After work today I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a couple of things for dinner.
I went over to the deli department and there was one employee there – a young kid – maybe 18 – who was cutting deli meat for the one customer there.
You could tell that he was new to the deli department. He was slow with the meat cutter and kept having to pile the meat on the scale and would look carefully at the numbers. When he saw me, he started looking around – somewhat desperately for another employee.
I resisted the urge to pace or cross my arms – I was in a hurry, but this kid was trying his best. He finally got the meat to the right number and slowly put in the numbers, packaged it up and handed to the customer.
He hurried over to me and I pointed in the case – “I need the Finlandia Swiss LIGHT cheese.” I said. “Um… okay” he replied. He looked at where I was pointing and I told him there were 2 Finlandia Swiss cheeses and I wanted the light kind.
He began searching through the deli case looking for an opened package to cut from. All the while he kept glancing towards the back room – ever more desperately looking for a co-worker to come bail him out. He continued rummaging and then held up a chunk of Swiss to show it to me. We stared at each other – I was confused and he was expecting an answer.
“Light,” he said. I then realized that when I said light he thought I was referring to the color of the cheese. I told him gently that light meant the calorie count. His eyes opened “OH!” he said and went back to looking. He then pulled out another package and I could see that while part of the front packaging was gone, the nutritional label was intact.
I told him to look at that label and tell me what the calorie count was. He began looking at the label the way I would instructions in Chinese – he had no clue. He said hopefully “Um… Oh! There is calories from FAT!” “No, look an the top left and it should say calories.”
He finally got the number, it was the right cheese, he got it cut and packaged and I was chuckling a little as I walked away.
I found myself a little jealous though. This 17 year old kid clearly knows nothing about nutritional labels. He never thinks about calorie counts or protein numbers when he eats. He doesn’t worry about if he’s eating too many carbs or if he eats this or that, how many calories will be “left” for the day.
I spent most of my life in this blissful ignorance. But not anymore!! I can’t look at any food ever and not know about how many calories it has. It has almost even become a game at work – a security might say to me “Jen, I just ate 2 Hershey’s kisses with Almonds – how many calories is that?” “Probably around 50…” I would reply. They’ll pull out their phones and look it up – “She’s RIGHT!!” they’ll yell – like I had won a prize.
One thing that I never regret about this journey is learning more about healthy foods. I am thrilled that I no longer drink the horrible poison that is soda. I know that I’m doing right by myself and my health when I make mashed potatoes from real potatoes – not from a box. I stay away from processed crap and my dinners are fresh, not from a box and not taken home in a fast food bag. While sometimes I miss Keebler cookies for dessert, I know how much better for me a late night snack of Greek Yogurt is, and I’m happy to make that choice.
Having said that, I do wish that sometimes I could just turn my mind off and eat. I don’t even eat the healthy stuff – like fresh broccoli or quinoa without knowing how many calories I just ate. Or judging if I get in enough protein for the day.
This is one area of my life that I would like to go back to being like the deli kid – oblivious to what those stupid nutritional labels say and mean!!