Susan Andrews
August 26, 2013 2:00 pm

I heard that you shouldn’t go food shopping on an empty stomach because you’ll wind up buying more junk food. And since I’m trying to eat healthier, I thought I’d follow that advice.

So this time before I headed to the store, I made myself a heart-healthy spinach and egg white omelette. Feeling healthy, satiated and energetic, I felt armed against any possibility of weakness. In fact, I felt so good I even decided to wear my skinny yoga pants so I looked as healthy on the outside as I felt on the inside. Then off I went to Trader Joe’s with my food list in hand.

This will be easy, I thought. I have willpower. A quick shopping spree won’t take me down. 

But then I entered the store and it all changed.

I’m still not sure when I lost the battle. All I know is it felt like I was having an out of body experience as I walked down the aisles, checked out and later arrived home with bags full of calorie-laden, sugary treats.

So here are six reasons why you shouldn’t go food shopping after eating a healthy meal:

1. You’re never really full after a healthy meal

And that’s how it should be. I mean really. If you give your body what it needs, it uses it and fast. It’s when we carb up or indulge in fried foods that the body has to take a bunch of time to digest it, thereby making you feel full a lot longer. Eating healthy food is like eating Chinese food: you’re gonna be hungry in a half hour. And usually, that’s how long it takes me to get to the store.

2. All those snack displays

Seriously, TJ, how many cookie displays must you set up on the end aisles? Coconut macaroons, Joe-Joe’s, ginger thins… My mouth waters every time I round the corner into a new aisle.

And if it’s not cookies, it’s a great flat bread cracker paired with a new merlot. Who can resist a good cracker/merlot combo? The colorful sign suggested pairing it with a perfect brie. I’m sold. My mind had already rationalized why I must get the flat bread and cheese.

The cookie display would have been a far worse choice. And I ate a low-calorie breakfast. I can spare a few hundred calories today for a nice wine and cheese. Plus, it’s got whole grains! Resveratrol! Calcium! Win, win!

Before I knew it, I had already loaded the ingredients into my cart. Then, as a final act of justification, I complimented myself for having the willpower to eat a spinach omelette for breakfast, which meant I could splurge on the wine and cheese now. Damn those displays.

3. The free samples station

Trader Joe’s has the greatest selection of prepared foods ever. And everything they cook smells divine. Just try to walk past that free samples station without reaching out for a small plate or two of whatever hot, gooey hors d’oeuvre is coming out of their mini wave oven. It’s a great little pick-me-up to help you get through the chore of shopping. But for me it’s like opening the floodgates to nonstop snacking. Before I know it, I’ve nibbled on enough food to equal the size of a frozen pizza and half a box of egg rolls.

I justified all that nibbling by thinking my metabolism must be super fast today. Why else would I be hungry after eating that damn omelette a short while ago? Obviously, if I had a slow metabolism I’d still be full.

4. You buy too much good food

For me, it’s always easier to drop a head of cauliflower or bag or Brussels sprouts into my cart when my belly is full. If I’m not hungry at that moment, like when I’ve just polished off a chocolate chip granola bar, it’s easier to believe that when I am hungry, of course I’ll turn to vegetables to fulfill my goal of healthier eating. So now that I was satiated from the free samples, and the trail mix I found in the bottom of my purse, I turned my attention to buying healthy fruits, vegetables and gluten-free things. My cart soon resembled a cornucopia of colorful produce. I’m so devoted to eating healthier that I once bought a purple tuber just to round out the rainbow of colors in my cart, despite the fact I had no idea how to cook it.

After fully embracing nature’s bounty, and still feeling great in my I-eat-healthy yoga pants, I sashayed toward the next section. You know, there was a small part of me that secretly knew I probably wouldn’t eat all this produce before it spoiled in my fridge. Simply because my vegetable tooth craving isn’t nearly as strong as my sweet tooth craving. Hey, I can’t help it. I was born this way.

5. What you resist, persists

Now I was in the home stretch of the store. I did a fairly good job of nutritious foods outnumbering the empty-calorie foods in my cart. But I suddenly found myself standing before the most challenging aisle. The cadillac of all temptations. The booze and snack chips aisle.

That aisle was the only clear path to the register. I couldn’t avoid it. I had to check out. So I white-knuckled the cart handle and began my stride, resisting all temptations by looking straight ahead.

I did pretty good, until there was a traffic jam midway involving a broken pickle jar incident. Before I knew it, those damn peanut butter-filled pretzels found their way into my cart and my irrational rationalizing took over.

Everyone knows peanut butter has protein. I can’t deny my body the amino acids it needs to sustain my workouts. It’s counter productive.

In that very moment, I found that flimsy excuse totally believable. I had just persuaded myself that to continue working out I need to eat that bag of peanut butter-filled pretzels. I should’ve been a lawyer.

6. Buying in bulk when items go on sale

This was how I wound up with three 86% cacao chocolate bars in my cart. I can’t resist a sale. It’s a sickness. And for some reason I believed in that split-second decision that I’d put those chocolate bars in the cabinet, behind the garbanzo beans so my boyfriend would never find them, and forget about them until that time of the month rolls around. Nothing stabilizes hormones better than my own hidden stash of monthly chocolate.

The nutrition information said that a mere two squares would fortify my daily allowance of magnesium and kickstart some serotonin production. I thought I felt a depression coming on.

Maybe just a few squares for the drive home. 

Before I realized it, I ate enough chocolate to eliminate depression for an entire football team. The only good part of this experience is now I don’t have to worry about my boyfriend finding my secret stash. Because I don’t have one.

That’s the last time I eat healthy before I go food shopping. Next time I’ll eat a sausage and egg biscuit with a short stack of pancakes. That keeps me full for hours. Plus, the guilt and bloating I endure afterwards will keep my self-control in check. I’ll belch all the way to the cashier with my only impulse item being a box of antacids.

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