The Grocery Store and the COVID-19 Outbreak (April 2020)
For many of us, the grocery store is a stressful and anxiety-provoking process. It can be overwhelming asking yourself questions such as what do I want to buy? What is “safe” for me buy? When can I go without many people filling the store or parking lot? Are people looking at what is in my cart? Or what is NOT in my cart? These are some of the questions and concerns our clients face when it comes to going to the market.
Since the COVID-19 virus breakout, grocery shopping has brought up these uncomfortable feelings in all of us. This pandemic has left us frightened and filled with even more questions – what will happen? When will this be contained? Will I be able to buy toilet paper? Purell? For those that struggle with disordered eating thoughts or behaviors, it is even more difficult thinking about how to purchase their “safe” or familiar/usual foods.
In this article, I hope to shed some light on those fear-based questions and guide you through how to deal with the market or grocery store and be more flexible. I want to help my readers be able to make choices instead of being paralyzed about food. The virus has disrupted and touched everyone we know and it feels as if there is a risk for everything. There are pros and cons to every decision, whether we are going to the market, thinking about dining out, getting take-out, ordering online (as the reality is your favorite and safe items may even be sold out on Amazon and Instacart), etc.
By now, we have all seen the pictures posted on the news or social media that resemble a movie-like nightmare come to life. Empty shelves, people hoarding chips, frozen foods, peanut butter, potatoes, toilet paper and many other food and household options. With shelves being wiped out, we have had to make incongruent choices based on survival. This made me think of what my grandmother would have done instead of stating that I will have to resort to a granola bar for a meal because I am not able to find quinoa, blueberries, lentils and fresh food. I know that she would have said this is the time to take a deep breath, put on my “big girl” pants, and buy some canned items even if I wouldn’t normally eat this food.
We need to stop finger pointing to those that are over-buying as if we were in a bomb shelter. Think about the essentials you need to survive, perhaps buying some instant bags of rice you never thought of, and combining it with your frozen peas, tuna fish and favorite salad dressing. I know this is not exciting, but we are in a place of looking at fuel as well as having self-compassion as we allow ourselves to satisfy and comfort ourselves with our cravings, even if they are challenging to us. Also, consider the frozen pizza! You have probably always liked it, but made a rule that it was not an option for you. Eating disorder recovery teaches you how to stop living your life based on rules that no longer serve you. This pandemic is pushing you to do the same. It might be uncomfortable and more challenging than you expected recovery to be in this moment, however, I believe that you can overcome it.
Remember that not eating is not an option, even if your disordered voice is creeping in to tell you it is. If you are not eating enough food because there are fewer options you are comfortable with, the anxiety and stress level will heighten because your body is not being nourished. Things are stressful enough already without adding malnutrition.
The other day, I bought canned Mandarin oranges and forgot how much I enjoyed them with canned peaches. I had it today with yogurt and nuts and it was delicious! Although this is stressful and scary, this experience can force you into exposure therapy between the market itself and buying new or unfamiliar foods.
Take a deep breath and explore what will help you get through each day. Think about what you can be more liberal about in your diet. Maybe the fresh produce is not there and canned is the only option. Or there are only a few vegetable options that you never liked. Also, buying REAL ice cream instead of the “diet” option instead of skipping it all together. You deserve tasty, and real food without being rigid about it.
We are all adapting to the necessary challenges of social distancing, taking a break from being in-person with friends or client visits, maintaining that 6-foot distance if we have to be around others, etc. These are changes that we, as social beings, are very challenged by.
I am adapting as well. My practice has become virtual as of the last week to protect my clients and myself and put my best foot forward in managing aspects of this I can control. This has been a tumultuous and unexpected change, however, I am willing to do it for the betterment of our society. So many of you are making these same incredible sacrifices and modifications. It isn’t ideal, but you will be okay.
May you all be safe, healthy, eat food that is challenging and that you enjoy, take a deep breath and flatten the curve.