Consumption is a way of life

The Simple Dollar led me to a great post this morning at An English Major’s Money; this paragraph in particular resonated with the paradigm shift I’m going through:

I guess the point here is that the way you spend is determined by the way you live and the way you think. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: money is so much more than math. It’s about personality, and conscience, and comfort, and childhood, and habit, and belief, and culture.

I think that’s spot-on.  I recently came to the conclusion that my spending habits and eating habits were inter-related, and as I made lifestyle changes that slimmed my waistline, my wallet grew as well.  I decided that eating and spending are both under the umbrella of “consuming”, and realized my lifestyle dicates my consumption and my thoughts dicate my lifestyle.

Ok, so the words are nice, but how does it apply to my life?  When I look back at how I set weight-loss goals, I realize I have followed a pattern that illustrates how some small changes I made resulted in a tremendous lifestyle shift.  Some of the early small changes were:

I wanted to change.  The catalyst for me was cholesterol – my doctor wanted to put me on cholesterol medication, and I decided I wasn’t that person.  I emotionally invested myself in the lifestyle change I wanted to make – I did not want to be the dad that couldn’t keep up with his child’s first bike experience.  I did not want to be the fat man at Disney that couldn’t fit into the Mount Everest ride.

I redefined how I thought about my self.  The trick here was to think positively about the change I would implement, not negatively about the person I was at the time.  I am the choices I make, not the way the world makes me – by redefining my “self” as a choice to live a healthy lifestyle, I overcame being overwhelmed or depressed about my weight and appearance.

I kept a positive attitude.  I consciously sought positive changes and celebrated them - less fat in high-profile areas like my chin and armpits; stopped snoring; more endurance; less appetite.  I found that just by having a positive attitude, I actually starting enjoying those things that I resisted before, like broccoli and exercise.  Now, not only is it part of a routine, I do really enjoy riding the bike, eating raw veggies and drinking 3 quarts of water a day.

I studied my own reactions.  Impulse buying, impulse eating – it’s the same thing, a mindless reaction to an outside stimulus (Dave calls it his unconscious acts).  I began practicing a point of awareness – consciously recognized my choices when otherwise I would mindlessly react.  Walking through the DVD section at Best Buy, where normally I would almost subconsciously reach out and grab any movie I had an emotional attachment to and purchase it, I now consciously stop, pick it up, look at it, make a choice on purchase and usually put it back.  Trent at The Simple Dollar calls it his ten second rule, and I like that description (although sometimes it takes a little longer than ten seconds, like that durn scale I want) – take ten seconds to give yourself a chance to consciously make a choice rather than subconsciously reacting.

For me, lifestyle change started with the way I think.  I needed to think positively, consciously and diligently.  Thinking about the food I put in my mouth every time gives me time to evaluate what I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how fast I’m eating, and those ten-second evaluations become lifestyle habit changes.  Thinking about what I purchase every time I buy something gives me time to evaluate what I’m purchasing, and those ten-second evaluations become lifestyle habit changes.

No matter what I’m consuming, be it food, retail purchases, opinions, mass-media TV, or a spiritual leader’s statements, I now approach it from a place of power – I evaluate my responses and choose instead of react.

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