I 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.
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)