Grocery Shopping: An Opportunity

Grocery Store Bananas

This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.

Katie Monsewicz is an avid writer and practicing journalist who has been through The Emily Program’s residential treatment program. She wants to help others who have struggled with eating disorders and those who are still struggling through her writing and as an advocate for eating disorder recovery. 

I grew up in a middle class family with two working parents. My brother and I always had food on the table and the opportunity to go to the grocery store and pick out that Little Debbie we wanted without my mother standing there at the checkout line pinching pennies or laying down piles of coupons.

When my husband signed me up to volunteer at a food bank, I got a little nervous. I’ve never been to one. I had the image of soup kitchens in my head and Great Depression-style lines, anxious to be around so much food. When we arrived with his family to help that evening, I was shocked to see it was basically donated groceries rationed out to those who were eligible.

There were three things that I couldn’t quite get through my mind:

1. How horrible is it that we have to ration out only certain amounts of foods per family when every individual has individual caloric need

– I’ve rationed out food for myself before. But my rationing wasn’t like theirs. They had no choice whereas I abused mine. My caloric needs versus my caloric wants are completely different amounts.

2. How are they are eating foods with unknown caloric content?

– My calorie-ridden, nutrition-chart-copied brain was going off its rocker the whole time I helped people put food choices into their carts. I wanted to pick out their groceries for them because I knew what was going to be healthiest and most nutritious. Then I went back to my nutritionist at The Emily Program and I remembered: All food is fuel. It doesn’t matter whether it is a chocolate chip cookie or a cup of grapes. All food is fuel.

3. How horrible is it that I think people not knowing caloric content is horrible?

– What right do I have to question other people for their position in life or for the choices they make with their diet? This is FREE FOOD. It is a NEED. Food was never just a want! I need to get it through my head that not everyone can have avocado toast and eggs every morning. Besides, we are all humans.

There is no typical person with anorexia. No typical person with bulimia. No typical way of developing or having or acting out an eating disorder. But there is one typical thing we hear from our friends and family whenever we frustrate them or worry them: “Why are you wasting food?” or “Do you want to be like one of those starving children in third world countries?” or “You should be more grateful for having enough food to eat.”

Those with eating disorders are used to hearing these statements. Honestly, saying them doesn’t do much. At least it never did for me – at first. The eating disorder voice in our heads is rather selfish. It wants to do anything it can to get you not to eat. Even in the act of giving away your food to the girl across from you in the cafeteria is a way of getting rid of food – not giving it away. It takes something real, something raw, to be aware of how selfish the disorder makes us. We don’t realize we are doing it and we don’t mean to be selfish.

We are human, and our minds can distort our reality so we don’t always see what is in front of us as opportunity. Once we do, we can learn from it and hopefully choose to be motivated to change or at least change our view of how we make food choices and what opportunities are granted to us.

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