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          Grocery Store Bigots: by Jo Cordi Sica

                                     "People are very open-minded about new things
                                              
as long as they're exactly like the old ones."
                                                                              Charles F. Kettering

Susan walks through the aisles of her local grocery store smiling as she selects her full fat dairy products, meat, eggs, and veggies. Occasionally, she notices a sidelong skeptical glance, but all in all, sheís not bothered. Susan weighs 115 pounds and wears a size 4 skirt.

For Mary, shopping is a totally different experience. While Mary purchases the same items as Susan, she is the victim of disgusted looks, raised eyebrows, and sad headshakes. In fact, these reactions are so common that Mary has resorted to shopping at 2:00 A.M. at her local Super Wal-Mart. By doing so, she is mostly able to avoid the judgmental looks and comments from strangers. Mary weighs 260 pounds and wears a size 22.

Mary and Susan have a lot in common; they have both lost nearly 100 pounds following a low carb plan. Both women are healthier and happier than they have been in years. Both have managed to get off a number of medications for various health problems. Yet, Mary is still a victim of grocery bigotry. Strangers see her purchases, and because she is still overweight, assume that her excess weight is a result of eating meat, cheese, and cream. Amazingly, when Mary was nearly 400 pounds, she rarely experienced odd looks as she filled her cart with pasta, bread, trans-fat filled margarine, and sugar-laden Snack Wells. I suppose if everything you buy is low fat, people assume you are trying to lose the weight, therefore; that being fat is somehow less offensive.

I completely understand why Mary shops in the middle of the night. I have certainly experienced enough embarrassment at the grocery store to know what it feels like. I remember one time when I was at my highest weight ever buying a congratulations card along with some ice cream. I had no use for the card; it was merely a cover up so that I could loudly announce to the check out clerk that we were having a celebration at work. I didnít want anyone to know that I was going to eat the ice cream (in my car in the parking garage at work.) I simply could not bear people looking at me with that ďno wonder youíre fatĒ look. The difference now is that ďFrankly Scarlett, I donít give a d***!Ē Maybe itís because I am at a ďnormalĒ size now. Then again, maybe my self-confidence has improved. Or, maybe it is because Iíve turned the tables and have become a grocery bigot myself. Honestly, it isnít just at the grocery store. Iím a carb bigot. I find myself giving the same disgusted looks to friends, family, and complete strangers.

I cringe when my sister-in-law shows up at family cookouts carrying in macaroni salad, potato salad, and baked ziti. I know what that stuff is doing to my familyís waistlines and blood sugar. They do too, but sadly, they donít care. They think Iím silly for worrying so much about my weight. They figure life is short, we should enjoy it. The way I see it, I am enjoying life. Iíd be willing to bet that Iíll be enjoying it a lot longer than they will too!

Yes, I even shake my head when I see people stocking their carts with Snack Wells. I take great (if sick) delight in reaching past someone getting margarine to grab a pound of real butter. I buy heavy cream every time I go to the store, whether I need it or not, just hoping someone will look at me funny. Iíve learned to smile brightly at these people because I know a secret they donít; fat does not make you fat! Donít get me wrong, Iíd love to spread the Atkins gospel, but die-hard Ornish types do not want to hear the truth. I am contemplating having a special shirt made just to wear to the grocery store. It will say something like ďPass the butter, pleaseĒ on the front and ďAtkins follower and PROUD OF IT!Ē on the back. My days of hiding and being embarrassed about food are over. Iíve been there, done that, and donít care to go again.

Recently, Josh Mankiewicz did a story on Dateline about his success with the Atkins plan. He too felt the effects of food bigots. Following his story, he received tons of hate mail about how disgusting it was seeing him eating all that steak. His response was ďWhatís everyone so angry about? Weíre talking food here, folks.Ē That was brilliant! It IS just food; so why do we allow it to become a moral issue? That includes me. I am becoming as morally indignant about my low carb lifestyle as the low fat believers are about their eating habits.

I know from the forums that many of us have issues with food. Iím neither the only one that suffered from ďcloset eatingĒ, nor am I the only one who gained weight eating a low fat diet. I am an educated adult capable of making healthy decisions about what foods with which to fuel my body. There is no reason to feel embarrassed about my purchases or to have to secretly shop at strange hours as I did in my pre-teens buying feminine hygiene products. This is real life, and low carb is a legitimate and healthy way of life. I know it, you know it, and we have every right to be proud of what we are doing for ourselves. Nonetheless, Iím going to work on being a little less self-righteous about my low carb way of life. Shop and let shop. Well, unless someone looks at me funny, in which case I may put on that specially made T-shirt!

                  Jo Cordi Sica
                  SPHR Organizational Development and Training
                  jwcordi@aol.com




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