Overheard in a Food Mart

“Kate? Is that you, Kate?” Clarissa froze in her tracks, blocking the entry door to the food market, mouth open, staring.

“Hi, Clarissa,” her friend answered while pulling out a grocery cart. “Better come in before you get run over.”

Kate jumped out of the way of several shoppers as they rushed by. “I didn’t recognize you. I mean . . . you are . . . that is . . .”

Kate was at a loss for words.

“You mean . . . I’m so much smaller.” Kate opened her coat and twirled about, obviously pleased with the effect. “A new plan and a new me,” she said with gusto.

“Wow. Well, it is a new you all right.” Clarissa said, finding her powers of speech.

“You bet it is. Forty-five pounds lighter and four dress sizes smaller!”

“And about twenty years younger. Wow,” she repeated. “How did you do it?”

“Shopping. Right here – in a food market,” Kate laughed, pushing her cart toward the produce section.

“Shopping in a food market? I thought that would put pounds on, not take them off.”

“Not with the new plan,” Kate affirmed, heading for the greens and the peppers. “You know how I dieted and exercised so much? Well, I’m still exercising, but I’ve stopped fighting myself in the food department. The secret is in the shopping.”

“All right, Sherlock Holmes, let me in on your secrets.”

“Okay,” Kate said as she examined the fresh raspberries. “The first secret is . . . I ate before I came,” she whispered. “Don’t look shocked. It keeps me from binge-buying. Second, I start shopping at home. I plan meals for the next week and make a list of what I need. I focus on only buying what I came to get.” She held out her hand to shield herself from a donut sale, quickly wheeling by the display.

“Third, I shop the edges of the market and stay out of the middle. That’s where the added sugars, fats, salt, and additives are – in the middle. On the edge is fresh fish and poultry, fresh dairy, fresh baked goods, and fresh produce.”

“But I thought that fresh produce was more expensive than frozen.” So far Clarissa hadn’t even  gotten a cart, she was so engrossed in the secrets of shopping.

“Depends. Buy what’s in season and supplement with frozen veggies and your purse will be heavier but you will be lighter.”

“Don’t you ever go into the middle of the store?” Clarissa asked, astounded.

“There’re some things you have to go in there after.” Kate turned on her with a warning finger. “But remember, that’s enemy territory. Enter cautiously. Read the labels.” Kate wheeled into an aisle and picked up a can.

“Read the labels, you mean like for trans fats?” Clarissa asked.

“Of course, trans fats,” Kate lectured. “But remember that ‘whole grain’ doesn’t always mean all whole grain. ‘Low fat’ doesn’t mean there isn’t sugar added. ‘No sugar added’ doesn’t mean they haven’t piled on extra fat. Look at serving size and container size,” she said, pointing to the side of the can, “and decide if you want to eat 2 ½ servings at a sitting. Watch the calories and the salt content.” She turned abruptly to Clarissa. “And stay away from canned meats! That’s where lots of added fat and salt are.”

“You’re really adamant about this, aren’t you?” Clarissa backed away a step.

“Yeah, I am. Sorry.” Kate set the can back on the shelf. “I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes six months ago.” She turned to Clarissa with tears welling up in her eyes. “And you know what my mother went through the last six months of her life with her diabetes.”

“I’m sorry,” Clarissa moved in for a quick squeeze. “I understand. A stroke took my mother.”

“Well, I don’t have genetics on my side,” Kate said, clearing her throat, “so I decided to take charge of what I could. My doctor hooked me up with a good dietitian who helped me build a meal plan I can live with for the rest of my life.” She took a large package of broccoli from the freezer. “I buy in bulk like this and divide it into meal sized portions at home. Save some money and not overeat in the bargain.”

“Well, it’s obviously working for you,” Clarissa said admiringly. “I’m going home and ‘shop in my pantry’ and then come back here and see if I can do what you did.”

“Your body will thank you,” Kate said as she headed for the checkout counter.