Sunday, March 11, 2012

Get Real

At the check-out in Wegman's recently, I found myself looking at the items on the belt of the person in front of me.  I need to say here that I consciously do NOT look at others' items because I can't help but let my mind go in places I don't like it to be.  And to be totally honest, I don't often go to mainstream stores like Wegman's because I like to stay in my little health-nut bubble, shopping at my local health food stores or at Whole Foods.

But, there I was, in line at Wegmans, staring at the food on the belt, and this is what I saw:  Among a few other items, Lactaid milk, sugar-free chocolate pudding, fat free ice cream, and Pepperidge Farm cookies.  The shopper was a middle-aged, pot-bellied man.

I'm so tempted sometimes to hand out my card to people, to tell them, "please, let me help you find delicious, healthy REAL food."  But I can't.  Not only is it not ethical or socially appropriate, but these people don't want my help.  I'm pretty sure this man has it figured out already (or so he thinks).  Who knows, maybe he was even shopping for someone else.  It's really none of my business.
But those items on the belt represent, to me, the wrong direction that this country has taken in food-like substances (as Michael Pollan says).  Besides those items not being whole foods or even real foods, they are also imposters.  They are trying to pretend to be other things, and in my opinion, quite unsuccessfully.

Get real.  As I say to my clients, if you don't want to give up the ice cream, then don't.  Learn to moderate.  Learn to strategize so that you are forced to have small portions, and when you're treating yourself to that smaller portion, savor it.  Eat it slowly, enjoying every taste and texture and smell that you can out of it.  And then eat real, whole foods, mostly vegetables, the rest of the time so that you don't have to guilt yourself over having that one delicious cookie or small bowl of ice cream.

Last month I went to Belize for vacation where we ate local, whole foods for all three meals of the day.  One of the guides that gave us a tour asked me what I did back at home. I told him I was a health and nutrition counselor.  He looked at me perplexed.  I explained, "Well, in America, people often don't know how to eat healthy foods."  "Ahhh!"  he said, "Too much McDonald's!"  He had never been, of course.  And perhaps, that's why he was so perplexed at first.  I can't tell you how refreshing that was.  The truth is, if I were to retire to Belize, I may still have a job, but my clients would be the expatriate and retired Americans who finally decided it was time to get real.