Grocery shopping can be hazardous to your health.
It’s true. That’s because every grocery store has a danger zone that must be passed through by every shopper. It’s called the cash counter. Innocuous-sounding, it is anything but that.
Decorated with attractive, compact, and low-cost items, like chocolates and other candy, the cash counter preys on us when we are at our most vulnerable. That is, when our brains have stopped working, and we’re too tired to behave properly.
The cash counter is the place we arrive after completing our grocery list, picking wholesome vegetables, wholegrain bread, and other essentials that are good for us and necessary, but no fun whatsoever. Picking up good groceries can be hard and tedious – we have to focus on finding the things that we’re supposed to have, and resisting other, sexier things. Our brain is tired and vulnerable by the time we roll the shopping cart towards the cashier.
It’s also the place where we spend a lot of time, waiting in line. Standing idle, we scan the shelves, for lack of anything else to do, and because we’re bored, we look for something that will break the monotony. Like a bright-colored, cheerful looking bag of crisps. Sure, we aren’t really hungry and chips are on the no-fly zone for our healthier diet. But it’s such a good way to while away time.
So, lingering in this drained state, in a place fraught with tempting goodies, we fall off-track our diet. Our brain, more specifically, decides to go on a little vacation, leaving us in the lurch in a high-risk zone. Essentially, this means a free for all, as we reach out, impulsively, for the stuff that makes us feel happy, literally without thinking too much. That’s when we throw in a chocolate bar here, a bag of toffees there, a couple of chips bags and sugary cola on top. The rest, as any struggling dieter will tell you, is history.
The cash counter can be a danger zone, and it should have beaming, flashing red lights, kind of like sirens.
Since that’s unlikely to happen, I have a couple of other, slightly more reasonable suggestions, one for us shoppers and one for the grocers.
For the grocers first, the request is to overhaul the types of things that are stocked, towards stuff that helps us lead healthier lives. Like dark chocolate, which research seems to show helps us manage our heart. And attractive packets of dry fruits and nuts, which look as much fun as they are nutritious.
Until our choices change at the cash counter, however, we shoppers will have to exert our self-control till we reach home. The shopping trip isn’t over when we reach the cashier; it’s only over when we are safely in our kitchen, unpacking. The good news is that our brains can be made to work harder for longer, even when they feel tired. We just have to make that choice.