Full disclosure: I was the person who held up the Chipotle line. I know that this is a sin worthy of the lowest level of hell in the eyes of Chipotle enthusiasts. I’m sorry.
Why would I do such a terrible thing? Because I don’t usually eat at Chipotle and because I honestly couldn’t keep up with the pace of fast food.
In my defense, food just shouldn’t be so fast, right? What if instead of squeezing food into the day, we squeeze the rest of the day in around food?
In the past three years, I’ve been in a fast food “drive-thru” twice. Both times, I was drunk. (Not driving!) One was Taco Bell. I threw up the next morning. The other was Rally’s french fries. Those were ok, but almost too greasy to hold.
But, I won’t front: I used to eat fast food almost every day. Sometimes twice a day.
I changed my eating habits in January of 2013 to lose weight and win a weight loss competition at my job. I started going to the grocery store every week, eating tons fruits and vegetables, packing a lunch for work and cooking all meals at home. I lost about 70 pounds.
I noticed, “Hey, I feel a lot better when I eat things that grow from the ground!” But, I still fantasized about fast food.
Also, during that time, I became terribly controlling of my food – every calorie, every macronutrient. I’m still wary of anything that I didn’t prepare in my kitchen.
That behavior sort of ran my life into the ground, but I’m learning to let go of some of that control. I used to be afraid of being out in the world and getting hungry and not having any of my “safe” foods. I carried nuts and protein bars everywhere I went.
My therapist wanted me to learn that it’s ok, and normal to be out and about, realize you’re hungry, and get some food to eat. So, I did just that.
That One Time I Held up the Chipotle Line
A few weeks ago I had an early breakfast then went to the movies. After the movie, I was hungry, but still had a couple hours of errands to run before heading home. So I thought, “Ok, no problem. I’m hungry. I can eat food.” I decided on nice big omelet with spinach and goat cheese and whole wheat toast. Easy. But, it was Sunday at 12:30, so every brunch spot was packed. I wound up at the mall, because I had to go there anyways to exchange a sweater.
I thought, “There’s a Chipotle here! I haven’t had that in years. I used to love it. Now’s your chance, Hudson! You’re not afraid of food! Get it, girl.”
So I went to Chipotle. Ok, now keep in mind I haven’t been in a fast food establishment in a long time. My first impression: everything was just so fast.
I’m so used to putting a lot of thought, time and care into my food. And, with learning to eat intuitively instead of letting calories control my food intake, I think a lot about what exactly my body wants. I think about what sounds good, starting from the simplest components: “What texture do I want? Crisp, cool and crunchy? Warm, soft and sweet?” So, I’m standing in the Chipotle line working through the 19 steps I go through simply to decide what to eat. I decide a crisp, cool, crunchy salad sounds good.
“I’ll have the salad.” I say. The guy had been waiting on me.
The teenage boy stares at me.
“Ok, whoops. Which salad? Let me inspect the menu in greater detail. Chicken, beef, pork: nope. Sofritas? What? I think I read about that on Buzzfeed? Is that like tofu? But what if it’s deep-fried or cooked in the leftover chicken grease. I will try Sofritas next time. Today, I’ll stick to what I know, veggies.”
“The veggie salad, please!”
“Do yo want the honey-vinaigrette dressing?”
“Yes, can I get it on the side?”
He looks at me like I’m crazy an pulls a condiment container from some refrigerated drawer.
Oh, I see. It’s always on the side.
The teenage boy takes about a thimble-full of lettuce and places it in the paper tray.
“Can I get more lettuce?”
He adds one more leaf.
“Brown rice or white rice?”
I hate rice.
“Black or pinto beans?”
I love black beans. I eat them just about every day. He drips a wet, dark, watery mass of black liquid bean sludge onto my greens. Those aren’t black beans. What did they do to them to get them to look like that?
“Do you want veggies?”
He uses the tongs to pick up a soggy mass of limp onions and peppers. He places them on top the bean sludge. I can barely see the green anymore. He passes me off to the other guy, the perfecter and finisher of all Chipotle dishes.
“What kind of salsa?”
“Pico de Gallo?”
“Cheese and sour cream?”
My brain has been conditioned to consider macronutrients for every meal. 50% carbs, 30% protein, 20% fat. I can’t not think about it. I was quickly trying to calculate how much dairy fat and protein I needed, given the avocado slices I’d had with breakfast and the fact that I was about to add guacamole, plus wanted dessert later. The cheese had to go.
“Sour cream. No cheese.”
He drips a watery mess of sour cream onto the alleged salad. The greens have now disappeared. I couldn’t figure out why it was so wet and drippy, then remembered I don’t eat sour cream. I use 0% Fage Greek yogurt instead.
“Can I add guacamole?”
He unloads about a truck full of guac onto my salad. Again, my calorie-conditioned brain kicked in and I thought, “Has he never heard of macronutrients and basic serving size recommendations as outlined by the FDA?? On what planet do I need that much fat content, given the sour cream you’ve just added?”
He placed a foil lid on the bowl, signifying the conclusion of his duties, so I moved down to the register. The kid had already rung me up.
“Anything to drink?”
“Can I get a water?”
“Bottled or fountain.”
A cup of water appeared in his hands almost instantly. I don’t know where it came from.
“Can I get a small bag of tortilla chips?” Someone overheard me and delivered chips in the blink of an eye.
The whole meal was only like $8 and the entire ordering, customization and pay experience took about 90 seconds. Someone pushed a bag toward me while the next person moved in to pay. I collected my grocery sack and tried to come back to my senses and get out of the way.
I found a seat, still flustered. I pulled out the chips and salad, then balled up the entire bag and threw it away. I usually ask for no bag, but they were too quick. I was still processing the guacamole fat content by the time my salad was bagged and awaiting pick-up.
Normally, when I eat, I practice mindfulness. I set the table, choose music, light a candle, turn off all distractions and focus solely on the food.
There wasn’t a bit of mindfulness happening in the mall food court, so I just dug in. Salt. All I registered was sodium. I found the lettuce. It had the crisp, cool, crunchy texture I’d been wanting. But it was drowned with black bean water, sour cream juice and salsa runoff. Only the first few bites were crispy.
I felt like I had to eat quickly because I was so flustered from the ordering process and the chaos in the mall. I couldn’t calm down. Everything was salty, except for the one thing that needed a touch of salt: guacamole.
Once I finished eating, I realized the Chipotle meal I’d been wanting for the last two years was nothing like I’d imagined, nothing like I’d remembered Chipotle tasting.
Fast food isn’t for me anymore. What started as avoiding fast food to lose weight has ended up as a lifestyle change where eating salty bowls of wet salad in a mall honestly just doesn’t fit.
So, I won’t hold up the Chipotle line ever again, and I’m pretty glad about that — and I’m sure the Chipotle regulars are too.