Leaving Sainsbury’s today, I sat in the car and breathed a huge sigh of relief. When I actually asked myself “why do I feel so accomplished now? Now I’ve completed the food shop?” all sorts went flying around in my mind. It’s the first time I’ve consciously sat and thought about the in’s and out’s of my supermarket struggles instead of just accepting them as ‘my norm’. Usually I would try my best to ignore the thoughts and a lot of the time avoid being in the situation all together.
Now I bet you’re wondering why on earth I’m being so dramatic about, plain, old, boring, food shopping? Let me enlighten you…
Living as a single parent to a growing, hungry, active, 6 year old, food shopping isn’t really an option, it’s a necessity. I have to keep my cupboards stocked and fridge full, for his sake more than anything (and my sanity – a hangry 6 year old is not a nice creature)! So whether I feel up to it mentally or physically, it has to be done regardless, when supplies are running low!
Usually I ‘bits and bobs’ shop or online food shop. I very often avoid physically going to do a big food shop especially when I’m feeling overly weak, tired and/or vulnerable to falling into the binge-purge cycle. Either having lots of tasty things in the house at a time is a dangerous game, so I bits and bob shop or I can’t physically or mentally bring myself to go shopping, then I’ll online shop (and the delivery drivers even carry the bags up to the flat = WIN). Rarely, as I did today, when I’m feeling particularly motivated or up for a challenge I will face the BIG food shop, i.e. I will go to the supermarket and stock up properly, for the next week or 2.
I’m sat here now, writing this, feeling very smug, that I have done it!!!! I did the food shop, got everything on my list (and more), avoided the binge-purge cycle and made it out alive!!!!!! Woohooo 🙂 But for now I want to share with you what a shopping trip looks like, what goes through my mind and the struggles and challenges myself and anyone else with an eating disorder may face.
For me, ‘doing a big food shop’ requires a fair bit of preparation (seems ridiculous – I know)! For your average Joe, they may peep in the cupboards, maybe jot a few things on a list, get in the car and bam! Ready to food shop. For those of us ED suffers its not that simple. I meticulously plan my meals and snacks for the week ahead so I know exactly what I’m having, down to the exact time I’ll have it and calorie it contains. From this, I’ll make a very detailed shopping list of absolutely every single item I need for myself and for Harvey’s meals/snacks (which are also roughly planned but mainly for the purpose of knowing what I need buy). Nothing more, nothing less. If I was to go with out my trusty list I’d end up either completely overwhelmed and leave with nothing or I’d end up falling into the binge-purge trap and come out with all things ‘bad’. At times I do deviate from my list, it’s really hard not to but this tends to be when problems start and anxiety hits full whack! I find it a million times easier to do the big shop with someone else as they act as a bit of a distraction at times from the inevitable, intrusive, food thoughts!
At the shop anxiety will almost always rise! Have you ever shopped on an empty stomach, telling yourself you’re not allowed any of the nice things and come out of the shop with only the things on your list or that you went in for? Nope, didn’t think so!! It’s hard work, mentally, to stay in control. I’ve learnt now to just focus on the list and try to shut out any other thoughts and food cravings (easier said than done). My body is craving sugar and fat and energy, yet my crazy, irrational mind won’t give in. Then I start trying to justify “well maybe if I had a biscuit now, I can not have the rice I’d planned at tea time” etc. I know it doesn’t work and I know in the evening I’ll be over hungry so this way of thinking will either result in a binge/purge following eating the one, single biscuit due to the guilt of having something I don’t allow or later in the day when my dinner isn’t exactly as planned or i’m overly hungry in the evening. Yet I still do it!! Or there’s the opposite “this week I will allow myself one biscuit every other day” then at the supermarket “no I can’t get the biscuits, too much fat, sugar, calories” etc. and without the planned biscuits I can’t stick to my meal plans, end up craving sugary foods and the binge/purge cycle starts again! Today though I came out with everything from my list (plus a couple of extras – I was feeling really brave) and I feel good. Walking round the shop I did have the thoughts about getting chocolates and sugary cereals and those cravings, but for the first time in a very long time managed to resist!!!!!
Food shopping takes absolutely AGES!! If you’re in a hurry or hate supermarkets, NEVER invite me food shopping with you!!!!!! Today I was there for 1 hour 30 mins and I didn’t get all that much! I am actually quite proud of todays success so I’ve dropped you a picture of what my typical food shop looks like (don’t judge me for the blue glitter jelly – that’s Harvey’s treat)!
Anyway back to where we were… There’s a few reasons why it takes a lifetime to shop. There’s the indecisiveness over which brand to get, whether I should or shouldn’t get it (whether its on the list or not), then there’s an awful lot of label checking and picking up and putting back down. I get really frustrated if they don’t have the exact thing I had planned to get (regardless if there’s 10 other, almost identical, options available), you can guarantee that will add at least and extra 10 mins of label checking and decision making as well as add to the anxiety. When I’m food shopping I’m often looking at things and coming up with these insane, gourmet, fancy meal ideas that seem brilliant in my mind but in reality, at home, I’m not going to mentally be able to cook them, let alone eat them but still there and then I some how justify it to myself and go off on a mission to hunt down all the ingredients, to then give my head a wobble, come back to reality and go and put everything back. Finally, I will be satisfied I have everything I need and go and pay. I often feel very on show, or judged and watched in a supermarket, especially with all my to-ing and fro-ing up and down the same aisles and checking labels etc. so getting to the checkout is one step closer to being outta there!!!!!!! Hence the massive sigh of relief when I’m finally in the safety of the car and on the way home!!!
The battle doesn’t quite end there though. Once I’m home it’s the chore of unpacking and putting away all the shopping. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to my hatred of this task, for whatever reasons you may have! For me though, I’m often very tired and hungry, having been on my feet for the longest time I have in days, maybe even weeks – this leaves me feeling demotivated, drained and vulnerable being around food and still trying to avoid the cravings I mentioned earlier. Only difference is it’s harder to avoid now – I’m in my own home, no one is watching me, I have no-one or nothing other than my own will power from stopping me digging into the pack of chocolate fingers or box of cereal my body is so desperately craving and subsequently purging. Unpacking the shopping also provokes the over analysis of the decisions already made (told you I was indecisive), rethinking them, regretting some and generally feeling a bit on edge!! It may be the first time un weeks the cupboards have actually seen a proper food shop so having them full is a very overwhelming feeling and one that I absolutely hate!! I love having my cupboards stocked (who doesn’t?!), but also knowing there’s food in there that I won’t allow myself to have or to avoid binging and purging on is absolute mental torture!
Today I have successfully made it through the preparation, actual food shop and unpacking!!! And I have just finished my scheduled snack and a cuppa whilst writing this and still feel mentally strong (albeit a quite a bit shattered)!!! I am now feeling very proud of myself and off for a well deserved nap before the mentioned hangry six year old gets home!!!