Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shameful Shopping

A few days ago, I read my friend, The Babe's, blog. The Babe is fantastic, sweet, funny and a brilliant writer to boot. She just had gastric bypass surgery and is learning how to adapt to her changes. And can I just say that she has lost a LOT of weight in the past month and I'm sure looks fabulous? Okay then, she's lost a lost and looks great. :) Anyway, she recently wrote about a grocery store experience that she had where she saw her nutritionist at the store. I didn't comment on the post right away (as I am wont to do when I'm trying to figure out a mindful comment) but in my comment this morning, I realized that I wanted to expound upon my own experiences with shameful shopping.

I remember when I was a kid - old enough to walk to places on my own, but not old enough to drive - I would walk to the grocery store about a half a mile away. At this grocery store, I'd buy two jumbo packs (I think I remember it being around 8-10 regular packages each) of Peanut Butter Twix.

As a young teenager, this took a lot of planning. I mean, I *knew* I couldn't eat all of those before I got back to the house - and even if I could, where would I put the wrappers? I would have to empty my backpack of it's books and walk to the store, buy my loot and then try to eat it as quickly as possible before going home. I'd put a wrapper or two in various neighbor's trash cans and hide the rest at home in various trash cans should my mom become suspicious as a bunch of them in mine.

When I could drive and had my own place, I could freely buy the food I wanted most. Sort of.

Because the thing is, although I lived in constant fear of someone I knew seeing what was in my shopping cart, the person I dreaded the most was the cashier.

Cashiers are funny - you can't always tell who is going to be the chatty one, just like you can't tell who is going to be overly slow or who is going to smush your bread. You can *try* to figure it out (much like trying to pick the fastest line in the security check at the airport), but it's difficult.

I can't remember how many times I've lied to cashiers. Sometimes they'd ask "Oh, are you having a party?" and I'd mumble something like "Yes" just so they'd keep checking my items. If pressed on the party type or reason, I'd make up something - anything - as long as they would stop asking questions. It's easy to see why they'd think that- when I looked at the items on the conveyor belt, they were half gallons of ice cream, bags of chips, dips, and frozen pizzas. I remember once buying several pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and having the cashier make a funny weird face about it. I quickly lied, "Oh, I have a friend that just went through a break up and I don't know which ice cream she'd prefer so I bought a few." The cashier would smile, nod, and comment on what a great friend I was.

My salvation at the grocery store is when they started adding those self-checkout stations.

Even through previous attempts at weight loss - ones where I'd deprive myself on a regular basis - I'd eventually break and go to the store to buy all of my "red light foods." In those moments, I'd feel such shame. I just *knew* that the people behind me and in front of me in line (as well as the cashier) knew that all this food was for me. I felt disappointment that I was breaking my diet and I also felt helpless. Because when the food is on the conveyor belt (and therefore SO close to being MINE), I would suffer just about anything to get it. In fact, the humiliation that I felt was fodder for me feeling like I NEEDED the treats. Food would make me feel better...and, in truth, it always did.

But during the last year and a half, I've cut out most of that. It wasn't always easy. At first, I started slowly. Gradually, the times between the red light food shopping sprees got longer and longer. And now, it's an extremely rare occasion when I have crap food on the conveyor belt.

Do I still have the cravings to buy jumbo packages of candy? Absolutely. But those feelings are rarer and rarer now. So rare that when I notice that I'm craving them, it almost shocks me - and I take a scan of myself and my mind to find out WHY I'm craving something like that. Sometimes I get the answer quickly and other times I don't.

What happens with much more regularity is me feeling good about the food that I present to the conveyor belt. I shop, and have shopped, for healthier items so much that I don't even really have a lot of feelings about the food I buy. I'm on auto-pilot. If I had to pick an emotion about it, I guess I would say that I am proud that I have things in bags from the produce section versus over processed foods in boxes.

My old shopping experiences were harried and anxiety filled. I worried about who could see what I was buying and what they thought. I got in and out quickly for fear that I would run into someone I knew. I grabbed whatever looked good and let my cravings make the decisions.

Now, I don't care who sees what I'm buying. I still have snacks, but they're directed more to healthy options than to cravings. I see a rainbow of colors in my cart. I know that the food that I will consume will be tasty and will be good for my body. It will fuel my runs and will allow me to enjoy my evenings. I don't worry about what someone would see if they opened the cupboards or fridge.

It was so cool to read The Babe's post because until then, I guess I hadn't really realized how much my shopping experience has changed.

Next on the list: cleaning up my fast food choices and/or the amount of times I eat fast food. I may not be shy about letting people look in my pantry or fridge, but to look at the wrappers of some of the fast food items I pick? Eesh. I want to start cooking more meals and spend less time eating out of containers.


TinaM said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. You are very brave to do so, and I really enjoy reading your blog.
Fast food is a problem for me too, a huge problem! I know how hard that habit is to brake. Good Luck to you!!!

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

Buying junk and hiding the wrappers - that was me.

Funny how we don't want to judged by the if you'd plunked down two dozen boxes of condoms on the conveyor belt or something!

I used to pretend I was buying the second of two apple fritters for someone else when I'd go to the same Starbucks everyday. It was always the same baristas working there, and I didn't want them to know I was going to eat BOTH, plus a grande caramel macchiato. So I'd ask for the apple fritters to be put into separate bags. Cuckoo!

Both donuts would be gone before I reached my house 3 minutes away, and then I'd hide the trash so no one would see...Of course everyone DID see - it was written all over my arse!

It sounds like you've made some big changes. Give yourself a big high-five! Sorry this was so long :)

Nathalie said...

Awesome about shopping healthier. I'm where you're at when it comes to that now. I don't even give myself the option of shopping for candy, or highly processed foods. Now if I can just deal with that portion distortion and eating out. . . Anyways, loved the post. :)

Amy Pousson said...

I, too, have purchased multiple pints of Ben & Jerry's all at the same time. Lucky I seem to pick the sleepy looking cashiers who don't comment much. I can have good trips to the grocery store and I can have not so good trips to the grocery store. I guess the not so good ones are fewer and farther in between.

The last trip I made, I was proud that I stuck to the outside of the store. Lots of produce, healthy dairy, etc. Only things from the middle were bread and coffee. It's been a while, but the woman who works in the health food section of my local grocery store once glanced at my cart and said, "Lots of healthy things in there, good for you!" which made me beam from ear to ear. And to be honest, I think about that ever time I get to that section, "what if I run into her?"

anne h said...

Even if you get the slowest line at the airport, the plane won't leave till everyone is on board.
What that means, I cannot say.
But I thought it was pretty good.
Until, that is, I read it just now!
Love your blog!

The Babe said...

Thanks for the lovely comments. I had always wondered if I was the only person with this problem. I'm finding that we all have these hangups, and that sometimes it's good to know you're not the only one.