I had the fortunate privilege of attending a special women’s conference on female empowerment some few weeks ago. It was special for two reasons: high-profiled feminists and CEOs were speaking and it was a Michelin catered meal (It always comes down to food, doesn’t it?).
I was excited to learn from such experienced, well-versed ladies on women’s topics while simultaneously enjoying a free dinner. Little did I know that my enthusiasm towards eating would earn me multiple lectures on dieting rather than sisterhood.
My table of well-to-do women was virtually silent towards me, until the waiters came around asking for our entree selections.
“Fish or beef?”
Knowing full-well that the next time I’d have a quality steak probably wouldn’t be until my birthday, I decided to take this opportunity to stock up on iron.
“Beef, please. And may I substitute the vegetables for french fries as well?”
Before the waiter could respond, the tweed-suited woman to my right piped in, “I’ll take her extra vegetables instead of the potatoes, sir.”
Once Tweed Suit suggested such a “brilliant” idea, the whole table of 12 ladies immediately changed their orders.
“Dressing on the side for the garden salad!”
“Hold the sauce.”
“We don’t need the bread basket anymore.”
The waiter, sensing the crowd he was serving, plopped down a plate of steamed vegetables as our amuse-bouche, instead of the prepared decadent spreads and croissants.
I watched on in silent horror as full-grown women cooed and clapped over tasteless spinach (apparently, carrots have too many sugars, more on this later) with the enthusiasm of a toddler’s first trip to Toys ‘R’ Us.
Educated, smart women getting excited about vegetables? Was I at the right conference?
“At home, I sprinkle a little Splenda on cauliflower, and I know it sounds gross, but it tastes just like candied yams,” said a notable photographer sitting across from me. It was like her comment opened a new forum for all the women to chime in on. And no, it wasn’t about female empowerment. It was about dieting, tips, tricks and what sounded a lot like severe deprivation.
Thankfully my steak arrived. Tweed Suit looked on as I dared to take a bite of the fleshy, fatty cow.
“Are you on Atkins?”
Huh? Why did there need to be an explanation for my food of choice? And why -- as this woman pretty much ignored me for the first half hour -- was our only common ground dieting?
I really wanted to savor this succulent piece of beef. I really wanted to. But it’s really hard to chow down when 11 outspoken women are offering their 11 unwanted opinions on your food.
Tweed Suit’s comment launched a whole debate on the benefits of Atkins versus South Beach versus Paleo versus Raw Food versus Flexitarian (yes, this is a real thing). Honestly, if I wanted to know the difference between vegan and macrobiotic, I would read "Women’s Health," not engage in mind-numbing diet chatter.
I don’t care about why juicing is super good/bad/sugary/caloric/restrictive for you. I don’t care that you haven’t eaten any animal byproducts in four months (really, are we supposed to reward you with celery sticks for this low-level feat?).
And I don’t care to listen to the "right way" to consume fruit. That’s what the Cooking Channel is for and I hardly ever watch for these reasons.
When comes the point where we just live our lives and stop imposing our eating habits on everyone around us? As confident, healthy and fun-loving women, why do we seek this validation from our peers when it comes to our nutrition choices?
It’s like these ladies had nothing to talk about before the subject of dieting came along. The table started to feel more like a support group for deprived women than a dialogue on feminism.
One established woman, for instance, talked in length about her revelations with red wine vinegar (“Seriously, I put it on everything”) while completely omitting any mention of her fascinating research on women’s education in the gypsy community.
And then this happened: because the digestive system is also linked to dietary restrictions (“my body cannot digest red anything anymore” or “oil is my kryptonite”), I then had to hear about each woman’s reaction to certain foods and bowel movements. I. Kid. You. Not. At dinner, of all situations!
To say that talking about your bathroom schedule in tandem with your cabbage soup diet totally ruins the fun for the rest of us is an understatement. I had to force myself to finish my $55 steak, and only just because I felt like I had to prove a point to these women.
Please, however, do not think I’m trying to diet-shame those who embark on a lifestyle change. If you’re on any kind of meal-plan that promotes health and vitality, then by all means, more power to you and godspeed. Really, nutritional regimens are difficult to maintain and it’s commendable that you adopt a well-balanced lifestyle.
What I don’t appreciate is enduring unsolicited, detailed conversations about what you can and cannot eat. Or about why I should be emulating your eating habits. Or why whole grains are supposedly just as "bad" as processed ones. I have much better things to talk about. Like, 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Date A Bad Boy.
All jokes aside though, nobody wants to hear about your lasagna substitutes while they are eating the real thing. We’re tired of hearing what people aren’t eating. We’ve literally discussed it ad nauseam. I beg of you, let us commit carbicide in peace.
Photo via We Heart It