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Baffled at the grocery store while shopping for a binge
February 6, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 446 lbs.
Last week: 443 lbs.
Start weight: 470 lbs.
Total lost: 24 lbs.
Something happened at the grocery store last Tuesday that confuses the hell out of me.
I called my wife on the cellphone after leaving the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee meeting, asking her if she wanted anything from the grocery store. She wanted pistachios and no-sugar caramel/chocolate candy.
With the stress of Winter Carnival and day one of deadline at the newspaper, I was hungry. I had eaten two pieces of pizza before the meeting, even had breakfast and lunch, but since I weighed in that morning for the week, the pressure was off and I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted after the meeting. The stress hit me when I sat in the car to head home. It was an impulse; I had not planned on going to the store.
“I’m being honest,” I told my wife on the phone. “I don’t feel like behaving tonight.”
She didn’t try to stop me.
So I went to Tops with the goal of binging. Maybe beer, chocolate, chicken wings, whatever I desired. After all, I would have six days to recover and lose weight before next Tuesday. I rationalized it and felt good about it.
What baffled me about this shopping trip was the food I actually took home. I walked out of Tops with healthy food, no junk, and I didn’t exactly know why.
There was no hand wringing, no pacing up and down the aisles with a guilty conscience, no friends around to sway my decisions. My emotions simply changed from when I walked into the store to when I walked out of the store. The end result had me so perplexed that I lost sleep.
My question: Am I training myself to cope with stress eating without knowing it?
My answer: Beats the hell out of me.
My solution was to write about it, tracing every step, emotion and decision. At 3 a.m., I grabbed my smartphone and took notes on the shopping trip memories, fresh and swirling around in my head. I wrote down the food I was going to buy and the food I ended up buying. I wanted to explain, aisle by aisle, how I left Tops with healthy food while shopping for junk food.
My first stop: nuts. I didn’t see pistachios on the shelves, so I picked up cashew pieces. They were on sale — a small consolation for not getting what my wife really wanted.
Then I went up the candy aisle. I was in the mood for chocolate. Raisinets, maybe? No. A large Hershey bar? No. A Giant Chunky candy bar? Yes! I love Chunky, and I was about to put one in my cart. Then I made a mistake: I looked at the label to see how many calories were in it: 570. Damn! I could have had a Chunky, but I didn’t want to pack in 570 calories just for one small dessert. So I put it back and picked up my wife’s Russell Stover no-sugar candy.
Next stop: meats. Heading out of the candy aisle, I turned right to see if there were any leftover chicken wings from the deli. Nope. So I turned left to the hot dogs. I decided I didn’t want all that salt, so I moved on, looking for something already cooked or something I could reheat in the microwave.
I stopped at the barbecue meat in plastic tubs, a favorite of mine. Curly’s shredded pork was 900 calories per 16-ounce container (I would have eaten the entire thing). The Lloyd’s barbecue pork and beef were both 720 calories for a 16-ounce container. It was at that point my mood changed. In the blink of an eye, I decided to make it a game to find something tasty and quick with fewer calories than the pulled pork.
Frozen chicken was next. A bag of Tyson Chicken Nuggets was 2,430 calories, a bag of Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips was 1,520 calories, and a bag of Tyson Buffalo Style Chicken Strips was 2,470 calories. Winner, winner, chicken was clearly not for dinner.
I moved past the French fries and frozen veggies to the door with pizza rolls, a favorite of mine. A 40-count bag of the Totino’s pepperoni pizza rolls was 1,540 calories. In the same cooler, I looked at Farm Rich Mozzarella Sticks (2,340 calories per bag), cream cheese jalapeno poppers (forgot the exact calorie count, but it was too much), Tina’s Beef & Bean Burrito (280 calories each, but too much because I would have eaten three or four) and a six-pack of White Castle cheeseburger sliders (930 calories). No luck there.
I briefly thought about making my own cheeseburgers, but I didn’t want to cook — only reheat — so I moved on.
Passing the MorningStar Farms fake meat door in the freezer section, I reached in to see how many calories were in a four-pack of veggie burgers — just for fun. I picked up a random box: Asian Veggie Patties. At 400 calories a box — 100 calories per patty — I had a clear winner in this silly contest. But they looked delicious, so I bought a box. I had a vision of two veggie burger sandwiches for dinner, each with slices of sweet onion and cheddar cheese and a slathering of mayonnaise.
When I got to the beer cooler, I started to look at the selection. Then I thought about my newest innovation on the Lake Placid Diet: beer night. Every Saturday, I give myself permission to have one drink — a mixed drink, glass of wine or a bottle of beer, as long as it’s a product from the Lake Placid region. While eyeing a six-pack, I told myself, “If I have beer now, I’ll lose my special night.” So instead of ruining beer night, I turned around, literally.
There were pistachios in the middle of the aisle, so I put a bag in the cart before walking to the frozen fruit. I grabbed a bag of berry medley (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries) to have as dessert with plain, nonfat yogurt (already in the fridge) and a drizzle of local honey (in the cupboard). After having this dessert on Saturday night, I found it tastes better than many varieties of ice cream (except my favorite, Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk).
On my way to the nut aisle, where I put back the cashews, I decided against cheese for the veggie burgers. I stopped by the canned veggie aisle to see if they had marinated mushrooms, a low-calorie favorite. They were out. I did pick up a can of artichoke hearts packed in water (135 calories total). Then I thought, “These would be great in a salad.”
After picking up an onion for my veggie burgers, I chose Newman’s Own Caesar Dressing for my salad, passed on a bag of cheese-and-garlic croutons (my nutrition consultant, Wynde, wants me to stay away from gluten), and I checked out.
By the time I left the store, my stress was gone. In fact, I think it may have disappeared as soon as I put the pulled pork back in the cooler and made a game out of finding the lower calorie count.
When I got home, I told my wife about the strange shopping trip and made myself some food: a medium-sized salad with the Newman’s Own dressing and artichoke hearts, leftover spiced couscous, a bowl of yogurt and frozen berries with drizzled honey and two Asian Veggie Burgers (no onion, cheese, mayonnaise or bread) placed on top of the salad. I drank ice water.
As a fat person who takes pride in his ability to overeat, I am embarrassed to say this was my Tuesday evening binge, eaten between 8 and 8:30 p.m. while watching an episode of BBC’s “Sherlock” on Netflix.
If there are any lessons to be gleaned from this shopping trip, they will take some time to sink in. Clearly, I was able to change my mood and emotions and eventually concentrate on healthy eating. I’m still dumbstruck because it was not a conscious decision to change my mind; it happened naturally. Something is working, at least some of the time. I wish I knew what.
Next week: Meet a couple taking the local weight-loss challenge.
Contact Andy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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