I have to admit, I love a good deal. There are few things as rewarding to me as buying an item way below cost, especially if the item is something I really need. And the weeks right after the holidays are one of the best times to get great deals.
Recently, I was on one of my favorite websites, Sierra Trading Post, prompted by an email promotion for free shipping and extra 30% off on clearance items. My impulse was to check out the online clearance items immediately but after spending 10 minutes on the website it occurred to me that I was not shopping with a particular purpose. I was shopping for the pursuit of “the deal”. The pants I saw looked wonderful and had great reviews and the price was ridiculously cheap, but I realized I was being sucked into the shopping vortex of aimless buying without a real need, just to take advantage of “the deal”.
I stopped myself, closed the window and said to myself, if I feel the same way about the pants tomorrow then I would consider purchasing them, but only after letting 24 hours pass. The next day, I realized that I really did not want the pants and my strong impulse to buy them had passed. I also realized that this impulse to shop online was triggered by a tempting email promotion. Had I not received the email, I would not have wasted 15 minutes of my day. This lead me to go through my emails and “unsubscribe” to several of my favorite clothing vendors. Get rid of the trigger, decrease the impulse.
The shopping impulse is very similar to food cravings. The holidays are finally over which means gone are the many temptations of cookies, sweet breads, chocolate and other mouth satisfying seasonal treats. I can look back and recall the times I found myself in the kitchen reaching for the box of homemade toffee and wanting just a little piece. I also noticed that these cravings passed more easily on some days. It became a little game for me to witness my desires for all the holiday goodies and to create some personal rules to abide by. First of all I had to understand what made my resistance to temptation stronger on some days more than others. This is what I observed:
- On days I did not eat 3 balanced meals, I had more cravings in the afternoon and evening
- I noticed that days when I had more on my mind and was more distracted, I had more cravings.
- I found that when I brought the whole container of tempting foods out to the room while I watched TV, I ate much more of it than I had intended and really regretted my choice.
- I noticed that keeping tempting foods out of eye sight made a big difference in the frequency of my cravings.
- I noticed that I had more cravings when I was bored, feeling anxious or felt justified to enjoy a treat because “this only happens once a year”.
- Lastly I noticed that over time my cravings diminished in the course of an evening and that other things, like drinking hot tea, helped assuage my desires.
Next, I addressed each of the observations. I did not skip lunch – I had at least a protein and carb like low fat cottage cheese and fruit or a piece of whole grain toast. I made lists of the things I had to do to give me more focus and sense of control. I tried to make plans just for the next day and not jump too far ahead in my thoughts.
I put the chex mix out of sight and quit taking the whole container out by the TV. I changed my self talk to “you are going to regret the extra pounds you will put on if you continue to eat this way” and strongly considered the feelings of regret for the 2-15 minutes of splurging. And finally, I did not immediately react to my craving – I gave myself at least 15 minutes before acting on my temptations while also getting back in the habit of fixing a hot cup of tea around 7:30 in the evening. I find having something warm to drink is satisfying and diminishes my desires for something sweet or crunchie.
Lord Byron, an early 1800 British poet said:
“Time! the corrector when our judgments err”
Although, lord Byron most likely was talking about discernment of the heart, this saying can apply to coping with cravings as well. Giving in to impulses is usually due to poor judgment and lack of planning. Having a plan to control temptations and having a rule to delay immediate satisfaction will not only improve your sense of self-control, but will leave you with more time to do things you really want to do!