How to Stop Overeating When You're Going Broke

Do you turn to food when you feel financially stressed or worried? Try this.

Posted Apr 01, 2019

Most of my life I was very successful. I was a psychologist seeing patients by the time I was 25, and a second career in tandem doing advertising consulting for industry. I wrote a proposal right out of graduate school for more than $50,000. I couldn’t believe I got it, and they actually sent the check. 

In my 30s I built a practice in a wealthy NYC suburb doing child and family therapy. I absolutely loved it and was overloaded with clients in 18 months. Right around that time I also invented a novel advertising research protocol and sold a project based upon it to a large company for just under $1,000,000. I thought I had a "Midas Touch."

But when I was 37 that all changed. A drunk driver hit my car and caused an injury that led to a decade of migraines whenever I worked too long on the computer. Unbeknownst to me, I also had Lyme disease, which made treating the migraines next to impossible. Finally, my ex-wife and I had taken the money from the million-dollar project and invested it in building the fanciest, most modern, most technologically up-to-date focus group facility on Long Island. We hired approximately 20 people to run it, and took on a monthly nut of almost $150,000.

It was going OK, but then 9/11 came along. We were just outside of NYC. Our clients, mostly Fortune 500 companies, immediately stopped sending people to New York to do research, instead opting to use Internet video stream, which was just coming into vogue. The expense of flying employees around the world to watch focus groups just didn't make sense for them anymore.

But we had a 10-year lease and had invested a fortune starting up. We were dead in the water. The whole fiasco went on for two years before we managed to get out. We lost everything we had (and more) roughly $2,000,000.  The funny thing I learned about losing $2,000,000 is that it’s not like losing your car keys, you don’t have to have $2,000,000 to lose $2,000,000. We wound up deep in debt.

The worst part, however, wasn't the money, it was that I turned to excess food to cope. I gained a lot of weight very quickly. I made myself sick looking for solace in pizza, chocolate, and Pop-Tarts. 

In short, I became fat, sick, and broke, when I could’ve just been broke!

In retrospect, I could’ve handled everything much better if I'd only been broke. Getting fat and sick did nothing but sap my energy, demoralize me, and give me an even more negative outlook in the business, and about my life in general. It would've been so much easier to handle all the vendors screaming for money, the incredible stress of having to let go of treasured employees, and the constant fights with my spouse without all that sugar, flour, fat, and salt coursing through my veins, and without the burden of carrying an extra 60 to 80 pounds.

And you know what? There were NO men in white suits with mustaches whoever came to take away my house, my car, my computer, my healthy food options, and/or my treadmill.

And that’s the lesson I’d like you to take away. You don’t have to get fat, sick, and broke just because you're having financial troubles. In fact, if you eat healthily you’ll probably have more capacity to deal with the financial issues in the first place. The odds of going broke may be much less than you think. 

But even if you do go broke, I can tell you from experience that it's about a billion times better to just be broke vs. fat, sick, and broke. We never had to declare bankruptcy, but it did take me several painful years to take the weight off for good, and the additional blood lipid issues caused by my overeating seriously interfered with diagnosing the real problem with the migraines.

That's why I now say: "If you've got six problems and then you overeat, you'll have seven problems." The truth is, if one of those problems is going broken and you overeat, you might just wind up with 32 problems. Going broke? OK, it happens. You're not the only one who's ever had to face it.  But you'll be much better off if you keep your wits about you vs. trying to navigate this very difficult turn in life in sugar, fat, starch, and salt-induced coma.

You can just be broke, you don't have to get fat, sick, and broke.

Food for thought, no?

For more practical tips and advice, see what to do instead of eating when you're stressed.