Most people have heard of the South Beach diet, but only few have heard of the “South By Diet.” And only true SXSW festival-goers can really ever experience it first hand, and unwillingly, may I add.
When gearing up for SXSW, a weeklong blur of music and concerts and people and walking, no one ever really stops to think about the three meals a day normal humans are supposed to be taking in. I had planned which outfits I would wear, what bands I would see and what venues I would be walking back and forth to, but that thing I did not plan was meals.
Waking up too late to eat breakfast (and mostly because I did not have any real food in my apartment), I was forced, due to lack of planning mostly, to eat breakfast from the 7-Eleven down the street from where we parked every day.
Now, because I needed and wanted a cup of coffee every morning and coffee is vital to my existence and pleasant humor, early on I loved the fact that I could conveniently get cheap coffee to start my SXSW day. (Because although my love of Starbucks runs deep, who can really justify spending $5 on a small coffee that could feed a poor rural family for a week in a less developed country.) However, in addition to the cup of coffee, my breakfast food of choice was chocolate mini donuts. My friend Taylor, the news editor, also joined me, choosing water and a honey bun.
This breakfast habit continued for almost the whole week. I’m sure I was not alone in my bad choice for the “most important meal of the day.”
“You’re going to consist of only coffee and donuts by the time we’re done,” Taylor said to me. And I fear that may now be true.
As we walked through the streets and bars of Austin, I noticed a theme. Fast food and food trucks were feeding the masses of festival-goers. Everywhere you looked there seemed to be a Jimmy John’s guy running into a bar to deliver a sandwich. Greasy pizza carts and stands sprung up and hungover girls and currently drunk girls alike flocked to them to eat unhealthy amounts of cheese and bread. SXSW is not the dieter’s friend, it’s the dieter’s guilty vacation.
However what is probably the hardest South By Diet staple to come to terms with is the drinking before noon aspect that is encouraged by local bars. Don’t get me wrong, I was enjoying the cheap coffee and the chocolaty donuts and the pass to eat junk food and not be judged for it, but when bars start giving out free drink tickets at 11:30 a.m. it gets tough.
I’m not a drinker, though I’ll enjoy a nice wine, but when going to free shows at noon and being handed a drink ticket it’s hard to say no to a free margarita that would normally be $6. But it is also hard to watch as girls and guys alike get crazy-dance-drunk at a noon concert on free drinks. Your day is either all uphill or all downhill from there.
All in all, I survived the week on the South By Diet. At times I was nauseous. At times I was dizzy from lack of food. At times I shouldn’t have eaten at all. I spent a ridiculous amount on bottles of water just to keep hydrated because walking all over downtown Austin is a kind of sport in and of itself.
Word to the wise, pack yourself a nutritious lunch for SXSW or at least fruit for a snack. Because although you won’t see food mentioned on a “what to pack for SXSW list,” it should be.