Did you know that buying your veggies first may be counterproductive when grocery shopping?

Researchers have found there is a psychological effect called “moral licensing” where we give ourselves the OK to do something “bad” because we’ve been so “good.” This permission-to-sin effect allows people to indulge after doing something positive. Like putting the leafy greens in our shopping basket and then heading to the ice cream.[i] The initial healthy decision helps us feel less guilty about choosing unhealthy things later.

And have you ever felt slightly paralyzed when faced with all the choices and just gave in to what felt easiest?

Too many decisions can overwhelm us. Researchers have found that shoppers stopped giving full attention to their decisions around 20 minutes into a shopping trip. After about 40 minutes of shopping, most people stop trying to be rationally selective and instead began shopping emotionally.[ii] This is when we impulsively accumulate the 50% of things in our cart that we never planned to buy.

Life is busy and we can be tired and hungry while food shopping. We actually experience nine hungers, such as visual, nose, and mind hunger, and these follow us into the grocery store.

For example, the smell of rotisserie chicken may kick-start salivary glands or viewing enticing packaging design might stimulate cravings. One researcher suggests junk food should be in plain packaging, because colorful packaging and attractive advertising can make sugar-rich and fatty foods irresistible.[iii]

What’s a busy, hungry shopper to do?

Mindfulness, the #1 food trend that will shape 2018 according to Forbes,[iv] was the answer for me.

Mindfulness is the act of purposefully paying attention to the present moment and it can be done anywhere, anytime. By turning on our attention, we connect more deeply to the heart of each moment we are living. We notice things previously overlooked. It’s always accessible, even on the craziest days. It’s as close as our next breath.

We can harness this power to make helpful choices around all aspects of food – not just when we are eating. Each bite is actually the end of many decisions, including those made in the grocery aisles. Mindfulness throughout our consumption journey can create outcomes in alignment with intentions.

When I want to ground myself in mindful presence, in the here and now, I do what I call an ABC check-in. It is a simple, effective method for more fully inhabiting the present moment. This is how you do it:

  • Attention: Focus your awareness on the present moment.
  • Breathe: Take a few deep, conscious breaths to center the mind and move from your mental narrative to calmly and directly experience life as it is.
  • Curiosity: Become actively curious about what is happening in your body, heart and surroundings. Being an engaged, nonjudgmental observer of what you are experiencing through your senses, like a scientist gathering data, can increase your perceptiveness.

Your shopping experience starts your connection to cooking and eating. How well do you know the food you are choosing? 

Pay attention to the smell of the fruit, the colors and textures of the vegetables, and the heaviness of the bread. 

Do you need to read the ingredients or serving size to check assumptions? Are you choosing a product because it is prompting one of your hungers?

Commit to fully showing up to experience your shopping trip to choose food that will help sustain and nourish your body for the days ahead.

Be interested in what you’re experiencing. Maybe thoughts around cost, crowds, or feelings of tiredness, overwhelm, or excitement to try something new? 

Acknowledge what you notice and purposefully choose a next step that will support your best interests. Get to know your mind and what’s running through it. You’ve probably had these thoughts, feelings and reactions before. Take a few conscious breaths to calm and center yourself if needed.

And if you really want to buy the ice cream, decide to buy it from an open state of wanting to enjoy it, not with the excuse that you just loaded up on spinach!

Heather Sears is author of the award-winning book “Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments.” She is an accomplished marketing executive and founder of Kensho Kitchen. Heather started meditating in high school and has a BA with high honors from University of Michigan and MBA from Northwestern University.

Originally published at www.wellness.com