A few days ago, I was asked what the “look” – style-wise – was at my school. “For girls?” I said. “Lululemon leggings, a Longchamp bag (interchangable with a Louis Vuitton), the latest and brightest Nikes, and a shirt with the words ‘Carbs Are the Devil’.” The questioner looked at me and laughed. “Carbs are the devil?” I nodded my head. “I’m serious.”
Attending school in Los Angeles has opened my eyes to the world of today’s Los Angelinos. They – male and female – are ideal specimens you are likely to find in a Tracy Anderson workout video. (Note: I tried one once and lasted 3 minutes.) They are disciplined in nearly every aspect of life, especially when it comes to health and fitness. “Soulcycle” and “Pressed Juice” are revered terms, and the word “gluten” is satanic. Carbs are the devil. Yes, to the “it” Los Angelinos of today, “carb” is a four-letter word. Oddly, the food scene in Los Angeles is lively. Not once in all my visits to Sprinkles cupcakes, for example, have I not had to wait in line, one usually composed of UCLA students, fellow LMU students, and the botoxed inhabitants of Rodeo Drive taking a break from shopping to boost their blood sugar. I’m convinced the latter are the reason gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan red velvet cupcakes were introduced to the Sprinkles menu. Los Angelinos indulge, yes, but do so cautiously.
It’s not just cupcakes. Los Angelinos are obsessed with carb, gluten, fat and sugar-free eating on all fronts. Kale salads and green juices are good; I have nothing bad to say about either of them. However, it is so difficult to enjoy much else, specifically carbs, in Los Angeles. After a particularly tough week, I went with friends to a local Mexican restaurant - the greasy, family-style kind with endless chips and salsa – excited to enjoy a plate of enchiladas or tacos. (I’m always open-minded when it comes to Mexican food.) When it came time to order, I proudly ordered my chicken enchiladas with rice and beans. I even used my best Spanish accent, the most notable skill I acquired (in addition to knowing the colors, days of the week, and alphabet) after several years of Spanish classes. The majority of my girlfriends ordered the tostada salad. “Dressing on the side, please.” Of course. I have nothing against tostada salads, kale salads, or any salads, for that matter. However, when dining at a Mexican restaurant, especially the greasy, family-style kind, ordering a salad is just wrong. I kept my thoughts to myself, thankful they hadn’t ordered the hamburger and fries from the kid’s menu. That would have required an intervention. Once served, I enjoyed my enchiladas, but did so feeling guilty. Should I have ordered a salad, too? Why did I eat so many chips? I’m going run 5 miles tomorrow and burn this all off. My night out to enjoy Mexican food had become far from enjoyable, and was unfortunately not the last of similar experiences.
I’ve been home for nearly a month now on Christmas Break, and, like every visit up North, I rekindle my love for my city, and, along with it, carbs. Carbs are not the devil, but a comforting friend. Furthermore, not all carbs are bad carbs. Oatmeal, fruits, whole grains - they're all carbs and they're all good for you. San Franciscans appreciate carbs. Tartine Bakery is renown for its bread, and even Vogue took notice. Sourdough bread is the bread of my youth. Its taste reassures me that all is right with the world, and nothing – nothing – is a better compliment of clam chowder. Heck, I’d eat sourdough bread with just about anything. Carbs are in mac & cheese, pancakes, bagels, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nearly every delicious comfort food out there. Cupcakes! Carbs are the primary component of a cupcake. Botoxed Rodeo Drive goers? Sprinkles’ gluten-free and vegan cupcakes – even the sugar free ones – all have carbs. I guess that’s how SoulCycle stays in business.
Regardless of your outlook on health – a health nut, a gym freak, the “I could care less” type, etc. – carbs, like everything, are just fine in moderation. Or not in moderation. (Tracy Anderson just cringed.) No one – women, especially – should feel bad for enjoying what they are eating. If you want a salad? Great. But if you’d much rather enjoy a plate of comforting, delicious enchiladas, for example, and settle on a far-less enjoyable salad, there’s something wrong. One of my favorite quotes is on a wall in Eataly in New York City: “Life’s too short to not eat well.” Amen. It’s a new year and a new you. Make your own rules about food and exercise and do what makes you feel good, not what you think will please others. There is something so gratifying about enjoying a mouthwatering, carb-loaded meal in front of someone settling for a seaweed wrap, or something of the like. I suggest everyone experience this feeling at least once. I’m talking to you, Los Angelinos.