Reducing food shopping stress

Submitted by Belinda from Talk ED

Food shopping can be a challenging experience, especially if you experience distress around food and eating. When shopping for food, we may encounter feelings of stress, overwhelm, indecisiveness and feeling triggered. As difficult as food shopping may be, it is essential. For this reason we have put together some tips to bring more ease into your next trip and turn the stress into success!

Make a list
Make a list of staple items that you need for easy-to-prepare meals and snacks. Keep this list handy and come back to it each time you make a shopping list. Add in any ingredients you need for planned meals, and check your cupboards before you leave in case you get any inspiration for missed items. Pick some items that might challenge your eating disorder. Decide before you go and commit to putting them in your basket regardless of how you feel when you’re out shopping. Be prepared to substitute items if any on your list are out of stock. Use these opportunities to challenge your eating disorder as much as you can.

Shop at smaller outlets
If you are overwhelmed by the choice of food items at larger supermarkets, consider opting for a smaller shop where there are fewer options. The smaller selection can help to reduce the time spent shopping and limit the potential to get caught up comparing similar food items with one another. It might also encourage you to shop locally and build connections within the local community.

Don’t go shopping when you’re overly hungry or overly full
Being overly hungry or overly full can cause all sorts of heightened emotions and feelings, especially anxiety and fear. When we’re in these emotional states, it’s difficult to access a recovery mindset and may lead to us making decisions which we later regret. 

Go with a friend
Consider asking someone you trust to come shopping with you. Having someone there could help you to follow through with your list, as well as help to interrupt the urge to obsessively compare labels or fill your basket with more than what you need. Sometimes, just having company can make all the difference. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member you could ask to come with you, you could try speaking to someone on the phone whilst you shop.

Consider doing it online
Online shopping or click and collect services can help you to focus on the items on your list and not become distracted by food labels, food aisles and other shoppers and their choices. If label checking is problematic for you, you can consciously choose not to click through the images to check the food label information and just click the ‘add to basket’ button instead.

Practises to reduce anxiety before and after shopping
Do some anxiety-reducing exercises before and after your shopping trip. This may include breathing techniques, mindfulness or meditation, a short pause in nature, journaling or calling a friend.

We’d be interested to know how you get on with this tips and would love to hear from you if you have any more to add that may help others.

If food shopping is a stressful experience for you, we are here to listen to any worries that you may have and to provide practical support and guidance.

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