It’s a common piece of weight loss advice heard at almost every Weight Watcher’s meeting I went to and in almost every article and book written about weight loss, including my own.
Do not go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, especially if you are losing weight.
The rationale has always been that if you are hungry, it stands to reason that you would be less able to resist fattening foods that just seem to call your name. Foods like chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, hot dogs, ice cream, or whatever food tempts you the most. I don’t know if you are like I was, but I had a hard enough time resisting the junk food at the grocery store when I was losing weight without adding to the difficulty by going to the grocery store on an empty stomach.
New research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine studied the effect of having a healthy snack prior to shopping on grocery store shoppers. The first part of the study was conducted in a controlled setting with half the participants having a snack before they embarked on their simulated grocery shopping experience and the other half not having a healthy snack. The group that ate beforehand picked out foods with fewer calories than the non-snack group.
Then, at another time, the researchers studied the same group of people in a traditional grocery store setting. They sent them off shopping at a time they would normally be hungry and again, the hungrier they were, the more calorie-dense food they purchased.
Although this study showed what a lot of us have experienced firsthand, it is still worth examining.
You have to remember that grocery stores are set up in a way to appeal to all of our senses. The displays are carefully arranged to be appealing, the foods that are featured in special locations are there because the food manufacturer has an agreement with the grocery store to display them on the end caps, and grocery stores are in the business of making money regardless of whether they are a Whole Foods type store or a Wal-Mart type store.
There is nothing wrong with grocery stores wanting to make money, but you need to be careful when shopping in order to make the choices that you intend to make and not the choices the grocery stores want you to make.
You have to be in control. And part of having the most self-control when going to the grocery store involves being prepared by not going when you are starving. Even after 15 years of weight maintenance I have to be careful if I happen to head to the grocery store hungry. I will find myself subconsciously looking at foods I normally would not buy and having to mentally tell myself that I do not need that food, do not want that food, and should not buy that food.
Make it as easy on yourself as possible when grocery shopping by sticking with the common sense advice that we have known all along. Eat before you go, go with a plan, and if you can – leave the kids at home!
Do you find that grocery shopping on an empty stomach makes you more drawn to higher calorie foods? What’s your strategy? Diane