What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

Strange title, I know. And no, it’s not a song title . . . that I know of . . . but I have many musical friends and I’m sure one of them could come up with something. (Musical Friends: if you come up with something good, I’ll TOTALLY post it)

Elephant Journal Logo via google

Anyhow. Some weeks ago, I was reading a post on elephantjournal.com entitled What Your Yoga Teacher REALLY Thinks About You. Naturally, coming from the hyper-critical world of dance, and being the cynical, judgement-paranoid girl that I am, I expected it to be a “Stop fixing your hair in downward dog/Make sure you have bathed in the last 3 days before coming to class/please make sure your yoga pants aren’t threadbare – I don’t want to see your hot pink thong” kind of thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The author, Kristin Althea, is all about the love. She thinks the sweat, and the shirt riding up, and the falling out of poses, and the being human is beautiful. Well, knock me down with a feather. And for some reason, this skeptic-of-the-year believes her.

It made me think, too, about places besides yoga class when I worry about judgement. In the eating disorder world, judgement is a pathological fear. The grocery store clerk, at one time, could have reduced me to tears if she had so much as commented on anything I bought. (ie Wow! You buy a lot of cucumbers!) I remember, when I first started eating again, that being sent to the health food store was the most traumatic of all. These weren’t just people bearing witness to the food I purchased, but people who knew something about food, who likely ate healthily themselves, and had the ultimate authority to judge my groceries.

Now, I’m that person at the cash register of the health food store, pointing you in the direction of chia seeds, teaching you how to cook quinoa, and asking that often shame-inducing question, “Are these the organic cranberries, or regular?” From this position of power, I thought I’d write my own:

 What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

As a shopper, I’m always convinced that cashiers are taking note of everything in my cart. I will often make excuses or jokes about things I’m uncomfortable about buying, or things I buy with great regularity. But here’s the shocker: I don’t have a clue what was in the cart of the person I rang through 5 seconds ago, let alone last time you came in. I worked for 9 hours today, and I can’t tell you more than one item that anyone bought today.

There are some exceptions to this checkout amnesia. There is “Hummus Lady”, with whom I have bonded over our mutual love of Sunflower Kitchen hummus, and the fact that she buys two tubs every time she comes in (sometimes more than once a week). She made jokes about it, at first, saying “You must think I’m absolutely insane, buying this much hummus.” I hadn’t noticed until then. Now it’s a running joke. There’s a little 2-yr-old boy who I absolutely love, and I know he’ll always buy his favorite cereal that he calls “Papa’s Cherrios” and, if it’s a Friday, “Choco Milk”. I know what foods some of my regulars buy, but it’s objective knowledge. No judgement involved.

  • When I ask you “organic, or non?” I’m not judging your response: I just need to know which code to ring in. Organic is expensive. I, of anyone, understand if you choose the cheaper route. I’m just happy you’re choosing to spend the money you have at our small, independent health food store, rather than at one of the “big name” stores. My bosses are some of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met, and I’d rather your money go to raising their families, than to furnishing the 2nd home of the “big name” store CEO.
  • If you have 2 bags of chips, I’m not thinking “Wow, what a glutton.” I’m thinking, “Ok, remember to take the promotional discount off of the second bag . . . oh hey, I didn’t know we got a new flavor . . . how can I bag their groceries without crushing these?” I swear. I’m too busy doing my job to think any less of you. Besides, I’m all about balance. Have the courage to eat your chips without shame.
  • If I ask you a question about why you are choosing an item, or what recipe you’re using it in, I’m not testing you: I don’t know enough about it and I really want to learn. Thanks for teaching me.
  • Unlike Kristin, I don’t think you all are beautiful. My job title makes me little more than pond scum to many people, despite the fact that I have spent more years in college than just about anyone who isn’t a doctor or lawyer. You treat me like shit, I’m not going to think that you’re beautiful. But, I have many customers of every age, shape, race, religion, and sexual orientation who I think are incredibly beautiful human beings. These people make the percentage of assholes I deal with bearable. I have customers who will introduce me as their friend, ones who I will talk with (on a slow day) for more than an hour, ones who I hug, ones who I share private jokes with, ones who I cry with over their illnesses and losses. There are people who will come by to share their cooking that they made specially for me to try (this is a challenge, but as long as it’s vegetarian, I will always at least try it). These are the things that make people beautiful to me. Not what they look like, nor what they have in their cart.

So next time you walk into a health food store, hold your head high. You’re doing something brave, and you have every right to be there. The store’s employees aren’t judging you (well, they might be judging your snarky attitude, but if you don’t have one of those, you’re good to go). Besides, chances are the girl ringing up your goji berries and coconut ice cream is working there to develop a better relationship with the food she fears so much, and is too busy worrying about what she’s going to eat for snack that day to scrutinize your cart.



Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear, History Lessons

6 responses to “What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

  1. barefootbellringer

    Very well said. And as always, beautifully written. Thank you for alleviating some of my consumer angst. Because truly, I am one of those “is she really judging what’s in here” kinda gals. xo

  2. Ryan

    This is cute.
    I also have a fear of grocery clerks judging me. I never look them in the eye. They probably think I’m so unfriendly and rude, which makes me sad.
    On another note, your job sounds awesome 🙂

    • Thanks, Ryan.
      Yeah, grocery shopping kinda sucks. Just pretend they’re all me, and not judging you, and smile! <– SO much easier said than done, I know.
      I do love my job. My bosses are amazing people, I have some great customers (and some not so great), and I get to do/learn about some cool stuff.
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Ken

    It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to read your blogs and I finally had a chance to catch up today. I just want to say once again how much I appreciate your writing style, your authenticity and your vulnerability.

    This isn’t about me, but you always bring me back to me. I’ve been writing a blog for several months now about living with a dis-ease diagnosis and my journey to healing myself from that dis-ease. It seems like whenever I’ve finished writing a blog that I hope makes a difference for others, I re-read the blog and realize that I wrote it for myself as well.

    Every time I read your blog, I can actually “feel” you healing yourself. And I feel a little bit more healed myself, knowing that I’m not alone. I know how difficult it can be to write your “authentic truth” in every blog, and yet I also know how healing it is when you do so.

    You truly are an inspiration to your readers, and I hope you step back to realize that you are also an inspiration to yourself. You truly are getting stronger every day, and so are your readers.

    Namaste, Ken

    P.S. And this isn’t a marketing call — I have started a FaceBook page, twitter page and web site for something called Healthtember (I won’t include links, I trust that if it interests you, you’ll find it). It’s all about using the month of September for 30 days of healing. I hope you’ll check it out, and if it resonates with you I hope you’ll get involved. It would be great to have a story from you included during the month.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Ken. It means a lot. I’m glad you find “you” in my writing . . . I’m always afraid it’s too “me me me”. In other news, I just liked Healthtember on Facebook. You now know my last name . . . dun dun dunnnnnnn . . .

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