I’ve tried to the kind of person who doesn’t care what other people think about me in public. I like to think I am that guy, but when I am honest, it falls apart. I drive a car of way less status of a normal professional 40 year old guy, I used to buy all my clothes at Value City before it closed, and when I had hair, I didn’t go to a stylist, I went to an old-fashioned barber, my Dad.
But there are two places I have always been hyper aware of others’ perception. These are probably the places where people actually pay the least attention, but for me the anxiety is highest.
#1 – restaurants
#2 – the grocery store
I am only just beginning to be able to sit in a normal chair at a restaurant without feeling odd, like I am taking up half the room and being in everyone’s way. When I was over 350, I knew, I just KNEW that anything I would eat in a restaurant would be judged, criticized, at least astutely observed by everyone around. I didn’t say this was a rational belief, but it was strong.
I had the same thought as the grocery store. What does this order look like on the check out belt? What does it say about me? As I’ve gone low carb, I wonder if my high fat meat, cheese, and cream look out of place next to the vegetables. I don’t really care, which is nice and liberating.
But I had an incident this week where I became one of those people that I feared were watching me so often. And I hoped it came out of a good place, not a nasty one, but I still feel a bit crappy about it nonetheless.
I was making my rounds in a large local grocery store, and as I was near the dairy case, a much older lady in a motorized scooter asked if I could get something out of the case for her. She couldn’t get out of the scooter to reach it. She was extremely overweight. Sure, I said. She asked me to get her four 1/2 gallons of super skim milk. If you don’t know what super skim is, it’s a real abomination. It’s skim milk for people who don’t want to punish themselves with skim milk, so there are additives to make it seem more like whole milk, but without the milkfat. As I reached up and got one at a time, putting them in her basket, I couldn’t help but notice other things in the cart. Big jugs of juice, some real, some synthetic. (Not that our kidneys, pancreas or liver really care.) As I moved to the cheese area, she needed help again, and I got her some reduced fat swiss.
So here’s where my brain was working, not to judge, sneer or roll my eyes, but to file this away as a case study. She was, to a degree, trying to do what doctors tell her: cut down on the fat. So she ends up with sugar, sugar sugar. Yes, skim milk is sugar, it’s lactose. -OSE means sugar. But she’s doing what she’s told. Cut out the fat. And it appears that she does. And she is still so overweight that she needs a scooter to get around the store.
I wasn’t judging, I wasn’t ridiculing, but I was pitying. And I feel bad for that, because she doesn’t need my pity. Well, maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t, but I am being pretty short-sighted to make that judgment based on what she was buying at the store that day.
But this is hardly unique. I have had several conversations with elderly people who tell me they are diabetic, then proceed to load up a plate with commercial bakery white rolls and pasta salad. I mean, what the hell are these doctors telling people? Or is no one listening at all? Readers of this blog may recall my horror two years ago as I first started paying attention to my blood sugar, and a man inferred I was diabetic when I ordered unsweetened tea. He said knowingly “me too. But I just take my pills and eat whatever.”
I have never been ok with this philosophy. My reaction to an attempt at prescribing ANYTHING that requires a pharmacy, is always “well how do we avoid this?” If the answer is a clear “we don’t, you need this antibiotic now” then fine. But pharma needs to be a LAST resort, not a FIRST.
I should really reserve this comment for another time, but I am sure I will find a way to repeat it or expound upon it……. this goes for parents too. I keep my opinion to myself, which is not easy, and I may fail at it soon.,…. but here it is at no one individual in particular:
of course your kid is going to be an undisciplined little ball of misbehaved energy when you let him have two capri suns and 6 cookies!!!
Seriously, we are druggin our children every which way. And I’m not even talking about the absolutel crime against humanity that is the pharmaceutical response to behavior, I’m talking about the complete disregard for the level of sugar we pump into our kids. I’m horrofied at what I have allowed into my own children, and I bet most people would consider it quite low and strict. Stop giving them fruit juice. Just stop. You are doing their system no better than you are with soda. That is not some radical overblown crazy talk, ask any pediatrician or dentist.
So back tot he grocery store, I do some more of that judging when I see the piles of packs of cookies in a cart and poorly behaved, screaming little kids, fat or not.
As Louis CK points out “we pump our kids fuil of sugar, caffeine and MSG, and WEIRDLY they react.”
And here’s what makes me mad. I am sure more than a few people reading this have decided that I am a judgmental prick who has no right to tell them what to do with their kids, and I’m a hypocrite because my kids aren’t 100% vegan or lowcarb like me or whatever.
But man, let’s be honest. If I said tomorrow that I was getting rid of the television and the wii, and the kindle fire, and the DS games, and we would be focusing all our attention on growing our food, you would think I was a crazy radical who was going to screw up my kids.
But if I announced that I was going to split a weekender bag of middleswarth chips with them along with a pound of oreos, and hammer it down with kool-aid, I’d be considered a fun Dad and no one would call me out as doing something bad for their health.
Joel Salatin, we all need you desperately.