Cutting Calories? Eat Before You Shop
According to folk wisdom, it’s best not to grocery shop on an empty stomach. Supposedly, you’ll be more likely to make impulse buys, and you’ll end up paying for things you never intended to buy. The implication has always been that people trying to cut calories, or avoid sweets, for instance, would find their willpower no match for the siren call of the doughnut case. Did your own mother ever share this bit of advice with you? Believe it or not, researchers at the University of Minnesota decided to put this wives’ tale to the test.
As it turns out, mom was right all along. We really do buy more when we’re hungry.
But it’s not just extra food that we’re more likely to load into our carts when our stomachs are rumbling. According to researchers, shoppers who hit the mall on an empty stomach spent a whopping 64% more money than people who shopped on a full stomach. That includes non-food items one would find in any ordinary American shopping mall. Evidently, hunger sparks our desire to acquire things—anything. Not just food.
“Hunger makes us think about seeking, acquiring, and consuming food,” says Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. “The acquisition-related thoughts can spill over and put us in a mode of also getting nonfood items, even though they are incapable of satisfying our hunger.”
So eating before you head out to shop may be a good strategy to help you save money, or avoid buying diet-wrecking treats. “If you go for a shopping trip with an empty stomach you may spend more money and buy more stuff than you otherwise would,” said Xu. “Why not feed yourself before a shopping trip? Alternately, if you are hungry and you have to make purchasing decisions, think twice before you buy.”
“Hunger Promotes Acquisition of Nonfood Objects,” Alison Jing Xu, Norbert Schwarz, Robert S. Wyer, Jr., Proceedings of the National Academy of Science