You’re at home, and you’re hungry. You look in the fridge and there’s not much there — maybe there’s some old takeout containers of dubious age, some fruit that looks like it’s seen better days. Maybe you have the ingredients to make something but it feels too time consuming or just not appealing. Maybe your cabinets are pretty empty too.
So you take care of yourself in the moment and order takeout or drive through or whatever.
I’m not bringing this up to judge you or make you feel bad for your choices. I think everyone does the best they can with the time, money and options that they feel they have.
But I do think that avoiding food shopping, or at least avoiding buying food that’s going to be in your home for at least a few days, is often symptom of dieting, even if you haven’t dieted in years.
Why You Might Be Avoiding Food Shopping
If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know that diets require you to follow a lot of rules. Even if a diet only has one rule like, “don’t eat sugar”, you are going to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about whether each thing you eat contains sugar, how you can make or find sugar-free alternatives, whether certain sugar-free alternatives are okay and others are not, whether that party that you’re going to later in the month will have things you can eat, and on and on and on.
Often, at the beginning of a diet you purge certain “offending” foods from your home. You toss them or donate them, saying to yourself, “I’ll never eat THAT HORRIBLE, FATTENING THING again!”
You may have found yourself feeling, “good” or “pure” or “moral” for getting rid of those foods. Even if you’re not someone who would normally attribute those words to yourself or anyone else, dieting can induce that kind of thinking.
And by the way, the same things can happen when you apply any sorts of food rules, even if your array of food rules are not called a diet. Detoxes, cleanses, and the like tend to induce the same kinds of thoughts and behaviors.
So what happens days or weeks or months or years later when you’re off the diet? Maybe you’re on a new diet with different rules. Maybe you’ve embraced Health At Every Size® and you just want to listen to your body and let go of diet thinking once and for all.
Unfortunately, those diet rules from 10 weeks or 10 months or 10 years ago are still deeply embedded in your psyche. And so you end up feeling guilty about eating. Even if you have every intent of letting go and leaving those diet rules in the dust, they’re still there, lingering, and making it hard to do things like shop for food.
When you’re walking down the aisle with your cart or basket, all of those old food rules run through your mind:
“Oh, I can’t buy that. That’s too many calories.”
“I can’t trust myself to buy this. I’ll eat the whole thing in one sitting.”
“I can’t buy this because it’s not organic.”*
Not only do you have these lingering food rules, but, if you’re fat, you may be dealing with people who stare at you or what’s in your cart. This is completely f-ed up and not fair, so I’m going to address that as well.
All of this can lead you to a shopping cart filled with toilet paper and not much else. So I want to share with you three of my top tips for ending food shopping avoidance.
How To Actually Enjoy Food Shopping Again
1) Give Yourself Permission — An important first step in letting go of the diet mentality is to really give yourself permission to eat, buy and make what you want. Buy foods or ingredients for things that you really like. Some of these things may be “fattening” or “caloric” or whatever but giving yourself full permission to eat them will actually begin to even out your eating. Take a little time to ask yourself what you really want and you may find that you’re craving more of a variety of things than you had previously realized. Plus, food shopping will be much, much easier.
2) Do A Little Planning — Getting back into the swing with food shopping can sometimes take a little planning, so make a list of what of you want to get. Start easy — if you haven’t been cooking much lately, try to pick simple, easy to make foods. Include some prepared foods too. And consider starting small, planning for just a few days, or thinking practically about which days you might want to make something at home versus which days you’re going to go out or get takeout or whatever.
3) Have Snappy Answers Available For Judgmental People (Including Your Internal Judge) — Food shopping while fat is often a special kind of torture that thinner folks cannot relate to. It’s easy to feel as if you’re under surveillance and constantly scrutinized for the contents of your cart. Plus, even if no one is looking at you or actively judging you, you have your inner judge telling you that all of your food choices are wrong and bad.
So it’s important to remind yourself that you are a human and therefore need and deserve to eat. No one has the right to tell you what you should be eating nor the right to judge your choices. It’s important to connect with that feeling when you’re food shopping
As one person in my my facebook group shared, “If anyone asks me about my food, I tell them I’m having a party. It may be a party for one, but it’s a party nonetheless.” I think that’s also a great way to think about it. Imagine if you thought about preparing food as a party, a little celebration of you and your loved ones. How amazing might that feel?
Do you struggle with avoiding food shopping? I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. She is now enrolling for The Big Beautiful Goddess Academy. Click here for details!
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*I really understand wanting to buy organic fruits and vegetables and humanely treated animal products. But sometimes, when you’re on a budget, doing that keeps you from buying food. Consider checking out this chart of when to try to buy organic (and when you can skip it) here.