After losing weight (nearly 30 pounds) and transforming my body, the most common question I receive these days is how I did it. There’s no secret to my success, but it wasn’t an accident either. It was through lifestyle change. I used many of the same approaches that I take toward my finances and put them toward my equally important goal of living a healthier life.
Losing Weight and Saving Money
Losing weight is often a topic of personal finance posts. It makes sense, as they both take planning and dedication. I have made great progress in the area of my financial health. However, having 3 kids, working a high-stress job as a psychologist, and turning 40 years old has taken its toll on my physical health.
I decided to apply the same principles that worked for saving money toward losing weight. The result: I have lost nearly 30 pounds in the past five months. Here’s what worked for me.
Related article: How I lost 20 pounds in 15 Weeks
The first step was taking a look at myself and realizing I was not happy with my situation.
When I was a post-doc with a new baby and out-of-work husband, I knew that something had to change.
Similarly, after gaining weight and not liking the way I looked or felt, I accepted the fact that I was overweight and wasn’t going to get any healthier if I kept doing what I was doing.
After accepting the reality of my situation and realizing the need for change, I had to make a commitment. With both my financial and physical health, a quick fix would not solve anything. I needed to commit to long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes: spending less than I earn and eating less than I burn.
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INSPIRATION AND Motivation
Whenever embarking on a new lifestyle change, it helps to educate myself as much as possible. Not only does this help me create a plan, but learning from others who have achieved their goals also helps keep me motivated.
When I first made a decision to become financially free, I read as many blogs as I could on personal finance.
Then when I decided to commit to a healthier lifestyle, I read blogs, watched documentaries, and talked with friends who inspired and motivated me to eat healthy and exercise daily.
Related article: Best Documentaries That Inspire Living a Better Life
With my finances, I keep a budget and adjust it every month as needed (is car insurance due next month? is there a medical bill to be paid?). I record every dollar I earn and every cent I spend. This helps me understand where my money is going, what I am doing well, and where I can improve.
With my personal health, I also write down everything I eat or drink (including portion sizes) and every minute of exercise (including estimates of calories burned using an on-line calculator – I use myfitnesspal).
Often people gain weight because they underestimate calories consumed and overestimate the calories burned. As the saying goes, “You can’t outrun your fork.” If you consume more than you expend, you are going to gain weight.
Even with a budget in place, to stick to it I needed to be accountable to myself and others. I talk to my husband about every financial decision, no matter how small.
For my diet and exercise, I found a supportive accountability partner in a dear friend who has similar goals. Every day during lunch we go walking together. We celebrate each others’ successes and encourage each other through our challenges.
Talking about challenges, life always throws us curve-balls. Every month it seems there’s an unexpected event of some sort. Whether something breaks that needs a costly repair, or you’re invited to a party or get-together you haven’t budgeted the money (or calories) for, know that there will be challenges.
For finances, keeping money budgeted for “miscellaneous” costs and a healthy emergency fund can help prevent going into debt for unexpected costs.
For maintaining a healthy weight, I found that if I do interval training on the morning of a party, I am less likely to gain extra pounds if I eat something more indulgent. (I’m also less likely to want to overeat and undo all the hard work I put in.)
Related article: 12 Ways to Avoid Gaining Weight During Parties
Keep things interesting
To make saving money fun, I challenged myself to a year of exploring all the free or low-cost events in my area.
To keep my fitness fun, I am constantly looking for new healthy and delicious recipes. I also continue to add exercises to my workouts (walking, jogging, swimming, treading water, aqua jogging, otter rolls, jumping rope, resistance bands, planks). I do a different combination of exercises every day.
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Do What Works for You
A budget doesn’t do you any good unless it works for your lifestyle. Similarly, you can have the best nutrition plan or exercise regimen, but if it’s not something you will stick to, it’s useless.
I have no grace or balance, so yoga isn’t a good fit for me despite the fact that my friends swear by it. Driving to work-out isn’t worth the extra time, so I don’t go to the gym.
The only exercise I enjoyed doing was walking outside. So, jogging outdoors became a natural extension of that for me. Eventually (when I started to see the transformations to my body), I got excited about exercising and gradually added other activities I enjoy.
Similarly, eating a mostly plant-based diet is something I can get behind. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and water. Limit processed foods, added sugars, and meat. This makes complete sense to me – it’s not a trend, it’s common sense. It’s also consistent with my value of sustainable sources of food. (Though I do still enjoy my occasional pizza and ice cream.)
Related article: ‘Planetary Health Diet’ Grocery Haul
Make Adjustments Not Excuses
If something costs more than I expected, I make changes to my budget (usually cutting back on groceries, which is our largest variable monthly cost). I don’t use it as an excuse to go over budget.
When I injured my ankles and couldn’t run, I turned to aqua jogging in the pool to cross-train. If it’s raining outside, I don’t use it as an excuse to skip my jog or swim for the day. Instead, I do a cardio workout inside, for example with a jump rope. If I really don’t want to do cardio one day, I will turn it into a strength training day using resistance bands or focusing on a core workout (planks have become my core workout of choice for a sexy stomach).
I made the decision that I will not make excuses, only adjustments.
Related article: How to Overcome Challenges
Remembering Your Why
Whenever someone equates saving money to “depriving” oneself, I am perplexed. The entire point of saving money is to have the freedom to do what you want with your life rather than being shackled to your job or debt.
Similarly, when I have the urge to eat unhealthy or skip a workout, I remind myself of why I am doing it in the first place. It’s not to deprive myself, but rather to keep myself healthy and strong. Sleeping well, managing stress, and having enough energy to tackle my day are my other “whys.” Both eating healthy and exercising help move me closer to my goal of losing weight and my value of living a healthy life.
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it’s a marathon, not a Sprint
Saving money will not be a straight linear trend up. Losing weight will not be a straight line down. There will be days when I spend money I hadn’t planned. And if you offer me ice cream, I am going to eat it. That’s okay – it’s life. Just don’t let set-backs turn into give-ups. Remember, it’s about the long-term gains (or losses).
I’ve come to realize that when someone is financially or physically fit, it’s not by accident. I have learned a lot from people who made lifestyle choices that are consistent with their life values. They inspired me to find enjoyable and sustainable changes that fit my lifestyle. I hope my story can do the same for you.