I just got home from a trip to the grocery store and it was disheartening. My mood has nothing to do with what I purchased or wished I could eat, but what I observed around me. I found myself in the cake mix aisle; a place that I rarely visit these days. Before you start shaking your head, I was there to buy a cake mix to make my mother’s 93rd birthday cake. I bought sugar free if that makes any difference. Anyway, there was a woman there who was grabbing boxes and boxes of cake mix because they were on sale (buy 8 and you can save 50 cents per box!!) Who in the heck needs that many cake mixes? The woman wasn’t severely overweight but, let’s just say, she would never be mistaken for Twiggy.
Next scene: a rather portly gentleman who looked old at first, but upon closer perusal seemed as if he was just a well-ridden 60-something year old man. He was slowly pushing a cart that held his oxygen tank; a cane hung on the side. I couldn’t help but notice that his cart was chock full of frozen dinners, cookies, soda and other convenient foods. Not a green food in sight! Nothing fresh! I’d have been happy to see frozen broccoli, but alas, there was none to be found.
The final straw was when I was forced to listen to a rather loud conversation between a woman and her son, who looked to be about 8. The woman had a box of iced cookies from the bakery in her hand and she was arguing with her son, “No, you can’t have any of these cookies. These are for me! Remember, I’m buying you that box of Twinkies and I promised you a candy bar if you were good.” This pair would not be mistaken as the poster children for a healthy lifestyle. Disheartened.
There is something that you need to know about me; I’m usually a quiet person who prefers to keep to herself. I detest confrontation and yet I had this desire to preach to these people about what they’re doing to themselves! I mean, come on! Hello!! Is it really that difficult to understand how to eat a healthy diet? Apparently it is. (You should also know that I don’t make a practice of peeking into other people’s carts or rating their purchases on the “health scale”. It just sort of jumped in my face today, for some reason.)
Let’s go back about 20 years to a time when I still had young children at home. Was my grocery cart filled with fresh vegetables and lean meat? Not always. Did I buy packaged convenience foods? Yup. Cookies? Uh huh. I wish the me of today could go back and tell the me of then a few things, but I probably wouldn’t have listened. I know how hard it is to try to feed a family in today’s economy. Look at a grocery ad in the paper today. The things that are on sale are not the 93% burger and fresh vegetables. You will mostly see the least healthy foods for the lowest prices.
As much as I dislike confrontation, I so wanted to explain to these people what they are doing wrong. I wanted to tell them how easy it is to prepare a healthy dinner for their children or encourage them to eat correctly even if they live alone. It reminds me of watching a horror movie. There you are, clutching your bowl of popcorn, watching the young heroine enter the dark room. You know that the monster/bad guy/creepy thing is there hiding in the shadows! You want to tell her, “Run away! Don’t go in that room!! Are you stupid??” You have the information that she needs but she can’t hear you. You could save her if she would just listen to you! That’s how it felt this afternoon. I felt like I could save that young boy and his mother from an unhealthy future if they would only listen.
Are we doomed? Will the “new” plate method being touted by our government make a difference? I’d like to think so but I’m not convinced. You can’t force people to eat a certain way. Most people don’t like to be told that they’re doing something wrong or harmful to themselves. The information is out there, it’s up to each individual to educate themselves and then take action. Unfortunately, it usually takes a trauma or tragedy to get people’s attention; like being diagnosed with diabetes.
Short of standing on the corner atop a soapbox, what can one person do? One very easy thing I can do is to teach by example. I can do that for my grandchildren (my kids already eat fairly healthily). I can live a healthy lifestyle and, just maybe, they will see how easy it can be….and how important it is. That is what one person can do.