Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grocery Shopping

I really enjoy grocery shopping. Most people that I know don't really like it and try to avoid it as much as possible, usually by eating out. I enjoy the experience as a whole. Often I'll wear my headphones to drown out the crowds. (Sidenote: this has resulted several times in people bumping into my cart while not looking, then assuming it was my fault simply because I happen to be wearing headphones, as if it causes me to pay less attention.) The reason I enjoy grocery shopping is because it allows me to spend a lot of time thinking about food, nutrition, and lifestyle, which I think is something that a lot of people could stand to spend a little more time thinking about (yes, I am being a judgmental snob here). I spend a lot of time in the grocery store observing what other people are buying and how they're making their decisions. Normally I'm not a huge fan of people watching but food is something that's common to us all and I find it interesting to see what people choose to put in their bodies.

Sometimes it also disgusts me. I suppose this has been on my mind lately because I've been reading a lot of articles about food and nutrition, and it's made me realize how little I actually knew before. This week marks the 2-year anniversary of my decision to become a vegetarian. When I first decided to go vegetarian, it was based on a combination of moral and ethical issues I had, along with the promise of a healthier lifestyle that it offered. For a while, I stuck with it well and ate healthier. I lost some weight and everything seemed to be working well. Eventually, however, I learned how to eat the stuff I used to eat without including the meat, and it was right back to the highly-processed, low effort lifestyle that I had sought to get away from. Then last fall, I decided that I was tired of being obese, out of shape, and generally apathetic towards my health. I started paying close attention to what I ate, choosing healthy, whole foods over processed foods. I gave up fast food and most carbonated drinks. And it worked- I lost 40 lbs, gained a bunch of strength from the weight training program I also started, and today I feel better than I ever have. I guess it took a drastic change in lifestyle to realize just how much diet affects my mood, health, mental acuity and well-being.

Today, I don't really eat processed food, or even eat at restaurants very much. I prefer to cook all my meals, and I'm able to eat very healthy for relatively cheap (I spend around $40-50 a week on food). Sometimes it's more, depending on what's in season and whether an organic selection is available. I'm not on board that organic is the answer to all of America's farm and food woes, but if it's available I'll generally buy it because I like knowing that my food doesn't have pesticide or fertilizer residue. My decision to remain vegetarian today has largely to do with my objection to the industrialized complex in which most meat is produced in America. I have seen factory farms, I have been to meat processing plants, including our own Pilgrim's Pride processing factory here in Waco, and frankly I want nothing to do with it. In preparation for my trip to Alaska this summer, I've begun to eat a little bit of salmon, but it's only temporary and I doubt I'll continue it once the summer is over. For the most part, I enjoy vegetarianism because it requires me to pay close attention to my diet, and that's almost always a good thing. Running your routines through with a fine-toothed comb allows you to see where improvements can be made and helps you fix things that don't work and encourage things that do. It also helps to diversify your diet; at least it did for me. Before I gave up meat, I found that I was eating pretty much the same things week in and week out. Nowadays, I try to eat a wide variety of foods, and prepare them in different ways so they don't get boring. There are some staples that I still eat a lot of, like the 2 lbs. of broccoli a week that I tend to go through, but for the most part I try to eat a wide variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables to keep it interesting.

I don't really know what the point of all this was, and I may end up going back and revising it into a more coherent structure in the future, but ultimately I think food and nutrition is really interesting and I encourage you to read more about it. Here is an article that I think is worth reading to get started:

Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan

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