The Shopping Buffet

Posted by Jill Chivers in Attitudes and Habits, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

Recently my husband and I took a short mid-week break to a beautiful eco-resort, where they use solar energy and a desalination plant for water, and they generally encourage visitors and guests to be aware of how heavy our footprint is.

Considering how lightly the management and staff are treading, the quality and selection of meal options was sensational.

All three meals offered a buffet selection.  As we arrived mid morning, our first meal was lunch.  After a snorkel in the crystal clear “lagoon” (the milder waters on the eastern side of the island), off we trotted to to Lagoon Dining.

What awaited us was a delectable and wide selection of beautifully presented buffet selections – salad, cold meats, prawns and other seafood (which I don’t eat, but others tell me were delicious), breads, hot items, fruit – it was a veritable feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Well – I ended up waddling back to our cabin after that first lunch.  I was physically uncomfortable at having eaten so much. By the time dinner rolled around, I wasn’t even hungry.

Now I’m not a nutritionist, but I am aware that one should fully digest one meal before embarking on the eating of the next.  That feeling hungry before a meal is healthy and normal.  And that feeling still full from the previous meal signals that one has overeaten, overdosed and overthrown one’s natural metabolic rhythm.

The light goes on

It was while we were heading into dinner, with my still-full stomach, that I had a lightbulb moment.  DING!  There is a relationship between buffet eating and over shopping (here’s another piece I wrote about this very connection).

Instead of focusing on my own needs with info drawn from within — how hungry am I?  what do I feel like eating?  have I had my fill? — my focus at that first buffet lunch was external.  My focus was on What can I eat here?  It was all  — ooh, look – potato salad!  yum – cheesecake! smell that fresh bread! and so forth.  It was all about what was available – not what I needed.

During that first lunch, I was so far out of tune with myself that I ate myself into physical unease.

Unfortunately, this is a feeling I’m familiar with (although not so much since finishing my own year without clothes shopping challenge and developing a healthier relationship to shopping and consumption).  It’s a feeling I’ve had even when no food has been in sight.

It’s a feeling I’ve had when I’ve over shopped.

This is what many of us do when we shop

Instead of being focused on what we truly need, what will make our hearts sing and our wallets relax, we’re agog with the choices we’re presented with. 

We are entranced and transfixed by the array of new Must Have items that we forget about what’s really important – ourselves.

We enter the stores like I did Lagoon Dining that first lunchtime – with our focus on the external.  Our thoughts are on: What’s here in the stores that’s new?  What catches my eye (and my other senses)?  What do I ‘want’ – right now? 

When we shop this way, we leave the stores stuffed.  Stuffed with stuff, filled with items we didn’t know we “wanted” until we laid eyes on them, and that have no real place in our wardrobes or our lives.

And if we shop again shortly after that, driven by the same unconscious needs, we end up “filling up” again before we’ve even digested (used) what we so recently purchased.

And so the cycle of over shopping continues

Until we’re bloated – our wardrobes stuffed, our minds confused (which is why so many women have the “Look at all these clothes – why do I have nothing to wear?!” paralysing paradox when they look in the wardrobes), our hearts heavier and our wallets lighter.

And I haven’t even gotten into the issue of those women who practice the clothes shopping equivalent of bulimia.  Those who “up chuck” a recently consumed purchase – a practice which gives them a temporary feeling of fullness with a twist of trying to sidestep the guilt by returning, giving away or consignment selling the items at a discounted price.

We have to find a way to stop the cycle.  To shift our focus from what’s Out There, to what’s In Here.  From what’s on show, to what we really need.  From all those choices that are ultimately deeply unsatisfying, to what makes our hearts sing.

 Here’s a few ideas to get you started on how to break the cycle:

  1. Start exploring all the many and varied other things that make your life worth living – apart from shopping.
  2. Take a break from shopping all the time.  Your life is too important to spend it in the pursuit of shopping! (here’s how a shopping hiatus can help).
  3. Focus on what you are creating, not what you are consuming (your creative focus can be on anything that takes your fancy, but here’s some ideas on creating a wonderful working wardrobe, to stick with style).

And of course, that’s what we do here – support you every step of the way as you create new, healthier shopping behaviours and patterns for yourself. If you want to develop a healthier relationship to shopping, if you want to break the cycle of spend—feel bad—spend again – come join us.


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