangely limited: There are only 59 of them total, and 11 of those depict desserts. At least some of them grant a little bit of wiggle room; there’s something called a “pot of food,” for example, which Rexroat extrapolated to cover a vegetable stew she ate for lunch. There were a few surprises, as well: What Rexroat initially thought was rice and beans actually represented curry, and what most of us think of as an orange is technically a tangerine. Who knew?

The whole piece is definitely worth reading, so head on over to The Atlantic to check it out; for those of you who want the Cliff Notes version, here are some of the things our intrepid heroine discovered over the course of her week on the emoji diet:

  • We desperately need a cheese emoji. On day one, Rexroat found herself needing to forgo the cheese on her spaghetti dinner. Tragedy! Although I suppose at least she was spared the Kraft Singles fiasco.
  • Emojis often display their origins, albeit in slightly subtle ways. For example, this?

It's called “oden,” and according to its Emojipedia entry, it’s a Japanese dish made of egg, fish cakes, radish and a few other ingredients. Sometimes it’s served on a stick, as seen here. “If Western users feel that the characters aren’t representative of their daily diets, it’s because they were never expected to catch on globally,” Rexroat observed.

  • There are an awful lot of boozy emojis. By day four, Rexroat noted that she’d had a different kind of alcohol every night. As she wrote, “Clearly the emoji diet is not for teetotalers” — although I suppose you could always go for the virgin versions of all those tropical-looking drinks instead.
  • The emoji diet is not for people looking to manage their weight. Rexroat described it as “essentially the opposite of Atkins,” due to the huge amount of sugar and rice contained within it (in addition to the 11 dessert emojis, eight include rice). Consider yourselves warned.
  • But at least it encourages creativity. Breakfast and lunch seemed to be the meals that required the most thinking outside the box. Cereal, bagels, yogurt, and other typically Western breakfast foods aren’t on the menu when you’re eating according to emojis (and oops — it looks like the bottle she took to be “milk” for her day one smoothie? Is actually a sake bottle, according to GrubStreet); additionally, the dietary limitations made the social occasion lunch often becomes at work a little difficult to carry off.

Interesting, no? I can’t say I’d ever consider doing it myself, but I’m glad someone else did so I could read all about it. I’d be curious to know how a Unicode emoji diet compares with, say, an iDiversicon diet or what have you. Any volunteers?

Images: Emojipedia; Rebloggy