Six Tips for Grocery Shopping in Recovery

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Six Tips for Grocery Shopping in Recovery

Food is our friend—it’s what sustains us and gives us energy. Why, then, is it so hard to walk into a grocery store and fill a cart? We’ve become so inundated with advice on eating healthy that we’ve begun to think of food as the enemy. Take media coverage about America’s growing waistline, add the hazards of transfats, the perils of high-fructose corn syrup, and the dangers of meats treated with antibiotics, combine it with an eating disorder (ED), and a trip to the market begins to look like a black hole of doom. Buying food shouldn’t be about supposed “good” and “bad” foods, it should be about moderation, balance, and health. So, how does one shop while in recovery from an ED?

1. Plan ahead.

Eating healthy is an important habit, but it can be difficult to get a balanced meal when your biggest fear is food. Decide what meals you want to prepare for the next week, before you go to the store.Come armed with a week’s worth of planned meals. This will not only cut down on shopping trips, but it will allow you to make sure you’ve literally put all your nutrients into one basket.

2. Discover meals you enjoy.

There’s nothing worse than gulping down some bland veggies just because they’re beneficial and your doctor told you to include them in your diet. Even if you aren’t the next Iron Chef, there are lots of ways to make food interesting without it being scary. Since you’re choosing your meals ahead of time, start with recipes that are within your skill set and contain foods you are comfortable with. The Internet is a great resource. Experiment by adding new foods, cooking your favorite foods in new ways, or even try out the wonderful world of spices on those bland veggies. Learning to enjoy your meals will help to rebuild your trust in food and in yourself.

Incorporate variety and flavor into
your diet, savor the foods you love, and
learn to appreciate food for what it is:
your friend.

3. Don’t choose trigger foods.

It may be your therapist’s goal to have you face your fear of certain foods, and, with his or her help, you can. But trying to face down a wall of ice cream on your own isn’t a task for the average trip to the grocery store. Unless specifically told to grapple with trigger foods, don’t torment yourself by looking at or purchasing them. Wait until you can tackle those demons with someone by your side. In the meantime, steer your cart right past those aisles and don’t look back.

4. Make treating yourself an event.

Sometimes, though, you might feel like a treat, which can be intimidating because there are so many goodies that call to you in a grocery store. Rather than telling yourself that you can’t have something because it’s “bad,” leave the box of cookies in the aisles, and instead, create an event around treating yourself. Maybe stop by a bakery, pick out something delicious, and take the time to really savor it. This will remind you that even though you are in recovery from an eating disorder, no food is forbidden, and you deserve good things!

5. Buy smart, eat smart.

The easiest way to make sure you’re getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals, fiber (and other items your dietician no doubt recommends) is to buy lots of raw ingredients. But cooking from scratch every night isn’t always an option, so learning how to interpret the ingredients list on pre-packaged food will help you to maintain some feeling of control over what you eat. Become an expert on the most common ones and how they interact with your body. Knowledge is power and knowing what you put in your mouth and how it contributes to your health will help you to make smart, confident choices.

6. Get support.

These things aren’t as easy as they sound. And you don’t want them to be overwhelming or something else to obsess about! One great way to avoid additional stress is to bring along a trusted friend when you shop, someone who understands your needs and can help you make healthy choices. Be sure this friend is a good listener and nonjudgmental! That way, if you are feeling anxious, you can use the time to explain and explore how some foods make you feel and why. You might even discover that you are open to trying something new!

Food isn’t the enemy, and walking into the grocery store shouldn’t feel like you’re walking into a trap. No food is meant to be feared. Incorporate variety and flavor into your diet, savor the foods you love, and learn to appreciate food for what it is: your friend.

By Melissa Ruggles
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2009 Volume 7, Number 1
©2009 Gürze Books

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