have you ever ventured to the grocery store, searching for that perfect condiment?

proceeding down the condiment aisle, i smiled like a radiating bride, walking to meet her groom, concurrently freaking out inside, about feeling suffocated and finding things wrong with the man, or rather, the condiment, at the altar.

“ignore the peanut butter. ignore the peanut butter. oh, the jelly looks so good. mm, cherry preserves. that’s so british! no. screw that. maybe november. what do i want tonight? i want ketchup. no. 20 calories per tablespoon. i don’t eat ketchup on wednesdays anyway. oooh! i want relish. hello? relish? where are you? not this sweet relish crap! where the hell is the dill? wtf, they’re out of dill! no! my zero calorie condiment is gone! sweet relish has 20. scratch the relish. seriously, this place needs to get with it. mmm, salsa, pineapple salsa! pineapple sounds tasty. 15 calories times 10 servings is 150. 150? i’ll definitely eat the whole thing. so maybe salsa and a martini for dinner. but i’ll still be hungry. no, i need real food tonight. it’s wednesday. i’m stuck with it. where’s it at? where’s the big fucking yellow bottle? there it is. heinz mustard. hello, mustard.”

serving size: 1 tsp

servings: about 99

calories: 0

i’ve known, ever since my eating disorder started in 1999, that the FDA approves the rounding of calories to zero when the advertised serving size contains less than five. but, i’ve ignored this fact, over the years, because i was only seeing surface level deep, in food, in people, in everything. i was seeing the label. i convinced myself, until last night, that i was ingesting zero calories. mustard, butter sprays, dill relish, etcetera. the outside is fake. the inside is what matters.

in honour of this new segment on “the real me,” i’ve been looking at things differently. there’s more than meets the eye. there’s more to my big yellow bottle of mustard.

there are calories.

less than five calories per serving = zero calories on the label

sorry to break the bad news, my calorie obsessed friends and family.

i freaked out, too. that bottle of mustard, which i’ve been eating daily for some time, contains, probably 4 calories per serving x 99 servings = 396 calories. i did this math, at the grocery story, on my iPhone.

i also just realised exactly why mustard is listed at serving sizes of 1 tsp versus ketchup which is listed at 1 tbsp. the inconsistency has always perplexed me. so, i hypothesise that if heinz listed mustard at 1tbsp, then it would exceed the five calorie threshold and therefore be presented as a calorie-containing food. ketchup wouldn’t make the four-calorie cut at 1 tsp, so it’s more appropriate and acceptable to list a serving size of 1 tbsp because who really eats just a tsp of ketchup anyway? but mustard could get away with it. mustard wins because it looks perfect on the outside. mustard, clearly a second tier condiment to ketchup, will now command a bigger audience, because it’s presented at zero calories.

is this why people develop eating disorders? do thinner people command a bigger audience? who do you respect more? the thin person? or the fat person? (assuming that fatty isn’t hiding bulimia, because that could be true, too).

manipulate the outside. hide what’s happening within. that seems to be the world’s motto. i hope to change that.

so, heinz, maybe you can be a little more real.

and mustard, i’m leaving you at the altar.

© nicole marie story and nicoleandgwendolyn.com, 2011.