How Examining My Relationship With Food Helped Me Change My Relationship With Money
This post discusses disordered eating and weight loss. Please only continue to read if you feel it is healthy for you to do so.
10 years ago, I was stuck in a binge-restrict cycle because I hated my body and desperately wanted to be thinner. I thought thinner would equal more popularity. Fast forward to now: I’ve overcome disordered eating and found acceptance for my body that goes far deeper than physical appearance or the number on the scales. I’ve made this my full-time career as a food freedom coach, too.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Cute, but what has this got to do with money?”
When I found freedom around food, it prompted me to find freedom in other areas of my life, too —including money. And after talking to dozens of women about their relationships with food and investing in themselves, I started to notice a pattern. My clients’ relationships with food seemed to echo their relationships with money.
Then, as I was reflecting on my OWN journey with money, it became clear to me that it was very similar to my journey of food freedom. (Good old life always giving us the same lessons, which for some reason we need to learn thousands of times over.)
Where do we go wrong with our diet/weight loss attempts?
When my clients first decide they want to lose weight (prior to working with me), they start eating less and as “cleanly” as possible, just as I did back when I was a teenager. This leads to them cutting entire food groups, feeling really hungry on minimal calories, and depriving themselves of their favorite foods.
While most of us think that this sounds like the only way to diet, it can, in fact, have the opposite effect. Restriction and deprivation set you up perfectly for a) overeating, b) a binge, and c) giving up on the diet completely. We get on and off the “bandwagon,” feel like failures, and try every new fad to finally get us to our goals, yet seem to make no progress at all.
This is what happens with our relationship with money, too.
We try to save as much as possible, spend only on the things we “should,” like groceries, bills, etc., and don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Inevitably one night, we have a moment of “I work hard for my money” treat-yourself-bingeing and blow half of our savings on cocktails. Or, we pass a shop when we are having a rough day and spend frivolously on stuff we probably didn’t even want.
When we spend money this way, we feel indulgent, a bit naughty, and a bit wild. It breaks up the monotony of saving and being responsible. Both of these situations, whether blowing calories or dollars, often give us momentary relief from the feelings of restriction, deprivation, or some other emotion we are trying to avoid. But the keyword here is “momentary.” When we wake up on Monday morning with sore bellies or sore heads, we are filled with regret, anxiety, and wondering how we ended up here yet again.
But there is another way. We have to start here with a hefty dose of self awareness, which always precedes change. Once we can see a pattern, we can create a new response that will serve us better.
Here’s how I would coach my clients who struggle with binge eating:
- Give yourself permission to enjoy a treat every single day, and begin practicing moderation (like an actual serving size, AKA a scoop of ice cream, a couple of cookies, a bar of chocolate).
- Eat an amount that you can foresee yourself sticking to for the long haul: instead of trying to limit yourself to 1200 calories (which, by the way, is not even enough for a 12-year-old girl), perhaps try 1900 calories. OR if counting calories isn’t your jam, allow yourself to eat carbs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just have slightly smaller portions.
While obviously eating as little as possible might help you lose weight faster, that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy path — and if you can’t stick to a diet, it’s not going to help you at all. It also won’t be sustainable, and most people who want to lose weight want to also keep it off long-term. These strategies help us to feel satisfied (instead of restricted), inject a bit of freedom into our diets, and leave us feeling more in control. This leads to a healthier relationship with food and the ability to reach to your weightloss goals.
This can work for your finances, too.
- Allow yourself a “treat” budget every week or month that you can just spend on WHATEVER you want — it might be $20, it might be $1,000. See what you can do within your existing budget.
- Have a realistic savings goal that isn’t going to make you feel like you can’t breathe. Who says you need to have $10,000 in savings as soon as possible? If that goal is making you feel so stressed that it’s all you can think about, you’re not really on the way to financial freedom. Instead, start with trying to save a few thousand across the span of a year. You can always strive to add more on along the way.
When you feel like you have a choice with your money, rather than forcing all of your extra income into savings, you feel empowered and more likely to stick to the budget.
As author Lori Deschene says, “We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love.”
You might be able to force yourself through a gruelling 8-week challenge eating only protein shakes and doing circuit classes twice a day, but what happens after that? You can’t just stop going to the gym and eat whatever, because you don’t simply arrive at your goal body and automatically keep it. You need to lay down the foundations and sustain healthy, life-long habits to achieve your goal and maintain it.
Just like money — think about the last time you saved for a holiday or a car. You can save really hard, but once the goal is complete, you feel like you’re back to square one.
According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70 percent of people who win a lottery or get a big windfall actually end up broke in a few years. This is because they haven’t had the chance to set up healthy habits around money, meaning they spend in a way that is out of touch with reality. The way we act and think about money needs to in some way reflect what it would be like when we have more of it. This means firstly splitting our money into money for bills, for saving, and for treats.
The most important thing with both our relationship with food AND money is to give ourselves a bit of wiggle room.
With both, we ultimately desire one thing — freedom. We want to eat what we want and when we want in a body we feel proud to rock a bikini in. We also want to spend what we want and when we want whilst having that extra spring in our step because we are financially secure (which would also be a good idea to define for yourself!).
When we feel restricted, we will go off track. Trust me — I tried for years to diet this way, and it just led to misery. Now I’m doing my best to apply this lesson to my finances (although it’s an ongoing learning process). Don’t make it harder for yourself then it should be! Slow progress is better than no progress at all and helps you avoid the regret that comes with being stuck in a cycle. Allow yourself to have some freedom and give yourself a bit of a (calculated) splurge every now and again.
Inez Bye is a nutrition + mindset coach based in Sydney, Australia who LOVES analysing human behaviour so that we can become more self aware and be in control of our lives. Inez is the host of the Peaceful Body podcast, a place to have honest, fun and thoughtful conversations about health, nutrition, fitness, self care and basically just how to live your best life. You can follow along and soak up more nutrition, body love and mindset tips on Instagram @inezbye or check out her website https://www.
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