How I Lost 20 Pounds Without Going Broke!
Weight is a difficult thing for many to talk about. I know so many people that tell me they’ve tried “everything” to shed some weight. They’ve tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig (is that even still a thing?), Nutrisystem, the 21-Day Fix, Atkins Diet, Garcinia Cambogia pills, Shakeology, Thrive, Teami, Plexus, Blue Apron, Naturebox – and the list goes on and on. People load up on protein bars, fat-free alternatives, Lean Cuisines, and so on. I mean, how many things do I have to list? You get the picture, right?
All of these things have 1 common purpose – to make loads of money. Americans spend $60 Billion every year trying to lose weight!
Sure – some of these things can be free. If you do enough research on the 21-Day Fix and Atkins, you could essentially accomplish them for free. But I believe that just like pharmaceuticals, if all of these products worked, the industry would not be as huge as it is.
I’m not trying to insult these companies, and they do work for some people. Trust me, that’s not what I want this blog post to be about. I’ve even bought into a couple of these in the past (Garcinia Cambogia, anybody?). But no “diet” is going to work long-term, because sustained weight loss is about lifestyle. That’s what worked for me, and it’s something that would work for literally everyone.
So – specifically, my story. Let’s go.
I’m 5’4”, currently 140 pounds. (EDIT: I am now 138 pounds.)
Roughly two years ago (about when I got my dog, though I’m not 100% positive), at my highest weight I was 160 pounds. I was not this weight for long, I probably only saw it on the scale a couple of times. That number represented an entirely different thing to me than 159 pounds. I have put on so much weight that I was now in another bracket of ten pounds, and I panicked.
I made small changes; started cooking home made meals as opposed to boxed items (frozen pizza, bagged chicken wings, etc.).
In September of 2015, I was about 155 pounds and in the past year had gone through cycles of healthier eating vs. horrible eating. I was buying “healthier” snacks, like the FiberOne brownies and protein bars.
So let me tell you specifics. There is a TLDR at the very bottom.
I Started Eating Clean
“Eating Clean” can be quite the elusive term. Everyone interprets a clean diet differently, so be wary when you search Pinterest for “Eat Clean Recipes.” While I write this I have just searched those exact terms, and I’ll tell you a few things I’ve found. Instead of calling any particular recipes out, I will just tell you the ingredients I’m seeing: pasta, breadcrumbs & panko, breads…. You may be better off searching for “Paleo” recipes, honestly.
To me, eating clean eating means that anything I could kill or grow is fair game. While my gardening/hunting skills are non-existent, this means that I basically only shop the outer rim of the grocery store for meats, dairy, vegetables and fruit.
For the most part, we venture down the aisles for canned vegetables and spices, sometimes for rice and pasta, and hardly ever for anything else. I almost never buy candy, cookies, cup o’ noodles, frozen pizzas, etc.
This sounds boring, but guess what? I believe that I eat like a queen most of the time. I don’t get groggy after my meals, I always have enough to bring to work the next day, and over time I stopped craving the bad food. My energy, stamina, and mood have all vastly improved.
Not one for salads? Me neither – I never eat salad (I don’t like dressing, so to sit and eat lettuce seems like a waste of time to me). I roast almost all of my vegetables, mostly the same way (with olive oil, garlic and salt) in the oven. Ever had roasted broccoli after it gets nice and crispy? To die for!
I Started Meal-Prepping
The first time we tried meal-planning, a friend had sent me a PDF (that she pays monthly for), that had a grocery list and recipes to meal-plan. These were “healthy” meals. It was such a disaster, making all of this food on a Sunday night, washing about four rounds of dishes. I vowed to never look at that awful PDF again.
Don’t let this happen to you – keep it simple.Now, we only cook every two or three days. My main go-to is (the best I’ve ever had!) chicken and roasted broccoli or chicken corn chowder. You don’t need to make food for the entire week ahead of time (it might make meal prep a dreaded activity and your food may not last).
Meal-prepping will cut back dramatically on your out-to-eat costs. My average going out to eat costs dropped from about $150 to $50 per month by doing this over the course of 2016.
I Joined a No-Frills Gym
I’ve had my gym membership for a long time. I pay $20 monthly, so if I don’t make it to the gym in any given month I don’t get too upset. I’ve been going consistently, now, for about four months (and in this time frame I have lost another 5 pounds).
Cross-fit (and similar) gyms will likely set you back well over $100 per month. If your skills are way beyond a basic gym, then by all means keep at it. Whatever works for you! But if you are someone that is not always consistent or just starting to get into the spirit of working out, then you have everything you could possibly need in a gym like Planet Fitness or Workout World.
4. I Stopped Buying Snacks
I used to buy protein bars, Fiber One brownies and soy protein shakes – which is all unneccesary. If you are getting enough nutrient-dense foods in your meals, you won’t feel as much of a need to snack. And when you do get that need, there’s no reason to not have more “clean” snacks. Celery with peanut butter is good, as well as mozzarella with olive oil and basil on sliced tomatoes. They will fill you up more than any crackers or over-processed protein/candy bar.
5. Cut Out Sugar
I cut out sugar probably about six months ago and haven’t looked back since! I stopped using it in coffee, and I hadn’t bought any candy in quite some time, so I was not really getting any sugar in my diet anymore. We also don’t use any artificial sweeteners, either. There is really no need for it considering what I eat on a daily basis. What am I going to do, put sugar on my broccoli?
Not buying me sugar is saving me probably about $8 every three months. A little over $30 per year. You might save more, considering what type you buy and how much you use.
Sure, I still will take a few pieces of candy from the jars at work. Or if my coworkers bring in doughnuts, I will typically agree to some. But on the whole, I don’t use sugar when I’m at home.
6. I Didn’t Buy-Into Any “Products” or “Systems”
I feel like the weight really started to come off when I realized that nothing I bought would substitute a healthy diet and a reasonable amount of exercise. That’s really all there is to it. My co-workers go to Weight Watchers and expensive gyms, they buy Shakeology and Teami, Naturebox and Blue Apron. And yet, I buy none of that and I’m the only one that has lost any weight in the past two years. Your wallet will thank you.
* Please be advised, I don’t say this because the ideas behind these methods are incorrect. Many of these systems give good advice or follow better principles. But they all operate by making you “diet” or they make you change overnight. I’ll repeat again: you won’t have sustained weight-loss with anything less than a lifestyle change.
7. I Changed the Way I Drink
There are four things I drink: water, coffee, beer and wine. No soda (so much sugar!), no juice (so much sugar!), no milk (so much sugar!), no frozen alcoholic beverages (so much sugar!). See a trend here? For a time I was using unsweetened almond milk for my sugar-free smoothies, but with wintertime, I don’t have these.
I drink about 100 ounces of water per day (often more).
Alcohol-wise, I love beer and wine. I love to try different kinds and I drink quite a bit (though I hate being drunk and very rarely do I get drunk). One thing that has helped me lose weight is to switch from Miller Lite to Michelob Ultra (it has about half the carbs).
8. I’ve Learned How to Cut Costs at the Store
The more work that has gone into the product, the more money it’s going to cost you. At my closest Stop N Shop, celery is sold in long stalks with leaves, or pre-cut stalks. Taking the extra 20 seconds to cut the celery myself saves me about $1 (and I’m not even kidding). Pre-cut and packaged zucchini is about $3 more per pound than fresh zucchini at my store also.
Store-brand canned vegetables saves us up probably about $10 per month (we don’t use many canned vegetables, mostly fresh). Getting jarred minced garlic in the ethnic aisle (as opposed to the produce section) saves me about $3 as well.
Sometimes I use Ibotta to get money back. I always get $2-4 back for my Michelob Ultra. There are so many little ways you can shop smart, as long as you’re flexible, creative and persistent.
What it all Means
To sum everything up – this did not happen overnight. It took me about two years to lose 23 pounds, and you need to be willing to give yourself time if you hope to keep the weight off. But luckily there is no reason to go broke trying to lose weight.
My grocery bill has dropped from $200-$250 every month to about $160-$200 since I started taking my health more seriously. As I mentioned earlier, my out-to-eat costs have dropped from about $150 to $50 per month. This is a $100 – $190 savings EVERY MONTH.
TLDR; Eat clean, no sugar, meal prep, exercise, no snacks, don’t buy into the industry and shop smart!
Will you try anything that I have mentioned? What has worked for you? Please let me know in the comments below! Thank you for reading!