Live to Eat Well, Exercise, Be Well in Mind and Body

6 Ways to Improve Your Health and Finances at the Same Time

Having too little money and too many extra pounds – few things in life are rife with so much shame and fear. While it is typical to feel alone in your shame, the truth is that few people escape money and/or weight problems. Three quarters of Americans say they have money worries, and about that many Americans, children included, are overweight or obese.

According to the Financial Health Institute, 3 out of every 4 Americans report finances are the main contributor to their stress. That stress often results in negative coping behaviors like excessive drinking, overeating, smoking, escapism (television and movies). Those stress-induced coping mechanisms then manifest themselves in nasty ways – depression, weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and more. Medical bills then stack up, creating ongoing stress, and the cycle continues. A strong argument can be made that financial and physical health and fitness cannot be tackled separately, but must be a package deal.

Instant Gratification

Inherent in the discussion of health and finances, is that greatest of American traditions – instant gratification. Sure, eating half a box of Oreos or buying that new pair of shoes feels good in the moment, but the dark side of instant gratification is the loss of impulse control, leaving us slaves to consumption, debt, extra weight, stress, and ill health. Culturally, we are not taught to pause and weigh the costs before we eat and shop. Just do it. Just eat it. Just buy it. Charge it now; pay later. That is the American way of life.

This is why financial and physical fitness have to be addressed simultaneously. If we would intentionally sit down and calculate how much money we are consuming by satiating our physical appetite for food, caffeine, and alcohol, we would be shocked. When the desire to lose weight and gain health and vitality is coupled with the desire to lose debt and gain financial freedom, it can be a one-two punch that reinforces our commitment to tackling negative consumption habits.

But no one can be shamed into being a wealthier, healthier human being. Hate and shame don’t serve as motivators; they only serve to create an oppressive weight of judgement that few people can crawl out from under. If losing weight or losing debt were easy, everyone would do it. It requires sacrifice and hard work; it is difficult and overwhelming, and there is no quick and easy solution. And it’s hard to know where to start.

So start here. Here are 6 tips and tricks to improve your health and your finances at the same time.

1. Weigh the Cost

Eating out, coffee to-go, field trips to the bakery, drinks after work, hobby-induced grocery shopping – it all costs more than you think. By signing up for Mint, a free and online financial manager that links into bank account, you can take a hard and honest look at how much money you are physically consuming and literally flushing down the toilet.

2. Create a Budget

No doubt that last foray into expense tracking has you crying into your beer. Now dry your tears, put on your big girl or big boy pants, and create a budget using Mint, that magical financial manger. After your bills are paid, your first priority is to build an emergency savings account, followed by an aggressive elimination of credit card or student loan debt. Take a look at your leftovers, and assign yourself a modest allowance for restaurants, coffee shops, and booze. Download Mint on your smartphone to stay on track.

3. Use Food As a Currency

A helpful psychological tactic in rationing daily and weekly servings and splurges is to think of food as currency, a weekly allowance, or a per deim expense account. A weight loss program like Weight Watchers utilizes points instead of calories as a helpful and playful way to monitor and budget food intake. Dave Ramsey, author of Financial Peace University, actually used the Weight Watchers model as the basis for his debt elimination program.

4. Get Cookin’

Making food in your own kitchen is only a fraction of the cost compared to eating out. And you are in complete control of the ingredients and serving sizes. Have some fun and experiment with different grains, legumes, vegetables, and spices to kick up the nutritional value. Make a big batch, and you’ll have leftovers to enjoy for lunch at work. This is good news for both your wallet and your waistline. Visit websites like Eating Well for free nutritious and delicious recipes.

5. Find Your Muse

There is a reason creative types are often referred to as “starving artists”. Looking at your forlorn budget for food and entertainment, you could get depressed, or you could get creative. This is your chance to write that book you’ve been talking about for ten years, pick up the guitar gathering dust in the corner, learn to knit, break open the sketch book, grow a small garden, and make your own natural body products. By switching from a consumption mentality to a creative mentality, you open yourself up to a world of wonder and possibilities.

6. Make Exercise a Hobby

Unless you’re enrolled at a seriously expensive boutique gym, exercise is an affordable activity. A modest gym membership runs from $10-$50 a month – many of which offer classes in kickboxing, barre, bootcamp, yoga, and more. Instead of meeting your friends at the pub or at the greasy spoon, make some new friends at the gym and get moving. And when the weather is nice, enjoy a long walk, hike, or run outside. Those exercise-induced endorphins and Vitamin D from the sun will provide you plenty of feel-good motivators to keep you on track, both financially and physically.

To conclude, it bears repeating that neither your wallet or your waistline can afford to gorge itself on whatever it wants, whenever it wants. But take heart. Remember that we’re all in this together. Few people escape the worry of money and/or weight. So, let us lose the contempt – for both ourselves and others – and encourage and build one another up instead. Follow the aforementioned tips and tricks and chances are high that you will drop the weight and gain financial freedom at the same time.

 

 

 

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