Every New Year’s Eve, what is the absolute number one resolution? Hands down, it is always to lose weight. It’s like the Holy Grail of resolutions! Because of that, the diet and exercise industry is one of the richest in the world. People spend thousands of dollars each year with hopes of losing weight – usually with “get thin quick” schemes that have no hope of working.
But not all of us have the big bucks to invest in our weight loss. That’s why I wanted to share some ideas on how to lose weight without spending a boatload of money.
Walking has always been touted as one of the easiest and most effective ways to lose weight. I don’t mind it because you don’t get all sweaty and sore like you do with other exercises and it’s relatively easy to fit into my day. And the best part is that you don’t need an expensive gym membership or any special equipment (other than a good pair of shoes) to do it. What you do need is a place to walk in all weather and a good way to motivate yourself.
The place is relatively easy. In nice weather, you can walk in a park or your own neighborhood, but in bad weather, most malls open up to walkers early in the morning before the stores open. Just watch that you don’t get tempted by all the pretties you see in the store windows or there goes your cost savings!
For me, though, I have a simpler approach. I just walk around my house. And around and around and around… Our floor plan is set up so I have a perfect little lap between the living room and the back hallway. Most mornings I do lap after lap in my pajamas – usually for 15-20 minutes each day. That way, I can usually get about 1500 steps in before I start to get ready for work.
I also add extra steps at work by hitting restrooms on different floors or making extra steps to the mail room or copier. Then I try to add another round of steps in the evening. Does my family think I’m crazy? YES, but if they didn’t know that by now….
I also have a treadmill downstairs for the cold winter months. New ones are very expensive, but I found one on Craigslist for a fraction of the price. Then I had my husband fit it out with a metal shelf for my laptop or iPad to make it a standing desk. On my work at home days, I can do a good part of my workday down there. Other days when I don’t want to do the laps or the treadmill, I have a whole stack of Walk Away the Pounds DVD’s that I bought from the thrift shop or church rummage sales. Easy peesy and cheap too!
As for motivation – one of the best ways to motivate yourself is with one of these little dealies that you can buy now – Fitbit, Jawbone, FuelBand, etc. But these are really pricey items – typically starting at $100 and up. I promised you thrifty ideas, didn’t I?
How ’bout FREE? Free is good, isn’t it? I have a fitness app on my phone called Striiv. It tracks all my little steps every day, even the ones around my living room and it adds it all up for me. Over the last three months, I’ve walked 300,000 steps with my Striiv app. That’s a brand new accomplishment for me!
Why does it motivate me so much? It has a built-in game and you only earn points for the game by walking. I am just competitive enough that this silly little game does the trick for me. It’s the first thing I check every morning and evening to see how my points are adding up. You can also add your friends and you can walk against each other in real time.
**Weight Loss Program Options**
I love Weight Watchers – I really do. And it has worked very well for me – up to a point. I usually lose weight for about the first month – when it is something fresh and exciting. After that, I am typically just paying my money for fees and their special foods. But I only make very little progress until I finally quit. I’ve started WW about 8 or 9 times over the years. I lose between 10 and 25 lbs, but then gain most of it back 6 months later (sigh).
The reason WW works so well is because it provides a clear structure for you with point limits and a tracking system with your daily diary. There are several FREE tools that do almost the same thing. One option is a free website called Dotti’s Weight Loss Zone – DWLZ.com. It has a great community, weight loss partners, tons of recipes, point values for all the restaurants and fast food places – all totally free. I believe she also has a phone app now, but I haven’t tried it yet.
My Fitness Pal is another freebie that is terrific. Very similar to WW – it has a daily food and exercise tracker, you can scan bar codes on foods, you can join up with other friends for weight loss support, and it works with Fitbits and other devices as well as the Striiv app I mentioned earlier.
**Thrifty Diet Options**
One of the big drawbacks of weight loss programs is that high-quality food is simply more expensive than low-quality fattening foods. Can’t really get around that, but there are some tricks you can use to maximize your food dollar.
One trick I use it to go with a little less variety. A typical diet plan will have 3 completely different meals for every day. Typically for a month – they don’t ever repeat any meals, so it’s really wasteful. It will say have 20 grapes on Monday and half a cantaloupe on Tuesday, etc. But then you never use up the rest of the grapes or the other half of the cantaloupe. That’s totally wasteful.
Instead, plan your own thrifty diet and engineer it so you can buy your foods in bulk and cook them in bulk. Then package them into dieter-sized portions so you aren’t tempted to double up on your healthy meals. Low-calorie does not mean NO calorie!
Also, you want to employ your usual frugal shopping tips. Use coupons, buy what’s on sale and make it work, buy fewer prepackaged and processed foods, etc.
**Skip the Soda**
Also give up the soda – even the diet kind. There is a strong link between soda and Type II Diabetes. Plus it’s just sugar and empty calories, and it’s expensive. I estimate we could have put one or more of our kids through college for what my husband has spent on 30 years of daily sodas. I just wish I was kidding on that one!
Giving up soda was one of my greatest satisfactions. I love it when we go to a fast food place. I used to automatically get the combo meal, spend about $5-$7 and end up eating 3X the calories with the fries and the soda. Now, I just get the separate sandwich by itself (I usually don’t even finish it) and a free cup of water. Saves me about $2-$3 – sometimes more. That’s a good little motivator for me.
We keep a picture of homemade iced tea in the fridge at all times – my husband is a camel, so it takes a daily refill, but it’s only pennies per serving and a ton less sugar than soda or commercial iced tea.
Here are some other weight loss posts I’ve done over the years that you might find helpful.