H&M Is to Fashion What McDonald’s Is to Nutrition

Forget cutting back on buying clothes. Just cut out the junk.

When it comes to fad diets, I’ve tried them all. I gave the juicing trend a whirl, hopped on the no-carb bandwagon, tried out South Beach, and went no-fat for a few months. In the end, I lost and gained the same 15 pounds about 20 times. I know that fad diets are intrinsically unhealthy, but the thrill at the beginning is pure bliss. It’s a heady time of promise: This will be the time I change my lifestyle for good, treat my body like a temple, only eat things like fruits and nuts and berries. And then there’s the even better thrill when, three days later, you catch a whiff of pizza and the whole “body as a temple” thing goes to hell.

Yes, I’ll willingly give up all sustenance at the mere hint of an extra pound or two. So I feel slightly guilty that I’m rendered speechless at the latest diet I came across. Because this diet, friends, doesn’t require you to give up food. It requires you to give up buying new clothes. For a year.

The Great American Apparel Diet (GAAD for short) started in 2009 when a group of 20 women decided to forego purchasing any new clothing for 12 months. (Some made it through, some caved.) Since its founding, the group has swelled to more than 300 members, all of whom vow to cut back on their spending. Some are motivated by a financial setback, others do it in the name of sustainability, still others do it as an answer to the rampant “buy now, discard tomorrow” consumer mindset that was, in part, fueled by mass-market, trend-centric stores like Forever 21, H&M and Zara.

It makes sense, I guess, but it got me wondering: Could I really give up buying new clothes for an entire year? And if I could, would I ever want to?

The answer? A resounding no. Absolutely not. Never. I’m sure my husband wishes I could say otherwise, and part of me does too. I’m sure that being relieved of the pressure of shopping would be freeing, and I’d probably grow spiritually, learn not to place so much emphasis on what I wear, be a better person, blah blah blah. Maybe not shopping would give me more time to actually figure out how to use that juicer, and maybe I’d lose those 10 pounds once and for all.

But with independent businesses struggling to stay afloat and the economy in a precarious state, is embarking upon a self-imposed shopping diet really what we need right now? I’m all for paring down bloated wardrobes and buying quality over quantity. And I think we all could stand to be more mindful of our consumer habits. But perhaps a better way to do this is to put ourselves on a “fast fashion” diet, and vow to stay away from the the retail equivalent of McDonalds and Burger King: the knock-off chains like H&M and Zara, which purvey low-quality, disposable clothing made to last no longer than one or two washes. We should be focusing our energies on shopping smarter, not just less.

This year, I’m thinking about giving up cheese, high-calorie beers and white bread. But those brick red, glossy leather Alexander Wang booties I’ve been eyeing for months? Not a chance.