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If you’re from the United States, especially within a suburban or city central area, you have likely heard the hype about Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is a national chain of neighborhood grocery stores, featuring unique and interesting products with their own store-branded labels. 

Returning home after a year abroad visiting Trader Joe’s was at the top of my list to score the goods I couldn’t get over in Europe (hello Dill Pickle Hummus!). But my relationship with Trader Joe’s wasn’t always this rosy, and used to look a lot different during my eating disorder.

In the thick of my eating disorder I remember sitting in the parking lot outside of a Trader Joe’s crying into the phone to my dietitian, feeling it was just too daunting to go inside. I remember taking over 2 hours in a Trader Joe’s to shop for a week-long vacation because I didn’t trust myself to buy food for other people. I remember time spent standing in aisles scouring over nutrition labels, constantly picking up items and putting them back. My eating disorder stole the joy of trying and exploring new foods, leaving me with fear, anxiety and overwhelm at the simple thought of grocery shopping. 

This time around, my trip to Trader Joe’s was different. I practically twirled through the aisles with joy. I picked up items because they simply looked good and placed them in my cart without a second thought. If you find yourself near a Trader Joe’s in the future, I’d recommend checking out some of these taste-tested favorites (don’t worry this won’t turn into a Trader Joe’s blog…I’m well aware they already exist with extensive fan bases!): 

  • Dill Pickle Popcorn
  • Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • Focaccia Bread
  • Unexpected Cheddar Cheese
  • Dark Chocolate Peanut Cups
  • Peanut Butter Puffins Cereal
  • Mushroom and Truffle Flatbread 

Reflecting on the difference between my recent grocery trip and those of the past I was filled with both sadness for the experiences my eating disorder robbed me of and gratitude for how far I’ve come, where I never thought I could be. We are capable of holding these two different emotions at once and neither is bad or wrong. Never did I think I could find that food freedom and here I was living it. I’m writing about this experience because if you’re currently in the recovery process, thinking about it or just struggling to put one foot in front of the other – it gets better. Every bite that feels impossible and day that just feels excruciating is working toward something, even if you can’t see or imagine it just yet. And I’m right here cheering you on.  

By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image