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GitM 4: Express Lane

November 15, 2010

Muddy Monday is a feature in which we “get in the mud” with fat haters by accepting their arguments (even the ones we disagree with) and still find holes in their logic.

This weekend we went to my in-laws and I saw a show called “What Would You Do?” with John Quinones. The preview said this episode would be about people who make rude comments about the contents of other peoples’ shopping carts. And what I saw was surprising. But we’ll come back to that.

This is a personal pet peeve of mine, especially when it is used by fat haters to justify their fat hatred. Typically, the argument goes like this: “I know fat people are gluttonous because I look in their carts at the grocery store and they’re always filled with junk.”

It pisses me off for multiple reasons.

First of all, mind your own fucking business. That you would admit to doing this says more about you and your fucked up need to monitor the lifestyles of strangers than about the lifestyle of that stranger or about the lifestyle of an entire segment of the population.

Second, do you look in the carts of thin people too? Do thin people buy junk food? Do you feel this reflects poorly upon their character and personal choices in the same way that you judge fat people?

Third, I don’t know about your grocery store, but mine is organized so that fresh fruits and vegetables are the first place we go and frozen food (including ice cream). So, unless you have X-ray vision, then you are simply viewing the surface of my cart and possibly some of the items wedged along the side.

Finally, unless you are willing to give me a free pass to audit your life and make you a list of all the unhealthy lifestyle choices that you are making, then I don’t need you to critique my life, thank you very much.

Health is not simply another word for what you eat, but some people seem to think that the contents of our carts are the end all, be all of health. If you want to judge the lifestyles of other people, then you’re going to have to get more information than that.

Just because you see a thin person with nothing but melba toast and tofu doesn’t mean they are healthy. That person could jump in his car and drive like a maniac all the way home before making himself a bean sprout souffle. The difference is that he is endangering the lives of other people with his lifestyle choice, while the assumed unhealthy fatty’s dietary choices bears zero impact on your life.

Now, all of these reasons are enough to render cart nazis powerless, but, of course, they don’t see it that way. They are concerned for your health, after all, because if you get sick, then they have to pay for you, right?

So, let’s get in the mud.

Here’s what I’m willing to concede: what you see in a person’s grocery cart is a reflection of his or her health and lifestyle choices; the fact that a single fatty loads up with Mooncakes means that all fatties are gluttonous; and the shopping habits of complete strangers are somehow your business.

So, I have to ask this: have you ever been to the grocery store and seen a college-aged kid load up a cart full of alcohol? What did you think? Did you think he was an alcoholic in need of intervention? Did you assume it was for a party? Did you assume that party was a kegger full of minors or maybe a family event and he was merely the gopher? Did you later have discussions with your friends about the problem of binge drinking among college students and cite that grocery cart as evidence that college students are slobbering alcoholics?

And what if you saw that same cart, but the driver was a mother with a little girl? Would you assume she was a bad mother? Would you assume that she was getting drunk around her child? Would it matter how much alcohol or what kind of alcohol you saw her purchase? Would you feel compelled to publicly intervene on behalf of that child’s safety, health and welfare?

That’s it. That’s what this is about. It’s as simple as that.

You cannot look at a single shopping cart and determine whether someone is an alcoholic. And you cannot look at a single shopping cart and determine whether someone has unhealthy eating habits.

And even if you could, it’s none of your fucking business.

Now, as for the show that inspired this post, I found it rather uplifting. I wish I could embed it (stupid free WordPress), but if you want to see something inspiring.

Both the cart nazi and the fat woman and daughter are actresses. The experiment is to see how real people around the incident will respond. And although non-action is powerfully present, it is the ways in which people intervene on behalf of the woman and child that give me some hope.

Part 1 and Part 2.

Along the same lines, there is another episode of WWYD that looks at fat hatred at a Jersey Shore beach. And although the statistics are sad (most of the 60 people who pass by and hear the insults say nothing), the people who do intervene are powerful reminders that publicly speaking up in defense of the maligned and abused is something we must all do.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. dufmanno permalink
    November 15, 2010 12:51 pm

    I saw something mortifying happen to the woman in front of me in line just the other day.
    She was on IMA/Foodstamps and was trying to unsuccessfully buy a cart full of groceries for what appeared to be a large family.
    The cashier was going through her stuff item by item and essentially yelling at her that nearly everything in there wasn’t covered or was the wrong brand. This was broadcast across the entire store.
    This blow by blow humiliation was so bad that the woman would have gladly disappeared through a hole in the floor to avoid further embarassment. Finally, the man next to me tapped me on the shoulder to see if we should do something and to make a long story short he ended up buying the womans cart full of food for her and giving a stern reprimand to the loud heartless cashier.
    It’s sad but most people just looked at the floor and paid it no mind.

    • dufmanno permalink
      November 15, 2010 12:52 pm

      I should probably also clarify that the cashier was also commenting on the choice of “unhealthy” foods vs. “healthy” ones that the woman had in her basket.

    • November 15, 2010 1:18 pm

      That is awesome. It’s amazing how people feel like they can pull this shit. Personally, I would have spoken to the manager because you know that asshole is going to do it again to somebody else.

      A similar thing happened to my wife when she was at the store. She knew the woman behind her from the YMCA and saw that she was buying stuff on WIC. She noticed that the woman was buying small cans of formula rather than one large can, which is more economical, so she asked if WIC made her buy the smaller, more expensive cans.

      Well, the cashier interrupted and asked my wife, “I guess you don’t have kids, do you?” Then proceeds to ask about whether Veronica had done natural childbirth or C-section, whether she had an epidural, whether she breast fed. The cashier then lectured my wife quite loudly about what horrible decisions she made and how she should have breastfed and her daughter had breastfed, etc.

      Damn people, mind your own fucking business!


  2. Fab@54 permalink
    November 15, 2010 2:02 pm

    The shit some humans heap upon others…. leaves me in tears as well. Yes, in this instance we know all involved are “acting”, but we also know this happens in real day-to-day life all the time.

    I watched both food cart videos and the Fat Woman on the bench video.
    I am 99% sure I would have stepped up in both instances and gotten in the face of the “food cart police” as well as the boardwalk abusers.

    What 1% MIGHT have stopped me?
    That inborn survival instinct to NOT substitute myself as a target for someone else. Because as a fat woman myself, I know I would be stepping in front of that bullet (of hate) meant for someone else – if I just mind my own business and keep on walking, I could dodge that bullet.

    * Intellectually * I know that as a HUMAN I have every right (and duty!) to step up and defend another human being against such vileness and abuse…

    But * Emotionally * there is that teeny tiny piece of me inside that (still) feels I don’t have that right to step up and speak up; because I know what the reaction will be:
    “Oh yeah, one fattie defending another! Figures!”
    And then I will be on the defensive as well.
    So I can understand the fear of other non-thin people who walked by without intervening.
    Not saying it was right to do, but I do understand why they may have decided to react that way.

    Both experiments were profound in proving that fat people ARE indeed considered ‘acceptable targets’ by our bully society.
    I’m sure NO ONE would walk by if they had witnessed a sweet ‘little old lady’ , or some petite soccer mom being verbally abused that way.

  3. Lillian permalink
    November 15, 2010 2:50 pm

    I feel embarrassed when I get a cart full of junk food. I tend to go to grocery store two or more times a week and I often buy food for the day. I have four teenagers and if they’re having friends over they eat a lot of food. I also have grocery carts full of produce other times. You don’t know if someone is having friends over. Even if the person is buying only for themselves, you have no right to judge even if they had a cart full of stale pastries or anything else that you find disgusting. It’s not your business why they are buying up the day old pastries.

  4. November 15, 2010 5:30 pm

    I don’t look at what’s in other peoples’ grocery carts. I don’t care what they’re buying or why they’re buying it, none of my business. I’ve never had anyone say anything about what’s in my grocery cart, and I usually have a mix of items – processed foods, frozen veggies, meats, junk food, dairy, etc.
    If anyone had the nerve to comment on what I buy at the grocery store, they would get a cold stare and asked “Are you paying for it? No? Then STFU, it’s none of your business.” But I’m a bitch like that, and I usually have a don’t-mess-with-me look on my face when I’m grocery shopping – I hate shopping and want to get in, get it done, and get home as quick as I can. I think that comes across and that’s probably why no one has ever commented.

    • November 16, 2010 10:38 am

      I sure as hell wouldn’t mess with you, Mariellen. 🙂


  5. November 16, 2010 2:07 am

    I look in peoples carts. Not so I can judge them, but because I’m curious to see what they buy to get ideas of what I could try out.

    I never thought of judging someone on it, or even being judged on what was in my cart.

    I’m terrified of what some people would have thought of my shopping cart a few weeks back, It was packed full of soft drink, chips and lollies, and a whole lot of snack type food. I was throwing a party for 50 – 70 people. Haha, I wish someone said something to me about it, they’d have heard what is what!

    • November 16, 2010 10:38 am

      The sad thing is, people probably did judge you for that cart.

      Also, I think looking in other peoples’ carts is okay, to a certain extent. I tend not to look in the carts of fat people because this is such a common problem, though.


  6. Hel permalink
    November 16, 2010 5:20 am

    I can’t imagine that anyone in Spain would say something about my shopping cart, maybe they can look at it and think that I am lazy because I buy a lot of frozens meals, but nobody dares to say it aloud. I am cultural shocked.
    And I can’t imagine that a coworker will come to me to make any remarks on my health or looks. It is so rude. Is it an american thing?

    I look at other people’s cart in the check line because I’m bored, but I will never say anything to other people. Judging, even when you try not to, is so easy, but the people has no need to know my opinion about them.

    • November 16, 2010 10:40 am

      There’s definitely a cultural difference. The United States is a big fan of the bootstrap philosophy, which basically says that if you wanted to be thin, you’d be thin. So, we’re constantly looking for ways to judge others for their moral failings. It’s the latent puritan in us.


  7. Lillian permalink
    November 16, 2010 7:46 am

    I want to comment on our people’s carts because they eat so much processed food. Their food bills are always so much higher than mine. I would like to tell them that they could feed a family of five on far less, but I don’t. Cooking doesn’t take any longer than popping a dish into the microwave. Still, it’s not my business how other people spend their money.

    • dufmanno permalink
      November 16, 2010 9:31 am

      I’m guilty of buying too many processed foods when I’m in a hurry or won’t be able to cook a full meal due to lack of time.
      I’m trying to get better about this but sometimes I’m flying around by the seat of my pants and do it anyway.

      • November 16, 2010 10:45 am

        So that’s why you keep buying a new pair of pants each week.


        • dufmanno permalink
          November 17, 2010 11:47 am

          Yes it is. I have put a purchase order in for a pair of indestructable trousers made of corrugated steel for just this reason.
          I’ve been told I will need LOTS of baby powder to prevent chafing.

    • November 16, 2010 10:44 am

      Someday I want to do a challenge where we let one person shop and cook for a family of five and compare four things: price, speed, taste and nutritional value. People frequently say that cooking whole foods costs no more/takes no more time/tastes better than processed foods. Obviously, nutritionally, whole foods would win. But I bet in a side-by-side comparison, there would be no contest. Especially when it comes to time. I think that choosing to eat primarily whole, homemade food versus processed food always requires a trade-off. Either you’re going to have to invest more time and energy into cooking or you’re going to have to sacrifice some nutritional quality. I strongly believe you can replace the convenience of processed food with whole food without some sort of sacrifice.


      • Lampdevil permalink
        December 1, 2010 3:49 pm

        Late to the party, and I know that an anecdote is hardly the data you’re looking for, buuuut I found some interesting anecdata of my own in regards to the assertion that Homemade Is Always Faster And Better.

        I like to make chicken pot pie! It’s great. When I learned to make it, it was OMG FROM SCRATCH, from a base of diced fresh carrots and onions and cellery, with a flour/butter roux and chicken broth from poaching the chicken, and etc etc blah blah effort. It takes time to chop veg. It takes time to poach chicken. These tasks aren’t HARD, mind you… but it can take me like, 30-45 minutes just to get the damn meal in the oven. It’d take longer if I wasn’t “cheating” with the pastry topping…

        So while scouring my cupboards on a lean day before pay day, I found a can of cream of chicken soup. Huh. Didn’t the back of my Bisquick box say you could use that to make pot pie? I did it up, used a few cups of frozen veg, chopped up my chicken, seasoned it, threw it in the oven, bam. Prep time was way, way shorter and easier. Scooped up some and ate it…


        Or at least close enough. Close enough that I let out a cry of despair. It should have at least not tasted as good, for being so much faster to prep! Wah!

        Make of this story what you will.

        • December 2, 2010 11:19 am

          Hey Lampdevil,
          Welcome to the party.

          I love pot pie and now I’m craving some, dammit. But your story is a great illustration of what we’re talking about here and when we talk about the false claim that home cooking is faster and better. What you did would technically make it no longer “whole” and you would have committed the sin of incorporating (*GASP*) processed food into your recipe. And yet because you did so, you have saved yourself time, sacrificed zero flavor, and probably made future pot pies with veggies more likely to be made. Yet the purists will only point to the nutritional quality of the cream of chicken soup (OMG THE SODIUM!) as a reason to continue making it the old way.

          Now, whether the nutritional quality is impacted is definitely up for debate, but the ultimate decision rests with you… is the convenience worth the potential nutritional loss? For most people, the answer is yes because time has become such a scarce resource. But none of that gets factored into whole food evangelism and, instead, the only emphasis is on the nutritional quality which, again, is highly debatable.


  8. Hel permalink
    November 16, 2010 12:42 pm

    I think that the people in Spain believes the same “that if you want to be thin you can lose weight”, but we are no so rude. (or so I hope), Till I found FA blogs, I had the same idea, I have learned a lot since then, but I am afraid that there is no FA bloggers in Spain, I have googled it but I only find blogs of fat people that tells their experience, but they still buy the fantasie of being thin, calories in calories out, or you can’t be obese and healthy, etc.

  9. November 18, 2010 11:34 am

    This post is just……………*smh* I have never heard anyone comment, negatively, on what is in my shopping cart and if they did, I would probably cut them from stem to stern with my tongue.

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