The Retail Diet

When I worked at Wal-Mart for the last time, some ten years ago now, my diet was pretty terrible. I believe I once compared it to eating like a racoon raiding a dumpster. I drank a lot of soda, ate a lot of fast food, Hot Pockets and microwavable beef stew being the extent of my cooking. By the time I quit that gig, I had cut down on the soda drinking, but that was about it.

After I quit, I made some dietary improvements, mainly by actually cooking meals instead of microwaving whatever I could find and making soda and fast food a rarity. And I managed to continue with this for the next ten years or so, despite the different day jobs, even while holding three day jobs at once, and even while technically working in retail.

But doing floorset isn’t the same as working retail. I wasn’t dealing with customers on top of resetting an entire store; I was just doing a lot of folding, rearranging, and swearing. Working retail means dealing with customers while trying to put up freight, answer the phone, and keep the store in order. It means walking two to six miles during any given shift and never leaving the store. It means having registers crash during busy times, people calling in and leaving you to work a Saturday shift alone for several hours, listening to customers say the same things over and over again thinking they’re the first to be so clever. It means answering the same questions over and over again, listening to the same complaints over and over again, and holding your tongue during both.

In short, retail can be (and currently is for me) a high-stress, low-wage job.

And it kills my eating habits.

In the past few months of my new retail day job, I’ve drunk more soda and eaten more junk food than I have in years. I’ve craved soda and junk food more in the past few months than I have in the past ten years. Working retail triggers in me the need for a garbage diet that I might be able to get away with in my twenties, but not when I’m pushing forty. Yet, here I am, despite all wisdom, going right back to it.

I’m guessing the combination of stress and anxiety is the trigger for me here. I can’t say that I’m much of an emotional eater. However, I think that the stress/anxiety combo wears me out to the point that my willpower is gone and I’m too tired to care about what I’m ingesting. That’s definitely how it feels. It’s not a particularly healthy mindset, but it’s hard to maintain one when all of my energy is focused on getting through another shift. It leaves little energy for the effort of making good choices.

Right now I’m struggling with it. I can only hope that the stress recedes soon (the anxiety, I don’t think, ever will) and gives me a break that doesn’t come in the form of a Kit Kat Bar.

Recipe: Breakfast Burrito

I came up with this while housesitting at my aunt’s. I pretty much only ate hamburger for dinner every night that week because it was the easiest thing to fix in a kitchen I wasn’t used to and to avoid dragging out the grill. After putting scrambled eggs on a burger one night, I decided to cut to the chase and put the scrambled eggs IN the meat. I added some cheese and spices, slapped it on a tortilla, added some sour cream and salsa and called it dinner.


-Ground beef


-Shredded cheese


-Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder


-Sour Cream


Brown ground beef in a skillet. Season it with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Beat eggs, add salt, pepper, and chili powder. Turn down the heat and add the eggs to the ground beef. Toss until eggs are scrambled and nearly done. Add shredded cheese. Toss until cheese is melted.

Put a helping of meat mixture on a tortilla. Top with sour cream and salsa. Roll into a burrito.

Okay, yes, I left out a lot of specifics in this recipe. That’s because it’s so easy to adjust. On my own, I used a handful of ground beef (about what you’d use to make a large hamburger patty) and a couple of eggs. That was good for two very full burritos. Cooking for three fat people, I use about a pound and a half of ground beef and six eggs. The cheese, spices, salsa, and sour cream can all be adjusted to taste.

It’s a great base recipe to jazz up. You can add onions, peppers, hash browns, mushrooms, whatever.

I will offer this warning, though. It’s a rather heavy meal. A little goes a long way. I’m usually stuffed after two smallish burritos.

Food Math

Being fat most of my life, I’ve been made aware of most diets. I know a few people that have lost their weight by counting calories or through Weight Watchers by counting points and it always made me wonder why anyone would want to turn a meal into math?

Now I find myself doing that exact same thing.

I’m working on trying to lose the forty pounds I gained after I lost it the first time. This, of course, involves exercising, but it also involves me trying to change the way that I eat. Actually, I don’t eat too poorly compared to some people, but I could always make improvements.

In my quest for better health knowledge, I stumbled on a site that calculates how man calories you should consume during a day given your activity level to lose weight. I thought it might be a good guideline for me, not that I wanted to obsessively start counting calories or anything, but if I had a general idea of how much I was consuming, it might help me lose weight.

At first, it was an interesting educational experience, especially when it came to serving sizes (really, how many people use 1/4 cup of syrup on their pancakes?) and just how much you could eat on a certain number of calories a day.

Now understand, I didn’t exactly limit myself. I just adjusted my choices to a point so the math would work out. It all worked out for the most part.

And then the guilt started creeping in.

Guilt attached to going over my “limit”. Guilt attached to still being hungry after I finished my serving. Guilt attached to that second cup of coffee.

I have a good relationship with my food. I’m not much of an emotional eater (though I will eat because I’m bored, but because I’m aware of it, it doesn’t happen very often). The self-esteem issues I have with my weight (which are intricate, complex, and contradictory) are separate from anything that has to do with food. Food tastes good. Food gives me energy. Food nurishes my body. And that’s it. I am on good terms with my food.

Which is why when the guilt started creeping in, I put a quick stop to food math. I’m not going to have a bunch of numbers ruin my relationship with food for the sake of fitting into a smaller pair of pants (or turn me against algebra). Food is not math. Food is food and needs to be treated as such.

I’m still looking at the calories and serving sizes (Really? A 1/4 cup of syrup?) of what I eat, but in a very different way. It’s not just how many calories I’m consuming, but what kind of calories I’m consuming. You know what? Sometimes I want 250 calories from a sandwich. And sometimes I want those same calories from two cookies. Neither choice is wrong and I shouldn’t make myself feel like I failed a pop quiz because of it. Being conscious of the choice and the reasons why I’m making it is more important.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a cookie now and then. There’s nothing wrong with having one.

The numbers can still add up.