Breaking long-standing dietary patterns takes a bit of work, along with your desire to make food your ally in your struggle with depression. To eat right, you must shop right, and there's a science to smart shopping. Next time you're in the grocery store, take a stroll around the aisles and check the layout. You'll probably be in for a surprise.
If you're used to shopping at one store, you know where the items you buy are located. It's convenient. You zip in, zip around, and zip out, without giving much thought to where stuff is. Everything in the store, however, is where it is for a reason, and that reason is to maximize profits for the store. Period.
Want milk? Want bread or eggs? Prepare to walk all the way to the back. Everybody wants these items, so the store's made sure you'll have to pass by a host of other products on your way to your objective. Instead of falling prey to the ploy, however, think of this as a chance for a short power walk. Eyes straight ahead, mind focused on the goal — whole grain bread and reduced fat milk.
In the Beck Diet Solution, Judith Beck, Ph.D., director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, offers insight into how to use your brain as your ally in good nutrition. Based on clinical research in cognitive therapy, this book explains how you can retrain the way your brain thinks about food. The logical extension here is that if you can change the way you think about food, something so fundamental to life, you can also change the way you think about those stressors that aggravate depression.
Walking around the perimeter of the store should lead you to the produce section. While you're stocking up on the fruits and veggies, however, you'll undoubtedly see the endcaps, those cute arrangements at the end of the counters, where the strawberry glaze for the shortcakes is displayed, along with other complementary items. Had you really intended to buy that high-fat specialty salad dressing that's presiding over the lettuce display? It's amazing the items that end up in your shopping cart, and many of these can sabotage your efforts, if you're not vigilant.
Consider the example of the junk cereal. You're not going to have to search for it, because it's staring at you, smack dab in the middle of the case, right at eye level. That whole grain cereal will either be at the end — the far end — of the aisle, or on the very top or bottom shelf. If you want it, you're going to have to bend down or stretch up to get it. Perhaps the makers figure that the junk cereal buyers can't bend or stretch, while the healthy folks can.
Manufacturers pay for optimal shelf space in stores. Prominently displayed products sell faster and garner more profits. Smaller companies are relegated to the less desirable spaces.
The kids are tired and whining. They want this and they want that. They've been conditioned by the commercials they watch on television, and you must wait patiently for your turn to check out, while the frazzled parent ahead of you either gives up and gives in or tries to ignore the screaming of the thwarted mini-consumers at her side. Tuning them out, you absentmindedly pick up a pack of gum or breath mints or possibly a magazine. You're just as much a victim of impulse shopping as the kids. Look at what's displayed — candy and other high-sugar and high-sodium snacks. Have you ever seen an apple display at the checkout stand?
Finding the Fish Counter
Fish, such as salmon, is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists know that these essential fatty acids have positive effects on brain health, so make sure to include a fish purchase while you're at the store.
Strategies for Beating the System
Heading out on your summer vacation without a destination in mind may sound impulsive and romantic. However, gas is expensive and camping sites and motels fill up quickly during the peak season. If you don't plan ahead and prepare, you may find yourself not having a very good time. Also, as the old saying goes, “If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?”
The same holds true with foiling the marketing plans directed at taking your money and compromising your health. How to do this? Know what you want before you get to the store. Make a list, if there are several items you need, and remember to take the list with you, get the items on the list, and get to the checkout as quickly as you can. Don't buy what you don't need. And never, ever shop on an empty stomach.