My Three Grocery Store Guidelines & How I Broke Them…Oops!

Aug 24, 2023

Ok, picture this……I was doing really well in the grocery store, I had a plan and was sticking to it. I even avoided the delicious Jackson’s Honest Sea Salt and Vinegar chips I was eyeing because I know my pattern with those (ahem, I could easily interpret the serving size to be one entire bag). But then my stomach growled again and reminded me that I’d broken one of my cardinal rules in the grocery store NEVER GO IN HUNGRY! I’m at the check-out line (SO CLOSE!) and it happened…..the impulse buy gauntlet got me. Those darned Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai berries! They were in my cart – I swear they literally dove off the side of the shelf and into my cart. I chuckled to myself and then immediately made a plan for how I was NOT going to get derailed by these oh so delicious treats. I’ll update you on that later.

You can read all about chaining and what just happened in the grocery store in Brain Powered Weight Loss (BPWL), but today I want to talk about my grocery store guidelines. Let me be clear – these aren’t food rules, they’re not meant to be restricting or binding in any way. They are guidelines that serve me, guidelines that I’ve realized over the years get me closer to where I want to be and not further away. So here they are:

  1. Always go in with a list or a plan. Here’s the situation: You know you have no food in the house, you know you need to eat food, so you go to the grocery store to buy food. You don’t know exactly what food but you’re sure you can figure it out once you get there. This is a bad idea. Once you step foot in the store (especially if you’re also breaking guideline #2) your brain gets hijacked (literally) by all the stimulating colors, advertisements, taste associations and perfectly executed product placements and you are no longer making rational and thoughtful decisions about your food unless you take the time to slow down and be intentional about it. This is why it’s so important to come in with a plan. With a list and a plan in mind, YOU are guiding your brain to your food decisions, not the other way around. You are more likely to stick to that list and ideally the list was made during a time when you put intentional thought into what you’d like to buy. I promise you will spend less money this way as well because you won’t be reaching for things that are designed to attract your impulse buy.
  2. NEVER go to the store hungry! Hunger is your enemy when entering the grocery store. You just read about product placement, advertising and your brain being hijacked by these things. Add in your hunger hormones in full effect and I promise you, you aren’t making rational decisions about your food anymore. Your stomach thinks EVERYTHING looks delicious and starts sending signals to your brain about why you HAVE TO HAVE those amazing chocolate covered acai berries. If you have to go to the store hungry (after all, you need food to alleviate that hunger), try these two tricks.
    • Go straight to your go-to emergency snack and eat it! Calm those hunger hormones immediately and then resume shopping. Just save the wrapper so you can pay for it once you’re done. If you don’t want to eat an emergency snack in the store then it is imperative that you follow guideline number one.
    • Have a plan and stick to it. Only buy things on your list so your hunger hormones don’t take over your purchasing decisions.
  3. Stick to the outside perimeter of the store as much as possible. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s good enough to warrant a reminder. On the outside perimeter of your grocery store lives your nutrient dense whole foods. Foods with minimal to no processing closest to their natural form as possible. Vegetables, produce, meat, dairy, eggs are all found on the perimeter of your grocery store. Sure, there are some staples you may need to go into the middle of the store for like olive or coconut oil, or perhaps some nuts or nut butters. But, in general, you will find the nutrient dense whole foods you need to nourish your body on the outside perimeter.

So what led me to buying those delicious chocolate covered acai berries if I have these guidelines? I broke guideline number 2 – I was HANGRY! The lines were long and I was standing there reading smut magazine headlines with a grumbling stomach. I gave in to the impulse buy gauntlet that you have to walk by every single time you check out. In BPWL I talk about how this happens, how to be mindful of it, and certainly what to do once that delicious snack jumps in your cart! Don’t worry, I had a plan for that too. That night I ate a healthy, nourishing dinner. After dinner I took just a few berries out of the perfectly re-sealable bag and REALLY enjoyed them. And then I put the bag away.

Phew – crisis averted

Happy Healthy Healing