Top tips to stop self-sabotage in the supermarket…
How many times do you hear people saying “I love food shopping?” Pretty rare right… As much as many of us love to shop, food shopping rarely makes it to our top ten list of favourite activities. Supermarkets are often chaotic, noisy and stressful – and that’s just in the car park! Once we get inside, the noise just increases as our senses are bombarded by literally thousands of brand choices, size choices specials and bonuses, and tempting sweets that call our names… So much for the best laid plans of mice and men – I am sure most of us have left a supermarket checkout only to discover an unintended Kitkat/ ice-cream/ packet of biscuits (insert your favourite food in here) in our shopping bags or in our mouths…
Importantly, there are a number of very good reasons why most of us find the supermarket such a challenge:
Our New Brain (prefrontal cortex) is the part of our brain that houses our willpower. Unfortunately it also gets tired quickly (particularly after making lots of decisions), is overwhelmed by stress easily and doesn’t cope with distractions well. For example, when we are distracted we are 50% more likely to make high sugar food choices. When we are stressed, we are 4.2 times more likely to choose unhealthy foods over healthy foods – and importantly, each time we turn down a temptation food, we significantly reduce our ability to turn down another temptation food next time.
This unfortunate phenomenon is known as decision fatigue. Imagine the impact of this in a shopping scenario… Think about just how many temptation foods call your name as you walk the aisles… The greatest irony here, is that the best short-term cure for decision fatigue is glucose, better known as sugar!
With all this in mind, here are a few tips to stay ahead of the game and keep those cravings and impulse purchases at bay for your next shop:
- Try to shop in the morning whenever you can. The stores are emptier, we have more energy, are less stressed and have lower decision fatigue.
- Always use a shopping list and only buy what is on your shopping list. This removes the need to make actual decisions while in the shops.
- Shop alone; you are less likely to be tempted or distracted.
- Shop immediately after eating.
- Carry a bottle of water with you while shopping and sip on it throughout (the hand mouth action will help keep you satisfied).
- Consider on-line shopping. It is less stressful, less time consuming and there are not so many distractions. You’ll also limit the influence of ‘sweet treats’ or ‘bulk buys’ that cannot call your name. You won’t be affected by the ambient music and smells of grocery stores designed to make you hungry and immediate gratification is not an option, which means you are much more likely to make healthy choices.
- Avoid bulk buys of unhealthy foods. They may be cheaper, but if you have them in the house you will eat them, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid!
So next time you head off to the supermarket or shopping centre, what will you do to put yourself in control of your choices and manage those influences that might see you lose focus on your diet and health?