Psychology and Money – If You Know Something Isn’t Good For You, Why Do You Still Do It?

I’ve long been a fan of dealing with the psychological and behavioral issues related to how we manage money. It’s the things we do with money that take us to where we ultimately end up.

One of my favorite websites is The Psychology of Money. I also like Psyblog – Understand Your Mind. :D

Having recently stepped up my efforts to lose weight and become healthy, I’ve been facing my own behaviors when it comes to my eating habits. I have a history of binge-eating which has ultimately led to this vicious cycle most people know as the “yo-yo diet” — not unlike the debt cycle for those of you in debt.

What makes a person sabotage their efforts when they want so badly to reach a certain goal?

With debt and weight loss (and many more things in life), you can know something is not good for you and still do it anyway. But why? What makes us go against what we really want in life to experience that short-lived high from instant gratification?

There are obviously an enormous amount of variables that come into play depending on the person and the scenario.

What we must do though is not be afraid to dig deep enough to find the right solution to help us deal with those behaviors. There is a reason behind every action or behavior we have and it’s up to us to keep searching for the triggers and emotional baggage that keep us from experiencing success in anything we want to accomplish.

For me, just admitting that I have a problem with binge eating is seriously embarrassing. I’m basically admitting to having no self control which is not an easy thing to come to terms with.

BUT…I can either run from it and constantly struggle with this seemingly never-ending cycle, I can pretend there’s no problem at all, or I can face it and work hard to figure it out.

I want to figure it out.

Are You Like Me?

Do you continuously sabotage yourself and your financial plan in the name of instant gratification?

I’ve admitted to sabotaging myself financially by eating out too much which was when the first No Restaurants in November challenge was born. Kind of interesting to see the correlation between the biggest problem I have financially — eating out too much — and my inability (so far) to not only lose weight but keep it off.

This happened to me just last week.

Last week I was approaching the end of my 7th week on the  Take Shape For Life program. I’ve already lost over 30 pounds and am starting to really see the light at the end of the tunnel. I should have had another loss to record for the week but instead I recorded a gain of two pounds.

Perhaps my successful loss of 32 pounds made me a little complacent or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to indulge. It almost seems like human nature for us to go right back to our old behaviors when we think we’re okay but we also have the ability to convince ourselves something is okay when we know it’s not.

So anyway, I go on a random snacking rampage and a bag of Cajun Pistachios comes up missing. Some of you may be thinking “Big Deal!” After all it’s only a bag of pistachios — not an entire pizza or half gallon of ice cream.

It’s a big deal because it goes against what I’m trying to accomplish as far as moderation and self control, but it also has other consequences.

The problem with me eating too many calories on this program is that I am no longer in the fat burning state that has been working so well AND I have to wait 3 days to get back to that state. So that’s kind of like wasting 3 days and I hate wasting my time and/or doing something twice.

I knew I would no longer be in the fat burning state.
I knew my weight would not be very accurate on the morning of my weigh in.
I knew I was making a mistake.

So why would I do that?

I couldn’t answer that question so I called a behavioral psychologist with TSFL to see if I could figure out how to overcome this challenging problem. For the record, I’ve not really had any binge-eating episodes while doing the this program but I know myself and I know that I have a history of giving in. It’s better to be proactive.

He went through the entire list of indications that someone suffering from binge-eating experiences and I started to feel as though he had been camped out in my attic watching me for more than a year. Then he told me that my all-or-nothing personality was part of the problem and was rooted very deeply in how I view the decisions I make. That’s just part of the problem.

I also tend to see my decisions (being on a diet) as restrictive which causes me to have this build up that eventually erupts and the results of that food massacre aren’t even considered until the last bite is digesting. Once the first “bad” bite takes place, in my mind, I then give myself permission (consciously and/or subconsciously) to keep devouring all that stands in my way — because after all — I’m NO LONGER on the program anymore. (All-or-nothing remember?)

Do you see your budget as a restriction?
Does it sometimes lead to a shopping spree?
Does your motivation to continue suffer because of any negative views concerning your plan?

Change Your Perception

I was told to work on changing my perception from seeing my actions to lose weight as a restriction. Instead he asked me to consider them choices for good health. In other words, if I look at the foods that cause me trouble and tell myself that I can have them BUT instead choose not to, I’m less likely to experience the build up to what eventually becomes an out of control eating frenzy.

Do you see your debt free journey as restrictive or are you making better financial choices for a greater good?

Maybe, in both situations, we should look at the outcome of our bad behaviors (debt/being overweight) as restrictive as opposed to what we do to fix them (our debt free plan/healthy eating plan).

What is the REAL RESTRICTION?
Being in debt or what you have to do to get out?

For me, my poor health is restricting what I do, how I feel, and obviously how long I’ll live. For you, debt is restricting you to a life of interest and minimum payments (and so much more) which ultimately keeps you from doing so many things!

I know they say when you tell someone they can’t have something it psychologically makes them want it even more. To me, this makes perfect sense. I also know perception is EVERYTHING! How you see things will most likely determine how you respond to them — if you respond at all.

This one phone call may not have given me the entire answer to my eating problems, but I definitely see it as a positive step in the right direction.

The point here is to inspire you to take action on a deeper level. DIG DEEP! If you don’t figure out why you spend money and/or accumulate debt the way you do then you’ll never figure out how to overcome it.

I know that for me to reach my weight loss goals and to maintain afterward, I need to look at this as a lifestyle change not just a decision to lose weight. Reaching my goal weight isn’t the real goal, but it is a step in the right direction. I want to keep it off (the real goal) just like becoming debt free is actually the beginning of your financial journey. Trust me the real journey happens after you free yourself from the bondage that restricts you so much now.

The key to staying debt free isn’t in becoming debt free itself, it’s in what you learn along the way that keeps you from going back.

As for me — I’m a work in progress. :D

Weight Loss Update: Today I weighed in at 267 for a 6 pound loss. It really helped me to think about my food choices as choices and not restrictions. So far I’ve lost 36.5 pounds in just 8 weeks! Woohoo!

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About Brad Chaffee

18 Responses to “Psychology and Money – If You Know Something Isn’t Good For You, Why Do You Still Do It?”

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  1. Following your weight loss journey is very interesting, because you remind me a lot of myself. I stress binge eat….and I’ve come to realize it’s a control issue. When I’m stressed, I feel like “everything else” is controlling what I have to do and dictating my behavior……but guess what? Nobody can stop me from shoving whatever I want into my face! I feel like a whole pizza – guess what “stress source” – you can’t stop me! Now I feel like a whole bag of chips – guess what “stress source” – I can do that too!

    I don’t feel so good after one of those episodes. I have to learn to also control what goes into my body to align with my fitness goals.

    Same with my financial goals……budgets and lack of funds seems like something else is controlling what I get to do and buy. Guess what….I’d just pull out a credit card and buy what I want. Now I have control again – until the bill comes anyway.

    I need to realize that by NOT pulling out a credit card, and by NOT impulse buying that I have greater control….over my future.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Great comment Travis!

      One thing I noticed with almost all of the people I have worked with over the years was that they often saw a budget and their plan to get out of debt as a restriction which unfortunately is precisely the place they’d decide to stay.

      Only after I spoke with the behavioral psychologist did I realize I was doing the same thing with my weight loss. I was so focused on what I could and couldn’t have that the restrictions turned into full blown episodes of binge eating. It either caused me to start and fail or kept me from starting at all.

      It has been so helpful to see where the real restriction lies. :D

  2. Great article! It all comes down to how you develop discipline in your life, and it doesn’t come easy. Sometimes you have to fall off the wagon a few times before you decide for good that you’ll finally quit doing those things that will sabotage you and keep you from going where you want to go in life.

    Sometimes you have to trick your brain into doing things that you’ve been resisting, because your brain doesn’t like change. I recently wrote a post about change and why it can be so hard to start doing things differently than you’ve been doing for so long.
    “Change is Hard”- http://www.cfinancialfreedom.com/CFFwordpress/change-is-hard/

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Thanks Dr. Cabler! You’re right. We develop habits and behaviors that only further our inability to discipline ourselves to make better choices. It’s not about restricting ourselves as much as it is about making better decisions that align with our goals. As soon as we realize that it becomes much easier to make the right choices.

      Great comment! I’ll definitely check out your post! :)

  3. Hi Brad,

    This may be your best post ever. It is huge when we can finally figure out that just trying harder is not enough. We need to understand our actions and decisions are not purely rational and make a plan to handle urges to sabotage our goals. Congratulations on your continued weight loss, you are killing it !

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Thank you Cassie, you are too kind! :D

      Just like with finance we need a plan to encourage us in the right direction because as you point out just wanting to reach a goal isn’t always enough.

      Thanks also for the congrats! This has been a really hard struggle (much harder than getting out of debt) for me but it’s nice to finally feel good about where things are going and the best part is that my wife and I are both doing it together!! :D

      Thanks for reading! This was a long one! haha!

  4. I’ve been where you are – I successfully lost 107 pounds to reach goal in 2010, and have kept it off. But I’m struggling with our debt repayment. You would think, since I was able to handle the weight loss, I could do the debt too, but I’m not “there” yet psychologically.

    Good luck with your weight loss, you’re doing great so far!

  5. Brad Chaffee says:

    First of all Kris, congrats on losing 107 pounds AND keeping it off for 2 years now. That is fantastic!!!

    Now take the rest of your comment and reverse it. Getting out of debt was so much easier for me but losing weight has been a beast of a journey. haha!

    It just proves that we all operate differently and something that works for me might not work for someone else.

    For me I think getting out of debt was much easier because I was able to completely avoid it. No borrowing, no credit cards, etc. Try avoiding food like that though. LOL :D

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kris and keep your head up. YOU WILL become debt free because I can tell from your words that you really want it! You just need to find the psychological motivation to reach your goals and I believe you will.

    Thanks for reading! :D

  6. Sharon says:

    Brad,

    Your insight into a very personal issue is outstanding. I imagine you to be an amazing health coach – you will help hundreds of others with your experience and your ability to care. Great stuff, and good for you for paying it forward and helping to coach others to the health they want.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Thank you very much Sharon for your kind words! It’s really exciting to be able to help people especially when you’re able to help them with something you’ve struggled with most of your life. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for me! :D

  7. Congratulations! Losing 36.5 pounds in 8 weeks proves that you are serious with your weight loss program. Changing lifestyle, whether you refer it to finances, losing weight and maintaining your body to keep it healthy, is a discipline. Your discipline on handling financial issues should be more than motivation to say that I believe you can lose weight and stick on your program until you reach your ideal weight. Keep it up!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Thanks Cherleen! I’m definitely on the road to recovery and am feeling pretty good about my journey so far. I’m learning a bunch of new things and am really enjoying it all. I feel so much better with more energy and no crashes. It’s amazing to me how the body works an even bounces back from such abuse. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate the support and encouragement! :D

  8. Kris says:

    The whole concept of money in the US has gotten so far out of control that sometimes its hard to understand. Just look at health insurance. And pay raises. My employer raised my health insurance contribution. But won’t be giving me a raise this year (which is actually a pay cut since the cost of living keeps going up. That’s not how money is supposed to work. Not that I’m entitled to anything for free. I understand business. But I follow the rules, work hard – and get screwed. Why?

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Kris, not sure how your comment relates to this post but we had the same thing happen to my wife. Insurance contribution went up — pay stayed the same, but I’m not sure it’s your employers fault. They just offer their employees the benefits and have no control over the cost of those benefits to the employee. They certainly can’t be expected to give you a raise because the health insurance companies prices went up. It is a bummer but that’s just a part of life. It’s not always fair.

      I personally think that health insurance is a racket since most of what they cover is based on sickness not health — but that’s a topic for an entirely different post. They should call it SICK CARE. LOL

  9. Stephanie says:

    Wow – when I read “all-or-nothing personality,” a light bulb went off – that explains so much about how I approach money, decisions and snacking :P Restrictions like that also set me up for failure or prevent me from starting in the first place. I’d love a 30 minute conversation with a behavioral psychologist!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      That is awesome Stephanie! When I was talking with the behavioral psychologist it really felt as though he knew me. I love it when something just clicks like that. It has been my experience that when something clicks it strengthens the chances I’ll overcome whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish even when past attempts have been hard.

      That’s the way it happened for us with our debt too. One day we found the Total Money Makeover and the words in that book just spoke to us and we could relate so well but it also gave us the tools we needed to take it futher and eventually become debt free. :D

      Good luck to you! You will enjoy my next post scheduled for the 28th about the cycles we tend to follow but also about motivation. The part about motivation from what I’ve been reading is very interesting and it has helped me A LOT!! :)

  10. Kelsey says:

    I always sabotage myself as well. I have been trying to set up additional businesses/sources of income to help with my debt, and I cut up my credit cards. Baby steps!

  11. Brad Chaffee says:

    Baby steps indeed Kelsey! We can do anything we put lour minds to one baby step at a time. Keep taking those steps. Your reward is waiting for you and debt freedom is so amazing!! :D

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