You probably have all heard the saying, “you don’t become tall by hanging around tall people,” which is in fact true. Being tall is not contagious, but what about if you hung around overweight or obese people? Would you then become overweight or obese as well? First let me clarify that overweight and obesity, like height, are not contagious in the way that the beloved cold, flu, and the trending ebola is. What recent research (caution: read at your own risk it is a rather dull article) has found is that overweight and obesity may be a socially transmitted disease. Think about it. How often do you meet up with friends, family, old co-workers, classmates, etc to exercise? My guess would be hardly ever. What do we do instead you ask? We meet up for coffee, dinner, drinks, or to watch a movie/tv show. Basically all we are doing is sitting around, eating, and talking, but do you ever think that the people you eat with influence you? To help illustrate this phenomenon, I am going to delight you with yet another one of my hypothetical scenarios.
Let's say that I came to lunch with you, maybe it’s a date or maybe not, I’ll let you decide. (That’s right I am still single...despite my mothers attempts to marry me off.) Anyways, before we even order you are a little paranoid because you are eating with a dietitian and we only eat lettuce, apples, and sometimes if we splurge, carrots, so I am obviously going to judge you based on what you order. So...you think to yourself,
"Should I go with a salad? Should I get the dressing on the side? What about a diet soda? Does adding lemon to my water count as a serving of fruit? What if I get the fried pickles…pickles are a vegetable? I want a burger but maybe I will get a veggie burger because it has veggies in it so it has to be healthy right? Wait…let me get the sweet potato fries because they are better for you right?"
Whew...decisions decsions. Anyways, what if on our lunch date, I ordered a salad with no cheese or croutons (shameless promotion: did I mention that all of our croutons on campus are made in house and delicious?!?), just veggies and oil & vinegar dressing? Chances are you would order something a little healthier, even if you really wanted a baconator and fries. Fast forward through random small talk about the weather and our childhoods mixed in with small white lies and half-truths, I eat half of my salad and stop and say how stuffed I am and ask the server for a box (because everybody loves leftover salads right?). You on the other hand are halfway done with whatever option you deemed a little bit healthier than a baconator and are still hungry, but I stopped eating and you don’t want to look like a pig right? So you stop eating as well and try to fill the remaining room in your stomach with water or whatever it is you ordered to drink. We both get boxes for our remaining food and the server hands us the bill, which I might offer to go halfsies on but I don’t really mean it, so you pay the bill and we leave. Noticed how my order and actions dictated what and how much you ate? Did I intend to make you to choose a healthier option or to eat less? Yes, because in studying to become a dietitian we all take we take a class called how to judge people and make them feel bad 101, but me being a woman, am a natural and tested out of it. Ok, so maybe I am just kidding on that one, but the real answer is no. My actions still influenced you though.
Now, what if on our date I ordered first and ordered a baconator with fries with ranch (I am from the Midwest after all and we do love our ranch)?
My guess is that your reaction would be something along the lines of, “heck yeah, this chick is the coolest dietitian ever!” and you would proceed with your order of a monster burger and fries. Again, fast-forward through random small talk about the weather and our childhoods mixed in with small white lies and half-truths, but instead I annihilate my baconator and fries with ranch. Not wanting to be shown up by a girl, you join the clean plate club as well. Blah, blah, blah, you pay the bill and we leave. Notice how I dictated what and how much you ate differently than in the first scenario? Note: This really is hypothetical because A-I am a vegetarian (gasp, one of those hippy tree huggers) and B-You should never take someone to Wendy’s on a first date.
Breaking it Down
Is the moral of the story to eat with a dietitian? No. Should you never eat a baconator and fries? No. Should you abandon all of your friends, family, etc that do not eat as healthy? No. The moral of the story is to be more cognizant of the influence that whoever you are eating with has on you. If you want to eat healthier stick to it, heck maybe you can be the leader of team nutrition and unintentionally get whomever it is you are eating with to eat a little healthier or to eat less, but beware you may get the title of food police or nutrition nazi...
Now if you will excuse me, I am late for my daily ritual of singing Beyonce’s Single Ladies while parading around my living room with my dog.
Until next time!
Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,