Do you need to go on a Shopping Diet?
Updated: Aug 14
Eating to soothe your anxieties and disappointments isn’t healthy – and neither is heading to the shops.
Anxiety shopping is becoming ever more common. It may not seem logical to buy a new pair of shoes when you have a hospital appointment that you have been dreading, or stock up on lots of pretty multi-coloured stationary when it’s time to sort out your bills. But for some people shopping can soothe anxiety – but only temporarily. Just like comfort eating.
The main reason that people can keep shopping for more and more - for themselves, their children and their homes - despite having everything that they NEED (not WANT), is to fill a void in their lives or to ease a pain that they are feeling. When they shop and buy more, the pain is temporarily numbed.
Shopping can give you the hope of a better lifestyle or environment, where these voids or pain don’t exist. Wondering around the perfectly ordered shops where everything is neatly folded, hung, and easy to see and clutter-free, transports you into an ideal world where everything is clear and calm. The feelings and emotions that you get from shopping can stem from wanting and needing a well organised and uncluttered lifestyle.
A Balanced Shopping Diet
If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know that willpower isn’t enough. Crash dieting alone never works against our need to feel full, well provided for and contented.
What goes for eating, goes for acquiring ‘stuff’ too.
The three key steps to accomplishing a shopping diet are;
Avoid a sense of deprivation by focusing on abundance.
Shield your brain from temptations that trigger unconscious spending.
Learn to splurge moderately, to keep yourself feeling well supplied without spending cash and adding clutter.
Step 1 – Think Abundantly
Increase your awareness of abundance. If you believe that you are depriving yourself, you will feel the need to make yourself feel full and will end up buying on impulse. If you concentrate on what you already have, your buying compulsions are less likely to come out.
The best way to do this is re-connect with what you actually already have. For example, before you go shopping for new shoes, get out all of the shoes that you already own and sort into types or colours, and make a mental (or physical) note of what and how many you have. By doing this exercise you are less likely to feel that you need more, as you are fully aware of what you already have. The same exercise works for almost type of stuff - stationery, clothes, toys, cosmetics - and can lessen the desire to buy more. As you got more used to thinking in this way, you will begin to ‘shop’ with the stuff that you already have first before hitting the shops.
Step 2 – Avoid Temptations
Do you ever pop to the supermarket for a few essentials and then 20 minutes later end up with armfuls of ‘stuff’ that you suddenly realised that you couldn’t live without?
This is not an accident. Shops and retail displays are all designed to create a hypnotic state (called the Gruen Transfer). When we are bombarded by certain colours, shapes, light, smells and music we can go into a mindless daze, just like binge eating.
Plan before you buy
Always make a shopping list before you hit the shops, and only buy things that are on this list of things that you NEED. People create a lot of clutter by buying unplanned things on impulse, things that when they get home they realise they are not right, don’t fit, are the wrong colour, don't need and they never get round to returning. If you plan before hitting the shops you can take measurements, colour swatches, sizes and quantities with you to reduce any mistake buys.
If you can’t trust yourself to only buy items that you need, shop online. This also makes it easier to find the best prices and have all the item details that you can check.
Ask yourself questions before buying;
What do I already have that is like this item?
Where will I store it?
When will I have time to use it and maintain it?
Why do I need to buy this item?
Don’t get taken in by;
Items and displays at the checkouts - These items are placed there to tempt you while you’re in your weak shopping high daze.
Adverts on the TV and in magazines – is that item really going to make that much difference to your life and happiness? Are you really going to look like the model wearing that very expensive pair of jeans? Probably not.
Deals, Discounts, Special Offers and Sale Items. It’s probably not as good a deal as you think it is. However, there is a difference between falling for a sale item whilst binge shopping and buying a sale item that you have been planning on buying for a while.
Avoid shopping when tired, bored, stressed as they can lead to higher binge purchases.
Get support from Family and Friends. If you feel the urge to go shopping, try and fill the void by grabbing a friend and spending your money on an experience or trip out instead of a material possession. It’s been proven that spending your money on an experience instead of things increases your long term happiness.
If you are actively trying to curb your shopping, get your family and friends to help you. This can sometimes be hard, especially if you have friends or family who also love shopping and don’t have a problem with it (or won’t admit to it). In their eyes, it may be a harmless hobby. But if you are racking up debt, spending money and trying to keep up with them, it’s harmful to you.
Also by telling someone you need to stop something is also admitting that you may have a problem. This could be that you don’t want to let them know that you have emotional, clutter or financial issues, which are leading to your desire to change your habits.
Step 3 – Allow yourself a treat or ‘cheat meal’.
As with food dieting, if you allow yourself to feel starved and deprived you risk binging.
Give yourself a treat on a regular basis or as a reward for doing well on your diet.
Depending on our budget, we can choose a very expensive pair of shoes or a much cheaper new top or cosmetic item to stop our binge craving and soothe our anxiety. Due to this feeling being temporary the cheaper alternative is usually just as good at doing the job. You can still have that very expensive pair of shoes if you really want to, but make sure that items like this are well planned, thought out and budgeted for, not purchased during a binge on impulse.
'The Amazing Thing' by Tom Gauld