So I have a friend who shall remain nameless here for privacy purposes, but ALL OF YOU PEOPLE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, who recently started the Paleo diet. Excuse me, I mean ~adopted the Paleo lifestyle~, because her spiritual awakening did not commence as a human being until the moment she put down the Hot Fries and, trembling, picked up a raw slab of meat. And much like Moses bringing down the 10 Commandments from high atop Mount Sinai, she has come back to us bottom-feeders bearing wisdom about all of the wonderful changes we stand to make in our lives if we can just tear ourselves away from the corporate teat of high fructose corn syrup for five minutes and follow her into the Promised Land.
As with all diets, a big part of the Paleo life appears to be the imitation of various comfort foods which are clearly not compatible with the kind of restrictions you’ve placed on your consumption. Like the sweaty door-to-door salesman about to pass out from dehydration, she’s constantly tricking her friends and family into tasting her Paleo-safe facsimiles of everything from macaroni and cheese to chocolate chip cookies. And while her tastebuds are very much her own business, there is something profoundly insulting to the very essence of a cookie in taking the mealy concrete slabs you are able to concoct within the limits of the diet and referring to them by the same hallowed name.
Life is short. If I want a cookie, I’m gonna eat a fucking cookie. I just won’t eat 50 of them, and I think I’ll survive. But I digress.
Of course, the Paleo diet is just one in a long, long line of fad diets which promise to make your whole life worth living if you can only modify your eating habits to fit these incredibly specific standards. “It’s not just about weight-loss,” they’ll tell you, “It’s about improving your whole life.” And if I hadn’t gotten this exact same spiel from the Jehova’s Witnesses of the Atkins, South Beach, and Macrobiotic varieties, I might even believe in its uniqueness. The whole thing wouldn’t seem like such a strangely unprofitable pyramid scheme if it were limited to one type of eating and wasn’t a perennial thing that could be counted on more reliably than tax season.
In truth, I am happy for anyone who makes a positive change in their life and finds something they can believe in. But it is rare that someone undertakes an extremely drastic diet — or even one with very rigorous weight-loss goals — and doesn’t allow it to creep like pretentious ivy all over every aspect of their life. The comments about the food people are eating, the “helpful tips” that are as unsolicited as they are impractical, the direct link made between food and worthiness — it’s exhausting. As the hyper-awareness about the things they eat spills over onto every person unlucky enough to go out to a restaurant and order an appetizer sampler with them, it becomes more and more clear that the diet is not just a change in food intake. It’s a change in how they see the world, and very often not a healthy one.
The request, however, is a simple one: Stop talking about your diet. While peppering a conversation every once in a while with an interesting discovery or reached milestone is perfectly acceptable, making everything around you about food and rendering incredibly harsh judgments on the way other people live their lives is simply really scummy to be around. It makes everyone feel weird, and guilty, and self-conscious about their dinner plate when they were just fine a moment ago. Making people incredibly tied to their diets is a very lucrative industry, but just because you have decided to adopt one lifestyle as your own does not mean you need to become the Tupperware salesman of insecurity. It’s mind-numbingly boring, it’s not helpful, and it makes people feel like they can’t even eat a handful of crackers around you.
Also, talking about how to make cheesecake out of tofu and agave syrup is sad as hell. Leave cheesecake out of this, it did nothing to you.