Fat Money

It’s the first day of a brand new year, and all over the country, people are getting a start on their New Year’s resolutions. Many are likely tackling one or both of the twin bogeys of modern American life: Lose Weight and Get Out of Debt. The more I deal with both of them in my life, the more I’ve come to see them as identical””perhaps even conjoined””twins. Consider:

“¢ Both are budgeting issues: the challenge is to wisely allocate our money and calories.
“¢ Each is ruled by a simple formula: Spend Less than You Earn, and Eat Less than You Burn.
“¢ We are susceptible to binge and purge cycles in both.
“¢ Emotional stress can trigger both overeating and overspending.
“¢ You can’t go cold turkey from either money or food.
“¢ There are similar shame issues involved in talking about problems with both.
“¢ There are multi-billion dollar industries built on promising us a easy, quick solutions: lotteries, investment schemes, Lose 20 Pounds in 2 Weeks!
“¢ True progress comes from small changes consistently applied over time.
“¢ Commercial advertising has a largely negative effect on both weight and wallets.

Some of our choices impact both: for instance, the daily designer coffee drink that costs $5 and 500 calories. If you have such a habit, consider yourself lucky: with one change, you can gain ground on two fronts. Sometimes, we’re offered choices that force a trade-off between the two goals: maxing out a credit card to buy exercise equipment, or buying cheaper, less healthy food to conform to a strict budget. (As I type this, a perfect example presents itself: a commercial on TV is offering me a spandex sausage casing to force my chubby self into, to give the appearance of “instant weight loss!” I can spend 50 real dollars to lose 30 pretend pounds? What a deal!)

Given the many ways our weight and money habits intertwine, I find it useful to tackle them with the same tools and approaches.
“¢ Know your numbers: track what you spend and what you eat, and get a handle on where your money goes out and where calories come in. Then look for ways to cut both.
“¢ Little things add up. This can work for you or against you””the interest compounding on money saved, or fattening effect of a daily can of soda.
“¢ Make changes you can live with, literally. Unless you enjoy yo-yo dieting and debt, you need to get in the mindset that you’re creating a new way to live, not adopting a short-term program that you’ll abandon once you reach your goal.
“¢ You can live with bigger changes that you imagine, if you take it in stages. Start with a small change, and when it feels natural, stretch it, and then stretch it again.
“¢ Set specific goals, both short- and long-term. Celebrate intermediate milestones to keep yourself motivated.
“¢ Learn to delay gratification.
“¢ Take the long view: whether you’re trying to lose 100 pounds or save up $100,000, it’s not going to happen overnight. But it will happen, if you keep at it. As my doctor said to me at my last check-up, “What you weigh in the next two or three years isn’t as important as what you weigh over the next 30 years.”
“¢ Perhaps the most important point of all: Start Now. Start the minute you decide to do it. Don’t wait for some arbitrary future point (January first, Monday morning, next month, next year, after I design the perfect plan, when I’m 40, when things settle down, once I get a new job, etc.) NOW is not only the best time to make a change for the better, it’s the only time you have. If you’re waiting for some magical time to get started, all you’re really doing is wasting a series of nows, and you’ll never get them back again. I would love to be 100 pounds lighter and thousands of dollars richer right now, but unfortunately, I wasted the years and years of nows that could have gotten that for me. I can’t be there today, but I can do the things today that will get me there someday. And so can you.

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6 Responses to Fat Money

  1. CountessZ says:

    I know we’ve talked about this correlation before, but I always find it to be a really helpful topic. I’ve been continuing to put off adding in some kind of physical activity and this weekend found myself saying again, “Well, it will be easier to do when I’m in Portland with Kari.” Only, as you say, now is the time.

    Corvus and I had such a nice walk yesterday that I said to him we should always take a nice long walk whenever I’m home–weekends, holidays, work from home days. I’ve also been thinking lately that it would be nice to go for a 20-30 minute walk over lunch, maybe three days a week would place it more in the realm of achievable.

    Also, pretty soon Wii Fit comes out, and we plan on getting that. When I figure out more what that entails, perhaps I can figure out how to fit that into the routine at that point. There is also some kind of yoga game for the DS that came out in Japan, I should look into that…

  2. Corvus says:

    We’re constantly being sold “instant success” in both of these realms and it feeds into a tendency for an “all or nothing” approach. Taking it one small step at a time, as you say, is really the only way to effect lasting change in just about any system.

  3. kaizerin says:

    It’s so hard to stick with it long enough to begin to see results, and once you ‘get it’, it’s hard to share the insight with others in a way that motivates them. I had to get to a point of literally fearing for my life, and now that I see the benefits of letting small changes work over a long time, I would like to be able to just hand over the experiences and mental processes I’ve gone through to others, so they can jump right to the point I’m at without being terrorized into it. But then, I never believed all the people over the years who tried to tell me, did I?

  4. CountessZ says:

    First lunchtime walk taken. Small step for Countess-kind.

  5. kaizerin says:

    Yay, good for you!!

    I was very amused by Get Rich Slowly’s post on his 2008 goals. “Lose 40 pounds, save $10K, write book.” Classic!

  6. Ramona says:

    Julia Cameron beat him to it: “The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size” (Penguin)
    The review I read made alot of sense. I doubt I buy the book in order to read her “how to” as I have with her other books. I tend to read the book instead of following the suggestions.
    Which was your point about motivating others. We have to somehow find our own motivation to do the right thing(s).
    I agree with all you blogged about eating and spending. I remember actually feeling a “hunger” when walking through Younkers knowing I didn’t have $$$$ to buy all the pretty things.

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