I worked at Trader joes for 3  years and here’s the  #1 THING I  noticed from ringing customers up at checkout:

People attach moral value to food.  

Many customers, without even being prompted, would frequently make comments like, “I’m being so bad, I couldn’t resist” as I’d lift the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from their cart to scan.

I’ve had customers tell me “I’m trying to be good so I’m buying all these pre-made salads for lunch, gotta finally lose some weight!”

I’ve even had customers who were buying carts full of meats and cheeses telling me how they are starting Keto on Monday…oy vey, the number of times I’ve had to bite my tongue with that one.

These are examples of the kinds of information customers have offered- completely unprompted.

I never asked them about their food or their diet, they just felt the need to justify their grocery purchases  to me- a random stranger checking them out at the grocery store.

Sometimes, I’d be chatting with a customer- as we do at TJ’s- and they might ask me something like “what made you move here?” I’d reply “I moved here for school” and then they say something like, “what’d you go to school for?’ and then I say it…. “Dietetics, I’m actually a Registered Dietitian.”

At this point, 9 times out of 10, I get the same response: “Omg, you must be judging my groceries!” or something like “don’t judge my groceries, they’re so unhealthy, I’m being bad.” Or even “I’m buying these snacks for my kids, not for myself, don’t worry!”

I take a breath and smile “Of course I’m not judging your groceries!” Then I try to sneak in a bit about how I’m an anti-diet dietitian and I believe all foods can have a place in a healthy diet blah blah blah- I do the whole spiel.

If these interactions don’t illuminate the widespread disordered eating behaviors in our society, I don’t know what does.

These random people feel the need to justify their choices to me, a complete stranger. This shows that so many people are- at baseline- guilty about their eating habits.

I sometimes wished I could just shake these customers and make them understand. But I remind myself to have compassion;  it’s not their fault, they are merely a product of the diet culture we live in.

Why is our culture so ridden with food guilt in the first place?

Because we’ve been bombarded with messaging from the diet industry trying to convince us that we must look a certain way to be worthy.

If the diet industry is able to convince you that you must be thinner to be worthy, you are left asking, “well then how do I get thinner??”

That’s when diet culture gets to swoop in and say, if you want to be smaller, you cannot trust your body. Instead, you should trust us and our meal plans, our protocalls, our shakes, etc.

In convincing you that your body can’t be trusted, the diet industry gets to profit off you.

How freaking twisted is that?

The good news is that diet-culture messaging was something that you learned, which means it can also be unlearned.

Do you want to unlearn diet culture and start eating in tune with your body’s innate wisdom? Do you find yourself feeling guilty about your food choices? If so, I invite you to click here to learn more about my counseling services.

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One Reply to “Here’s What Working at Trader Joe’s Taught Me”

  1. Dad says:

    Very insightful.

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