How to lose weight and save money at the same timeBy Money Mage · · Healthy Living, Food, Exercise, Habits, Frugality, Fruggles
It’s the time of year again. Overindulgence at Christmas. Spent way more than we’d like. Regrets and tummies are large.
Everyone is asking: How to reduce my tummy? How to lose weight?
Most of us engage in the festive overindulgence. We try to compensate in January. New Year’s resolutions are set. Good intentions are laid out. Gyms fill with fruggles paying £20/mo membership fees. They’ll never use it past January.
‘I paying for my gym membership, so I’ll use it!’ ‘I spent £300 on an exercise bike, so I’ll be cycling away every evening!’
Chances are you won’t. Your money is gone. And the pounds are still on your tummy.
Like saving money. Losing weight is all about habits. You need to work on your habits, not on your weight.
How to replace bad habits with good habits.
Like most, I am not perfect when it comes to habits. I am good with money habits. I’m OK with eating habits. I’ve been terrible with exercise and well-being habits. I have also been terrible with alcohol habits. I am not a psychologist so I won’t be lecturing on theory. I have found doing the ‘right thing’ is all about building good habits and replacing bad habits. To stop a bad habit, you first need to know there is a problem. We have a problem with money, don’t we?
Take my alcohol intake. In recent years I have been hitting 30+ units per week. Plenty of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances were at a similar level. I always thought a bad day at hell-work felt better after a cold pint of lager with colleagues. Solving the world’s problems. Sorting out issues. It was fun. It was cathartic. It felt right. Neurons and chemicals reinforcing every pint downed. It was becoming a habit. A habit that was costing a fortune. I had a problem and knew it.
Take my weight. 2 years ago I was ‘obese’ at a BMI of 30.7 at 94kg. A sedentary hell-work behind a desk. No exercise since high school. Too many calories eaten. Snacks galore. Neurons and chemicals reinforcing every bite taken. Over-eating was becoming a habit. I had a problem and knew it.
I knew I had problems but nothing was making me want to change.
Then something shook me. My mum died. She was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and in November and was dead late February.
I was lost. It made me reflect. Within the week I had bought some totally-inappropriate-for-running trainers. I was out on the pavements around my childhood town. Not to lose weight. Not to do anything specific but to get out of the house and clear my head. To try and do something to distract me.
I found running great for clearing my head. Freeing up the time to think. Pacing along looking at things pass by. I kept doing it.
The experience showed me it’s possible to make a positive connection to something I didn’t want to do. You hear about it all over the place. ‘6 Positive Reinforcement Examples To Try With Your Kids’. ‘How to Train Your Dog With Positive Reinforcement’. ‘How the Best Managers and Leaders Deliver Positive Reinforcement’.
Bad habits are reinforced with neurons and chemicals rewards. Good habits are built with the same reward structures. Our brains are wired this way.
Habits form when the brain is rewarded for performing an action in response to something:
- A cue - the trigger.
- An action - something you perform.
- A reward - a reward for the action.
Take a dog trainer:
- They have a clicker (the cue)
- They say roll over and the dog performs it (the action)
- They treat the dog (the reward) This is a silly, naive example. People are not dogs! True, but people and dogs have brains that are driven by habit.
No matter the goal: To lose weight. To save money. To stop drinking too much alcohol. To stop gambling. To go to the gym 3 times a week. To take up a new hobby. You need to start reinforcing habitual behaviour.
Habits take time to form. Weeks or months of ‘sticking to the training’. The dog trainer with the clicker. This is the hardest period until the habit sets in.
It’s why when starting a habit you need to keep the action small. If you want to lose weight, try to lose a couple of pounds - not a couple of stone. If you want to save money - try saving a little. And start to reward yourself. The reward can be as simple as tracking and seeing progress going in the right direction.
As with most things in life. Have a wider goal, then start with small incremental steps towards the goal. I want to lose 2 stone. I will aim to lose 2 pounds in my first week I will stick at it for 8 weeks losing a similar amount of weight every week. Every week I will reward myself if I achieve my goal.
What’s difficult in habit building is sticking at it. How do you stick at weight loss for 8 weeks in a row? Until a habit sets in, it’s often required to be ‘on the rails’. Trained by a dog trainer with a clicker if you will. This is why set programs are so helpful.
Most programs charge though. And as Money Mages save money, why not try a free program that helps you through the first few weeks of your new habit?
For exercise, there is Couch to 5k, a guided 9-week program, each week taking you from never running to running 5 kilometres in 30 minutes. For weight loss, there is the NHS weight loss plan, a guided 12-week program to reduce intake and increase exercise. For reducing alcohol intake, try the One You Drink Free Days app which monitors what you drink and encourages drink-free days.
Before you join a gym, buy a £300 exercise bike, or sign up to a paid program, why not try to change your habits for free?
Money Mages won’t be asking ‘How to lose weight’? They’ll be asking how to build lasting and reinforced positive habits.
How many calories am I eating?
Most people think it’s best to hit the gym to lose weight. Weight loss is actually about 75% diet and only about 25% exercise. Hitting the gym without dealing with your habits is a way to lose money.
The key weight loss trick is reducing the number of calories you are munching. Follow it up with a 30-minute jog every few days sure if you really want to burn the pounds. You might found find a 30-minute jog too hard if you are anything like a desk-seated-hell-work Money Mage. Shed some pounds first!
One easy way is to track what you are eating. Almost everything you buy from a supermarket now has calories listed. Count those calories over a week and tot up.
Current guidance is for 1,800 calories a day over three meals.
Before you start spending cash on gym memberships, try the money-saving option. Work on your habits. Reduce what you are eating first.
The great thing is reducing the amount you eat also reduces the amount you spend!
How to save money on groceries?
All well and good Money Mage, but how do I actually save money and reduce what I eat?
I hear. I hear.
Rest not fruggles, it is simple:
Cut down on what you eat
The big weight loss win is to reduce calorie intake. This means eating less. Remember not to go from zero to hero in one step. You should build a habit and start eating a little less first.
By reducing the amount you eat, you’ll be buying less.
Cut down on snacking
Snacking is a bad habit if you are wanting to lose weight. Instead, try to eat three or four wholesome meals at set times of the day. This will reduce the amount you want to snack. If you don’t snack, you don’t have to buy them!
You can also replace a bad snacking habit with a good habit. Buy cheaper more healthy snacks. A large bag of almonds. Or loose fruit such as apples. Cheaper than a big bag of unhealthy crisps or chocolate and way healthier.
Cook in bulk and freeze
Cooking in bulk and freezing is one of the most cost-effective ways of eating well for less. It’s also a great way of eating different meals rather than the same meals over and over.
Take pasta sauce. You can cook up a huge pot of pasta sauce, onions, mince, tomatoes. You can use 1/10th of the pot for a pasta meal. Freeze the rest in freezer bags laid flat in the freezer to save space.
You then have 9 other portions frozen. You can use them different meals or the same meal again. Defrost, spice up and add beans for chilli. Or add to a lasagne with some cheese sauce. Or over a jacket potato.
Bulk cooking like this saves a fortune and loads of time.
Cut down on eating out
Takeaways and eating out is the worst thing you can do for your wallet and your.
Takeaway meals are calorie-hell. An 8 slice domino’s medium pizza is likely your entire daily calorie allowance. So are restaurants where you don’t actually know.
Hold takeaways and restaurants back as a treat, and don’t make it a regular thing.
Prepare lunch don’t buy
Lots of city workers buy lunch. At lunch or on the way into work in the morning. Buying lunch is one way to eat more and spend more. I see many of my colleagues eating all sorts of bought food every day.
Two days of Tesco sandwiches are £5. Tesco sandwiches are revolting by the way. I can eat for a whole week of lunches on £4.
Buy some spinach, pasta, feta, wraps, and beans. Throw together salads, wraps, or sandwiches in the morning or night before. Eating less. Eating healthier. Spending less. What’s not to like.
Leftovers are the best-overs
Even better than preparing lunch rather than buying lunch is leftovers. Use a small portion of yesterday’s evening meal for lunch the next day.
Tupperware it up, take it to work, reheat if necessary. Tasty and cheap.
UK households throw out tonnes of good food every year. The average UK household wastes £470/year on good produce. You can make some amazing meals from just in-date food. It’s also fun cooking together with what’s left in the fridge and cupboards. It’s creative, inventive, and tasty.
Before you throw an ‘out of date’ item in the bin, is it actually rotten? Or could you make something awesome?
Buy value and buy frozen
If you are a brand-snob, look away now. There is nothing wrong with value brands. If you really think Shreddies are twice as good as own-brand malt-wheats there is something wrong with you.
There are huge savings to be made by de-branding. There are even bigger savings to be made by down-supermarketing. Try buying from local markets or budget supermarkets!
There is also nothing wrong with good frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables like broccoli keep longer and are just as tasty. It’s also cheaper.
Don’t morning Latte
If you are a coffee snob, look away as well. I’ve never understood the £3 morning coffee. If you need a pick me up, make a cup from granules at home before you leave. If you’re such a snob you’ve bucked at granules, make up a cafetiere when you wake up.
The morning Latte is a waste of money, and it’s likely higher calorie than making your own in the morning.
Get your food budget under control
Lots of households don’t know how much they spend. And as mentioned many are throwing away up to £470/year on good food. Gather up a months food receipts and see what you’re spending. Where can you make savings?
Change your bad buying habits
Supermarkets are the worst. Offers at the end of the aisles. Buy two for the price of one. Half price offers. Yellow ‘cheapest’ labels. Baskets of crap you don’t want in the way.
Walking into a supermarket without your eyes open is handing cash over to big corporate. And we’re all walking around them like zombie shoppers.
A pet Money Mage hate at the moment is Tetley Tea in Tesco. Every week it’s a different price. Every week one of the different ‘sizes’ of Tetley Tea is cheaper. Sometimes 80 bags, sometimes 160, and sometimes 140. Big yellow label on the ‘cheapest offer’, sometimes ‘buy one get one free’. If you look at the prices of Telty Tea, they vary week by week. Some weeks the 240 bag is £7. Other weeks it’s £5. It’s a trap! Tesco is rotating the prices to confuse poor fruggle minds.
The big yellow label offer label is not the cheapest!
Rather than zombie shop, spend a little longer actually looking at what is the best per volume or weight.
How to enjoy losing weight
Money Mages know habit building is hard. Money Mages know you need to reward yourself. You’re not going to lose weight if you don’t enjoy losing weight. If you don’t see the gain for the pain. If the journey is too miserable. If everything becomes too difficult. If you feel like giving up. You’re going to give up.
It’s why the reward structures are so important.
Try to introduce rewards. A great reward when losing weight is to have a ‘day off’. 6 out of 7 days you are on the regime. Your calories are down. You’re eating healthily. You are even exercising a little. On the 7th day, you have a day off. You eat what you want. You do what you want. You don’t exercise. It’s your weekly reward.
Try to weave these reward structures in different frequencies.
A reward a day - this could be a positive thought. A mental ‘pat on the back’. Or a piece of fruit rather than a bag of crisps.
A reward a week - the ‘do what you like’ day off.
A reward a month - this is when you hit your monthly goal. Celebrate. Go out. Save a treat for a real treat.
Having these different frequencies of reward is important to reinforce the habit.
And finally, real Money Mages like spreadsheets and progress. There is nothing wrong with tracking progress in a spreadsheet. Track your calories. Track your weight. Track how much you run. The simple act of monitoring and seeing progress is a huge reward in itself.
What are your health goals for 2019?
Sources and Attribution
- Running Shoes (c) Sandy Dover, CC-BY
- Healthy Snacks (c) Sambs Sputzer, CC-BY
- Happy Apples (c) Tauress, CC-BY