I was talking with a co-worker today who had the same spending problem I did.
Everybody's got something they like to do that helps them feel in control. For my wife, it's getting her hair cut. Even if everything is going wrong in the world, she can still gain a sense of control by making her hair look different.
When I was a teenager, I would buy notebooks. They were cheap, and I would vow that I would fill them with pages of wonderful prose that I could then sell to a publisher and make money.
As I got older, I started buying workout magazines a lot. Buying the magazines was an outward sign that I was going to get in shape. I'd also buy money management books or other books.
My friend today admitted he'd had the same problem--when he was depressed, you could always find him at the bookstore, picking up one book or another.
The last time I lost weight, a big part of what I did was mental. I had to mentally transfer the sense of power that I used to feel by buying things (or by eating things--I'm a stress eater) and transfer it into my weight loss. In other words, my weight loss didn't really become effective until managing my eating and exercise habits began to give me the same sense of power I'd previously found through eating and making purchases.
I still feel you have to do this to create any true change. You can't just change the symptom or change the behavior--ultimately, you have to change who you are.
If a "diet" is a prison to you, one you hate and can't wait to get out of, you're missing the point. As soon as you break out of the diet, you're going to go right back to your old weight and end up right back where you ended up.
We're better at doing this for debt. Credit cards usually get cut up, and situations usually change for the good once we start learning to invest rather than spend our lives as an investment for the credit card company.
But ultimately, the biggest obstacle that stands between us and our real goals is ourselves. Ultimately, if we haven't done something yet, it's because there's still something else we want more. It's either the comfort we get from the food, the security we get from the (false) idea that if we don't try we can't fail, or it's something else.
So we're left with two choices--either we change our level of desire for the thing that's stopping us, or we increase or level of desire and satisfaction regarding the goal.
That's what I did. I mentally shifted the feelings of satisfaction the purchases gave me over to weight management. If I could control nothing else in my life, I could control the food that I ate and the exercise that I did, and that put me in control.
Is this real? Absolutely. There was a while where I could wander around endlessly looking for something to have for lunch, because I'd mentally and emotionally come to reject all the foods that made me fat, but hadn't yet accepted the foods that could make me thin. So nothing looked good to me.
Try it for yourself. Work on mentally changing your associations and emotions regarding your behavior.
Tony Robbins does an exercise on some of his tapes that you can try right now. Check this out:
Think of one of your favorite foods. Any food. In my case, it was one of those Italian chicken sandwiches they used to have at Burger King. It reminds me of trips with my Dad and it was tasty.
Now, on a scale of 1-10, rate how bad you think you want that food item right now. You hungry? Not hungry? How you feeling?
Now, try to raise your level of desire for that food. Close your eyes, and try to raise your desire for that food up to, say, an 8. Imagine the taste, the texture, think about hunger, whatever you have to do to make yourself want that food more than you did a minute ago.
Once you've done that, kick it up to a 9. Imagine whatever you need to, create the emotion, but make it a 9.
Now go all the way. Make it a 10. Make it so that you want that food, right now, this second. Imagine it perfect, imagine the best it ever tasted, imagine it in your mouth this second.
Before you run out and get it, turn it around. Imagine your desire going back down. All the way down. Make it a 1. For me, this was easy--just imagine that bun being just a little soggy. Nothing worse than wet bread, to me. That idea of soggy bread turns me off. If your food is sweet, maybe imagine ants in it. Do something to bring yourself down from that 10 to that 1.
I hope you took the time to really do that exercise, because if you did, you'll see that you have more power over your desires than you may think. If you didn't do it, you may be skeptical right now, but I encourage you to go back and give it a try. It works.
You can affect your desires.