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Money, Food, Time: Connecting the dots on how these 3 are the reason you're staying stuck

Mindsets, what are they anyway? As simple as it sounds: your mindset is how your mind is set on something and you probably don’t even realize it. Three common mindset issues have to do with time, money, and food. Any one of these three areas (or all three at once) can keep you from moving forward. I often start a coaching session by asking my client what’s their area of least satisfaction. It’s frequently centered around one of these 3 and the underlying root is usually control or a feeling of no-control.

Food: I honestly don’t know a single woman without food issues. Either we overeat, under-eat, we have food guilt, or we label foods as good and bad. Or at the very least, we have control issues with food. Think back to your childhood and food. Did you get told you needed to finish everything on your plate because there were starving children? Do you remember Sally Struthers and the starving kids with big bellies, stick legs, and flies in their faces? Maybe this led to food guilt. Or perhaps you overate on special occasions like birthdays and Halloween, then felt bad physically, but were taught it was acceptable to indulge/gorge yourself when the food was available because you wouldn’t have access to yummy treats again for a long time.

Or maybe you were like me. We didn’t grow up with a food shortage, but my older sister and I were given one box of little Debbie snack cakes a week and one box of cereal each. There were no restrictions on which one we could choose as far as sugar content, but if we decided the other person’s choice was better, too bad. You made your bed and you were stuck with Starkist for the next 7 days instead of sister’s Swiss rolls with the yummy icing in the middle. So we developed food jealousy and scarcity mindset knowing there wouldn’t be another trip to the grocery store until the next Saturday. Scarcity and hoarding are close cousins. I remember hoarding candy, saving it for months. In fact, one Halloween I decided to save my candy until summer camp the next year, carefully hiding it in a red lunch box under my bed. The candy fared pretty well in the lunchbox, but when I got to camp, we had cabins with bugs, no air conditioning, and the candy melted into one large roach and ant tempting blob.

I was also forced to eat my mom’s cooking, which, in hindsight, is darn good, but back then I had a strong aversion to multiple ingredient dishes, especially casseroles. She wouldn’t let me leave the table until I’d finished my food. We also weren’t allowed to have food after supper. My sister was once busted as she tried to unsuccessfully sneak a bowl full of milk and cereal up to her room in a laundry basket.

So I learned to sneak food. Indulging in food was best done in private. Even now I rarely eat desserts in front of people at work, but if I pass by the lunch room on my way to the bathroom later and no one is around, I'll sneak a rice crispie treat.

So many of us use food as a reward. When my dad was out of town, we’d “sneak” and go out to eat. He probably wouldn’t have cared one bit, but eating out was rare unless we were traveling, so we’d pile up and go to a Chinese restaurant and my mom was conspiratorial about not telling our dad.

How about with regards to letting yourself have what you want or need? Do you make yourself finish to-do’s before you get to work on the things that really light you up? Do you make sure everyone else is fed before you? Do you put off joy until “one day” thinking you’ll be happy when x happens? The problem is, of course, that the line keeps moving back. The stars rarely align into “one day” and even if they do, that one day is quickly over and you’re on to the next thing. This happened to me with Disney. I realized we never wanted to take our kids to Disney when they were little because it seemed like a waste. They surely wouldn’t remember the thousand dollar-a-day experience of being adorned with Mickey ears and waiting in long lines. So we put it off. Now, our kids are 14 and 10, and wonder why we never took them to Disney.

Speaking of money, think about your childhood as it relates to money and the unspoken money beliefs. Were you taught money was the root of all evil? What about rich people? Were you taught they couldn’t be trusted, they weren’t kind people, they cared more about money than good deeds, and finally, for those of you in the Bible belt, that rich people weren’t as likely to be a good Christian? Did you learn to hoard money like food? Was it taboo to spend money on things that were high quality? Did you instead buy cheap things at Walmart knowing they wouldn’t last as long and would have to be replaced sooner than a nice item?

This was a shocker to me when I married Chase. He believes in buying high-quality things like a $300 well-researched coffee maker that’ll probably get passed down to our kids whereas I learned to buy one at Dollar General and plan on replacing it every three years.

Were you taught to be generous with your money? Maybe you learned you were stingy if you didn’t put others’ needs first. Maybe now you have a much easier time spending on your kids than yourself. This was another ah-ha when I realized I have no money guilt when shopping for my kids, but when I shopped for myself, I’d only buy if it’s on sale, from a thrift store, or a kid-size since kids' sizes are 1/3 of the price. To buy something full price and brand new felt sinful.

If I were life coaching myself, I’d ask what I was making that mean, that I wouldn’t allow myself to have nice things? The answer comes down to not feeling worthy.

Do you shop because you feel like you’re the only one who cares about you? Better look out for yourself because no one else will. Do “things” make you feel special and loved? If you spend a lot of money on shopping and don’t consider price tags when you’re buying stuff, do you also not pay attention to what you put in your mouth? Do you let yourself have whatever you want because you deserve it or because if you don’t take it for yourself, someone else will?

Now, let’s talk about time. We often have similarities between our mindsets related to time and how we treat money and food. Are you stingy with your time? Do you feel like you have to hide to get time to yourself? Are you resentful when others take time from you? Do you waste time and then feel guilty (similar to spending lots of money or eating indulgent foods)? Maybe you nitpick time, you’re aware of every minute that passes and how it needs to be spent. Maybe you’re never without a watch and you check it a million times a day. Are you also the type to obsess over calories (can you name how many calories or grams of sugar are in a banana?) and every penny you spend? This was me, even now I can guess how many minutes have passed–Chase will often look at me and say “Alexa, how many minutes are left on the timer?” and I’m usually within a minute of the correct time.

I always thought this obsession started when I switched to working in dermatology and had 10-minute visits, but looking back, I was always hyper-aware of things like calories, fat grams, how to calculate tax, and figure out how much money down to the penny I had. I’d make elaborate lists before we drove the two hours to the mall. I knew exactly what I wanted and about how much it would cost, and this was before the internet was even invented. I’d base it on magazines and the previous years’ prices. Now, I’ve purposefully stopped wearing a watch. I do my best not to read labels and obsesses over them and it helps that I can’t see a darn thing without readers. I also try to decide if I want to buy something before knowing the price. I think about how much I need it, the cost of not having it, and I look at the quality, thanks to my husband. If I look at the price tag first (or if I read every food label), I’d never let myself have the item or the food. Isn’t it funny how similar these two things are?

Why are we talking about mindset? What does this have to do with recharting your life or being stuck? You might be stuck because you have deep underlying thoughts that you’re not worth it. You might be putting others’ needs before your own. You might be living for “one day” when everything lines up perfectly and meanwhile the train is leaving the station. Or maybe you’re so cheap you won’t allow yourself to do anything that costs money. Do you let your kids do travel ball or have private lessons for something, but you would never spend that kind of money on you? With food, do you buy your kids whatever snacks they want and never mention to them that the foods are full of crap because you feel sort of like they deserve to have whatever they want, but you won’t let yourself eat a dove chocolate piece? Do you spend hours driving your babies to and fro, do your weekends revolve around their schedules and you could never take an entire Saturday for yourself?

Here’s your homework. Notice when you get anxious or have a reaction about time, money, or food. Notice if aren’t letting yourself have something or if you’re spending mindlessly (whether it’s time, food, or money). Do you use food to medicate when you experience strong emotions? Or money? Does shopping soothe you when you’ve had a stressful day?

Think about how you normally spend time and money and treat food. What if you did the opposite for one week? Whatever your first thought when I said this is a sneaky way to get you to acknowledge your limiting belief. Maybe you thought, “I can’t do that, I’ll get fat” (the thought might be “I can’t be trusted around food”), if you normally are a big spender or shopaholic and I told you to behave the opposite way for a week, you might think “Oh no! I better stockpile what I need now” (the thought might be that you never have


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