Over the summer, I put on a little bit of weight. This seems to be a fairly common thing for folks enjoying all that the Christmas holiday break has to offer. I heard Nigella Lawson, the English food writer and broadcaster, exhorting us to remember that Christmas is a time of “feasting, not fasting” which may have contributed to me letting loose.
My holiday weight gain wasn’t huge. I don’t know how much it was in kilos/pounds as I never weigh myself, but it was enough to make me feel uncomfortable and to make my clothes feel uncomfortably firm. I’m guessing it would be in the order of 1.5kg or about 3 or 4 pounds. I noticed it a few days after Christmas when I looked down at my stomach and noticed an extra roll there that wasn’t there a week or so ago. A ‘spare tyre’ you might call it.
I was even more convinced I was carrying around some extra flesh when I saw this photo of myself:
Oh, how I hated (hate, actually) that photo – there was no denying the spare tyre was there (and that my legs are a brilliant shade of white, like the surface of the moon, with freckles).
Vanity almost prevented me from including this photo but it’s the evidence that propelled me into action and so I share it here as a cautionary visual souvenir.
How did this happen?
I put this relatively minor but extremely irritating and definitely worth-getting-rid-of weight gain down to three factors:
- A more sedentary lifestyle over summer holidays. More lazing around, especially in our extreme heat which doesn’t encourage too much activity for those lounge lizards like me. Lots of napping, reading, resting, watching, more napping, interspersed with eating and the occasional languid lolls in the pool.
- Eating more. Partially out of boredom, partially out of not tuning into that feeling of fullness that I usually am paying attention to. I also ate more because I got a bit carried away with the excitement of the holidays, visitors, going out, eating in with friends, and just because.
- Eating more sweets. Mainly ice cream after dinner. Buying big tubs of it is not my usual modus operandi but if it’s in the house and it’s on offer, which it was, my response turned from my usual ‘no, thanks’ into ‘what the hell, I’ll have a double scoop!’
So there I was, spare tyre in toe – an extra roll around my middle and some definite weight to lose.
I lost my spare tyre in about 10 days. Here’s my 6-step approach to losing my summer spare tyre and my take on how that approach relates to over-shopping.
Strategy #1: Drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
(2 litres is about half a gallon or 70 ounces). A few years ago, I went on a weight loss program which recommended the drinking of at least 2 litres of water a day. At first, I found this hard to stick to but when I managed it, the benefits were fabulous. So I drew on that previous experience and committed to drinking at least 2 litres of water per day.
Drinking this amount of water per day provides a flushing through of my system, keeping things moving – very important for digestive health.
It also creates feelings of fullness at times when I’m not sure if I’m hungry or not – I drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If the feeling of hunger is still there, then I’m truly hungry, and if it goes away, then I know I’m not really hungry yet. And I don’t eat until I am.
Plus in our extreme summer heat, drinking this much water keeps my body hydrated – so important when you can lose crucial hydration just by doing nothing.
A flushing through from your old shopping habits can come in the form of immersing yourself in other activities other than shopping. By really getting involved and committing to engagement with those activities every day.
You can also connect with a feeling of fullness by doing other things apart from shopping that make you feel connected and like you are living a good life. These activities usually involve other people or activities that engage you fully, putting you ‘in flow’.
Keep things moving rather than getting ‘bogged down’ with shopping all the time. Cleanse your daily habits with soul-enriching and life-enhancing activities that have nothing to do with spending time in the mall or the acquisition of more and more things.
Strategy #2: Eat less.
This was about cutting my portion size down to smaller plate sizes. If I’m eating meat, the portion size should be no larger than the palm of my hand, and my entire meal (unless it’s made up of salad greens) should be no larger than the size of my entire hand (if I spread my fingers and hover it over my plate, there shouldn’t be too much food either side of it). This is a rough guide for keeping my portion sizes to a more in-proportion size.
When I was first married, I put on some weight. I joined Jenny Craig and I’ll never forget my consultant telling me that many new brides up-size their portions to the same size that their new husbands are eating. If your husband is larger and heavier than you, it would make sense that he would eat more food than you do.
Simply downsizing the amount of food I ate so it was more in proportion with what my body actually needed was a huge part in dropping my spare tyre quickly. My body soon adjusted to the smaller portions, and I became more in tune with when I was actually full, as opposed to simply eating all that was on my (over-full) plate.
Its okay to leave some food on your plate, but it’s even better not to over-fill it in the first place.
We can shop too much, way past the point where we’re “full”. I meet so many people who have over-shopped, because they have bought more stuff that they have no hope of ever using. Their closets and homes end up bursting at the seams with stuff they don’t want, aren’t using and certainly don’t need.
It can feel so much lighter and healthier to cut your shopping ‘portions’ down to purchases that you truly need. This is also is a great way to reconnect with what’s important and what you will actually get full use from. It’s more than okay to leave everything else behind.
Strategy #3: Eat more slowly.
I do a lot of things quickly – I talk quickly, I walk fairly quickly, I take action quickly. I struggle with slowing down, and eating is no different. I’m often the first person to finish a meal at any table, and can find myself wondering what everyone else was doing, since my plate is empty and they’re only halfway through their meal!
When rushing my meal, I was finishing it before my brain had time to catch up with the messages my stomach was sending about being already full.
By slowing down my consumption so that I was chewing more slowly, taking breaks while eating, and savouring the meal rather than seeing it as a project that should be finished as quickly as possible, I not only enjoyed my meals more but was more in tune with my growing feelings of fullness as I ate.
Slow down those shopping trips. If you’re in a rush, be less ambitious about what can be achieved. Take the power pause and leave things behind if you’re aren’t certain (or even if you are – the power pause can help you determine if you really want it).
Don’t be in such a rush and remember you aren’t going to miss out on anything (not really) if you leave stuff behind. Your life will still be worth living if you don’t consume everything that’s on offer that calls out to you to be purchased.
Strategy #4: Cut out artificial sweets treats.
Eating sweets such as ice-cream after dinner, chocolate for afternoon breaks and gummy bears anytime I walked past the jar gave me a quick sparky feeling of reward. These are definitely treat items and being susceptible to message of ‘I deserve it’, I found myself eating more of these sweet treats.
Since we don’t normally keep these items in the house, these are also ‘special time of year’ treats which I sometimes think of as being not only allowed but recommended! What’s Christmas without those special treats?
This kind of thinking is not really accurate or healthy. You can appreciate special occasions in life in many ways, without eating overly sugared, fattening food items. Quite frankly, these items make me feel bloated and way too full whilst offering no real nutritional value – it’s an empty fullness.
A sweet treat, if one is called for, can also be enjoyed in a more natural form. If I feel like something sweet after my evening meal, a healthier and ultimately more satisfying choice is some fresh fruit. A few pieces of crisp apple, some diced plum or peach, some juicy watermelon or sweet paw paw (papaya) – these are all wonderful after dinner treats, especially if eaten in small portions.
It can be tempting to shop to reward yourself. This was my big temptation and my personal over-shopping pattern – shopping as a way of acknowledging something important or significant that I’d achieved or done. Research suggests that 53% of impulse shopping is to celebrate something. Feelings of entitlement and ‘I deserve this’ (or “I’m worth it”) can drive and accompany these kinds of shopping expeditions.
Yes, you deserve many fine things in life. But when it boils right down to it, the true successes in life are joy, happiness, connection, people and experiences. All of which can be ‘acquired’ with little to no money. Often money and consumption can get in the way of these things flowing into our life.
The acquisition of more and more things is not the path to joy and connection. The old adage that you can’t buy happiness is indeed true. Stop spending your life and start living it instead – it’s far too important to do anything else with it.
Strategy #5: Stop drinking my calories.
I found that during the summer break, I was drinking a lot of liquids apart from my usual tea and water. I almost never drink sugary fizzy soft drinks (sodas), and the most I could claim would be the occasional iced tea. But around Christmastime, I found myself drinking a lot more juice at home, and ordering iced chocolates – full of cream and ice cream – when eating out. Note that that’s an iced chocolate drink in addition to the meal I ordered – not instead of it! The calorie intake was enormous – I could easily double my calorie intake for one meal by including an iced, ice-creamy drink.
This additional calorie-laden liquid intake quickly added up, and I’m sure was a big contributor to my spare tyre. The simple solution was to cut out all liquids apart from my morning tea and water. Simple. When eating out, no ordering of flavoured mineral water or iced anything’s, and when at home no fruit juice or cordial. Just tea in the mornings and water at every other time.
It’s amazing how quickly I got into this habit, and what a difference it made to the bill when it came time to pay in cafes and restaurants! (Just for clarification, I did still drink the occasional, and I mean occasional, glass of wine. Once a week max, I’d have one glass of wine with dinner. A special treat which I always made sure I compensated by having a lower calorie intake on my food).
We can so easily find ourselves slipping something extra into our baskets or trolleys – those little something’s that we don’t think add up. Perhaps it’s an impulse buy that was gathered whilst waiting in the checkout line (that’s why they’re there! And it’s not just grocery stores that have them now – the impulsive buy section in large discount department stores check-out lines must be seen to be believed!).
These little extras are not our main shopping items, we didn’t go into the store for those things, but somehow they slipped into our basket or trolley, and we had more in our shopping bags than we intended (or needed) as we headed home.
These extras can easily fill up our ‘shopping calorie’ intake, bloat our credit card bills and fill up our homes and closet with stuff that is simply unneeded and doesn’t make us feel good.
Strategy #6: Stop ‘boredom’ eating.
I found myself meandering around the kitchen at times, peeking into the pantry or fridge to see what was there, and eating things just because I was bored. This can be more of a temptation when you’re holidaying at home, and it certainly was for me. Languid days of napping, reading, swims in the ocean or pool stretched out as a luxurious antidote to the usual rushing of the workaday world.
But because of the lack of structure and open-ended days, an initial sense of being under-stimulated prompted me to over-eat, picking at this and that without really paying attention to my intake.
Quite simply, I had stopped paying attention to what my body needed. I allowed my relaxed and sometimes listless state to take over and guide me into eating habits that made me feel bad about myself, and resulted in my growing spare tyre.
Every over-shopper I’ve ever met has had some triggering emotion that has driven their unhealthy shopping habits. You cannot truly heal a compulsion to shop or an impulsive buying behaviour pattern unless you explore and address the triggering emotions that are bound to be at play. Asking why you shop is a good start, and especially why you over-shop or shop compulsively or impulsively, if that is your pattern.
Women over-shop for many and varied reasons – out of boredom, loneliness, anger, fear, sadness, a need to connect and feel validated and attractive. I’ve met women who shop for revenge and women who shop because they are grief-stricken. You name the emotion and there’s likely to be a woman who over-shops for that very reason.
It’s not enough to understand this connection between triggering emotions and over-shopping in the abstract. It only makes a difference if you understand your personal shopping triggers, and that is courageous work. From that first step of awareness, true change in your shopping behaviours and attitudes is possible. Followed by the next step, then the next, and the next after that.
I lost my summer spare tyre in about 10 days. It wasn’t a huge amount of weight but it made a difference to how I felt about myself, and I sure feel better now it’s gone.
A key ingredient was my absolute commitment to do so. I couldn’t live with that extra bulge – I felt terrible about myself first and foremost, and that’s no way to enjoy life – disliking who you are and what you see in the mirror. And so many of my clothes were either uncomfortable, horrible to look at me squishing myself into them (major muffin top!), or simply unwearable due to my enlarged girth.
Change is possible for all of us
Change is a process, not a single event done once, and I know that my eating habits are something I need to be aware of – I need to remain tuned into what my body really wants on a regular basis and recognise when it’s full and when it’s time to stop.
The same goes with my shopping habits. I wish to remain the conscious consumer I’ve worked hard to become, and staying tuned into what I need, what I can most certainly live without and what truly matters in life is my way of doing that. I wish the same for you.