Based on interviews with more than 200 people each of whom successfully lost an average of 64 pounds and kept off the excess weight for at least three years I’ve found that it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to lose weight.
Most of these people accomplished their goals without spending thousands on a gym membership or spa vacation. They didn’t buy a $3,000 treadmill, have surgery to reduce their stomachs’ capacity to hold food, or go on an expensive diet-drug regimen.
Instead, they made reasonable changes to both their eating and exercise habits changes that last a lifetime. Lessons from the people I interviewed who lost weight without going broke…
• Write down what you eat
Some of us underestimate by up to half what we eat when we don’t record each morsel. It’s the little snacks the handful of peanuts or the bite of your spouse’s dessert that can trip you up.
Helpful: Many people find it helpful to keep track in a notebook of everything they eat while they are losing weight. And most of those I surveyed continued to record what they ate on a weekly or occasional basis to maintain weight loss. Just the act of keeping track of what is consumed helps many people to cut back.
• Buy a digital food scale, measuring cups and spoons and a fat and calorie counter
Many people are unaware of what constitutes an accurate food portion. We’re all used to “supersizing” our meals, so our servings often are much larger than those listed on food labels.
Example: Some calorie counters list a bagel as weighing two ounces. Yet the plump, fresh bagels we get at the bakery typically weigh four ounces doubling their calorie count to more than 300.
Total cost: Less than $100. Once you get a handle on real portion sizes, you will be able to put away the scale and books. But don’t discard them.
Reason: It’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure you are still eyeballing portions correctly and that your calorie and fat counts are on target.
• If you need help losing weight, shop around for a value-conscious program
Half of the people I studied lost weight on their own. The other half needed help from professionals or programs. There’s nothing wrong with signing up for commercial programs, but they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
• Walk it off
By far, walking was the top exercise choice of the people whom I surveyed.
Reasons: It doesn’t cost anything, you can do it outdoors or indoors at a mall with a dog or friends near your home or at a local university or school at a low, moderate or high intensity whatever you are comfortable with.
Important: More than half of the people I surveyed did more than one kind of exercise to break the monotony of a daily workout.
• Take advantage of community adult education exercise programs
At night, many local schools open their doors to adults for physical education classes such as aerobics, calisthenics, swimming or country line dancing. These classes are typically inexpensive (less than $50), last for several weeks and are taught by experts.
• Borrow low-fat cookbooks from the library
Test the recipes and if you like one book especially well, buy it and use it. Or, since most of us tend to eat the same 10 dinners over and over again, select five to 10 low-fat recipes and copy them from the book onto recipe cards.
• See a registered dietitian (RD) at the local hospital
Not only can RDs assess where your eating habits are falling short, they can devise a personalized plan for you that will help you to control your food intake and get the nutrition you need.
Cost: A visit to an RD costs about $40. If you have a weight-related medical illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, the cost may be covered by your health insurance.
• Spend your snack money on fruits and vegetables
The people I interviewed told me that this was their biggest secret of weight loss and weight maintenance.