I love going grocery shopping.
Maybe that makes me weird, but that’s fine! I find it really meditative to stroll up and down the aisles, looking at all the fun packaging and picking out things I enjoy.
These days, I spend a lot of time walking around Trader Joe’s (because it’s amazing and also within walking distance of my apartment!) and I have really noticed a big difference in how I feel before, during, and after shopping. I feel a sense of ease and freedom. I continually ask myself what I want and need as I add things to my cart. And I’m realistic about what I’m going to eat vs. what I think I “should” eat. I’m not saying I don’t end up with a moldy bag of spinach in my fridge every now and then (I mean, I think that’s just kind of a standard grocery experience!), but I tend to stick to foods I know I like, can make easy meals with, and will come in handy when I’m starving after a long day of work and don’t feel like cooking.
Before I found and embraced intuitive eating, my shopping trips looked very different. There was always this additional level of pressure and stress that was just sort of hovering around, like a raincloud preparing to storm.
In one phase of dieting, I would find myself at the grocery store, loading up my cart with tons of fresh produce and plain chicken breast. I would steer clear of the bakery or anything processed and packaged. Those things weren’t allowed. And I’d usually get home, force myself to eat exactly on plan for a day, and then beat myself up when the food went bad and I was binging on takeout the rest of the week in shame.
In another phase, I would forgo fresh produce altogether, opting for pre-packaged foods that I could easily track in the Weight Watchers or MyFitnessPal, or Noom app. Loads of Lean Cuisines, 100-calorie packs, and low-cal prepared meals. And I would be sitting at my desk at work, waiting until the clock struck 12pm so I could eat what I had allotted myself for lunch, only to be ravenous on the way home, eat ten 100-calorie packs, and forgo an actual dinner because I had already gone over my points for the day.
Looking back now, I have so much empathy for that version of me. She was doing the best she could with the information she had at the time. I can recognize that despite doing what I thought was “good for me,” I was letting outside sources dictate what I wanted because I didn’t think I was allowed to trust myself to make decisions that were actually good for me. Those thought patterns that didn’t totally align with my actual values were so subtle and ingrained that I didn’t even realize they weren’t serving me. Diet culture is sneaky that way.
Nowadays, I don’t shop with food rules. I shop based on how I want to feel: satisfied, nourished, fulfilled, and happy. I choose a mixture of fresh produce and frozen meals, depending on what I have going on for the week. I always bring home some sort of baked good (currently loving the mini vanilla sheet cake from Trader Joes!) and keep my pantry stocked with my favorite candy for when I’m craving a piece. And sometimes the bags just sit on the shelf for weeks before I remember I have them. I regularly have frozen pizza and pasta loaded with veggies and chicken sausage. I make salmon and throw it on a salad or stir-fry. At any given moment, you’ll find English muffins, bread, and tortillas just hanging out in my freezer because I genuinely can’t eat all of them quickly enough!
I pick up new things that look good and that I want to try and if I don’t like it, I make a mental note not to get it again. I don’t force myself to finish it or eat every last bite. I don’t pack my cart with food that I don’t enjoy. I don’t judge myself for not eating a lot of fruit because it’s just not my thing, but when I’m in the mood for an apple or orange or slice of watermelon, you bet they appear in my cart.
Food is not just fuel.
Food is emotional.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Food is social.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Food is experiential.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Food is psychological.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Food is physiological.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Food is self-care.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And if you’ve been neglecting all of these aspects of eating and consuming food in favor of diet culture’s rules, it might be hard to really embrace the idea that there don’t need to be rules at all.
When you have food rules, you are taking away all of the aspects of eating that are crucial and critical to being human.
To being YOU.
And it’s SO common, especially for those new to the intuitive eating framework, to see it as the “Hunger and Fullness” diet.
But it’s way more than that. It’s being able to walk around the grocery store and not have a panic attack when I’m trying to choose between full-fat and low-fat cheese. It’s picking up a bag of chips with a fun new flavor that seems totally silly but will make you laugh all the way home. It’s preparing a meal full of fresh ingredients, just for you to plop down in front of your favorite Netflix show and ease into a night of relaxation. It’s knowing that foods can make you feel satisfied and energized while also making you smile.
So, you may be thinking, “Molly, that all sounds great… but how do I start doing this for myself?! Grocery shopping is the literal worst experience for me!”
You start really small. Tiny. Perhaps on your next trip to the store, it’s buying one thing that you normally wouldn’t let yourself have. Maybe that’s white bread instead of whole wheat. Maybe it’s a bag of Oreos or a carton of ice cream. Whatever that food is for you, your invitation here is to gently start shifting your narrative. I don’t expect you to be totally fine with having the food in the house all at once. You may end up going through a few bags of Oreos before you get comfortable, and that’s okay. But you’re learning to believe that these things are neutral. That you are allowed full permission to eat them. And as you slowly start to introduce that new narrative, you will likely notice a shift in your mood and behavior. The cookies won’t seem like such a huge deal. And then you get to add on to the experiment. Expand just a bit more.
And if you’re looking for personal support in this process, I’d be happy to chat more with you about private coaching. You can read more about my approach and what it’s like to work together here.
I’m cheering you on, friend.