10 Tips for Grocery Shopping With An Eating Disorder
Grocery shopping is difficult; let’s call a spade a spade. But grocery shopping with an eating disorder is downright impossible. Two years ago, I was right where nearly 30 million men and women are today– pacing up and down the local grocery store aisles, investigating labels like the Carmen Sandiego of food products.
I’d scour the store for hours at a time but duck out of the way of the employees as to not look suspicious. “It’s all a trick, I used to think– holding up two loaves of bread and comparing the grams of carbohydrates. The store wants you to fail; it wants you to buy all the junk so you’ll come back for more– but I will prevail, I’d whisper to myself like the scene from Braveheart where Mel Gibson beats his chest.
Hungry from starving myself, I’d enter into the store with my stomach growling and my mouth salivating as I passed the bakery cookies and the cakes. “Don’t look,” I’d tell myself. But after two hours of pacing the produce aisles, I’d find myself standing in the cereal aisle, my eyes locked on the newest “Special K” flavor– the Nature Valley granola bars– the sugar-free sugar cookies (how is this a thing?)
Overwhelmed and hungry, I’d eventually end up throwing a few extra “in cases” into my shopping cart. “I mean, what if it snows this week?” I’d think. “I need backup.” Even though I knew fully well no apocalyptic snow was headed to my area of town, I felt like a horse being taunted with a carrot in its face.
I never had lists, and I never had a plan. I’d walk around critiquing all the “bad” foods, secretly congratulating myself that I knew which fruit might have more pesticides than others, but still leave with bags of food that ultimately provided no nutritional value.
Throwing money at the latest “sugar-free peanut butter” and “no additive granola,” I was literally being eaten alive by a grocery store.
One year into my recovery, here are 10 tips that rehab taught me about grocery shopping with an eating disorder:
- Set aside one day (usually a Sunday) each week to do meal planning. Plan meals one week in advance. You’ll save money and you’ll have leftovers so you won’t be constantly panicking on GrubHub trying to decide which restaurant might be excessively dousing your salad in dressing.
- Try grocery shopping only once a week and no more than twice per week that way you’re not schlepping down aisles with no purpose.
- Do not spend more than ½ hour going through the aisles. This is SO important. The longer you spend in these aisles, the more your mind will play games with you. Each aisle has something for your benefit– listen to your body. If you want a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, grab it. Then leave.
- Do not go grocery shopping when you are tired and hungry. Your stomach will lead you astray. This seems like such a “duh” tip but think about how many times you’ve “run into the store” to grab something and left with 10 unnecessary food items. You’ll end up spending excessive amounts of money and you are setting yourself up to potentially binge later.
- Make a list prior to shopping and stick to it. Avoid impulse shopping– but you don’t have to freak out if you come across a bag of chips you’d like to dip in that hummus. Having a list, however, helps you moderate.
- Take someone supportive the first few times. You don’t even have to tell them about your eating disorder but having someone around to walk the aisles with will help distract you from your own mind games.
- Try something new each time you go to the grocery store. Your taste buds will thank you. Variety is the key to a healthy diet.
- Be cautious of excessive label reading and stay away from fat free, sugar free, and “diet” products. These items will not satisfy your stomach and they open the door to self-manipulation.
- Check your pantry at home and see what you have first because no one wants three boxes of couscous laying around taking up space. (saves money, too)
- BEWARE of marketing techniques that lure you in. Compare prices of store brands and “no names” and buy the least expensive.