Losing Weight (On a Budget)


After reading the blog 344 Pounds, I noticed many similarities to myself. I am very obese, at 320 pounds, but thus far have been healthy, had good self-esteem, and generally had no good reason to lose weight. I have great blood pressure, cholesterol, and have no risk of diabetes or heart/liver condition. However, I have recently wanted to be more active. I have a wedding in June, this spring looks like it will be beautiful, and I want to be able to get outside and get active. However, at 320 pounds, this becomes a bit difficult at best. So, I need to lose weight. However, if I am going to succeed in getting rid of my debt before I marry, I can’t afford a gym membership, super healthy foods, surgeries, etc. But I’ve learned a few tips to hopefully shed a hundred pounds without spending much extra money. Here are some tips in case you’re trying to do the same!

1. Build a Home Gym. It might be a new concept, but you don’t need fancy machines to lose weight. Buy a set of dumbbells, which should cost less than $50 easily, and you might be able to pick up some for less than $10 on Craigslist or a yard sale. You can do pretty much anything with a dumbbell you can do on weightlifting equipment, with modified exercises. Don’t worry too much with leg exercises for now; when you are overweight you get enough workout on the legs by simply using them. You may also choose to buy a floor mat, a weight bench, an exercise ball, resistance bands, etc. If you really want to spend nothing, fill some gallon jugs with water to use as weights, and use a towel for resistance exercises. It might not work long-term, but it should definitely get you started!

2. Use Nature. Want a truly free way to lose weight? Get outside. Seriously. Throw a frisbee, ride a bike, walk, jog, run. It doesn’t matter. These things all work to benefit both your muscles and your heart, you get fresh air while working out, and it is truly fun. Embrace getting sweaty and playing hard, like you did when you were a kid. You don’t need a treadmill or elliptical (though they certainly do the job great), if you have the great outdoors to play in.

3. Eat Smart. You don’t need to go all-organic premium foods to eat more healthy. Yes, fast food is cheap, but should be avoided at all costs. Use whatever vegetables are on sale that week. If you are busy, then you may have to eat out a few times per week. Don’t sabotage yourself though; look in advance what types of foods are best to eat at the places you like the most. Usually salads are the best, but not always. I was surprised that Chick-fil-a’s chicken sandwich was fewer calories than their wraps! Go for grilled over fried (trust me, after a few weeks you won’t miss it). Substitute the fries for something else, or get a small fry and eat only half of it. It is possible to eat fast food and still eat healthy, you just have to be smart and informed before you go.

4. Drink Water. Water is free. Don’t buy bottled water. Use tap water, a good filtration system or pitcher, and invest in a good water bottle that you can carry with you and doesn’t sweat. Fill your bottle every morning, and at work if the water is good. Bottled water is too expensive anyway, for something you can get for free (or really cheap if you use a filter). You know what costs you a lot of money? Sodas and other drinks. Give up alcohol too, or cut back. If you have to have coffee, learn to drink it black (it is healthy for you, and you’ll spend less on sugar and cream). If you have to have tea, cut back on the sugar or honey. Both coffee and tea are cheap to drink, if you drink them correctly. You should not have to drink a lot of milk, but if you can’t give it up, then use store-brand lowfat milk. But your calories should be invested in food, not drink. Water is free, both monetarily and calorically.

5. Shop Creatively. Use coupons, or use The Grocery Game (google it) to maximize your food budget. Don’t feel like you can’t use canned vegetables if they are cheaper. But if you see fresh vegetables on sale (or have a good farmer’s market nearby), then load up. Incorporate whatever meat is on sale that week into your menu. In general, it is easy to tell what foods are healthy or not. If you tend to eat a lot of TV dinners, buy some Lean Cuisines when they go on a good sale, and stock up. Whatever your strategy, stick to it and you’ll be fine. I actually spent $25 less over the past week on foods that were very healthy. Use fresh herbs and spices to add flavor to your food, and you won’t feel like you are sacrificing anything!

6. Adjust. As you lose weight, you should be eating even less and exercising at a higher intensity. While jogging might help you drop initial weight, you may notice a plateau. At some point, you may have to get a gym membership in order to get the higher intensity you need. But by this time, a gym membership is a good investment; you are dedicated to the process, so you don’t have to worry about not getting good use out of it. The biggest mistake is to buy one and not use it at all. By starting at home, for cheap, you build a habit that can carry over to the gym. Look for gyms that are local or privately owned, and you may save even more money. For foods, you should be buying less, since you should be eating less.

In general, though you may be spending more on quality foods, gym and recreational memberships, and adventures you will be able to go on, once you lose weight you should theoretically be spending less on volume of food, medical care, clothing, etc. Lack of money is no reason not to start losing weight today! You can make a few small changes right now and gradually keep adding changes in, until one day you have changed your whole lifestyle. And all that, without spending any extra money!