Food wars must be fought on many different fronts. We have to learn survival skills for our home, workplace, restaurants, special occasions and the other myriad of places that food is present in our lives. If we weren’t born with a “naturally thin” mentality, we need to have some strategies to help us gain control over our decisions.
When you gain control over the temptations lurking in the grocery store you will have achieved a major step towards a new you! If there is a bag of potato chips sitting in my pantry I will have to be strong every single time I step into the kitchen. With two small kids and a husband to feed, that means I will have to summon up willpower at least five to ten times a day. Honestly, why torture myself? It’s much better if the bag doesn’t even make it into my house. We’ll talk another time about techniques for keeping junk food in the house for family members who insist on it, but today I want to talk strategies for those of us who really are tired of beating ourselves up for hiding in the pantry shoving Mallomars in our cheeks.
· Make sure you are in the right frame of mind before entering the store. We are all busy and food shopping can typically be a stressful, rushed, hated chore. If I head into a store when I am tired, hungry or upset I will end up with a cart full of junk almost every time. This is probably the hardest strategy to control, but it is supremely important.
Before you get into the car, check in with yourself. Are you in a good frame of mind? Or are you pretty sure that a pint of chocolate chip mint is calling your name right now? If you realize that you should not be setting foot anywhere near an aisle full of chocolate, do yourself a favor and turn the car around and go home.
If this is a chronic issue, try using one of the awesome new shop at home services like Peapod. (www.peapod.com) For ten bucks you can shop in your pajamas in the middle of the night when you have some peace and quiet and they will deliver it right to your house the next day. Prefer to support your local grocery store? Check with them – many are offering a similar “shop online and come pick it up in the store” program. Don’t think online shopping is for you? Try it once or twice - you might never step foot in a store again!
· Imagine that you are a racehorse with blinders on. Sometimes we have no choice but to enter the store. We ran out of milk, the baby needs diapers, and we have nothing for dinner. When I first started seriously trying to reign in my eating habits, someone gave me this bit of advice. I felt kind of silly, but I literally would look down at the floor and put my hand up besides my eye when I knew I was passing by the candy, chip or ice cream aisles. You could even take it a step further and mentally chant “I am Seabiscuit” in your head if that helps. In fact, I wish I had those blinders on for real sometimes.
· Imagine you just saw a guy on the beach in a Speedo. Why is it that most men who seem to don the famous swimsuit are usually the kind that shouldn’t? If the racehorse image didn’t appeal to you, find another horrifying image that does. The idea is to mentally scream “Avert your eyes! OMG I’m blind!” to avoid spotting those grocery items you just can’t resist. The other day I spotted a gigantic poster that screamed “Brownie Tray only $5.99!” as I entered the store and I almost gave myself whiplash trying to look away from the luscious Kryptonite.
· Make a list and stick to it. This is usually the first piece of advice that nutritionists will give you. It makes a ton of sense. If you are not wandering the aisles you will be less likely to say “Hmmm…that macaroni salad looks delicious!” Make a shopping list and if you spot something decadent, remind yourself that you are only buying what’s on your list today. And no, bringing a pen and adding “lollipops” to the list while you’re at the store is not allowed.
· Shop the perimeter. This is usually the second piece of advice that weight loss professionals give. It also makes a tremendous amount of sense. The perimeter of the store is typically where all of the fresh food is: fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk, eggs, etc. This is usually the healthy fare that will help you achieve your goals. I think of the center of the store as a minefield full of packaged, high fructose corn syrup bombs waiting to erupt. That’s not to say that I don’t wander through the middle of the store – a girl needs salad dressing and Triscuits occasionally. But as I enter the “wasteland” section, I mentally put my guard up. And be forewarned that the “safe perimeter” is only a guideline since items like bacon and hot dogs lurk on the perimeter and they are not nutritional darlings.
· Leave the kids home or find a store with childcare This goes along with “make sure you are in the right frame of mind before entering the store.” I have two small boys and I know it is really difficult to find the time to shop without them. But try making a few phone calls to your local grocery stores. You might find one that has a free or low cost playroom and decide that it’s worth driving an extra ten minutes if you can shop in peace! If your town hasn’t caught on to this phenomenon yet, maybe you could get together with some other local moms and suggest it to the manager. You can tell them that it’s a great way to attract new shoppers! I drive fifteen minutes out of my way for a childcare room and am forever devoted to our new grocery store.
Well, those are my top tips for keeping junk from hopping into your grocery cart. Now it’s your turn: sound off in the comments and share what works for you at the store.