Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cart & Soul

One of the reasons I love working with people on their diet is because I think examining what and how we eat is a great tool for self-exploration. What do our food choices say about our relationship to ourselves? Do we see eating as an act of self-love or simply a means to an end?

Through studying our relationship to food, and making changes to our diet, we can begin to understand and heal areas within us that may be wounded or self-limiting.  When we eat foods that are healthy and nourishing, we get the message that we are worthy and deserving. 

Last week I shared my interest in peeking into people's shopping carts, and hinted that this week's post would satisfy said curiosity. I shared that part of this interest is simply wanting to learn about new and different foods, and looking to others is a great way of doing this. The other part of my interest has more to do with what I have written about above.

What does studying a person's super-market cart tell us about who they are as a person?

From that question, I came up with the the idea for Cart & Soul (credit to B for name), where I will be going into different super-markets around the city and interviewing people about what's in their shopping cart and who they are as a person!

I have to tell you. Walking into Whole Foods and looking for someone to approach for this post was truly terrifying. Imagine walking up to a total stranger and asking to take a picture of their shopping cart! I felt like a total idiot. Not to mention it felt really stalkerish walking up and down the aisles staring at people and their carts... assessing whether they would be open to an interview or threaten to call security on me.  

To my surprise, the first woman I approached was totally game! I hadn't planned out my questions ahead of time, and just let the conversation take it's course. I'd love to hear your thoughts/reactions/ideas for future Cart & Soul posts in the comments section below!

Cart & Soul

Name: Tamara
Age: 37
Market: Whole Foods - Union Square

in. Wellness: When I approached you it looked like you were very carefully scrutinizing two different brands of rice cakes. It's clear you are a conscientious shopper!

Tamara: Laughs. Yeah, I try.

in. Wellness: How would you describe your approach to shopping?

Tamara: Well, I live in the Bronx, and it's pretty hard to find healthy food up there. I usually buy my basics close to home and then come to Whole Foods for all the specialty - low salt this - soy that - type things.

in. Wellness: So eating well is important to you.

Tamara: It is. It gets expensive though! I actually just started working with a nutritionist. We're going to try and see if I have a wheat allergy.

in. Wellness: Uh oh, are you on the dreaded elimination diet? (elimination diets are where you cut out foods that are common allergens: dairy, wheat, soy, etc. for about 10 days and then slowly start adding those foods back in and see how you react to them)

Tamara:  Not yet... but we're going to start soon and I know it's gonna be hard.

in. Wellness:  What do you do for a living?

Tamara: I'm actually in graudate school for social work.

in. Wellness: No way! I'm a social worker too and my fiance just got accepted for next year (Go B!) What do you want to do with the degree?

Tamara: Actually I think I want to go to law school after this. Laughs.

in. Wellness:  Burnt out already?

Tamara: Laughs. No, I want to combine them. I think the two degrees really support each other.

in. Wellness: Are you a native New Yorker?

Tamara: No, I grew up in California. But I've been here for about ten years.

in. Wellness:  Any delicious family recipes that you want to share with us?

Tamara: Family recipes? Hmm. All I can think of is salad!

in. Wellness: Sounds healthy. We're you raised eating healthy foods?

Tamara: I was, but more by default. We grew up very poor, but because we were in Califonia, fruits and vegetables were pretty much the cheapest foods, so that's what we ate.

in. Wellness:  So tell us about what we're seeing in your cart.

Tamara: Well not much right now, I'm not done shopping yet! I've got my frozen veggies... cuz I'm lazy... soy cheese and soy yogurt because I'm cutting out dairy...

in. Wellness:  Are any of the ingredients in here for a certain dish that you are known for?

Tamara: I make an amazing burrito.

in. Wellness:  So what's the secret to a perfect burrito?

Tamara: Well you can't really go wrong with a burrito. I just throw as much crap in it as I can... meaning veggies, soy cheese, etc, Oh, and lots of salsa. Gotta keep things spicy.

Thanks for sharing your cart with us Tamara!

So, what do we learn about Tamara from peeking into her cart? 

Clearly Tamara is passionate about eating healthy and is willing to work with a nutritionist, travel far from home to food shop, and do the hard work to determine which foods best serve her body. 

Tamara's food choices indicate that food is mostly a means to an end right now.  And how can it not be while in graduate school. Her priorities: fast, healthy and yummy.

Tamara admitted to me that she didn't always eat healthy in her twenties and early thirties. Interesting how now her body is leading her back to the healthful diet she grew up with. I found it particularly interesting how growing up Tamara ate healthy out of necessity, and now eating healthy is a cost burden. And of course, in. Wellness must point out, when talking about food it's next to impossible to not talk about home. 

Where to next, readers?


  1. Norma, I should have put on the lip-gloss! Anyways, I think you did the oldskool interviewing technique justice. You got me thinking about how healthy I eat as a child--not because I wanted to save Miss Piggy or Flipper but because it was all we had and we were doing the best we could (I also believe that I was at an advantage by living in an agricultural Mecca). And now as an adult I dig my feet in the sand and bellyache about buying organic this and healthy that. I honestly believe that eating healthy has nothing to do with organics,free-range, or Whole Foods. It has to do with choices and resources. Even as an grad student I am privileged to have the choice and resources to be particular with my diet and food intake. Like I mention before--as a child I lived in California where most of the countries fruits and vegetables are grown. But not everyone has these privileges.

  2. awesome post! i love the idea and the first post is so great! i have this hilarious mental image of you snooping behind and sneaking a look in their cart, but way to go being bold! i look forward to the next installment

  3. Tamara! So glad to see you here at in. Wellness! You look beautiful in the pic. No lip gloss needed!

    I very much agree that health is directly tied to access to resources. I do feel a tide shift taking place right now, and hope that with Michelle Obama's initiative things will change even further. I work three days a week at high school in Brooklyn, and just this year they installed a salad bar and a sandwich station with lots of veggies! We still have a long way to go, but it's a start.

    Sarah Pearl! Glad you liked the post. Your image of me is pretty spot on...