At least when Whole Foods Market asks you to trade in cheese-covered gristle for a sporkful of hummus, they know they're asking a lot.
So that's why they plan to hold your hand through most of it. This month the store launched the Eat Right America 28-day Challenge, a program that encourages eaters (and shoppers, of course, all those wonderful, loaded Whole Foods Shoppers) to adopt a nutrient-rich diet to "achieve optimal health." Thanks, Whole Foods. With vernacular like that, I'm already feeling better about myself.
Just to make sure you don't tip into a pile of fire ants and poly-unsaturated fats, Whole Foods won't take the training wheels off. After signing up for the 28-day challenge, participants will receive an individualized nutritional and personal assessment, a daily eating plan and a month's worth of e-mail support and access to the Eat Right America online member center.
The store offers short Saturday classes for free geared to help you retain the momentum of your nutritional evolution. This Saturday I checked out the Pantry Stocking class which, you know, taught me how to stock my pantry.
The Pantry Stocking class was led by a Whole Foods employee named Laurie who admitted to the six-person class that she was a vegan "most of the time" -- which meant that she usually ordered salad, but if someone was grilling a steak, then fuck you and your tofu (my words, not hers). She talked about how she struggled through her first few days without sugar. Such confessions made her feel relatable and human, as if the class were being led by an actual, sympathetic eater and not an acutely self-disciplined super-being (What, Spiral Diner? No, no one was talking about you.)
The class was less Supermarket Sweep and more importance of good eating. Why should I purge my pantry and refill it with items such as tomato paste, almond milk and steel-cut oats? Answer: Because all these things are available for purchase at Whole Foods. Also because these foods are loaded with way more nutrients than packets of Zatarain's Red Beans & Rice and saltine crackers.
"It's teaching us how to eat again," Laurie told us. She was taking the 28-day challenge, and so she spoke with the class, not at us. We were all in the celery-littered trenches together. "Eating a whole food diet prevents illness."
I was still on board with her at this point. Then Laurie said, "It's about being healthy and eating unprocessed foods, like how your great-grandparents ate."
That is where I fell off the hemp wagon. My great-grandparents sucked down hog fat and pickled pigs' feet. I think one may have lived on a school bus.
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Besides that hiccup, the rest of the 45-minute class was peppered with realistic baby steps to help participants wean themselves off of 40,000-calorie diets. Laurie suggested sautéing vegetables in apple cider vinegar instead of butter or using coconut milk for steaming. She suggested that meat may be a "seasoning" and suggested eating about 8 oz. of meat per week. And I was like, sorry Spiral Diner, sorry Whole Foods, sorry Bessie the Cow and sorry Brooke's heart. I'm not giving up meat. I don't even care about the consequences.
Toward the end of the class, Laurie suggested books to keep our new-found health on track and passed out fliers with a password for free 28-day challenge registration. I kept the password just in case, but I don't think I stand a very good chance of finding a recipe for "bacon-wrapped celery."
After the class, a Whole Foods employee behind a sample kiosk asked me what I learned in the class. I eagerly reported, "To remove everything white from my pantry!" and she rewarded me with a cup of mandarin slices and blueberries.
It turns out I like blueberries. If I can remember that, maybe I can handle the 28-day challenge. Maybe I won't grow up to be ravaged by diabetes and hypertension, after all.