Grocery Store Survival 101: 5 Strategies to Stick to Your List

 
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The grocery store can be one of the biggest hurdles to staying consistent along your path to healing your relationship with food. The grocery store bombards us with messages about how great we will feel and how much fun we will have when we down those sodas or eat those cookies. The truth is (aside from these items barely even qualify as FOOD) that the grocery store is a major feat to be conquered when embarking on a wellness journey.

I have put together a survival guide with five tactics to help you remain focused, to not give in to your Deal Maker and to create an opportunity for the grocery store to be a place where you can grow your Inner Strength! If you are not familiar with the concept of the Deal Maker—it’s that part of yourself that attempts to sabotage your progress. The Deal Maker is always try to make a deal to keep you stuck because it is very fearful of change. One of places the Deal Maker loves to show up and cause trouble is the grocery store! Your Inner Strength is the part of yourself that you are working to build, to grow and to continue to empower.

What are some of the most common examples your Deal Maker uses at the grocery store? Here’s a few examples:

            “You will only eat just one—every once in a while”

            “You have a hard week coming up, you DESERVE a treat”

            “So-and-so really would enjoy this______________, you can get it for them”

            “Just this once…”

Any of these sound familiar? The grocery store is hands down the most difficult element to wrangle because the food industry pays good money for product placement, advertising, graphic design and they appeal directly to the part of you that takes over with Deal Maker based thoughts.

Here are some tried and true tactics to tackle grocery shopping like a champ! 

1.    Never ever ever go to the grocery store when you are hungry.

I think this strategy speaks for itself, but I will elaborate a bit. When you enter the grocery store hungry you are way more likely to give into Deal Maker thoughts, to over spend and to purchase foods that you do not have on your list. To ensure success at the grocery store be sure to have a snack before hand to avoid any excessive hunger.

2.    Pre-plan what you will eat for the week and create a specific, detailed list for your shopping trip.

I know you most likely always have list when you go shopping—so that is not the main challenge! It is sticking to your list that takes effort when you are confronted with all the choices at the store. When you are armed with your list and have specific ingredients for specific meals, you create a better chance of actually sticking to your list.

3.    Practice visualization before you step foot in the store.

This is a such a helpful practice, it is also referred to as “cognitive rehearsal” and has been shown to help stick to your choices because you have practiced what you will do mentally or essentially “rehearsed” it before shopping.

Here’s how you do it: first, plan what you will need for your meals and write out your list, be as specific as possible. Then close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and visualize yourself at the grocery store with your empty cart. Picture yourself only placing the items on your list into your cart. Picture yourself passing by any “tempting” foods that you do not want to buy, notice how it feels to pass those by… Picture yourself in the check-out line, only purchasing the items on your list, notice how that feels. Picture yourself at home putting away the groceries—only the one’s from your list, notice how that feels. Take another deep breath and go to the store. Once you arrive at the store, if possible, practice the exercise again. This is a super effective tool to as it engages mindset and your emotional world. By practicing mentally first, you get to feel the positive feelings of sticking to your list and how empowering it is to feel in control of your choices.

4.    Shop the perimeter of the store.

The interior of the store is often where all of the packaged, processed, devoid of nutrients foods live. When you shop the perimeter, you are shopping for perishable foods which are fresh and therefore offer more nutrients. If you don’t come into contact with certain foods you are less likely to circumvent your plans and your grocery list. If you do have to go into the interior for some particular product, practice your visualization exercise first!

5.    Use technology to your advantage!

Nowadays there are so many helpful advances to grocery shopping, from Instacart to free delivery to curbside pickup, these options are super helpful and convenient! If you avoid having to even step foot into the store you avoid the possibility of being tempted by any triggering foods. I personally have enjoyed having groceries delivered. I have found that this not only forces me to have a plan, it also helps me save money on temptations at the store in the form of “sales” or other foods that look tasty but really I just don’t need.

I hope these strategies make your grocery-shopping and decision-making process related to food a little more simple. What strategy on the list will you try? Let me know! I’d love to hear if these are helpful for you!

The Power of Your Food Story

 
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When you embark on the path to heal your relationship with food, knowing, writing, telling and finding insights from your personal food story can be an extremely enlightening part of the process. Allowing yourself to learn, access and heal your relationship with food by exploring the points of origination throughout your life where your relationship with food went awry in the first place. When you witness your own story, you are able to learn, grow and begin to heal your relationship with food from the deepest roots.

We all have a food story. We all received messages from those around us, the media, and other influences about food and how it should or shouldn’t make us feel, look or be. We all have emotional triggers that run quite deep. Food may have been used as a punishment or reward as child in an attempt to control your behavior. You may have been told to clean your plate or that there were starving children who would be grateful to eat whatever was left on your plate—implying how ungrateful you are for your full belly or maybe the undesired vegetables.

These are examples, and while they may be fairly common, remember, when you set out to write your personal food story and learn from your history with food it can bring up ALL kinds of feelings, memories and sensations. You may struggle with feelings of guilt because you do not want to place blame on others. It may bring up uncomfortable feelings towards a family member because you feel a certain way about a particular message you received from a parent, sibling, friend or bully. The fact is, no matter if your family did the best they could with what they had (or not), that does not mean that what they did was what you needed or didn’t create some of the root struggles of your relationship with food.

Just because someone may not have meant to create or exacerbate a complicated relationship with food for you, that does not mean that what they did, said—or maybe didn’t do or didn’t say—didn’t cause conflicting messages for you. They may not have meant to have caused you to experience feelings that impacted how you felt about food, yourself and your body, which ultimately deeply impacted your self-image and self-esteem. Just because a parent or someone else may not have intended to create discomfort in your life does not mean that they were able to meet your needs. Acknowledging this is a part of the healing process. Acknowledging these harsh truths allow you to empower yourself as you move forward.

While you may not want to place “blame” on someone else for your struggles, the awareness that what did or didn’t happen in your past allows you to learn, grow and make changes in the here and the now. A major part of becoming a “grown-up” is learning to re-parent yourself where your needs were not met. Maybe you were not given the opportunity to learn self-regulation skills and you had whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it. Maybe the emphasis on food was that it is a treat or a reward. This may have caused you to have a difficult time with self-regulation around food including mindset, planning and follow through. Or maybe you grew up in a rigid environment where everything was OFF-LIMITS, causing an equally troublesome message about food. All of these experiences can impact how you interact with your life, including how you view, interact with and feel towards food to this day.

If you grew up without examples of self-regulation you may feel as though it is difficult to assess your hunger and full cues, to not feel deprived and resentful if you choose NOT to eat a desirable food—even if you are not hungry—or it may be overwhelming to plan your meals—or even a grocery list—and stick to it. If you grew up in a rigid environment when it came to food choices, you may have adopted a “FORGET-IT” attitude where you feel as though you are asserting yourself as an adult to eat whatever you want whenever you want it. It could also be that the rigidity has caused a fear of food, calories, weight, and body-judgment from others.

BOTH of these experiences can be met with desiring change, a desire for a different way to be with foodto be with yourself. Both of these examples of possible experiences from your youth can deeply impact how you interact with food, your body and your life to this day.

There are many other common messages you may have received surrounding food, such as: food is love “I made this just for you”—or, food is comfort: “I knew you had a bad day so I made you your favorite ____________”—or, food is a reward: “You did such a great job on ______________ I made you this treat to celebrate!” These are just a few examples of how messages can be received that can create dysfunction within your relationship with food, especially if it is already complicated!

More subtle messages man be in the mix as well, such as a parent who feeds the family but was always on a diet and they restrict their portions or eat different foods from the family at mealtimes. Or, maybe if your family perceived your body to be overweight, they may have put you on an undesired diet or worse, even locked food away restricting what you could and couldn’t eat. This may have caused a desire to hide, sneak and steal food, eating it in secret. No matter what messages you received about food—or your body—the impact runs deep and creates complication in the process of making peace with food.

This is where writing your food story—your personal history with food—can be enlightening, empowering and freeing. Writing your food story is an exercise I have in my book, Wholistic Food Therapy and I wanted to share it here as it is an incredibly important part of your healing journey.

To begin, think about your history with food. Consider the various messages you received about food and your body that were both direct and indirect. Spend time identifying emotions that drive you to desire comforting foods. Consider memories or phrases you heard that impacted you and how you felt about food and your body. Spend time journaling and writing it out for as long as it takes.

When you complete your story, review it. If there were some particularly challenging moments you came across, picture that version of yourself and offer that picture in your mind of yourself kindness and compassion. Acknowledge that your needs were not necessarily met and as an adult you will empower yourself to meet your own needs. Thank yourself for putting in this powerful effort to heal from the deepest roots, to face and release old messages, thoughts, feelings and experiences.

When you are working towards healing and change, awareness is always the first step. Acknowledge how this increased awareness can help you change as you move forward from this process of examining your food history and writing your food story. It may be helpful to tell your story to someone you trust, someone you do not fear will judge you. Having your story to be witnessed by another is powerfully healing, and you never know how your story may inspire another person.  

I’d love to hear your story! If you’d like to share this with a group of others working towards this same desired journey, my upcoming online course, Finding Freedom From Emotional Eating may be for you. The course begins on Monday, February 4th, click HERE to learn more or register today!

I look forward to walking with you along your path to healing your relationship with food.

3 Strategies to Eat Mindfully Throughout the Holiday Season

 
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The holidays offer a time for fun and fulfillment, yet they can be stressful, tiring and overwhelming at the same time. Maintaining mindful awareness throughout the season will help you remain connected to yourself, remain healthy and well while keeping any stress or emotional eating manageable and at bay.

During times of increased stress you become more likely to be in a rush and tired, which leads to making choices that are often rushed and favor convenience. This may cause an experience of not being fully present which can cause eating to feel like just one more thing on your to-do list. Rushing, not being present with your food and not choosing nourishment can cause the internal experience of stress to only become worse.

Mindful eating is paying attention to what you are eating while deriving pleasure and nourishment from your food. When you are eating mindfully, you enhance the experience of eating while acknowledging the opportunity to nourish your body and your mind. Mindful eating is paying attention to the sensory experience of your food.

Just the sight of the food you are about to eat begins the process of digestion. Mindful eating begins by taking in the visual elements and aromas of your food, before you even take one single bite! This mindful process enhances the experience of eating and pleasure of tasting your food.

The holiday season can trigger emotional and stress eating simply because of the stressed and rushed nature of the season. Additionally, this time of year more “comfort foods” tend to be always available and just about everywhere which can trigger the desire to eat irrespective of hunger. Cravings can be caused by just seeing or smelling food AND because of stress and emotional distress.

The three following strategies are intended to help maintain mindful eating throughout the holiday season in order to manage emotional and stress based cravings effectively. When you use these strategies you create an opportunity to be present with your food, to be engaged with eating in a mindful, calm and relaxed manner. This creates an opportunity to derive true pleasure and nourishment from your food, while at the same time reducing stress and emotional tension in general.

1.    Practice 1 minute of deep breathing before eating.

When you are breathing deeply and in a state of relaxation you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest mode, which is the mode we want to live in—unless of course there is a true emergency. Often when we are rushed or stressed during the holidays, we eat more quickly to get to the next thing on the to-do list. Try slowing down, and breathing deeply for one minute before you eat in order to calm your nervous system. This will allow your body to assimilate the nutrients from you food more effectively while also creating a sense of inner calm as you release stress and tension with your breath.

2.    Before you eat, set an intention to eat mindfully.

When you set any intention, you set in motion a powerful force that helps you focus. When you set your intention to eat mindfully before you take your first bite, you will be far more likely to do so. Setting an intention helps you create a sense of ritual and care for the process of eating and the nourishment and pleasure you will derive from your food. Try setting an intention to eat mindfully before you eat and notice how this simple practice can shift your awareness and sense of focus from your to-do list to the present moment.

3.    Practice gratitude before you eat.

After a bit of deep breathing and setting your intention to eat mindfully, offer gratitude for the food you are about to eat. When you express gratitude for your food, you create a space for deriving pleasure from your food in a big way. This can be a powerful practice to reduce stress and emotional eating as gratitude helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. When practicing gratitude for your food before you take a bite, recognize the preparation and the life giving nutrients in your food—as well as the pleasure you will experience by eating it. Be grateful and notice the impact of gratitude on your physical body as well as your mood state.

Try these three mindful strategies to remain present, focused and engaged as you make choices about what you eat and how you eat it this holiday season. Taking time to slow down, breathe, set an intention to eat mindfully and practice gratitude will allow for health and fulfillment throughout the entire holiday season.