A Frugal and Sensible Diet & Weight Loss Mindset

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This is a motivational post written to deliver the personal secrets of how my wife & I have successfully trimmed our grocery budget along with our waistlines!

Above is a picture of me at my new weight.  I know, it’s a terrible picture, but the best I could do with a self portrait on a cell phone!

**UPDATE 7/22/2009 – I have now lost 38 pounds and have finally reached my desired body weight of 175 pounds.  I decided I’m going to lose 5 more and see how I feel.  If it’s to much, I plan to gain the 5 pounds back.**

Over the course of the last 10 months I have lost 30 pounds, and my wife has lost 20.  It sounds silly to say, but prior to losing nearly 15% of our body weight, few people would have classified us as “overweight”.   Looking back now…we have a different perspective!  Though I’m pretty skinny these days but the truth is, I’m 7lbs away from my goal weight of 175lbs and could use a “kick-in-the-pants” to help carry my momentum to the finish line…enter the PF Blogger Weight Loss Challenge (BWLC).

Despite the fact that he is moving half way around the world in a few days, Baker @ ManVsDebt.com has graciously given of his time to form this competition that will undoubtedly be a blessing to so many fellow Personal Finance Bloggers.  The BWLC consists of 30 bloggers and has been broken down into six teams of five people each.  The teams names are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, & Zeta.  I have been named to the Beta Team and am a proud member!

Here are my fellow Beta Teammates (and me):

As one who has been at this weight loss & budget trimming game for nearly a year, I felt compelled to share how my wife & I have shed excess pounds from our frames while simultaneously trimming excess fat from our grocery budget.

Change your mindset…

A mindset is a terrible thing to waste! A change in the way you thing about food & health is paramount to a change in behavior.  I recently wrote an article on FiveCentNickel about how changing my financial mindset was the best thing that ever happened to my finances; health, diet, & weight are no different.

  • CHANGE your diet, don’t “go on a diet – In his original 1828 dictionary Noah Webster defined diet as, “a manner of living or mode of life”.  A diet is meant to be a way of life, not just a 2-week starvation binge, then back to the same-ole-same-ole.
  • Food for fuel not pleasure - Please do not misunderstand this point, there is a careful balance that needs to be struck here.  I love food and find much pleasure in preparing & eating it.  However, the longer I eat healthy the more I see food as fuel, and less for pleasure.  This increases my awareness and helps me to more carefully consider what I put into my body.
  • Find joy in health – Just as you have found joy in McDonald’s french fries, cheesecake, Doritos, & hot pockets in the past; begin learning the joy of healthy, life building, foods and habits.  Be creative and involve the whole family when purchasing & preparing food.  It’s amazing how fun it is to reinvent the family diet & discover your hidden culinary creativity.

Stop gorging…

One of my first & most useful steps to success was the realization that I did not need nearly the amount of food I had been consuming!  It never failed, whether eating at home or dining out…we were both eating way too much.  I believe this stemmed from eating out too much, the portions they serve are ridiculously huge.  The trend seemed to carry over into every dining experience.

Here are some tactics to combat becoming a self-blotation device:

  • Start with smaller portions – when dishing up your meals consciously give yourself a smaller portion.
  • Drink more waterchoosing water is frugal, it’s healthy, & drinking it during meals will lead to less over-eating.
  • Wait 5 minutes – Once half your portion is gone, STOP!  Now drink your full glass of water (not soda!).  This will make you feel more full and is a great way to end the meal time.
  • Split meals & get to know the “doggy bag” again – Restaurants serve HUGE portions so when eating out, split meals with your spouse or simply take half of your meal home and have it for lunch the next day.  For more pointers on eating out, see this guest post I wrote on BibleMoneyMatters.com entitled “The Frugal Guide to Eating Out

Properly size each meal of the day…

Contrary to popular American culture, you should eat large early and tail off food intake as the day grows old.  Your body’s metabolic rate (aka “fast metabolism”) will increase in speed and efficiency when proper food intake patterns are introduced.

Also, my wife & I plan out our weekly meals and hit the grocery store only once per week.  Since it is currently just the two of us (please pray for a healthy baby soon!) we normally just make one or two meals each week and feast on leftovers often.

  • A big healthy breakfast – Every weekday my wife & I have vanilla yogurt parfaits mixed with blueberries & granola.  It is a healthy, quick, & delicious breakfast & a great way to start the day
  • Mid-morning snack – I take a snack to work every day and eat half of it around 10am.  It usually consists of some fruit, nuts, or healthy crackers like Tricuits.
  • A big healthy lunch – I am lucky enough to have lunch provided for me every day.  My employer created a cafe in our office and we have a free selection of hot lunch, salad bar, & sandwich bar each day!  I usually have a HUGE salad complete with a protein source (beans, cheese, eggs, chicken, etc.)  & lots of veggies.
  • Mid-afternoon snack – Around 3pm I will have the other half of my daily snack.
  • A smaller supper – Like I mentioned above, we plan out  & prepare 1 or 2 meals each week and eat off the leftovers.  Follow this plan and just take smaller portions for dinner.
  • Evening snack – Heaven’s to Betsy!!  Did you endorse eating a snack after dinner??  Yes…indeed I did.  As long as you exercise self-control, there is no reason why you cannot have a SMALL bowl of ice cream, some Triscuits, or some air-popped popcorn (no oil, but with a little real butter, YUM).  I invented this ultimate healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe that my wife & I make a batch of & freeze so we always have some on hand.

Choose whole foods over commercially processed foods…

I don’t think I have to go into detail here, but suffice to say if you eat a lot of Hamburger Helper, you may want to pay particularly close attention.  This is a lot easier than it sounds, you just need to choose simple ingredients over man-made ingredients.  Tip:  choose what God has provided in natural state over chemical laden, man-made creations.

  • White sugar – We use raw honey or natural unbleached sugar
  • White flour – Replace this with whole wheat flour, or whole rye flour
  • Breads – We started using the bread-maker that was just collecting dust in our basement and now make a fresh loaf of homemade bread once a week.  We both love it!  The cost is about a dollar a loaf for whole wheat bread, compared to around $3 – $5/loaf at the grocery store.
  • BeansEAT MORE BEANS, they’re really healthy, really cheap, & really good!
  • Hydrogenated oils – Avoid these like the plague.  We do things like, make our own homemade salad dressing.  It’s incredibly simple & delicious, especially if you use fresh herbs from your garden.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – I call this “Satan’s syrup”.  Again, avoid products containing HFCS.  Once you start looking for it, you’ll be amazed just how many products it is added to.  I attribute this to the lobbying efforts of the corn industry, but this post is neither the time nor place for that discussion!
  • Prepackaged meals – Any meal or ingredient that is “ready-made” is also going to contain a ton of preservatives due to commercial processing.  Instead of using these ingredients, do most of your shopping in the fruit, vegetable, & whole grains sections of your local grocery mart.

Eat at home more…

We stopped going out to eat, and will save $5,000+ this year alone.  Not only is this been a HUGE financial blessing, it has also been a huge part of our weight loss success.  Here are some tricks & tips to help you ease into the process of staying

  • This is a blessing – Not only are we saving thousands of dollars, we are so much happier now that we eat over 90% of our meals at home.  We always get to prepare what we want, with the ingredients we want, and use the exact level of spice that we want!  Believe it or not, the kitchen is also a great place to spend quality time together.  Eating at home more often has without a doubt brought my wife & I closer together!
  • Make a weekly menu -Each weekend my wife & I sit down for about 15 minutes to discuss what we meals we need to prepare for the upcoming week.  We ALWAYS focus on using up any soon-to-expire ingredients in our refrigerator or pantry.  Most of the time, based on what you already have & need to use up, planning the menu is easy.
  • Eat before you go grocery shopping – This is not a new concept, but definitely worth mentioning.  It helps you stick to your list…speaking of lists…
  • Preplan grocery shopping – My wife & I make a list based on what we need for our weekly menu and we stick to this list!

Give yourself a break…

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Everything in moderation.” This holds very true regarding a healthy diet.

  • Take a day off per week – When just starting out it is a good idea to take a break one day a week, usually on the weekends.  Just don’t binge eat & you’ll be fine.
  • Just take a break whenever – If you’re disciplined, you can just treat yourself once in awhile, then return to your normal diet.  This is the route I take because I do not like regiment, I prefer spontaneity; especially regarding my diet!
  • Things get progressively easier - The longer you eat healthy, the less you crave bad foods.

Well, there you have it folks.  By following the above tips my wife & I have both been able to shed 15% of our body weight!  I’m sure I have forgotten a few things so please make sure & list your ideas in the comments.

As for team BETA & the PF Blogger Weight Loss Challenge…I hope this helps us win!  GO BETA!



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