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4 Tips & Tricks For How to Lose Weight Fast, Safe, Cheap, and Easy

By Kira Botkin

woman with measuring tape around her waistI will freely admit that being frugal is not something that comes to me easily. When I decided to lose weight, I was daunted by the potential costs. I don’t like carrots and I hate walking in the rain, but I also didn’t want to pay hundreds for a specialized meal program or expensive gym membership. So what did I do? Here are the three steps I followed which put me on track to getting healthy and losing weight:

1. Go to a Doctor Before You Begin Losing Weight
If you are overweight and haven’t been to a doctor in the past year, you need to go to a doctor before you embark on a weight loss program. You need to have an up-to-date status report on your body so you know exactly what your body can handle. Part of the reason that I was successful on my most recent attempt at weight loss versus all of my previous attempts is that I visited a doctor and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. As a result, my doctor gave me the necessary medication to control these conditions. I can’t tell you what a difference the diabetes medication has made. Previously, I had thought that being hungry every two hours was just part of being fat – nope, it was diabetes! The medication has allowed me to stay away from snacking while also enabling me to comfortably consume smaller meals. And one of the nice things about this medication is that I can ween off of it as I lose more weight; my dosage has already been significantly reduced since I first started. The medication combined with my newfound discipline has also helped me drastically cut my average monthly grocery bill.

If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, there are also medications available for these conditions, which in turn can make exercising and eating healthy much easier. If you don’t have insurance, you can get much of the same advice and all the same medications by going to one of the clinics at CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, or elsewhere where a nurse practitioner will see you for about $60-70, or you can check for free clinics in your area. Doctors love nothing more than a patient who is eager and willing to make some healthy changes! Lastly, if you do find that you need medication for some problem and are worried about the expenses, don’t forget to look for generic drug alternatives that are often significantly cheaper.

2. Join a Gym
Yes, I know that walking outside is free. The normal argument goes, “Why pay money to walk on a treadmill when you can walk on the sidewalk for nothing?” The problem is that unless you are already an inveterate exerciser, the weather and your neighborhood can act as large deterrents in your journey to getting healthy and losing weight. Maybe it rains or snows a lot in your area. Maybe the terrain is not ideal for walking or even running. Maybe you don’t want your neighbors to see you. The list is never-ending!

At the same time, I didn’t want to shell out fifty bucks a month for a fancy gym with people who are way skinnier than me. So what did I do? I joined a cheap gym! These do exist. Mine is Planet Fitness, which has over 300 locations. My membership fees are roughly $10 per month, and there is a small annual membership fee. As far as the signup fee, you can often ask for these to be waived. This is one of the best tips when trying to negotiate a cheap gym membership.

I cannot overstate how motivating the gym environment can be. Having so many different exercise options at your disposal gives you little excuse to not find something that you’re up for trying out on any given day. You will also find yourself exercising for longer periods of time; after all, why drive all the way out to the gym and pay a monthly fee if you’ll only stay there for a few minutes. Lastly, there are much less distractions at the gym!

If the gym environment is not for you or you simply can’t fit it into your budget or schedule, you can consider exercising outdoors or getting a treadmill for your home. If you are considering this option, the one thing you need to be honest with yourself about is whether you will remain committed and motivated to working out over the long-term!

3. Get On a Diet
In addition to exercising, you also need to eat healthy. I bought a chest freezer secondhand on Craigslist for $60 and it has been an extremely useful tool in my weight loss arsenal. Why? I am filling it with Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Weight Watchers frozen meals in the dozens when they are on sale! These meals can be very expensive if you’re only buying enough for the week – sometimes up to $6 or $7 per meal – so your best bet is to use discount grocery coupons or wait for a sale and then load up in bulk. Most of the time, the sales lower the prices of each meal to $2 or less. Getting on the email list of all the major grocery store chains (plus Walmart) is another good strategy for finding out about deals. And don’t forget about breakfast – Lean Pockets are frequently on sale for $1 or less per pocket, or you can go with something simple like oatmeal which will keep you filled up for a long period of time.

With all this talk of frozen meals, you might be thinking that it’s probably cheaper and healthier to make your own lunches or dinners at home. For the most part, I’d agree with you. However, I have discovered through my travails of being a merely average cook that it is not easy to make 300 calorie meals on your own, and unless you follow something like the Hungry Girl cookbooks, you may actually be ending up with something that is way more caloric than you thought. The portion sizes required to get a 300-calorie meal are pretty small, and you’ll end up ladling an extra scoop of noodles onto that plate or Tupperware because it doesn’t look like enough food. Instead, frozen meals give you a ready-made, tasty lunch that you can grab and go and, at $2 or less per meal, doesn’t generally cost more than you would end up spending making a comparable meal. And don’t discount the importance of variety – I used to make this very tasty and low-calorie chicken with vegetables meal, but I had it so many times I don’t think I can eat it for at least another five years. Frozen meals, on the other hand, give you variety without forcing you to constantly have to come up with a new recipe. I rarely go out for lunch these days and almost never go to fast food restaurants anymore. If you decide to buy a chest freezer and can’t find a secondhand one, a brand new one on the smaller side frequently runs about $100-120.

4. The Alli Diet Pill
I’ve also been taking the Alli Diet pill, also known as orlistat, which is available over the counter at Target, Walmart, and various grocery stores. It isn’t cheap at about fifty to sixty cents per pill, but it helps you lose weight faster because it removes some of the fat from what you eat. For my part, I have found that it also has a significant effect on my wallet – out of fear that I will have to deal with the Alli side effects (Google it for more information), I no longer get snacks from the vending machine at work and have therefore saved a lot of money. The pill is definitely not for everyone, however – you need to be committed to a low-fat diet and comfortable with taking the pill. I am currently taking two per day instead of three to cut down on the cost, and it seems to be working out for me. If the costs are what worry you, you can sometimes find the Alli pills on sale at Target, or get a coupon from myalli.com.

Final Word
Losing weight and getting healthy is not a short-term process. There are many elements that go into a successful strategy, the most important of which is remaining committed, disciplined, and motivated. Hopefully, these tips from my experiences with losing weight can help you on your journey.

What are you doing to make the process of weight loss easier? Have you used any of the above techniques to save money on your weight loss?

(photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt)

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • Tess

    We have been using the Wii balance board with Wii Fit Plus (together now for $79) and EA Sports Active for WII.(new game for $99) I have been using it for about 90 minutes a day. The Wii Fit plus has 70 games which help you by using aerobics, weights, yoga and helps you balance your core. The game also measures your BMI and weight. The EA Sports active has more intense workout then the Wii Fit plus. You have your own personal trainer, online tracking of your progress, varies your daily workout to help with training and to relieve boredom, heart sensor to track how hard your pushing yourself and a resistance band. Both are easy to adjust to your level of exercise.

    I usually work on the Wii Fit plus for about an hour and the EA Sports Active for 20 or so minutes. The activities are no longer then 3 minutes (for beginners) and your not bored. I find myself so caught up trying to keep up with the steps and having a load of fun, I forget I am exercising. I think is the key to losing weight, finding some kind of exercise that you enjoy. We don’t have to go to a gym and can exercise in the privacy in our own home.

    I am going to buy the Zumba dancing for Wii. Even though I don’t have any rhythm, I have enjoyed the dancing steps for both games. I recommend buying a yoga floor mat, some exercises on are not on the balance board.

    My mother’s neighbor who is in her late 60’s has been using the Wii Fit plus and balance board for 4 months, about 30 minutes a day and lost 30 lbs. She had great fun doing it, too.

  • http://change-is-possible.net Heather

    The first two points are great, but the second two I completely disagree with.

    “Go on a diet” is, in my opinion, not good advice and is part of the reason people gain weight back. The goal is to change how you eat permanently, not just until you lose the weight.

    Frozen meals tend to have a ton of sodium in them. A 300-400-calorie meal is not that difficult to prepare if you measure everything out and know how many calories are in your ingredients. Just like with eating, it’s a change in lifestyle — measure what you eat instead of just eating whatever is in front of you.

    Fat is necessary in a healthy diet. Instead of taking pills to remove fat from your diet, eat less fat. But not too much less, and definitely not too much less of the good fats.

    But all of this comes back to the question: why are you losing weight? If it’s just to look good, then eat bad food and pop pills and you’ll get thin. But if you want to be healthy, eating well cannot be replaced by anything.

  • Debra

    Since I’m pregnant now, I’m taking a hiatus on losing weight . However, I think that this post is way off base. I agree with the points made by the previous poster, Heather. What I have found that has helped me is a much more simple system. I track what I eat (I used to be very against food journals because it seemed like a lot of work, but I’ve found a place where it is much easier). I don’t have “forbidden” foods. I watch my portions. I drink very little of my calories. I have a good weight-loss support group. I educate myself on healthy nutrition, exercise, etc. I incorporate extra cardiovascular activities in my daily life (including using a pedometer to track how many steps I’m walking each day).

    And while I don’t want it to seem like I’m pushing a particular company or anything, the free website I use to help me with all of the above tracking and information is sparkpeople.com. I *highly* recommend it for people who are visual and like charts and graphs and don’t necessarily have the best support systems in their daily lives.

  • LucyHerre

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    I’ve been concerned in some other forums and have uncovered this area to have much more desirable articles, so it makes sense to as a final point publish!

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  • Kazywaz

    Lean cuisine, Weight Watcher meals are very helpful but they’re not very healthy. If you’re goal is to just lose weight, they’re great. but they’re filled with all sorts of preservatives, additives and tons of sodium. Just saying.

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