What do diets and budgeting have in common? Well, quite a lot. At least when it comes to understanding why they do and don’t work.
We caught up with professional dietitian Dr Duane Mellor from the British Dietetic Association, to find out how the psychology behind dieting could help us rethink our approach to budgeting.
Why do diets fail?
There are many reasons a diet might ‘fail’. But the first (and most dangerous) reason is – because we expect them to.
Words like ‘diet’ and ‘budget’ have some negative connotations. We set off thinking we have to give up something that we want, rather than seeing what we could gain. This leads to what we call the restriction, reward, punishment cycle – i.e. the reason most diets fail.
Restriction, reward, punishment… repeat
How did your last diet/budget feel? Enjoyable? If you’re not doing it anymore, chances are the answer is no.
But it doesn’t have to feel this way. While a successful diet might help you work toward an end goal, that goal should never be the whole reason you’re on the diet. If it is, you might be in danger of slipping into the restriction, reward, punishment cycle:
• Step 1: Restriction
You set out with a goal in mind and you’re ready and raring to smash it. You strip back everything you can – you know crash diets ‘don’t work’, but it’s just for a few weeks. Right?
• Step 2: Reward
Look how well you’re doing! A whole week and you’re still under budget. Well, a night out to celebrate couldn’t hurt. Or how about that pair of shoes?
• Step 3:Punishment
You’re right back where you started. The guilt is piling up and you feel more out of control than ever. You decide to cut back even more to make up for it.
If this sounds familiar, stop what you’re doing. This is not what dieting, or budgeting, should look like.
Redefining the word ‘diet’
When we think diet, we automatically think of restriction and what we're missing out on. But the noun ‘diet’ actually means ‘way of life’.
Instead of going at diets hard and fast, we need to look at them as a long-term relationship – adapting to a small number of healthier habits, rather than trying to solve the problem in one go.
• Instead of limiting yourself to £X per week for lunchtime meal deals, try making yourself packed lunches that resemble your usual go-to.
• Instead of putting yourself on a shopping ban, try selling old clothes and using that extra cash to fund your next haul.
There are plenty of ways to manipulate your money diet so you don’t have to miss out on anything at all. After all, if you feel restricted, you simply won’t want to stick to it.
Ready for more money diet tips? Look out for the next article in this psychology series: ‘Money diets: Intuitive budgeting and trusting yourself with Dr Duane Mellor’.