Look On Aisle 5

Have you ever stopped to calculate how much time you spend in each section of the supermarket?

Apart from the non-food areas of drug store supplies, rubber goods, and diapers, most stores have about 10 distinct food areas: produce, dairy, meat, ethnic foods and pasta, canned foods, prepared foods, drinks, frozen foods, snacks, and deli.

The areas where most of our intake should focus, if we are watching our weight and our health, are always on the edges, against the wall: produce, meat, dairy. We can easily navigate through 80 or 90 percent of the store without bumping into them.

Next week, I'll get vegetables, we promise, as we wade into the packaged and frozen foods that fit so much more neatly into our time-starved, rat-race lives. It is so much less time and trouble to microwave a plate than slow simmer or steam something, plus there's all that cutting and chopping time we just can't spare.

The frozen stuff doesn't taste as good but luckily the manufacturers figured that out and added butter sauce or cheese sauce to give it more flavor, a few nuts or other crispy additions to add some snap ? nothing is plain any more.

We stock up on packages loaded with chemicals we can't even pronounce. We pick up bags of quick snacks with nary a nutrient in the bunch. We throw fluffy breads and crackers into our cart, knowing they are merely edible plates.

Ten years ago, I lived in a Korean neighborhood. I couldn't read half of the market's signs and ingredients but shopped there anyway because of the atmosphere, dominated by an enormous variety of produce that took up at least half the store's space. Trying totally new, strange-looking roots and fruits was exciting: sometimes marvelous, occasionally vile.

We have taken our markets into the age of the superstores where everything is available but nothing is natural. What are we doing to our poor bodies? We feed them junk and then spend a fortune on trying to acquire the "natural" look. Fat chance (pun intentional)!

Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she recently published a psychologically-based weight control e-workbook, "Diet with an Attitude" which develops mental skills towards the goal of permanent weight control. She can be reached at http://www.DietWithAnAttitude.com. She provides support and guidance in use of the workbook through her regular blog, http://dietwithanattitude.blogspot.com

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