The Truth about (Surviving) Whole Foods. ~ Kelly MacLean

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“Surviving Whole Foods.”

This article is adapted from Kelly’s on Huffington Post. We grew up, or failed to grow up, with Kelly in the Buddhist community and she’s blogging here, now, too. Finally. ~ ed.

Whole Foods is like Vegas.

You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the new-found knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.

Unlike Vegas, Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion…until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says Namaste. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.

As the great, sliding glass doors part I am immediately smacked in the face by a wall of cool, moist air that smells of strawberries and orchids. I leave behind the concrete jungle and enter a cornucopia of organic bliss; the land of hemp milk and honey. Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they’re basically the same.

The first thing I see is the great wall of kombucha—42 different kinds of rotten tea.

Fun fact: the word kombucha is Japanese for ‘I gizzed in your tea.’ Anyone who’s ever swallowed the glob of mucus at the end of the bottle knows exactly what I’m talking about. I believe this thing is called “The Mother,” which makes it that much creepier.

Next I see the gluten-free section filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat-substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions.

Ever notice that you don’t meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem.

You know you’ve really made it in this world when you get Candida. My personal theory is that Candida is something you get from too much hot yoga. All I’m saying is if I were a yeast, I would want to live in your yoga pants.

Next I approach the beauty aisle. There is a scary looking machine there that you put your face inside of and it tells you exactly how ugly you are.

They calculate your wrinkles, sun spots, the size of your pores, etc. and compare it to other women your age. I think of myself attractive but as it turns out, I am 78 percent ugly, meaning less pretty than 78 percent of women in the world.

On the popular 1-10 hotness scale used by males the world over, that makes me a 3 (if you round up, which I hope you will).

A glance at the extremely close-up picture they took of my face, in which I somehow have a glorious, blond porn mustache, tells me that 3 is about right. Especially because the left side of my face is apparently 20 percent more aged than the right. Fantastic. After contemplating ending it all here and now, I decide instead to buy their product. One bottle of delicious smelling, silky feeling creme that is maybe going to raise me from a 3 to a 4 for only $108 which is a pretty good deal when you think about it.

I grab a handful of peanut butter pretzels on my way out of this stupid aisle. I don’t feel bad about pilfering these bites because of the umpteen times that I’ve overpaid at the salad bar and been tricked into buying $108 beauty creams. The pretzels are very fattening but I’m already in the seventieth percentile of ugly so who cares.

Next I come to the vitamin aisle which is a danger zone for any broke hypochondriac. Warning: Whole Foods keeps their best people in this section.

Although you think she’s a homeless person at first, that vitamin clerk is an ex-pharmaceuticals sales rep. Today she talks me into buying estrogen for my mystery mustache and Women’s Acidophilus because apparently I do have Candida after all.

I move on to the next aisle and ask the nearest Whole Foods clerk for help. He’s wearing a visor inside and as if that weren’t douchey enough, it has one word on it in all caps. Yup, Namaste. I ask him where I can find whole wheat bread. He chuckles at me “Oh, we keep the poison in aisle 7.” Based solely on the attitudes of people sporting namaste paraphernalia today, I’d think it was Sanskrit for “go fuck yourself.”

I pass the table where the guy invites me to join a group cleanse he’s leading. For $179.99 I can not-eat not-alone… not-gonna-happen. They’re doing the cleanse where you consume nothing but lemon juice, cayenne pepper and fiber pills for 10 days, what’s that one called again? Oh, yeah…anorexia. I went on a cleanse once; it was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I detoxified, I purified, I lost weight. On the other hand, I fell asleep on the highway, fantasized about eating a pigeon, and crapped my pants. I think I’ll stick with the whole eating thing.

I grab a couple of loaves of poison, and head to checkout. The fact that I’m at Whole Foods on a Sunday finally sinks in when I join the end of the line…halfway down the dog food aisle.

I suddenly realize that I’m dying to get out of this store. Maybe it’s the lonely feeling of being a carnivore in a sea of vegans, or the newfound knowledge that some people’s dogs eat better than I do, but mostly I think it’s the fact that Yanni has been playing literally this entire time. Like sensory deprivation, listening to Yanni seems harmless at first, enjoyable even. But two hours in, you’ll chew your own ear off to make it stop.

A thousand minutes later, I get to the cashier. She is 95 percent beautiful.

“Have you brought your reusable bags?” Fuck. No, they are at home with their 2 dozen once-used friends.

She rings up my meat, alcohol, gluten and a wrapper from the chocolate bar I ate in line, with thinly veiled alarm. She scans my ladies acidophilus, gives me a pitying frown and whispers, “Ya know, if you wanna get rid of your Candida, you should stop feeding it.” She rings me up for $313. I resist the urge to unwrap and swallow whole another $6 truffle in protest. Barely. Instead, I reach for my wallet, flash her a quiet smile and say, Namaste.

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anonymous Nov 9, 2015 1:17pm

Like Julia, belly laughs and tears. The beauty of this, Kelly, is that you are willing to laugh at yourself and bringing us wallet-scarred WFM warriors along for the ride. And the ability to do that on a 1-10, ain’t no 2.5. It’s an 11. Peace.

anonymous Nov 5, 2015 8:38am

i just shit my pants!!!!

anonymous Nov 4, 2015 8:29pm

Thank you for the laughs- hilarious

anonymous Nov 3, 2015 10:48pm

“i’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions” and “have you ever seen a gluten intolerant house cleaner?” are the most ridiculous quotes i’ve read today.
guess what? poor people also have dietary restrictions and i was the gluten (among other things) intolerant housekeeper you apparently don’t believe exists.
we learn to be a little more creative and rely on cheaper, fresher, unprocessed foods to get by.
don’t be judgmental, in reality, poor people can’t afford to ACT as sick as people who are better off.

anonymous Nov 3, 2015 4:21pm

Love! 🙂

anonymous Jul 10, 2014 8:45am

Anne, Anne….don't take it literally or personally. The humor lies not in fact but in jest (some truth in it). If you've spent five minutes with the raw food group, you would know that some people really do have food issues and some people create having food issues. She is addressing those of us that make eating a disorder. Kelly, you put the perfect spin on our food quirks. Thanks for making me laugh from the bottom of my gut.

anonymous Jul 9, 2014 10:45pm

I understand that you're trying to be humorous, but what you said about those illnesses is very abusive and offensive. It's never wise to joke about chronic illnesses and be very thankful you do not have "food restrictions." If you were smart, you would take this article down because claiming something is for "rich white people" is both racist and entitlement. Illnesses never discriminate. Also, if the store bothers you that much, why are you shopping there in the first place. I'm sure you can get your toxic food and face paste at some other hoity-toity store that caters to people just like you.

anonymous Jul 9, 2014 8:18pm

My sister is broke as hell, but she definitely has a gluten intolerance. It's a real thing.

anonymous Jul 9, 2014 4:13pm

While I agree WFM is…a "special" place – you need to tone down your "haha digestive tract issues and auto-immune conditions are for rich people only." Maybe the reason you've never met a gluten-free janitor (or whatever) is because you don't generally talk to people from other income brackets about their health. Because, trust me, Celiac disease or IBD do not know how much money is in your bank account. But if you have less money, you figure out how to eat a safe diet from the grocery stores you *can* afford.

anonymous Jul 6, 2014 10:29am

You are hilarious, and I love you. The next time someone really ticks me off, I'm going to smile and say "Namaste!" (now that I know what it REALLY means!).

anonymous Jul 6, 2014 5:38am

You're so funny! That was a great article. I wish everyone (with the exception of Asian monks) would stop saying "Namaste".

    anonymous Jul 7, 2014 3:21pm

    Namaste is hindi. And monks don't (traditionally) use Namaste. Please educate yourself before you cast aspersions across massive populations who upset you. I agree that the term is overused and commercialized but your comment is unfounded.

anonymous Mar 30, 2014 7:12pm


anonymous Sep 26, 2013 7:24am


anonymous Sep 24, 2013 9:02am

Awesome, awesome commentary! "I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions." – Brilliant!

anonymous Sep 22, 2013 11:05pm

Wait a minute folks. In my comment ( from Frank on the 18th ) I said she has got talent meaning about her ability to write and take issue like ” Whole Foods and make us laugh. I looking through her writing didn’t see trashing While Foods like so many thinks she did. It was more of a perspective angle and using it to make people laugh. Yea Whole Foods is up there in the clouds but they serve a good and needed purpose. Frank

anonymous Sep 21, 2013 7:04am

Spot On!! Loved it!

anonymous Sep 20, 2013 6:52am

Amazingly funny! Thank you!

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 6:36pm

This is some funny assed shit, and true. We go like, before Thanksgiving when we get our annual fig loaf and vegan dinner (Not that we're vegan, just hypocrites). I start out optimistic and leave feeling like I need my bung hole lubed. I have a love hate relationship with Whole Foods. When I go I get that sort of self-righteous, yuppy, artificially healthy groove going. But, about half way to the car, snacking on the okra chips, I realize that going to Whole Foods is a mental fap (mental jerk off for the dignified reader). Then, as I drive home, I realize how much I love my regular old grocery store..till next year..when I whore myself out again.

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 6:30pm

My wife and I swore up and down to never ever set foot in WF again. Last week she went there behind my back; can't wait to sit together while she reads your article–funniest and maybe even the best-written piece I've come across in weeks. It even topped the phony Trader Joe's spoof commercial which is played to a popular Brazilian tune and nails TJ's as you nailed WF Market. Thanks!

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 4:40pm

Ahahahahah I laughed so hard at this I cried. Next you need to do an exposé on the WF in NYC at Union Square. I was once literally threated by a man covered head to toe in glitterfor bumping hom accidentally as we all shuffled through the entryway like cattle.

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 4:14pm

Awesome and enjoyable way to look at things, your writing ROCKS! MORE!

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 2:46pm

Read this on huff-po. It was worth another read. Hilarious!

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 2:25pm

Hysterical!!! I can’t stop laughing!!!

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 1:48pm

I am still laughing about this one. SO good. Thank you.

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 12:50pm

So funny. So true. Great column, love reading it! Thanks

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 12:01pm

Perhaps those diseases are caused by eating those "foods." When I'm feeling ornery, I like to point out that lead, uranium, and cocaine are gluten-free, though I stole that from a Facebook meme.

anonymous Sep 19, 2013 6:52am

Perfect way to start the day!

anonymous Sep 18, 2013 8:58pm

You got talent girl.

anonymous Sep 18, 2013 8:18pm

The checkout girl actually commented on your having Candida? And one of the employees referred to the wheat bread as poison?

anonymous Sep 18, 2013 6:12pm

I laughed my way through this. You made my day!

anonymous Sep 18, 2013 5:55pm

Not often compelled to comment (like never) but you are a fucking great writer. Loved this.

anonymous Sep 18, 2013 5:22pm

LMAO!!! OMG, this was awesome. Thank you for the humor! 🙂

anonymous Sep 18, 2013 4:16pm

And of course nothing is as hilarious as their fake "organic" Chinese produce or the contempt the CEO has for their customers. Let them drink rotten fungus vinegar!

    anonymous Jul 9, 2014 6:49pm

    Belly laugh and tears. The best!

Kris Kone Mar 28, 2018 3:44am

Great story! I have yet to have full Whole Foods experience...just walki g me makes me angry with all the entitled around...

Tiffini Sears Jun 16, 2017 6:43pm

Thanks for the chuckle :)

Michelle Kunze Jun 11, 2017 7:25am


Michelle Amanda Apr 3, 2017 12:02pm

So much good stuff!! Awesome, Kelly! (Oh - and Namaste.)

Saskia Davies Dec 17, 2016 4:19pm

This immuno-suppressed poor person with Celiacs and alopecia universalis - the ultra-trendy condition where you have no head hair, body hair, nose hair (great for letting EVERYTHING in the air go straight into my sinuses to collect bacteria and party it up) , ear hairs, eyelashes, eyebrows or enough cilia to get nutrients I need was raised on a diet of egg noodles with margarine, hamburger helper (when we could afford meat), and canned vegetables if my mom saved up. My earliest memories are hallicinations from migraine pain a bit before age 2. I've lost an organ to bad medical treatment for incorrect diagnoses (didn't get the Celiacs test until age 44, after I'd lost every hair and was immobilized with pain) and am in enough pain on a daily basis that I didn't even feel it when I fractured my ankle a couple of months ago. I *heard* the snap when it broke and still thought I'd just sprained it because it didn't hurt. All my friends with functioning immune systems said the pain would be unbearable. I wasn't even limping. That's what happens when you're a real, actual person who lives well below the poverty line and has to be trendy by pretending to be sick. Being poor and having dietary restrictions means that no, I can't afford all that gluten-free crap, either. I can't afford the foods I *need* that don't have grains and I sure as hell can't afford the vitamins and food supplements I need to keep some of my symptoms somewhat in check. My future is that my health will continue to deteriorate, the pain I'm in every day will increase so much that it will hit new plateaus that become my "normal", and that I will be unable to run the small business I've built over 20 years. The likelihood of developing cancer and other diseases increases exponentially the more my immune system drops. But I'm just being trendy, right? You think it's obnoxious to hear people talking about their dietary restrictions? Try having them for real. We don't enjoy having to spend all our time figuring out what may be safe to eat and whether we can addord it. I get to factor in whether I will be able to safely hold a knife if I'm going to try prepping fresh produce and whether I'll be able to stand up long enough to cook. I get so much attention that way when I'm alone and oo, it's so sexy to partners to see me struggling. Try wondering whether the restaurant meal you're treated to will be cooked by someone who thinks baldness is a fashion statement and gluten-free is a fad and slips gluten in to "prove" it. No, we don't projectile vomit at the table. My body does try to turn itself inside-out within 15 minutes of exposure and my pain increases for days, but if they don't see the results of the bird they flipped into my food, they assume, like you, that it's a bunch of made-up special snowflake bullshit. Thanks so much for perpetuating the bullshit and namaste to you, too.

Darby Kelly Dec 15, 2016 11:12am

WF Over priced? Yes. Do you have to be rich to have dietary restrictions or eat vegan? No. Rice, potatoes, and beans are a lot cheaper than meat. Most people are negative, even people in WF. If you don't like it, don't go there. We can write better articles than this. It's not funny it's silly.

Alexis Smith Dec 15, 2016 5:43am

Nice. Even funny until you realize you're mocking me for having anaphylactic food allergies and still not being rich. Nice. I'm not rich enough for a special diet but with epinephrine so expensive I have to buy the wheat free soy free gluten free food so my kid doesn't grow up without a mum. What a nice woman you are, mocking people that need specialty food. I'd be a sight wealthier without medical bills and special food. Would you like me to mock you?

Lucinda Jenkins Dec 14, 2016 6:57pm

The isles are not that wide and it always happens that "Ginger" is in the middle of the isle with her cart and one child in the seat and one running about as she mindfuly tries to decide which organic pasta she wants for her family...well the rest of us can not come or go because she has the whole isle blocked but why should she move,,she is doing something to save the world, we have to wait. Her child that is running about has decided to sit it's dirty butt on all of the packages of organic ground wheat flour... can tell I hate Whole Foods and Trader Joe's

Kelly Curtis Lipari Aug 10, 2016 4:07pm

That was so fantastic! Thank you!

Gaye Green Jul 6, 2016 1:13am

Personally, I am kind tired of smart ass so called journalists... who don't know what they are talking about. Candida is pretty serious and not at all as was characterized....I know it is hip to be crude as in crapping one's pants....I am so over that tone and attitude. Seems juvenile and taking the easy way out of writing an article. How about something creative, unexpected or novel?

Otis van Galloway Jul 5, 2016 3:40pm

I used to work for Whole Foods. This is pretty damn accurate. I was also in therapy for a year after the experience. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Vickie Wright Jul 4, 2016 2:52pm

Namaste, bitches!!

Deanne Mineau Jul 3, 2016 8:23pm

Once I saw that Kelly is a stand-up comic, her commentary made more sense. The article is rather ignorant about Candida being a rich person's disease, about Kombucha....and many people can be condescending about health. Seems gratuitous, but it is fun to poke fun at all the beautiful rich folk.

Andreea Saileanu-Martin Jul 3, 2016 4:13am

Just walked out of WF, without paying, because after waiting 20 mins for someone to wrap my burritos, then waiting in line to have a manager come tell me yes that's right, three veggie burritos is $40! Forty fucking dollars! Seriously, my sons burrito had beans,rice,lettuce and edamame ( yea I know he's 6, so who knows why edamame) I'm not quite sure how that equals $13 each? Never again!

Mark Fey Jul 2, 2016 12:32pm

It would not be funny if it were not true. This was very funny.

TJ Seaton Jul 2, 2016 8:42am

Thank you so much. I needed a good laugh this morning. Had to wipe tears away.

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Kelly MacLean

Kelly MacLean is a stand up comic, actress, writer based in Los Angeles, California.  Follow her on Twitter.