Friday, July 30, 2010

Budget your calories, and your money


By Robyn Davis Sekula

I've spent most of my adult life battling the bulge. Haven't we all? But one think I've always been skeptical about is weight loss pills, drugs, fad diets and anything else that promises great weight loss without any work.

To me, there's a corollary there between weight loss and financial gain: you can't get something for nothing. And, of course, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

For weight loss, you must obey this one simple principle: take less in (calories) and spend more (calories) to lose weight. For financial gain, take more in (money) and spend less (money) to gain money. It's that simple.

Also, you really don't need to spend money to accomplish either goal. You can walk outside or run and use an online calorie tracker for your weight loss. For money, you can prepare a budget on a sheet of paper. It's all about your own discipline from there. Money can't buy you discipline.

Calories have become a budget item for me. I use thedailyplate.com to track my calories. You plug in your weight, height, and how much you want to lose and how fast. It tells you how many calories you have to "spend" during the day. You gain calories back by exercising. If I have a big evening out planned, I make sure to eat a lighter lunch, cut back on snacks, exercise and order sensibly.

I've also discovered what's calorie cheap: fruit and vegetables. You can eat an entire tomato for about 25 calories, an apple for 60, a banana for about 100. Full of fiber, fat-free and low in calories, this is a perfect way to eat lots of food and resolve my hunger. I've also discovered that some of my favorite treats have lost their appeal because I now know how many calories they cost me. A French Silk Pie Blizzard from Dairy Queen is almost 700 calories. Sure, I love them, but a half-day's worth of calories isn't worth it for me. The occassional donut, though, is about 260 calories, so I do still indulge in that.

So far, I've lost 13 pounds, and I plan to lose more. I'd like to get down to the weight I was when I got married in 1996, which for me is the upper end of what the height/weight charts say I should be at - so it's reasonable and I know I'll feel great. It will probably also prolong my life.

The financial cost to me is a membership in the local YMCA, which is for me, my husband and three kids, and a place we love to go, all for $60-some per month, and the $2.99 dailyplate.com application for my Blackberry. That's it. Years ago, I went to Weight Watchers, but I don't have the time to make a regular meeting, plus, I don't think the program teaches you the fundamentals you need. You don't learn about calories and nutrients, you learn about points, and ultimately, that doesn't do you any good.

The point is this: you have to know what indulgences cost you before you dive in. If you have a tendency to spend on clothes that you don't need, stay the heck out of your favorite stores. Likewise, if you love ice cream but know that you don't have the calories available to eat that Blizzard, then DON'T GO to Dairy Queen.

You can extend your life, and the life in your life, by engaging in good, old-fashioned discipline. It won't cost you a thing.

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