How I finally lost weight – by changing the way I pay ….

For many years, I had been unable to lose weight without putting it back on quickly.

Despite the diets and the punishing exercise regimes I was consistently over my healthy Body Mass Index and not liking myself because of it. Being heavier than I wanted to be meant I was secretly calling myself fat. I was criticising myself, even when no one else was. Maybe I like food too much? Maybe I can’t lose weight? Maybe the lure of sugar and carbs is too great for me to overcome?

All this was not good for my personal self-esteem. Like most people, I am my own biggest critic. So I battled on, not really winning the body image war with myself and never quite feeling in control of my own body. I was going to the gym, going to the pool, cycling and trying to manage my diet but the yoyo of gaining weight and losing weight continued.

I read how any exercise regime can be ‘out-eaten.’ That is, no matter how many calories you burn with exercise, the increased appetite generated by the activity can be replaced easily with more food. And how easy is it to tell yourself, after a long swim, cycle or gym session, that ‘I deserve that snack?’

Then something happened. Something completely unrelated to my weight and body issues, or so I thought.

I got a new mobile phone and it prompted me to reload my cards to the mobile wallet for Tap and Go. But I didn’t have them in front of me right then so I thought ‘I’ll do that tomorrow.’ Tomorrow came and went, then the next day and procrastination took over for a week or two. Suddenly I was paying with cash. Without really planning, I had reverted to a cash-based lifestyle. For a few weeks I didn’t do any “tapping and going.”

Then I noticed the real differences. I was thinking more about what I spend. This has been confirmed by science and I heard of course about the ‘pain of paying.’ When you pay with cash you feel the money leave your possession and experience the pain of paying. When you use a card, or tap and go with a phone, that pain is diminished and you are more likely to spend.

The way you pay for food influences your healthy or unhealthy food choices

But I wasn’t just saving money, I was spending more wisely. I wasn’t chucking junk food in the basket or tapping on snacks, coffees etc.

Paying with cash was helping me lose weight!

Can this be really what is happening? Apparently there is science to back this up.

“Consumers are more likely to buy unhealthy food products when they pay by credit card than when they pay in cash,” reported Manoj Thomas, Kalpesh Kaushik Desai and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan in Oxford University’s Journal of Consumer Research way back in 2010.

“Results from four studies support these hypotheses. Analysis of actual shopping behavior of 1,000 households over a period of 6 months revealed that shopping baskets have a larger proportion of food items rated as impulsive and unhealthy when shoppers use credit or debit cards to pay for the purchases.”

OK, but I wasn’t shopping with a credit card linked to my phone. Credit cards only bill you later, at the end of the month, I was using debit cards linked to my phone. A debit card withdraws money from your account straight away so it’s almost like cash. The Thomas study (above) said that didn’t really matter.

But still, this study was done before mobile phone payments became the dominant way to pay for most people, including me. What is the effect of Tap and Go on healthy or unhealthy food choices?

Well one thing is for sure, waving your phone at a payment terminal is even easier than paying with a credit or a debit card.

American researcher Dr Utpal Dholakia says contactless payments (like Tap and Go) have decreased the pain of payment even further and presumably have increased the likelihood of consumers making unhealthy choices.

“It’s easy to imagine that because these methods [contactless payments] make spending money even more painless [than card payments], they’re encouraging shoppers to buy impulsively, over-spend, and purchase unhealthy products even more.”

I have reverted to a cash only budget. I have cash when I go out and I use cash in all shops. If a shop doesn’t accept cash (rare) I choose another. The vast majority of retailers, restaurants and cafes love and welcome cash. I know how much I have, I know how much I have left.

My weight is stuck in the healthy BMI range at last. I’m not gaining and losing weight. The yoyo of weight gain and weight loss has stopped, right in the place where it should. Most importantly I feel more in control. And I’ve stopped criticising myself for not being in control.

Who knew that cash would work better than any diet or exercise?

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