If any of you read the Huffington Post, you probably came across an article posted 2-3 weeks ago in which a pompous writer (Kelly MacLean) describes her venture into a Whole Foods. She criticizes the entire establishment, its employees, and generalizes all who shop there or support its functionality as a dominant grocer in modern society.
Although she makes some witty comments, I don’t feel like she is aware of the bigger picture – America is fat. Changes need to be made, otherwise obesity will continue to run rampant. She doesn’t recognize that her attempts at being funny are really perpetuating poor eating choices and advertising it to the masses (or maybe she does?). Shame on her.
For one of my health classes, I had to write a paper about something that pisses me off in the world. Can you guess what I chose? That’s right, the article from Huffington Post. Immediately below you will find MacLean’s article, followed by my paper criticizing her criticism. Enjoy.
Surviving Whole Foods. By: Kelly MacLean
Whole Foods is like Vegas. You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.
Unlike Vegas, Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says ‘NAMASTE’. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.
As the great, sliding glass doors part I am immediately smacked in the face by a wall of cool, moist air that smells of strawberries and orchids. I leave behind the concrete jungle and enter a cornucopia of organic bliss; the land of hemp milk and honey. Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they’re basically the same.
The first thing I see is the great wall of kombucha — 42 different kinds of rotten tea. Fun fact: the word kombucha is Japanese for ‘I gizzed in your tea.’ Anyone who’s ever swallowed the glob of mucus at the end of the bottle knows exactly what I’m talking about. I believe this thing is called “The Mother,” which makes it that much creepier.
Next I see the gluten-free section filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat-substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don’t meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem. You know you’ve really made it in this world when you get Candida. My personal theory is that Candida is something you get from too much hot yoga. All I’m saying is if I were a yeast, I would want to live in your yoga pants.
Next I approach the beauty aisle. There is a scary looking machine there that you put your face inside of and it tells you exactly how ugly you are. They calculate your wrinkles, sun spots, the size of your pores, etc. and compare it to other women your age. I think of myself attractive but as it turns out, I am 78 percent ugly, meaning less pretty than 78 percent of women in the world. On the popular 1-10 hotness scale used by males the world over, that makes me a 3 (if you round up, which I hope you will.) A glance at the extremely close-up picture they took of my face, in which I somehow have a glorious, blond porn mustache, tells me that 3 is about right. Especially because the left side of my face is apparently 20 percent more aged than the right. Fantastic. After contemplating ending it all here and now, I decide instead to buy their product. One bottle of delicious smelling, silky feeling creme that is maybe going to raise me from a 3 to a 4 for only $108 which is a pretty good deal when you think about it.
I grab a handful of peanut butter pretzels on my way out of this stupid aisle. I don’t feel bad about pilfering these bites because of the umpteen times that I’ve overpaid at the salad bar and been tricked into buying $108 beauty creams. The pretzels are very fattening but I’m already in the seventieth percentile of ugly so who cares.
Next I come to the vitamin aisle which is a danger zone for any broke hypochondriac. Warning: Whole Foods keeps their best people in this section. Although you think she’s a homeless person at first, that vitamin clerk is an ex-pharmaceuticals sales rep. Today she talks me into buying estrogen for my mystery mustache and Women’s Acidophilus because apparently I DO have Candida after all.
I move on to the next aisle and ask the nearest Whole Foods clerk for help. He’s wearing a visor inside and as if that weren’t douchey enough, it has one word on it in all caps. Yup, NAMASTE. I ask him where I can find whole wheat bread. He chuckles at me “Oh, we keep the poison in aisle 7.” Based solely on the attitudes of people sporting namaste paraphernalia today, I’d think it was Sanskrit for “go fuck yourself.”
I pass the table where the guy invites me to join a group cleanse he’s leading. For $179.99 I can not-eat not-alone… not-gonna-happen. They’re doing the cleanse where you consume nothing but lemon juice, cayenne pepper and fiber pills for 10 days, what’s that one called again? Oh, yeah…anorexia. I went on a cleanse once; it was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I detoxified, I purified, I lost weight. On the other hand, I fell asleep on the highway, fantasized about eating a pigeon, and crapped my pants. I think I’ll stick with the whole eating thing.
I grab a couple of loaves of poison, and head to checkout. The fact that I’m at Whole Foods on a Sunday finally sinks in when I join the end of the line…halfway down the dog food aisle. I suddenly realize that I’m dying to get out of this store. Maybe it’s the lonely feeling of being a carnivore in a sea of vegans, or the newfound knowledge that some people’s dogs eat better than I do, but mostly I think it’s the fact that Yanni has been playing literally this entire time. Like sensory deprivation, listening to Yanni seems harmless at first, enjoyable even. But two hours in, you’ll chew your own ear off to make it stop.
A thousand minutes later, I get to the cashier. She is 95 percent beautiful. “Have you brought your reusable bags?” Fuck. No, they are at home with their 2 dozen once-used friends. She rings up my meat, alcohol, gluten and a wrapper from the chocolate bar I ate in line, with thinly veiled alarm. She scans my ladies acidophilus, gives me a pitying frown and whispers, “Ya know, if you wanna get rid of your Candida, you should stop feeding it.” She rings me up for $313. I resist the urge to unwrap and swallow whole another $6 truffle in protest. Barely. Instead, I reach for my wallet, flash her a quiet smile and say, “Namaste.”
Eating Whole Foods – Koleana Kai McGuire
We all have to grocery shop. The trouble is, how do we know where to go? I suppose there is a percentage of the adult population that jumps from store to store, finding the best deals and saving money in the process. The reality is that most don’t have the time nor patience for that, so we just pick a store and go there for everything. Even if it is overpriced, doesn’t have a lot of options and we are unsatisfied with the customer service there. It seems as though a writer for the Huffington Post had just that experience when she pranced into a Whole Foods Market one day. In her article “Surviving Whole Foods”, she rambles about her distaste for the atmosphere, her subjective description of its employees and products, and overall dissatisfaction for the establishment and what it represents. Such a criticism of Whole Foods is an indicator of this author’s typical nutrient poor western diet and dollar menu regimen, her resistance towards progressing into a holistic diet and lifestyle, and disinterest in contributing to cultivating an awareness for the overall health of our society.
One doesn’t even have to read the full article to get a sense of this author’s opinion of Whole Foods. The title itself is indicative of her dislike. The fact that she uses the word “surviving” tells readers that she feels like Whole Foods is a torturous battle field. Stepping into Whole Foods is dangerous, it makes her fear for her life. “Surviving” is a bit melodramatic, as if roaming through Whole Foods is an arduous undertaking and customers can only make it out alive if they are well-armed with swords and shields. Only those who are more concerned with quantity than quality would feel like shopping at Whole Foods is a challenge. Shopping anywhere is a challenge in the present day. We all want to save a buck where we can, but we should not comprise our health in our efforts to save money. You get what you pay for, especially when it comes to groceries. There’s a reason why a dichotomy of produce exists in stores like Safeway and Foodlands, the regular and the organic. Organic is always the more expensive section which is why it usually remains untouched, but we see massive amounts of people flooding through the regular produce section. This is a clear example of society’s preference of cheap over organic. Average customers would rather eat GMO produce that has been grown in soil rich with pesticides and pumped with steroids than spend a couple extra dollars to go organic. According to the USDA, the term organic “indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” Produce purchased at a Whole Foods market should make its purchasers feel comfortable knowing that they are paying for better quality items. Whole Foods has its name because it offers wholesome, nutrient-rich foods. Customers should get a feeling of wholesomeness from shopping there and they should leave knowing that they are improving their diets and overall health when they choose to purchase healthier foods.
Another comment perpetuating this adverse criticism is when the statement “Whole Foods is like Vegas” comes out to play. Whole Foods is like Vegas? Las Vegas is a hotpot of alcohol-driven, cigarette smoking chaos secluded in the middle of a desert. That sin city seduces people with its bright lights and colorful appeal, then takes their money and sends them out broke, dazed and confused. Again we see a pessimistic relationship drawn between Whole Foods and a black hole. I suppose those who stumble into a store with no idea of what they want will probably end up walking out with some meat, alcohol, gluten and a chocolate bar, just like MacLean did on her trip to Whole Foods. The reality is that most responsible adults prepare themselves for future trips to the store by creating shopping lists. They know what they need and they know that wanting to save money requires a little organization and forward-thinking. User afperry22 in a survey done by Thekitchn.com states that she saves an time and money by making a list once a week, and this also prevents her from buying excess things. Those who march into Whole Foods prepped with a shopping list are probably the same types of people that give themselves a budget for going to Las Vegas. They know exactly what they are willing to spend, what they want to spend it on, and they leave content knowing that they practiced self control.
The hilarity of this article’s definition of Kombucha is something to be laughed at. “I jizzed in your tea” is the author’s best attempt at articulating the Japanese term. Kombucha is simply a drink consisting of active enzymes, amino acids and anti-oxidants that are fermented and sold in many different flavors. Improved joint function, digestion and immunity boosting are just a few benefits on the list of gains from drinking Kombucha. Obviously drinking something that is not loaded with artificial sugars, aspartame and preservatives is not something this author’s palate is accustomed to. Her description of the breads and wheats section doesn’t help her sound any more educated than her Kombucha interpretation. If eating gluten-free crackers and breads that are protein enhanced, while getting the necessary amounts of whole grains and fiber but taste like “cardboard and sawdust”, well then I guess I’ll choose to a cardboard eater. I’ll happily chomp down those saw dust crackers knowing that my body will thank me for inputting those nutrients. Americans are so addicted to products that are loaded with artificial sweeteners and carbonation that attempting to eat or drink healthier alternatives seems like a struggle. It’s the mindset that determines the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction that can come from what you consume. Somebody who says to themselves “I’m drinking rotten tea” before gulping a mouthful of Kombucha will probably not be super excited to take a second drink. While somebody saying “the bread on my sandwich is nutrient rich and has low calories” will probably feel great about eating that everyday. We need to think about the nutritional value of what we put into our bodies, and let that dictate what isles of what stores we go into. With articles like this being written and published for the masses to see, it’s no wonder why the world sees America as “the fat” country. We would rather drink Coca Cola and get cancer than drink tea and live longer. Obesity is on the rise, and America will never rid itself of “the fat country” title if society doesn’t start making changes to their diet. Rachel Pomerance, a writer for US News, brings up the prevalence of obesity and the shift of what it means in society. There was a time in history when those that were fat meant that they were wealthy enough to buy plenty of food, it meant that they were healthy and it signaled a good life. However in the present day, those who suffer from obesity are likely to suffer from being of a low economic status. The overarching societal norm is that people who are fat cannot afford healthier foods, and are usually forced to buy whatever is cheap and available, which is typically fast food. With federal assistance programs in place, that population of people can now have access to healthier options at stores like Whole Foods and Down To Earth, who accept SNAP benefit cards. The access is there, now the population just needs to be educated on what’s available to them and what the healthiest options are.
Whole Foods has an extensive array of vitamins, minerals and organic beauty products. Whole Foods forks over a lot of cash to provide beauty products that are FDA regulated so that consumers can take comfort in knowing that the toiletries they buy will be organic and animal cruelty free. I could spend hours roaming about this section alone, in awe of how many options there are. Our Whole Foods at Kahala Mall even has books opened and resting upon podiums for customers to educate themselves on what certain products are used for, which vitamins to take for what conditions, and what’s the best option for them. These books define and explain a variety of health conditions, causes and treatments. Does this mean we can treat disease with the right vitamins and diet plan? What an idea! You don’t find isles and isles full of pain relievers and cough syrups because Whole Foods focuses on prevention, rather than drugging up the sick.
There are no pharmaceuticals sales reps lurking the vitamins section awaiting their next victim. I was able to browse every single isle in that section without a single employee tackling me and forcing me to buy their pills. I even sampled two different teas from a self tea sampling station set up at the end of one isle. There was no attendant there, trying to con you into buying the tea just because you sampled it. The dramatization MacLean creates regarding the ferocious pill-pushing Whole Foods employees is a mere turbulent parody of the wholesome assistance the store clerks offer to their patrons.
Whole Foods is the future of first-world grocery shopping. It entertains society’s carnivores their own meats section while the health conscientious consumers can happily choose from a variety of products and brands for just about everything. Whole Foods offers multiple brands that cannot be found a the typical Safeway. Not to mention the assortment of organic produce which occupies a large portion of the store. The majority of what a diet should consist of is raw produce, which is why it’s no wonder that produce is what you see when you first walk into the store. Whole Foods is trying to tell us that is what we need to be eating the most of, and it better be organic. Meat and dairy occupies a small portion of the store, what does that tell you?
When you get to the checkout lane of a typical grocery store, what do you see? Soda, chips and candy. This store wants you to get fat. When waiting in the checkout line of Whole Foods, the travel sized grab items offered are different types of mints, gums and hand sanitizer. This store wants you prevent the spread of germs, while having fresh breath. Whole Foods is trying to keep the population healthy and disease free. The subjugation of Americans to fast foods needs to be viewed as an epidemic, and educating them about healthier alternatives is the cure. Plaguing society’s minds with the idea Whole Foods is not a good place to shop is just throwing our country deeper into the obesity grave that we have dug for ourselves. There may be light at the end of the tunnel; according to ota.com, organic foods purchases are on the rise. In 2011, organic fruits and vegetables represented 11% of all fruit and vegetable sales in the United States, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Such a progression is significant for the simple fact that it indicates a growing awareness of health conscientious consumers in the country. If we can continue this upsurge of attention to diet, we may have a fighting chance against our obesity epidemic. The horse is being offered water, but it must drink on its own.
- MacLean, Kelly. “Surviving Whole Foods.” Huffington Post. 16 Sept. 2013
- United States Department of Agriculture. “National Organic Program.” USDA. 2013. Web. <www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop>
- The Kitchn. “Survey: Do You Use a Shopping List at the Grocery Store?” The Kitchn. 2012. Web. <www.thekitchn.com/survey-do-you-u-160486>
- US News. “Why We’re So Fat: What’s Behind The Latest Obesity Rates.” Health: US News. 16 Aug 2012. Web. <www.health.usnews/com/health-news/articles/2012/08/16/why-were-so-fat-whats-behind-the-latest-obesity-rates>
- Organic Trade Association. “Industry Statistics and Projected Growth.” Organic Trade Association. June 2011. Web. <www.ota.com/organic/mt/business.html>
- The Harmonious Crow. “Our Dog Food Adventure.” The Harmonious Crow. 05 Aug. 2013. Web. <www.theharmoniouscrow.com/2013/dogfoodadventure/>