The All–or–Nothing Shopper

Written By:
Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
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The universe enjoys a complicated intersection of different types of people. We’ve got the outdoorsy folks, the mall rats, the weekend warriors, the couch potatoes and everything in between. After all, it takes all kinds to make the world go round. Perhaps one group of people to which we as an industry should pay more attention is the “all-or-nothing crowd.”

The universe enjoys a complicated intersection of different types of people. We’ve got the outdoorsy folks, the mall rats, the weekend warriors, the couch potatoes and everything in between. After all, it takes all kinds to make the world go round.

Perhaps one group of people to which we as an industry should pay more attention is the “all-or-nothing crowd.”You’re bound to know a few of these folks. They’re the ones that you might see in the gym five times a week in July, and then not at all in August. Or, they’ll go all out to be green by investing in a bevy of reusable items, but stock up on disposables a few months later.

In my experience, the all-or-nothing folks mean well. They want to make a meaningful change in their lives and enthusiastically go cold turkey to give up the nemesis at hand. The problem is that most people need some moderation if they don’t want to fall off the horse. And, if you don’t fully understand why you’re giving up a certain behavior and the consequences of doing so, you could end up doing more harm than good.

Striking a Balance
Balance is especially key for all-or-nothing folks who are modifying their eating habits for health reasons. Unfortunately, these individuals often don’t hear this message from healthcare providers. Rather, they hear, “Your cholesterol is too high. Don’t eat eggs.” Or, “Your bone density score isn’t great. Try to get as much calcium as you can.”

The problem is Mother Nature doesn’t function in an either–or scenario. You can’t consume calcium supplements, two glasses of milk, a cup of yogurt and a couple cheese slices in a single sitting and expect the body to respond with strong bones. You could never absorb all that calcium in one shot. Likewise, stripping the diet of certain items (like salt) makes as little sense over the long haul as packing it full with just one nutrient.

Case in point: a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association disputes a common nutritional mantra: the less sodium in the diet the better. This research actually found that a low-sodium diet does not lower one’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Conversely, having lower amounts of sodium in the body was in fact associated with heart disease. Clearly, there’s so much more to heart health than just sodium and blood pressure.

While some have criticized that particular study’s methodology, we cannot debate the fact that nutrition isn’t black or white. Focusing on just one aspect of nutrition, while attempting to address a whole-health issue, can only get you so far. And, it certainly won’t lead to optimal wellness.

Since so many shoppers are looking for quick fixes (like cutting out one food in the hopes of better health), retailers can help by getting all-or-nothing shoppers to realize that our bodies function best when nutrients are balanced. Approaching health from all angles may require extra effort, but the pay-off is indisputably rich. WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2011