I recently finished reading Frank Bruni’s Born Round. Frank was the New York Times chief restaurant critic from 2004 to 2009. In his memoir, he goes into great detail describing his relationship with food. He had the ability to eat excessively, even as a small child, and as he grew, so did his appetite. He was always very uncomfortable with his body image, and he would try different “trendy” diets to lose weight, such as eating fruits only or fasting. While he was at a reasonable weight for his late teens and early 20s, eventually his slow weight gain got to the point where he was 268 pounds, at least 78 pounds heavier than his younger self.
Eventually Frank began a rigorous work out plan (with trainers) and improved his eating habits. He altered his life, including changing his journalist position with the New York Times to something with more stability. He makes such amazing progress that he actually accepts the head restaurant critic position with the Times. During the five years he wrote reviews, he was able to enjoy food while also maintaining a healthy weight.
Frank writes a lot about his thought process whenever he overate. He would feel guilty for indulging, but then he would tell himself that he would be better next week. Having acknowledged his goal to improve his habits at a later date, he would then indulge excessively, since his eating would soon be limited. But then that set date would come and his eating wouldn’t diminish.
My post about my excessive spending got me thinking about the similarities between overeating and overspending. Whenever I go on a spending “binge”, I feel really guilty and uncomfortable with myself. It usually feels good in the moment, but when I sit down and input the figures into my budget, I realize what I’ve done and get that sinking feeling in my stomach. Then I tell myself that I’ll be better next month. Sometimes my spending wouldn’t stop there, and I would keep buying stuff on credit with the intention of using my next pay to clear the debt. Then my pay cheque comes on the 28th and I finally have money, and it starts all over again.
Morgaine from Morgaine and Money said it best in a comment to my post – it’s a “Feast or Fast” mentality. Thanks for the title idea, Morgaine! Except instead of consuming food, we’re consuming stuff. Stuff for the home, stuff to wear, stuff to to do, stuff to eat. Sometimes I would buy something and later realize I didn’t even like it that much, like a dress I got from H&M that doesn’t fit quite right in the shoulders or the not quite perfect patio chair I bought for my balcony.
At least, that’s what I used to do. I would like to note that I never carried any credit card debt to the point of accruing interest. I wasn’t totally irresponsible.
In January I basically hit the point where I realized how much money I was wasting on stuff. I had to stop saying, I’ll be better next month and actually be better now. I think improving your spending habits is a lot like changing your body, too. It’s all about small, manageable changes. Stop buying lunches and start walking more. Stop going to the mall and eat more whole grains and veggies. Do more challenging things, like putting money into savings instead of spending it or raising your heart rate by going for a run. It will be painful at times, and you’re going to have to do things you don’t necessary want to do.
Eventually, though, you start to see your hard work pay off – you have $1000 in savings, your favourite jeans are just that bit loser around your waist. And when you start to see results, it gets a little bit easier to push yourself a little bit farther than you thought possible.
Setbacks will happen. We’re human, after all. Frank acknowledges that he still binges occasionally, but now he knows “that one night of binging [can] do only so much harm” (pg 341). The same is true for overspending. I know I’ll still buy stuff I don’t necessarily need, or the occasional item I haven’t saved for. That’s okay. I’m not perfect. I’ll treat the next day as a regular day (no fasting!), and I’ll try again.