Here we are in mid-August, the height of beach season across most of the U.S. But you wouldn’t notice any increased coastal frenzy in Los Angeles. SoCal is world-renowned as the place where “every season is beach season,” – a glorious inconvenience seen as a key motivator for the healthy, clean-eating ways of its residents.
But Rum & Biscuits really don’t go to the beach! Which is why a year in to life in L.A., I had to ask myself how the hell has L.A. changed my diet so significantly despite me wearing a shirt even as I write this??
It took some hard self-examination, and vetting through reliable peers, but a handful of reasons certainly float to the top. Some are so cliché as to be painful (so much so as to have been denied as being possible prior to me moving). Other reasons, however, are ones you don’t consider nearly as often.
1. Super attractive people wearing less clothing
Yeah, yeah, big surprise. Even if you’re not a beach person, you can’t avoid being surrounded by a disproportionate number of people who are making a living off of being good-looking, or trying to. And these folks have plenty to show off, and it’s warm enough to do so all year round. And you’re not going to avoid them while you’re copping Ben & Jerry’s on a Tuesday afternoon when you’re “working from home,” because these people are working nights in between gigs, or are “kept” (#goals), and there they are on their way back from pilates. And you order a smoothie.
2. Social pressure
Up until the Rum & Biscuits European jaunt, there was a running joke in my office that every single person was on some variety of (weird-ass) diet – from paleo, to low carb and no alcohol, to whatever the ckuf I was doing. Surely, sitting down with the seven of us at a restaurant would be both a perfect microcosm of eating out socially in L.A., and could understandably influence what you’d choose to eat yourself.
3. Better fresh produce
You don’t get to be the world’s 6th largest economy without some serious farming, and nobody does it like California: as of 2014, the state produced nearly half of all fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the U.S., and led in the production of 66 crops. With essentially perfect climate year-round and serendipitous proximity to Mexico, freshness and locavorism is so easy in L.A. that it’s given rise to dozens of farmer’s markets throughout the city and some of the country’s most acclaimed farm- and boat-to-table restaurants.
4. More healthy options
I did the math, Rum & Biscuits readers, because I care about you and don’t want you to strain yourselves: square mile for square mile, there are ten times more Whole Foods stores in L.A. county than there are in New York state. That’s one measure, but there are plenty more. There are two poke bowl shops within two blocks of my office; one street down is a carioca bowl restaurant; it’s next to a juice shop. These aren’t even categories in many other cities I’ve lived, loved, and eaten in. The sheer volume of healthy options in L.A. makes it easy to make the right choice food-wise. Whether or not you want to…
5. The inevitability of Cal-Mex and rosé
More powerful than social pressure in my opinion is the cultural, when-in-Rome influence we feel, even half-jokingly. The “Cuz That’s Just What You Do Here” factor. I don’t recall ever having rosé in my life prior to the move to L.A. and enjoyed my first few out of ironic amusement at being stereotypical. Now, as regular readers know, pink wine and yo boy are in a hand-over-fist relationship. The same applied to the now thrice-weekly fish tacos and ceviche of the Cal-Mex scene. Whether due to the cultural influence or just the warm sunny weather, you will be an eating-and-drinking cliché in a hurry when it comes to these items.
1. You find yourself “settling” for anything non-vegan…
So plentiful are the meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free options at every turn in L.A. that in the event you want something that had parents, your next best option may be an turkey bacon and egg white omelette or fresh cal-mex salad.
2. …until you don’t
Look, man, sometimes you only have 10 minutes until the next conference call, and well, the tofu scramble place is right there. Plus they’ve got those killer coconut oil flaxseed muffins.
3. People dress more casually
Forget that people are wearing less in general – relative to big cities across the country, you’re never going to see more tanks, tees, jeans and flip flops in the corporate setting as in L.A. Without jackets, scarves, boots, and button-downs to layer and combo, your trappings of looking sharp are, well, your traps. The best-looking v-neck and denim basically will come down to what lies beneath, and sure, this type of dressing may inspire a salad without any.
4. The new, sexy restaurant is healthy, too
Beyond healthy food options being more plentiful, the foodies among you can’t overlook that the hottest opening, the new talk-of-the-town from the celebrity chef, is also heavy on the healthy tip, capitalizing on SoCal’s ridiculous produce and population who get way too excited about it. There are few better examples of this than 2017’s West Side vegan hotspot, Erven, whose chef-owner Nick Erven started adding non-vegan options a few months in only after he got bored and also remembered he himself is not vegan.
5. Fewer convenient options
Even with more Whole Foods than tan lines, L.A. is a vast, sprawling city, without the centralization you picture in most cities. In many hoods, it’s not realistic to “pop across the street” for a bite. But in my experience, the easy option was rarely the healthy one: usually a croissant-laden café, bodega, food cart, or drug store. To avoid having to drive and risk traffic for your meal, you’re much more likely to form the habit of bringing food from home – a much surer way to know what you’re putting in your body and skew on the more health-conscious side.
Another phenomenon: going with the healthy (but more expensive) option, because the cheaper option is actually further away.
There you have it! Have you encountered any of the above, either as a resident – new or old – or visitor? I’ll be honest it was hard not to also mention as particularly influential that pizza in the city, frankly, sucks (at least New York style), and that day-drinking is trickier, with many great bar options not opening until the early evening. Both of these, however, felt covered by the above, if not a bit unique to transplants from NYC, where pizza and late morning booze fuel our financial capital.
Here’s hoping the above will help manage your expectations for the move (stop it, you know you want to), or give you a good chuckle as a rooted Angeleno 🙂 ‘Til next time, enjoy!