The Problem with Labels


fullsizeoutput_66bI ate green stuff for lunch, my most ingenious concoction yet. This yogurt, fruit and green nutrient powder blend had zero-fat and only three hundred calories. Even more ingenious was how it slid down easily in my four-minute dash to lunch duty. Empowerment infused me just glancing over the display of vitamins, minerals and earthy stuff in tiny six-point Times New Roman. I didn’t understand all of it, but the labeling was impressive, and I was convinced it kept me balanced.

It also helped me justify my breakfast of donuts, as in chocolate-covered fat-laden cake donuts mmmnd-down with cream-filled coffee. My better judgment had convicted me that this breakfast was only to be a-once-maybe-twice-a-week treat, until, get this, I found the perfect donut.

The Hallelujah Chorus shock-waved my senses when I stumbled upon healthy and succulent (note conjunction here) confections. You see, the label shared convincingly in 10-point Times New Roman that these all-natural, carob-coated and moistened-with-fruit-juice-not-oil cake donuts contained only 143 calories with three grams. Yes, I read it, only three grams of fat. Amazing.


I fell asleep quickly each night with visions of morning donuts. Daybreak offered guiltless pleasure as I rushed to the convenience store and bought my two to three carob-coated donuts at $1.50 each. Certainly, you say, I could have purchased a half-dozen regular donuts at that price, but these melt in your mouth tantalizing taunts made my mornings worth rising. I could tackle most anything after that, even lunch duty, since I was filled with satisfaction and natural nutrients.

And why, you might wonder, didn’t I just buy a week’s worth and save the time and gas of driving fifteen minutes to the not-so-convenient store? I tried that. It was my wake-up call of having no self-restraint. My two-three donuts a day quota mounted up to four and then six, becoming lunch and dinner with milk, grant you. So like an addict, each morning I counted my change, rationalizing at the convenience store check-out that I deserved the expensive treats.

Stinginess also proliferated as I guarded my donuts, hovering over each precious bite. Because really, at those prices (and this was in the mid-90s), I couldn’t afford to share. However, one morning I did half-heartedly offer a portion of a donut to my son when he caught me with my eyes rolled back in my head … savoring. Mumbling out words like carob and health food quickly eliminated his desire for my all-natural stuff. He still has flashbacks of my attempts at replacing everything with tofu and topping it off with alfalfa sprouts.

Yet, as with all good things, I finally met my end. It was a frosty miserable morning, one that needed three donuts with coffee to jumpstart my day. I gave my usual carob-sweet greeting to the clerk, now my almost best friend, sprinting past her in pursuit of my fix. I headed straight to the usual display location, stopping so abruptly my tennis shoes screeched, lashing a pungent odor into my nostrils. The cardboard stand was empty.

“We haven’t received our order this week,” the clerk announced apologetically, alerted by my screeching shoes and apparent despair. She probably recognized my look from the other morning addicts who staggered in for caffeinated jumpstart drinks. Only I was different because I was pursuing a product that was healthy.

The minute school dismissed, I stopped by the store and stuck my head in. “Donuts come in?”

The “no” answer came daily until the dreaded finality—the empty cardboard display was removed. The manager’s words “We’re no longer able to get them” haunted me each morning as I poured my bowl of bran cereal as penance and fantasized I had my donuts back.

Thankfully truth prevailed one evening when my husband showed me a headline blazoned across an inner page of the newspaper: “Fraudulent claims on label shuts-down Michigan donut factory.”

Michigan? Wait, that’s my donut company! I remembered the location given by the manager since I had considered writing them directly for a donut order.

I read-on as the article explained that the three grams of fat in each donut was actually twenty-eight; the calorie count wasn’t 143 but 516! No wonder they were decadent.  I was consuming gallons of fat and sugar concealed innocently in two plastic-covered sheaths.

Fortunately, my short addictive stint hadn’t proven fatal. Yet, if I had continued indulging in my dream-come-true donuts, I could have suffered irreparable damage from clogged arteries and multiple-donut formations thickening around my mid-section. So subtly, it would have mounted and destroyed, while I believed in its sweet goodness as just that.

Fraudulent–a destructive word we’ve heard too often lately. Its deception has the frauds themselves easily hurling their believers off balance beams of too-good-to-be true illusions. We’ve seen it exposed in safety labels for toys or policies of trusted insurance and retirement programs. We also witness it in ministries mislabeled. Too many promises that can’t be fulfilled.

Or closer to home, we’ve discovered it in others we’ve grown to love, holding them to what they first claimed to be. We shake our heads in disbelief we were so gullible. Shouldn’t I have seen the signs? we ask ourselves.

Yet, didn’t I kind of know my so-called health-food donuts were still donuts? The convenience store versus health food store should have been my first clue. (In the 90s, did they even have a health food section in jiffy stops? Do they now?) My justifications were another ignored clue, flashing ever before me. Only my eyes were rolled back in my head so I missed them.

Yet, that pungent odor finally shocked my senses–as in common sense, mental and emotional awareness, and spiritual discernment–about my own truth in advertising. Isn’t that where I’m most accountable? Am I true to what I’m labeling? Or too good to be true?

In the Business World

Yes, it’s difficult in the competitive world to not broaden in theory what you’re selling, managing, offering, especially when others are doing it. It’s justified as survival. Who got hurt during the mortgage scam? How can one stand strong to convictions when everyone else is lying? Thanks to truth seekers, we become aware.

According to Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, my food cravings are exactly what the food giants want me to experience. In Moss’ book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, he exposes the hows and whys of the chemistry of processed foods and that the ingredients are specially blended to ignite all those addictive pleasure centers in our brains. More about that is in an earlier essay Pavlov Pegged Us.

In Our Personal Lives

In my wholehearted desire to be my genuine self, what have I poured-in that needs some mixing-up, removal or at least authentically labeled so others know the real me?

I must also consider how have I been mislabeled by others and, in turn, believed their label of me must be accurate?

Haven’t I instantly judged people by my first meeting with them? Was it a bad day or was that their true behavior 24/7?

More often than not, we’ve had ingredients labeled on us. True or false, we can still change those labels. That’s where the cleansing comes, the physical and/or mental removal of what shouldn’t be ours to claim and the forgiveness we offer ourselves by what we’ve added amiss.

My circle of life came in the form of a donut, proving my emphasis and keyword should be authentic. I think we’re all tempted to use dabs of imitation versus real, enlarging  it into our lives in deceptive forms of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

We form our social media descriptions and photos trying to reveal our best selves, only to know if we would be/could be truthful, maybe others will be, too. Our truth in advertising revealing what’s true from the start allows us to build trust—in others, in the news, from the sale persons, and where and what we invest in, possibly in legible point-sizes and trustworthy script.

I just didn’t see those donuts coming.


Disclaimer: This photo of donuts is from this very morning. My husband bought a half-dozen just for me. I still love chocolate-covered cake donuts. I know their ingredients and can only guesstimate their calorie and fat counts which is why I don’t eat them every morning. Once/twice a month/week maybe? Besides they were a gift, and I didn’t want to hurt Bill’s feelings.:)

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2 thoughts on “The Problem with Labels

  1. As always, your words ring true & force me to consider my many frailties, Ann. Thank you for opening my eyes & heart to flaws & false labeling. However, if I am being truthful, your thoughts also caused me to visualize, almost smell warm chocolate covered donuts, authentically labeled but still nearly irresistible…


    • That is a lol. Those donuts were fresh from Saturday morning. Bill brought me six–three a day. I feel obligated to eat them since they were a gift. In regard to the heavy side–for all of us, if only we could be less judgmental of others and ourselves. Thank you for reading and your insight.


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