Since it’s the new year, everyone’s committing to healthier eating, losing weight, toning up.
Which means…lots of money is being made at gyms (I recommend listening to this podcast episode on why you may want to think twice before signing up for a membership) & spending even more money on weight loss products.
Which is fine, I guess for the average consumer, BUT, you’re not the average consumer, are you? Here at bring joy, we embrace the DIY, frugal, can-do philosophy & spirit. If you can do it yourself, or learn how to do it yourself great. If you can do it yourself, AND save money at the same time (which is often the case), even better.
So when it comes to weight loss & embracing a healthy, active lifestyle, I want you to save money. I want you to take ownership for your health, without forking over a lot of cash in the process. And good news! This is entirely feasible. I’ll show you how with 10 tried & true tips.
Can I share what’s going on in the bring joy household?
We got a cat.
Totally unexpectedly. WE GOT A CAT.
In our 10 years of marriage, Joseph & I have never owned a pet (except for that one time, in our first year, when we had a fish, but it died in a day).
Isn’t she gorgeous?
(I realize all cat owners believe their cat is gorgeous. Humor me.)
I never thought we were “cat people,” but ever since this little gal showed up on our doorstep, we felt like she just belonged with us.
Her name is Gypsy.
We took her to the vet, got her shots (she was already spayed & neutered), & she’s acclimatizing nicely (though we did have a scare the other day where we thought she ran away).
All our kids, but especially Hyrum (my 9 year old & oldest), have begged for a pet for a good long time now. It never felt like the *right* time, & in light of our get-out-of-debt goal, adding a pet to the family didn’t seem like the prudent thing to do.
But when this cat showed up & stuck around, & my kids grew so fond of it, Joseph & I made the decision to adopt her.
Now I know why “cat people” love their cats. They’re cuddly (or at least this one is), playful, & they do have a lot of personality. And my favorite part–they’re clean & fairly low-maintenance.
(If you are a cat owner, please share your best cat caring tips in the comments below! I don’t know a lot on the subject, so I’d love to learn more from you.)
Okay, so let’s talk about weight loss. Frugal, DIY weight loss.
It’s not always easy. But it can be done.
If you apply some know-how & proven scientific principles, coupled with consistency & commitment to said principles, you can & will lose weight.
(Side note: Weight maintenance principles are not very different from weight loss principles. In fact, your maintenance diet should look very similar to a weight loss diet, with only a few tweeks.)
The weight loss industry wants you to think that weight loss can be purchased. And it can (sorta), but with a price. Often that price comes not only in a reduced bank account, but in health as well.
There are “weight loss centers” that charge thousands of dollars in a deposit just to start their program. While I won’t discuss the pros & cons of such centers here, I will say, most people can do it for much, much cheaper than that. If you can learn how to lose weight with food, your odds of maintaining that loss are much greater because you know how to eat & live in the real world, with real food.
What it really comes down to are three things: 1) Correct knowledge (not hearsay, myths, or hype) 2) Commitment & follow-through, & 3) Consistency.
Let’s start with the knowledge bit (& it’s up to you to do #’s 2 & 3).
10 frugal weight loss tips
Let’s get real.
Weight loss occurs when there is simply a consistent reduction of calories.
If you reduce calories & consistently burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight. If you reduce calories & you aren’t losing weight, don’t blame it on gaining muscle or your thyroid*, blame it on *thinking* you’re reducing calories despite NOT actually creating a consistent (notice I keep repeating this word??) calorie deficit. There are endless ways to reduce calories, but the best way is to EAT MORE low-calorie, nutrient dense foods (11 foods to focus on for weight loss) & eat less high calorie stuff (like anything refined).
*Thyroid issues are real. If you think you may have a thyroid issue, get it checked out by a medical professional & get medication as appropriate. About the muscle, it is possible to gain some weight from gaining muscle (a very good thing!), but for the average woman, a pound or so over the course of a month (& that’s with some intense weight training) is realistic.
Check out my slim + slender recipes for lots of delicious, low-calorie recipes, which make it easy to reduce calories while still eating a lot.
2. Ignore the costly weight loss products.
You can lose weight any number of ways. But for the sake of this post, we’re talking about how to do so on cheap, while improving your health. A lot of weight loss products are not FDA approved or health promoting. Permanent, sustainable weight loss doesn’t come from a bottle, pill, shake, or bar. It comes for reducing calories (see point #1), which you easily do with food.
Companies want you to think that you can’t lose weight because you are missing X, Y, or Z (insert their particular product) from your diet or regimen, but the truth is, WEIGHT LOSS HAPPENS WHEN YOU BURN MORE THAN YOU CONSUME. (I hate using all caps. But sometimes I have to be annoying to get my point across.)
I go into much greater detail about the science (in layman's terms) of weight loss, & how it has nothing to do with a product or supplement in my ebook, Fit, Strong, Lean: The Diet. (You can read the intro, here).
3. Eat more raw foods.
I’m not a raw foodist. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love raw foods! And increasing raw foods are key, KEY to losing excess weight (& then helping you to maintain).
Filling your plate with 1/3 to 1/2 with raw greens & veggies is a great way to increase your raw intake. Making your dessert (most of the time) be a piece of fruit, cut up, or a bowl of berries is another way to enhance your diet with color, nutrients, on fewer calories (which will help you with point #1).
Your meals don’t have to be 100% raw to deliver a ton of benefits. One of my favorite dishes, my kale, sweet potato, & avocado salad is highly raw & very filling.
Juicing is also a great way to get more raw foods in your diet (but be careful about any calories you drink! I rarely drink fiber-less juices myself). Focus on primarily low sugar juicing.
For more on juicing, check out my 5 tips for frugal juicing, which includes a recipe for a low-sugar juice smoothie (juice with the fiber).
4. Focus on fiber-rich, protein-rich foods (ie., beans!).
Did you know that 1 cup of black beans have 15 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, 5% of your daily value of calcium, & 20% of your daily value of iron. For just 227 calories, that’s not bad!
And black beans aren’t an anomaly. Any member of the legume family (with the exception of peanuts, which though so tasty, are more nut-like, than bean-like & for that reason & high in fat & calorie dense) will pack a punch of protein, fiber & other important nutrients.
Need some ideas for what to do with beans? Check out my bean recipe index.
5. Move, & then move some more.
To use an analogy from this post, trying to exercise the weight off without addressing your diet is like focusing on fixing a leaky faucet to conserve water while ignoring the firehose of water gushing from the pipes that have burst underneath the house. You’ve got to eat properly in order to lose weight, but adding a balanced exercise regimine can sure help speed things along.
Also, EXERCISE IS FUN.
If you don’t think exercise is fun, you haven’t found the right exercise. Humans are meant to move. We are naturally built to walk, lift, run. Having a lot of excess weight might put a damper on our appetite for exercise, but as the weight comes off, the more you will want to move. It feeds on itself (in a good way).
Also, you absolutely do not need fancy equipment or a gym membership to get fit.
Check out my 10 tips for frugal fitness post along with my free workouts for more cheap or free fitness ideas.
6. Track your food.
Keeping a food journal (via app or just with an old fashioned notebook) is one of the best ways to create awareness about what, how much, & how often you’re eating.
If someone came to me & said they were 1) $50K in debt & had no idea where their $100K/year salary goes each year & 2) wanted to get out of debt & get in good financial shape, the first thing I’d say would be to create a budget & start tracking all expenditures meticulously. You’ve got to know what you’re spending your money on, & where your money needs to go so you can get out of debt AND create a cushion & buffer for hard times (what they used to call savings in the old days). A budget is a crucial part of achieving these goals.
Think of a food journal as food budget. It’ll create awareness & keep you on track. You can just track your food (& not calories), but I think there’s a lot of value in tracking calories, not just food, at least when in weight loss mode. I’m a big fan of the Weight Watchers Point Plus system (for a number of reasons), not the least of which it’s flexible & incentives eating lots of vegetables & fruits, as well as other whole foods.
7. Practice intuitive eating.
Learning to listen to your body’s natural hunger cues can be very, very difficult for some people. Especially if you’ve never learned how to practice intuitive eating. It’s a skill that can be learned, trust me, this is coming from someone who was taught to “finish your plate”.
For more on intuitive eating, see this post.
8. Learn from the French–create routine & have “no eating” periods.
Americans can learn a lot from other cultures. One thing that has wrecked havoc on bodies is our constant snack mentality. I’ve never been a fan of grazing (snacking all day long).
Small children, infants, pregnant & even nursing women may need to eat every few hours, but adults, even very active adults should be able to go for 4, 6, 8, or even more hours without eating. Unless you’re diabetic (I was, at least in pregnancy & I know what it’s like) or have another medical condition that requires you to eat every few hours, eating 2-3 meals a day should suffice.
When you create eating rituals where you contain your eating to certain times of the day, you easily avoid the temptation to mindlessly eat. When you can sit down at a table (not computer, TV, or car), & eat mindfully & intuitively (see #7), you will naturally consume fewer calories over the course of a day.
Also, can I just point out that food is about community & interaction, not just chowing down some calories & nutrients? By connecting with food & the people around us at the same time, we’re able to eat more mindfully & notice when we’re full & should stop eating. Not to mention, it becomes a simple pleasure, something to enjoy & be savored (see point #10), with friends & family.
9. Strengthen your self-discipline muscle.
We have this fear of being hungry. And with good reason.
For most of the history of the world, the human race was just a few meals away from starvation, so hunger was the cue to eat, & eat a lot, because you never knew when your next meal was going to be.
But, isn’t it fantastic that you & I live in a state of such food abundance? We don’t have to worry about starvation. And because of this, you’ve got to trick your natural evolutionary response to eat whenever you feel the slightest twinge of hunger.
Next time you feel the urge to eat, even if you’ve just eaten a meal or snack, tell yourself–“It’s okay body. You’ve got everything you need right now. I’ve just fed you a nourishing, delicious & filling meal. Don’t worry, it will be time to eat again soon enough.”
And though it might be hard at first, the small discomfort of being hungry will pass. And before you know it, it will be time to eat again (see point #8). It will get easier. Like developing any muscle, with practice & consistency, you will get stronger & better at it. To be clear, I’m not talking about starving yourself or eating far less than your body needs to be healthy & happy. I’m talking about learning how to not give in to every twinge of hunger, especially those thoughts & urges to eat more, when you’ve clearly had enough.
Learning how to put small urges of hunger, or in other words, learning how to control your appetite, is not just good for your body, it’s good for your mind & spirit. Learning this small, but very important aspect of self-discipline will transcend into other areas of your life. Isn’t that awesome?!
10. Enjoy your food.
YES, eat, & eat some more!
Truly savor & enjoy your food. If you eat to nourish & feed your body (rather than using it as a way to curb anxiety or stress), if you make each meal a part of a greater ritual & routine (rather than a mindless, hapless occurrence), you will naturally reduce calories & help your body get to it’s natural, happy weight.
Food is NOT the enemy.
Food–real, whole, natural food–is the answer.
So enjoy it, & enjoy the energy & vitality & peace of mind that comes with it.
For some real food ideas, check out my recipe index (all recipes 100% vegan & gluten-free). Also, I wrote an entire ebook devoted to this very topic (which includes 25+ recipes). Check it out.
You have any tips or thoughts to add? Please share!