When you go grocery shopping are you are prepared mentally?
You should be.
Well, it used to be the case that humans went hunting for food, however now it is often the food that hunts the human.
(Artwork: Marcia Furman)
Grocery stores are full of temptations and imposters looking to prey upon natural human weakness. Everyone turns into prey at the grocery store. Temptations abound such as cakes, cookies, and muffins. They try to lure you in with their sweetness while adding little to your life other than temporary pleasure and extra body-fat.
The imposters are even more evil. The evil imposters are products pretending to be food which have no business ending up in your stomach. For example a breakfast cereal calling itself special and promoting itself a healthy choice while having more grams of added sugar than total protein or fat. That’s a breakfast bowl of “skinny-fat” waiting to happen, but on the cover you’ll find a beautiful and happy woman jogging with an ipad strapped to her bicep. The reality is however, that that model, if she is as healthy as she looks, probably hasn’t had that cereal in five years.
Food companies put significant money into the research and development of foods that will be irresistible, play on the reward centres of your brain, and make them as much money as possible. Your health is not of their concern. Their profits are. These same companies will pour millions of dollars into advertising to convince you to eat their imposter food. When you go to a grocery store it might be your biggest test of will-power that day or even week. You are facing an empire all by yourself.
You know the old saying of a tough guy doesn’t have to tell you he’s tough, or a smart person doesn’t need to tell you they are smart? Well, Broccoli doesn’t advertise. “Hamburger Helper” does. “Hamburger Helper” also has 32 ingredients, and I find this quite funny, but the first ingredient has 6 ingredients…..get what I’m saying?
So anyway, the scene is set and now you know what you are up against. Let’s get you prepared for entering this pit of temptation.
Step 1- Eat Before You Go!
If you go to the grocery store hungry, that is like walking into a lion’s den with a steak-necklace, or an alcoholic going to Oktoberfest in Munich. If you go there hungry, your brain is going to play many evil tricks on you when confronted with all the temptations at hand. If you are hungry it will be real easy to convince yourself that you need that 12-pack of cookies, or that quart of ice-cream that is on sale. If you face the grocery store with a full stomach, your will-power will be fortified and you can JUST SAY NO!
Step 2- Take a Grocery List!
If you go to the grocery store all willy nilly and plan to go by feel, you are going to get dusted by temptation and get home wondering what happened. Once again, the temptations and empires of food evil you will face will win. If you have a grocery list, you are much more likely to buy the food you actually need/want, and will buy less crap. Complete the list, don't think about or even notice the other stuff.
Step 3- Don’t Browse!
Just don’t. This goes in hand with step-2. The grocery list can be soon forgotten if you allow yourself to browse. You are going to see a lot of proverbial pretty ladies and handsome gentlemen vying for your attention and pulling you in. Ignore it. When I am home in the summer, I have a route I hit when I’m at the grocery store and could probably do it blind-folded (unless they have re-arranged the vegetables). Know where the products that you need are, visit those places, pick up the real food you need, and GTFO. You also save time.
Step 4- Read Labels!
You can read 155,749 words in Fifty Shades of Grey or 10 Buzzfeedz articles a day, but you can’t read twenty damn words on a food label? Read at the grocery store. Don’t go by appearance or packaging. Pick that food up, turn it around, and read that label. Know what it is you will soon be putting in your body. If a food consists of mostly carbohydrates, then put it back. If it has more added sugar than protein and fat (like Special K), get it out of here because its not your friend. If its ingredients contain a bunch of stuff that doesn’t sound like food (Chemical names, red-dye #3, etc.) then just say no, and walk away. As hard as these nasty food companies will try to make you feel otherwise, you are in control of what goes in to your body. You can really Just Say No!
Step 5- Be Ready to Run!
This might happen so be ready. You have been following your grocery list, and there is no unnecessary food in your grocery cart, but you turn down the last aisle to hit the cash register, and then boom. Lust at first site. A fresh box of cinnamon buns is giving you the sexy eyes. Do you let those sweet buns take you home? If you stare and look at them even for a second, your mind will start working against you. “This one time is ok.” “You deserve it.” “What is life without a bit of pleasure?” “No one will find out." Your damn conscious will know and so will your body composition.. Sorry brothers and sisters you have to know when to say no. Your body, your rules. Respect yourself. The second you see something like those cinnamon buns, get the heck out of there.
Mindset- Taken to the extreme!
One of the most beneficial things you can do is set a mental frame-work that sets you up for success. The example I am going to give is a 'negative' meaning that it is focusing on shutting out something detrimental rather than focusing on bringing in something beneficial. The reason I go with the negative is because people are strange, and it is usually an easier decision for us to stop something bad, than to commit to something good. We are better at avoiding snakes than finding meadows.
Everyone has likely experienced in their life a time when some other person did something pretty unforgivable, or maybe you were the unforgivable one. The term "shutting x out of my life" is familiar. You could also refer to it as "ghosting" someone (completely disappearing). And when we chose to do this with another person, it can make forgetting them a lot easier. People possess this switch, and I think it is under-utilized with healthy nutritional choices.
I am a bit of a purist, but what I propose is that you "ghost" bad food. Just like "x" is no longer a friend or a lover for life, you can chose to stop considering certain things food altogether. No matter how hungry you are, or in a rush, no matter what... McDonald's does not count as a food option. 95% of the "food" at a 711 for example is barely food, so don't even consider it.
Again I am a bit extreme, but if I am travelling and can't find real food, I just don't eat. I would rather deal with hunger than put a bunch of processed shit in my body. Pepsi does not belong in your body, so don't even consider it.
It perplexes me how easy of a decision it is for people not to smoke because people know how bad it is for them, but they'll be completely fine eating a bag of chips and drinking a litre of cola. It is frowned upon to smoke yourself into the hospital, but eating your way into the hospital is just fine....?
If you decide to start "ghosting" unhealthy food, even to a lesser degree than I described, you'll find that the grocery store quite quickly has a lot less food in it, because the majority of products at a grocery store are "food". Your shopping, and resisting temptation, will become a lot easier.
Now, I feel like I have to qualify that once in awhile you can have cinnamon buns. Jeez. All is well in moderation. But the point of this blog is to let you know that grocery stores are literally designed for you to buy shitty food that will make you unhealthy. If you go there and shop on a whim, you will lose. You can greatly increase your chance of nutritional success by having a plan, sticking to it, and ghosting all that fake food out there. Set yourself up for success in the grocery store with some forethought and strategies if you find it difficult to keep unhealthy food out of your basket.
Grit Human Performance