Losing Weight and Losing Debt. What can they learn from each other?

by jolyn on March 22, 2011

in On Budgeting

I ran into an acquaintance the other day I hadn’t seen in months upon months. When I saw her I inwardly gasped: she had lost so much weight!

We were both attending a 31 Gifts Party that was doubling as a fundraiser for our mutual friend who’s raising money to provide a service dog for their special needs daughter.

Got that?

(Oh, and they just met their goal, too, which was to raise $13,000 yea! But that’s another story.)

Since we were mutually fashionably late (ahem) we ended up sitting next to each other in the back of the packed room. I took an opportunity to say to her, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re looking great.”

Tracking Eating. Tracking Spending.

Thus began a friendly conversation about what, exactly, she has been doing. And it’s so simple: she’s writing down everything she’s eating.

So simple, yet, so hard. Yes?

She’s not doing some crazy, complicated diet. She’s not exercising like a fiend. (Or at all, she admitted: baby steps, people.) And she’s not beating herself up when she splurges on a couple of brownies, like she did right after we talked.

She simply writes down exactly what she eats and how many calories it’s worth. And she does this every day.

I couldn’t help but think how this relates to tracking our finances: so many people try to create a budget, only to give it up when it’s not sustainable, or when they have a bad day.

Conscious Eating. Conscious Spending.

By writing everything down, you’re committing to conscious spending. Or conscious eating, as it were. As my friend pointed out, she’s not fooling anyone but herself if she “cheats” by not writing something down that she ate; after all, she’s not publishing it anywhere, or even sharing it with anyone. The only person she’s lying to is herself if she doesn’t commit to paper what she actually put inside her body.

She does have a general idea of how many calories she’d like to eat in a day. She’s not fastidious about adding them up as her day goes along, but she does keep track on a fairly regular basis. She didn’t share whether that was daily, or weekly… I kinda got the impression it was just whenever she felt like it.

Just like spending — if we’re tracking our finances, and at the end of the day we have more month left than money? We can go back and see where it all went; check for a major hiccup; see what areas we might cut back in; take a mental note to avoid a particular trap in the future. We’re just being conscious about our spending.

So it might be with tracking your eating. Feeling worse than usual? Got that bloated thing going on? Er, digestive system out of whack? You can check and see how you ate the week before; see what the culprit might have been; get an idea of what made you feel the way you do.

And It Works.

Conversely, mysteriously, you start noticing that you need to invest in a new wardrobe. That your pants need cinching up. That people are asking you if you got a new haircut.  Because you’re losing weight.  

And all you’re doing is writing it down. Tracking it. Being conscious about it. Being honest with yourself.

It’s amazing how powerful that is. And effective. That’s why I feel so strongly about tracking your finances: a budget is simply not sustainable if you don’t know where your money is going in the first place.

By simply writing down everything she eats, that acquaintance has lost 55 pounds since last February. Maybe that’s not remarkable, maybe it is. But I’m betting that it’s sustainable. Because she’s not done yet, and she gave no signs of being discouraged, or impatient, or unhappy with her progress.

Since she’s not forcing a fancy diet on herself, or any complicated restrictions, the only way she can backslide is if she were to stop writing it all down. And after a whole year of enforcing the simple habit of tracking her eating, what are the chances that she will stop it for no reason? Especially now that she can look back and see: it’s working!

Fifty-five pounds! That’s exciting. And I for one can’t wait to see where she’s at in another year.

{ 1 trackback }

: Weight Loss & Debt Loss=Equal?
May 6, 2011 at 12:57 am

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Forest April 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm

It’s all about tracking and having goals. I am almost certain that whatever route you choose if you do this you will succeed. That is in money and weight!

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jDeppen March 29, 2011 at 2:00 am

I also believe this is true. I’ve come so far with money (and minimalism) that this is the next logical step for me. Now I just need to make it happen.

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jolyn Reply:

Go for it! Remember, it’s for you, not anyone else. Whenever you fall off the horse, you can dust yourself off and hop right back in the saddle. :)

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Blondie March 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I’m a huge believer that the two can easily go hand in hand. When I track (either my food intake/weight or my finances) I’m much more apt to meet my goals.

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Pete March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I’ve lost about 20 pounds now by doing pretty much the same thing – just tracking my eating and making sure not to over-indulge myself constantly. If you just live with moderation – in both eating and spending – you’ll see things start to turn around. Starting the tracking and sticking with it is where most people fall short.

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jolyn Reply:

Awesome job! Mindful spending, mindful eating, mindful living… moderation, moderation, moderation. With an occasional splurge in there. ;)

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jolyn Reply:

Awesome job! Mindful spending, mindful eating, mindful living… Moderation, moderation, moderation… With a splurge in there now and again, eh? ;)

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Rachel @ the minimalist mom March 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm

So true, it all fits together, right? The eating less and the spending less.
I lost 25 pounds once using a calorie tracking app. I’m not using it any longer but the habits you create from it, thinking before you eat, eating mindfully, are still around.
I’m also tracking my spending and our debt progress. Great way to stay motivated.

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Joan March 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

VERY much agree. I’m a part-time Weight Watchers leader – in part to supplement my debt-reduction plan, ha! – and there are so many things we share that really apply to making a lifestyle change in any area, finances included.

One of our recent mantras was, “When you really work a plan, it really works,” encouraging our members to more accurately track and measure what they eat. Same goes for spending, though; if you’re doing a debt snowball, DO it. Don’t sort of do it. Because then it only sort-of works.

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Courtney Baker March 24, 2011 at 10:23 am

I have always claimed that managing money and weight is the same game. Especially in the pyschology of it, first you have to build awareness (tracking), then you have to create a plan (budget/meal plan). Then after at least three months, you’ll be in the habit naturally that you don’t have to track anymore.

The idea of allotment is also interesting. If I save here, I can splurge here. Since I know I’m going to a bday party, I might add an extra workout to my week.

Weight loss or debt busting, I always love hearing success stories!

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Paula @ AffordAnything.org March 23, 2011 at 1:03 am

I just read an article about this … about “mindful” eating, the piece called it, about the art of chewing slowly and savoring every bite. The story suggested it would help you eat less but feel more satisfied. We could do this with spending, too — appreciate everything we buy, slowly and mindfully, so we buy less but feel more satisfied.

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