I was always taught to do the right thing. When someone insulted or offended me, I was taught to turn the other cheek or simply walk away, because that would be the right and “Christian” thing to do. If I find a wallet full of money I will turn it in, I hold the doors for elderly ladies and I’ve even pulled over my car on a busy thoroughfare to dodge speeding vehicles and assist a helpless and disoriented dog—because I do the right thing.
So why is it so difficult to do the right thing when it comes to health, fitness and nutrition? Why do butter plus sugar and flour equal delicious? Why do restaurants serve portions for a single meal that obliterate your daily caloric, sodium and fat limits? Why is it easier to go to The Cheesecake Factory than the gym when the gym is not 5 miles away, nor is there a 45 minute wait?
Did I mention my trip to Best Buy last weekend? I went with my mother to Best Buy to purchase a Wii Fit so that she could have fun while improving her health and fitness. For those unfamiliar with Best Buy, it is a national chain of stores that sells electronics, computers, cameras, appliances, music, software, etc. They also sell batteries and blank CDs or DVDs near the register for those last-minute purchases, which I have always found quite helpful—it makes sense.
But I noticed something on Saturday that really annoyed me, something beyond the fact that the website said they had the Wii Fit in stock and they really didn’t. As I approached the register area, I noticed that the check-out aisles looked more like those of a supermarket or convenience store than an electronics store! Sure, there were batteries and gift cards, but they were located next to candy, chips, gum, popcorn and cookies. There was also a refrigerated case, filled to the brim with soda, sugary juice drinks, energy drinks and some too-little-too-late-to-make-up-for-the-rest-of-your-offerings-bottled water.
I know that since I’ve been making an effort to lose some weight I’ve become more conscious of the food around me. It is that heightened awareness that made me upset as I saw people mindlessly grabbing candy bars, chips and sodas as they finalized their purchases. I know that it was mindless because I found myself gravitating toward the refrigerators to grab a beverage, despite the fact that I was not thirsty and I had a bottle of water in the car.
Now I’m noticing the chocolate bars at the register in Macy’s, the complimentary wine, cheese and pastry at the hair salon, the free cookies at the car dealership, the mini-marts attached to gas stations and need I mention the availability of nachos, pizza, chicken tenders and shopping bags full of popcorn at movie theaters? I think that is the real reason for those fancy armrests that lift up to make “loveseat” seating. They know our big behinds can only fit in one seat for so much longer. They were even selling candy and cookies in the aisles of a Broadway theater last week during intermission; I won’t even begin to tell you about our weekly Costco trip and all of the samples. Suffice it to say that Corey had “the itis” by the time we got to the car.
Is it any wonder that so many of us are carrying so many extra pounds? I recognize the fact that I am accountable for what and how much I put into my mouth, but honestly, having unhealthy food available at every turn makes it quite a bit harder to do the right thing. Sure, I’ve got my apple and bottle of water in my purse to help fend off impulsive cravings, but visual cues are powerful and often the will is weak.
Thankfully, I made it through all of my errands and the entire weekend without succumbing to the siren song of fried, sugary, salty or starchy foods. I’ve lost 10 pounds in three weeks and I am feeling motivated to continue to embrace my healthier eating habits and strive to make them a permanent lifestyle change. I can imagine a fit little angel on my shoulder in the market repeating “Do the right thing! Do the right thing!” Great… Now I want a slice of Sal’s pizza. “Hey Mookie!”
Rachel Dachel is a freelance writer and editor, and creator and author of the blog Rachel-y Motivated Incidents. She’s a frequent contributor to Women at Forty.