The Fallacy of Abundance

Too many of us believe that tucking into a large plate equals abundance. Many believe that feeling stuffed at the end of a meal means that our hunger has been satiated–because in America, a heaping plate makes for a good meal. Go to any Las Vegas buffet, grab a tray on the all-you-can eat line, and you’ll see a scramble for sub-par food: greasy chicken wings, stale bread, hardening rice, slop-like sauces,and muddy looking desserts. There’s no end to a meal at a Las Vegas buffet, just as there’s no end to any meal in America. And that’s the problem. Big plates and snacking have replaced sitting down to table, picking up a fork, knife, and spoon, and connecting with a friend over a tasty meal and conversation.

Back in the 1970s, lunch hour really meant taking an hour for lunch. Today you’re lucky if you get fifteen minutes. And if you do occasionally take a longer lunch, it’s rare to find a friend who can join you at table. So what do most Americans do for lunch? They grab something to go, or buy a microwavable item, and scarf down at the desk. An hour later, hungry for something other than food–say a conversation or a nap–the worker bee turns to sugar-loaded junk food. After all, the office kitchen is overflowing with a never-ending┬áseries of birthday cakes, chocolate chip cookies, and other celebration foods that no longer feel very celebratory. Boredom, loneliness, and fatigue join up for a temporary party in the office kitchen. It’s a sad state of affairs. So what should the post-millennial worker do to stave off obesity?

Take a hike. At lunch, take your 15 minutes for a walk. Take another 15 minutes to eat a salad–away from the desk–with a friend or colleague. Talk about something other than work. Laugh a little. And don’t head for the office kitchen when sugary snacks sweat on the counter. Say no to eating between meals. If you have the urge to get up from your desk, visit a friend. Don’t eat until you’re back home. And if you’re sitting in a restaurant that serves heaping plates the size of platters, save your wallet and share. And finally, remember: abundance isn’t always about how much you pack into your stomach.

The Trader Joe’s Dilemma

You walk the aisles, faintly hungry, tired, and harried by the craziness of the parking lot. MUZAC-appropriate lyrics drizzle over the line-up of cellophane veggies: iceberg lettuce, broccoli, shredded carrots, broc-o-slaw. In the freezer section you’ll find faintly exotic items like the veggie dumplings and everything tamales. These are warm-up and eat items. And like much in Trader Joe’s, everything is packaged–apart from bananas and apples. Even limes get a netting of containment, leaving you with the sensation that nothing need be messy or in disarray. This German-owned chain is the office worker’s dream. It’s truly the greatest market to hit the earth, because no mess means no headache. And everything can be microwaved–or almost everything. Even the “10 minute” barley packets that recently slapped the shelves are no-brainers. What a dream. And still, amid all that fantastic convenience, one wonders why kale–the wonder vegetable which has risen to an all-time high in local markets from $0.89 to almost $2.00 a bunch–should be packaged as a “wasabi” or “cheeze” drummed chip. Do we need every healthy alternative to become another packaged alternative? If this kind of commodity grabbing continues we’ll no longer be able to purchase our daily vegetables from the fresh bins at our local stores. Everything will cost twice or three times as much, all in the name of convenience. Meanwhile, those kale chips–inside bags made to look and crinkle like potato chip packaging–will certainly fall short of “healthy.” Because, let’s face it: once you mess around with nature to improve shelf-life, you’re going to mess up the whole-healthy-point.

So, we all love Trader Joe’s, but come on. Let’s keep the fresh stuff fresh for everyone.

Next time: shop for fitness.