Our relationship with food and money

Marketplace Staff Apr 1, 2011

Our relationship with food and money

Marketplace Staff Apr 1, 2011

Tess Vigeland: I could not tell you the number of times we’ve compared budgeting to dieting on this program.
And a new book says it’s no accident that our attitudes and feelings about food and money are connected. Whether it’s self-deprivation, excess or shame, Geneen Roth says it’s all of a piece. Her book is “Lost And Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money.” Thank you for being here.

Geneen Roth: Thanks so much. Glad to be here.

Vigeland: You make the argument that how we eat and how we spend money are directly related to how we feel about ourselves. I think that’s understandable, but draw the line for us from what we eat to how we spend our money.

Roth: People often feel like they can’t get enough and they can’t get enough of the food they really want. They can’t get enough of the things they really want. They can’t get enough money. There’s this feeling of “not enough, not enough, not enough,” and not allowing yourself to have what you have.

There’s also another thing that I talk about called “rationalizing,” when we rationalize that it’s OK to eat this when I’m standing at the stove, it’s OK to eat this if it’s off my kid’s plate.

Vigeland: And the money corollary there?

Roth: If it’s on sale, it doesn’t count.

Vigeland: Right! Of course! Is this hardwired into us? Is this biological?

Roth: Well, I don’t think it’s biological. It’s about what’s going that we’re using food and money to deal with to… another word people are using these days, to medicate ourselves. We use it as a drug. I say, we use them to change the channel on what’s going on in our minds and our lives.

Vigeland: I want to talk to you about the catalyst for this book, which was your own experience going through a big news story from a couple of years ago. You were a Madoff victim, Bernie Madoff.

Roth: Yes, I was. I had a good friend who had been invested, whose father knew Madoff and had been invested with him for 30 years. And he invited some of his friends into it.

Vigeland: And you lost your entire life savings.

Roth: Everything. Thirty years of life savings, gone. And it was, as you can imagine, terrifying and shocking and I went through a period of huge shame and guilt, remorse, terror. I wasn’t actually sure how my husband and I were going to make it through, how we were going to live, if we were going to be able to stay in our house. It was pretty horrifying.

Vigeland: Yeah, I cannot imagine and there are thousands of people who were in that same situation as well — who all, I’m sure took different lessons from that. But what were some of the revelations that now have come into this book out of what happened to you?

Roth: One of the things that I learned almost immediately — and this was more survival based for me — I had to figure out in those first few days and weeks, how to bring myself back really from the terror. And so I started focusing on what I did have, not what I didn’t have, on what I could find. Which is why I called the book “Lost and Found.” I started feeling so much better by realizing there was sufficiency that I actually had been ignoring for many many years.

Vigeland: Well, you know, we were having some fun at the start of the conversation, and you do offer some fun advice on how we can have a better relationship with money and perhaps also with food. Wanna share a few of those with us?

Roth: People are loaded with great advice for both food and money.

Vigeland: Yup.

Roth: Everybody has heard what to do, how to do it, where to invest, what to invest. I have been hearing that for years…

Vigeland: On this very show even!

Roth: That’s right! From you Tess! You give great advice. And I love listening to you — except I hear you and I think, “That sounds great.” And then I wouldn’t do any of it. And so that’s what people do with food. We’re loaded with advice; we don’t follow it. And so what I really want people to do, number one: Being interested in why I’m not following the advice. Because unless you understand why you’re not following all the advice you’re given, then all the good advice in the world doesn’t do anything.

I’ve realized that there’s something going on with your relationship with money and food, then you can actually listen to fabulous financial advice.

Vigeland: Geneen Roth is the author of “Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money.” Geneen, thanks so much for coming in.

Roth: Thanks so much Tess.

Vigeland: You can read more on our Big Book blog.

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