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Baffled at the grocery store while shopping for a binge

February 6, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 446 lbs.

Last week: 443 lbs.

Start weight: 470 lbs.

Total lost: 24 lbs.

Something happened at the grocery store last Tuesday that confuses the hell out of me.

I called my wife on the cellphone after leaving the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee meeting, asking her if she wanted anything from the grocery store. She wanted pistachios and no-sugar caramel/chocolate candy.

With the stress of Winter Carnival and day one of deadline at the newspaper, I was hungry. I had eaten two pieces of pizza before the meeting, even had breakfast and lunch, but since I weighed in that morning for the week, the pressure was off and I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted after the meeting. The stress hit me when I sat in the car to head home. It was an impulse; I had not planned on going to the store.

“I’m being honest,” I told my wife on the phone. “I don’t feel like behaving tonight.”

She didn’t try to stop me.

So I went to Tops with the goal of binging. Maybe beer, chocolate, chicken wings, whatever I desired. After all, I would have six days to recover and lose weight before next Tuesday. I rationalized it and felt good about it.

What baffled me about this shopping trip was the food I actually took home. I walked out of Tops with healthy food, no junk, and I didn’t exactly know why.

There was no hand wringing, no pacing up and down the aisles with a guilty conscience, no friends around to sway my decisions. My emotions simply changed from when I walked into the store to when I walked out of the store. The end result had me so perplexed that I lost sleep.

My question: Am I training myself to cope with stress eating without knowing it?

My answer: Beats the hell out of me.

My solution was to write about it, tracing every step, emotion and decision. At 3 a.m., I grabbed my smartphone and took notes on the shopping trip memories, fresh and swirling around in my head. I wrote down the food I was going to buy and the food I ended up buying. I wanted to explain, aisle by aisle, how I left Tops with healthy food while shopping for junk food.

My first stop: nuts. I didn’t see pistachios on the shelves, so I picked up cashew pieces. They were on sale — a small consolation for not getting what my wife really wanted.

Then I went up the candy aisle. I was in the mood for chocolate. Raisinets, maybe? No. A large Hershey bar? No. A Giant Chunky candy bar? Yes! I love Chunky, and I was about to put one in my cart. Then I made a mistake: I looked at the label to see how many calories were in it: 570. Damn! I could have had a Chunky, but I didn’t want to pack in 570 calories just for one small dessert. So I put it back and picked up my wife’s Russell Stover no-sugar candy.

Next stop: meats. Heading out of the candy aisle, I turned right to see if there were any leftover chicken wings from the deli. Nope. So I turned left to the hot dogs. I decided I didn’t want all that salt, so I moved on, looking for something already cooked or something I could reheat in the microwave.

I stopped at the barbecue meat in plastic tubs, a favorite of mine. Curly’s shredded pork was 900 calories per 16-ounce container (I would have eaten the entire thing). The Lloyd’s barbecue pork and beef were both 720 calories for a 16-ounce container. It was at that point my mood changed. In the blink of an eye, I decided to make it a game to find something tasty and quick with fewer calories than the pulled pork.

Frozen chicken was next. A bag of Tyson Chicken Nuggets was 2,430 calories, a bag of Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips was 1,520 calories, and a bag of Tyson Buffalo Style Chicken Strips was 2,470 calories. Winner, winner, chicken was clearly not for dinner.

I moved past the French fries and frozen veggies to the door with pizza rolls, a favorite of mine. A 40-count bag of the Totino’s pepperoni pizza rolls was 1,540 calories. In the same cooler, I looked at Farm Rich Mozzarella Sticks (2,340 calories per bag), cream cheese jalapeno poppers (forgot the exact calorie count, but it was too much), Tina’s Beef & Bean Burrito (280 calories each, but too much because I would have eaten three or four) and a six-pack of White Castle cheeseburger sliders (930 calories). No luck there.

I briefly thought about making my own cheeseburgers, but I didn’t want to cook — only reheat — so I moved on.

Passing the MorningStar Farms fake meat door in the freezer section, I reached in to see how many calories were in a four-pack of veggie burgers — just for fun. I picked up a random box: Asian Veggie Patties. At 400 calories a box — 100 calories per patty — I had a clear winner in this silly contest. But they looked delicious, so I bought a box. I had a vision of two veggie burger sandwiches for dinner, each with slices of sweet onion and cheddar cheese and a slathering of mayonnaise.

When I got to the beer cooler, I started to look at the selection. Then I thought about my newest innovation on the Lake Placid Diet: beer night. Every Saturday, I give myself permission to have one drink — a mixed drink, glass of wine or a bottle of beer, as long as it’s a product from the Lake Placid region. While eyeing a six-pack, I told myself, “If I have beer now, I’ll lose my special night.” So instead of ruining beer night, I turned around, literally.

There were pistachios in the middle of the aisle, so I put a bag in the cart before walking to the frozen fruit. I grabbed a bag of berry medley (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries) to have as dessert with plain, nonfat yogurt (already in the fridge) and a drizzle of local honey (in the cupboard). After having this dessert on Saturday night, I found it tastes better than many varieties of ice cream (except my favorite, Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk).

On my way to the nut aisle, where I put back the cashews, I decided against cheese for the veggie burgers. I stopped by the canned veggie aisle to see if they had marinated mushrooms, a low-calorie favorite. They were out. I did pick up a can of artichoke hearts packed in water (135 calories total). Then I thought, “These would be great in a salad.”

After picking up an onion for my veggie burgers, I chose Newman’s Own Caesar Dressing for my salad, passed on a bag of cheese-and-garlic croutons (my nutrition consultant, Wynde, wants me to stay away from gluten), and I checked out.

By the time I left the store, my stress was gone. In fact, I think it may have disappeared as soon as I put the pulled pork back in the cooler and made a game out of finding the lower calorie count.

When I got home, I told my wife about the strange shopping trip and made myself some food: a medium-sized salad with the Newman’s Own dressing and artichoke hearts, leftover spiced couscous, a bowl of yogurt and frozen berries with drizzled honey and two Asian Veggie Burgers (no onion, cheese, mayonnaise or bread) placed on top of the salad. I drank ice water.

As a fat person who takes pride in his ability to overeat, I am embarrassed to say this was my Tuesday evening binge, eaten between 8 and 8:30 p.m. while watching an episode of BBC’s “Sherlock” on Netflix.

If there are any lessons to be gleaned from this shopping trip, they will take some time to sink in. Clearly, I was able to change my mood and emotions and eventually concentrate on healthy eating. I’m still dumbstruck because it was not a conscious decision to change my mind; it happened naturally. Something is working, at least some of the time. I wish I knew what.

Next week: Meet a couple taking the local weight-loss challenge.

Contact Andy Flynn at


Article Comments



Feb-11-14 8:41 AM

Hi Andy, About a month ago I came across your blog while on the NCPR web site. I read all your posts and since then, I've checked in regularly for new ones. I don't typically comment on blogs, but wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your willingness to share your challenges and successes. It has inspired me to look more closely at my own health and wellness and make some needed changes. Even though I may not comment often, please know that I am reading and supporting you as you move toward your goal.


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