It’s become an assiduous news story in recent years.
Don’t blame genetics or lack of self control for that muffin top – blame the best friend who coyly arches an eyebrow when the dessert menu hits the table and says, “I’ll get one, if you do.” Or the skinny minx who insists on getting an order of fries to share every time you “do” lunch. Or the boyfriend who only wants to eat burgers and pizza. Every single night.
In short, friends are responsible for making us order that double fudge brownie sundae, and hence, making us fat.
There was a reason I put on ten pounds when I first began an office job in LA after college. Not only because I was sitting in a swivel chair 10 hours a day, but also because of my cupcake-pusher co-workers.
“You’re so skinny, Diana. Eat a cupcake!” They’d say, sashaying their eyes around my middle as if to suggest that I was some sort of waif with an eating disorder if I refused one.
“No, thank you. I’m fine, really.” I’d insist.
Judgmental glances and eye rolls would immediately commence, and I, the new assistant who desperately wanted to fit in, would inevitable cave to social pressure.
So I ate the red velvet cupcakes someone sent as a “Thank you” to my boss, chowed down on a mondo slice of the chocolate chip cake for the Xerox guy’s birthday, and regularly took one of the doughnuts an executive would bring in on Fridays. It wasn’t until I couldn’t button my “fat” pants that I finally called a time out on my absurd behavior.
Even with my harrowing personal experience (it was really hard eating my way through Sprinkles’ entire flavor line), in recent months, I’ve discovered that not all my friends and officemates are secretly plotting to turn me into a sumo wrestler. Some of my friends are actually doing the opposite of what the news stories and studies suggest – helping me eat healthier and make better choices at restaurants.
I’ve always been of the mentality that when I’m going out to dinner, I’m going to go “all out.” I indulge in wine, bread, an appetizer (or two), an entrée, and almost always a dessert that I have no intention of sharing with anyone else. It seems nonsensical to order a Pellegrino with lime and grilled chicken with steamed vegetables when I could have the same thing at home. In my mind, why would I even bother leaving my apartment if I’m going to go that route?
In the past couple months, however, I’ve started to change the way I order when I’m dining out. Not because I’m on some sort of crazy Hollywood diet and am striving to be “America’s Next Top Anorexic,” but because I’ve been sharing a lot of meals with a V-word (Vegan).
The change wasn’t intentional. And it certainly didn’t happen all at once. But spending time with Lauren from Harb Knock Life has made me more conscious of my ordering decisions when we eat out together. Lauren’s commitment to nurturing her body with food rather than attacking it (my typical strategy at restaurants), has transformed the way I look at a menu. Instead of immediately eliminating the vegetarian entrees in favor of pork, beef or an over-sized piece of fish that can no longer be called “heart-healthy,” I’ve been paying them closer attention.
And sometimes, ordering them.
This past Thursday night, I met Lauren and two other girl friends for dinner at BLD Restaurant on Beverly Blvd. The huge menu offers many tempting options for carnivores – braised beef short ribs with roasted parsnip and sweet potato puree ($24), a house-smoked pork shank with parmesan grits ($23), beef and lamb burgers with French fries ($15-18), and on this particular night, a chicken and dumplings special. Everything sounded fantastic – especially the chicken and dumplings that were, incidentally, delicious – but I found myself gravitating toward the house-smoked BBQ tofu ($19) for my entrée.
The vegan dish that came with red quinoa, yellow corn, black beans, tortilla strips, grilled tofu and barbecue sauce, was not only incredibly flavorful, but incredibly satisfying as well. The smoky, spicy notes, sweet corn, and varying textures packed a hearty punch, and filled me up sooner than I expected. I was actually able to leave food on my plate instead of clearing it to the rim (another of my strategies at restaurants), and when our shared order of dessert arrived – yes, a brownie ice cream sundae with hot fudge and espresso ice cream ($7) – I (shockingly) couldn’t manage more than a couple bites.
While the meal was still more indulgent than what I would typically consume at home (in the interests of full disclosure, us non-vegans also ordered a cheese plate to start), it was by no means an all-out war on my body. I still love to indulge and, clearly, am still doing so, but I’m happy to have friends in my life like Lauren, who inspire me to make better decisions when that glossy restaurant menu hits the table.
7450 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036