I am adamant you can lose weight without spending a dime, especially if you have access to the Internet. There are numerous free online resources that can help you. Free calorie counting sites and support sites like Fatsecret.com or Sparkpeople.com can help you gain control over what you eat and provide spaces for people to interact with each other and motivate each other. Exercise can be as simple as walking, jogging, crunches, and pushups. Nutritional information for all types of foods are available online, as well as an endless confusing contradictory stream of health and diet news! But if you sort through all the noise, eventually the message will come through: eat less, not too much less, and exercise.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some items worth purchasing that could really help you in your quest to health. The following are items I feel truly were truly worth the money spent.
A gym membership isn’t the thing for everyone, but it has served me extremely well over the last nearly 2 years. Mine costs me $30/month, no contract, no additional fees. I have access to cardio and weight lifting equipment, a variety of classes from Yoga to Pilates to Zumba to Body Pump, a lap pool, and personal training for an additional fee. I’ve never really been interested in having a personal trainer. I like doing my own thing. I like the gym because it gives me the opportunity to have a compartmentalized place to perform exercise daily. It is an appointment to me. One I never skip unless I am ill or injured. And it allows me to easily vary my workouts, which is something I believe is key.
I spend far less on my gym membership than I spend on cable/Internet.
Portion distortion is a huge issue for people trying to lose weight. A food scale is a simple way to eliminate it. You might be thinking that weighing your food sounds incredibly tedious, but it is incredibly instructive. You don’t need to weigh everything you eat. You only need to use the scale to figure out what a portion looks like visually. Once you see an ounce of almonds, hold it in your hand, and see it in your favorite dish, you will forever have the knowledge of what an ounce of almonds looks like. For instance, I have become the master of cutting off exactly one ounce of cheese. And I use the scale to test myself to see how close I can get. Knowledge is power. My food scale cost $30. Make sure to get one that measures in both ounces and grams so you can easily measure a portion no matter how it is referenced in a recipe or on a package. A tare function is also extremely useful so you can measure multiple items in one dish.
The more you cook at home, the better. If you can make it yourself, do it. This gives you so much more control than eating out. So if there’s a kitchen gadget you wish you owned, you might consider buying it if it will motivate you to cook more often. I bought a blender ($30) which has gotten a ton of use making smoothies and protein shakes; a food processor ($35) which I use constantly to make sauces, dressings, and soups; a garlic press ($5) because I love garlic; and a citrus juicer($5) because I love the flavors of lemon and lime in my cooking. I’m always on the lookout for kitchen things at discount stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx. You can find some really cheap gourmet cooking utensils if you keep an eye out.
Since you’re doing all this cooking, you need a way to keep leftovers. I use my leftovers for lunches at work the next day. You can also save a lot of money and packaging by buying larger containers of things you eat a lot and portioning it out into your own reusable containers. Yogurt is a great example of this. You could buy the individual containers (beware of the sugar and artificial flavors though!) or you could buy a large container. I like to buy plain yogurt and add my own fresh fruit and a small amount of sweetener like honey or agave syrup and maybe some granola. This also gives you greater control over the size and composition of your breakfast.
Smaller Dinner Plates
This is a really easy way to eat less. Smaller plates mean less room for enormous portions. So if you have some huge 12″ plates, do yourself a favor and get some 8″ dinner plates. I bought a set I just love which inspires me to eat off them. They are black on the bottom and turquoise on top. A set of 4 was about $15 at Target.
If you don’t already have one, here’s your excuse to get one. Calorie tracking and fitness apps can really help you get your eating under control and can add a level of interest to exercise. I’m a little nerdy myself, and I love seeing things charted and graphed. It is very motivating to me. Many of these apps are free. My favorites are the Calorie Counter by Fatsecret (free) and Pocket Yoga ($2.99) which leads you through several yoga routines and has beautiful graphics to boot. There are apps to track your run, lead you through weight lifting routines, and suggest recipes to you. Make technology work for your health instead of against it.
Be kind to your feet, ankles, knees and hips. Wear shoes that are appropriate to the exercise you do. Nothing is more frustrating than being put out of commission by an injury.
Portable Music Player
Music will help you get more out of your exercise. You can use the beat of the music to set the pace of your workout. Not to mention music makes working out more fun. And if it is fun, you will be more likely to do it regularly.
You don’t need to spend money to lose weight. There are a lot of products out there that supposedly help you lose weight. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. And if you do choose to spend money, your gym membership will only benefit you if you actually go. If you are like me, spending a little will be an added incentive to use it so my hard earned money doesn’t go to waste. If you spend a considerable amount on entertainment, like cable, big televisions (I have two), video game systems (I have three) and other things like that, you can surely afford to dedicate a bit of your spending to your health and give yourself a little extra push toward a healthy you.