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How Becoming a Just Salad VIP Changed My Life

I became a Just Salad VIP by accident. As far as I remember, I never even entered the lottery—the company just generously sent me the black plastic VIP bowl of their own volition (okay, it's one of the benefits of being Shape's health editor). Reading the perks, I was immediately pumped. If you're not up-to-date on the salad chain's VIP program, here's the deal: You enter a lottery to win a limited-edition bowl. If you get one, you get to skip the line anytime you go to Just Salad, plus you receive a free protein or "premium" topping as well as two free "essential" toppings on each visit. I immediately started sending pics of the bowl and the VIP card to all my friends, whose reactions were a mix of crying-laughter emojis and jealous emojis.

But while I was psyched at the thought of all the low-cost salad I was going to receive (and fast—no lines ever again!?), I didn't anticipate just how much being a Just Salad VIP was going to force me to confront some deeper truths about myself. For example:

I am totally afraid of confrontation.

Despite all my big talk about how psyched I was to be a JS VIP, I was low-key scared to use the bowl for the first time. The biggest perk, to me, was the line cutting. This is NYC; there are lines everywhere. The ability to skip one at will? Amazing! But the idea of waltzing past a long line of hungry midtown office workers made me cringe. I've seen adults get into full-on fights over who stepped onto a subway car first. I was not relishing the idea of some hangry banker asking me where the heck I thought I was going.

But, of course, I'd already pitched an article idea about being a JS VIP, so eventually I had to put up or shut up. So I did the logical thing and... went to Just Salad for dinner, when there's rarely a line.

That's cheating, I know. Eventually I did brave the lunchtime lines, and of course no one said boo to me—the JS workers all know about the VIP bowl, and one of them ushered me to the front. It was fine. (Still blushed hard though.)

I am capable of going mad with power.

Yes, I disliked the idea of cutting in line. But once I got used to it, you should have seen my swagger. There's something addicting about waltzing to the front of a long line and feeling totally justified in doing so (even as I watched my back, fearful of someone hurling an ID batch at my head).

I don't like change.

I'm one of those boring people who eats basically the same thing for lunch every day. My go-to salad is also boring: greens, chicken/salmon, red onion, tomato, avocado, maybe some beans. My first time at Just Salad, I crafted that exact salad. It works for me!

But it felt silly to be buying a super-basic salad that I normally just make at home. So on my next visit, I branched out with some Greek concoctions I'd never added at home. And of course when I liked it, I promptly wrote down the ingredients in case I ever wanted to replicate it for, say, the next 360 lunches straight. (Eating the same thing for lunch every day is fineright?)

It's possible to overdo it on salad.

After a couple unbuttoning-my-pants, can-I-take-a-nap-now lunches, I had to remind myself that even salads can be high-calorie. I mean, I was getting toppings for free! The temptation to load those puppies up with avocado mash, crispy wontons, dried cranberries, or grain salads was real. (Why are the worst toppings so tasty?) And because I was eating all those greens, I could grab a cookie that was placed oh-so-innocently near the register, right? Two food comas later, I started to learn my lesson.

I got sick of salad.

Yes, Just Salad offers a ton of combinations. (And they also have non-salad menu items like toasts and wraps, which makes that "Just" seem kind of like false advertising.) And yes, salads can be filling, and fun! (Check out all these ways to spice up your lunchtime salad.) But eventually, I just wanted some sushi or something else for lunch, even if I had to wait on line a little longer.

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