How Reframing Weight Loss As Budgeting Helps Make Sense Of It All

August 23, 2016

fitness writer bodybuilding dieting

How good are you at handling your finances? Bear with me. This does have something to do with health and fitness!

I recently had a massive communication breakthrough about bodybuilding. So big, so rewarding, that I whooped when I heard about its success. In fact, I am claiming it as one of my finest moments in linguistic creativity. OK, OK – it was with my Dad. Dad has never really understood the dieting side of bodybuilding (despite seeing me diet through numerous “preps” in years gone by). But apparently, something I said to him recently FINALLY made sense to him.

What did I say? I simply compared dieting for fat loss to budgeting for financial savings.

We were talking about flexible dieting.

“It’s not that a bodybuilder CAN’T eat anything,” I said. “It just that they have a small budget to play with. So imagine that you only had £10 spend that day. You COULD buy some slightly-overpriced thing for £6.99 that you don’t really “need”, but then you wouldn’t have much cash left for the rest of the day. Plus you’d probably get home and think…”oh…is that all I got for my money? It looked better in the shop!” Or you could spend £1, £1, £1, £1 (etc) throughout the day. Then get home and think “wow! I managed to buy tons with my £10!”

Apparently this made sense to Dad.

I explained “going out to eat whilst dieting” like this:

“It’s not that they COULDN’T have the dessert, Dad. But it might make more sense to come out and just eat a main. That way, they still get to socialise, but no harm done to their “budget”. It would be like inviting someone out for a shopping day when they are saving up hard to buy a house. They can still come out! But they might say “I can come, but I really can’t spend more than £5 today because I’m saving up for the house deposit.” It’s not the going out shopping for the day that’s the problem. It’s how much they spend whilst they’re out.”

Losing Weight Or Saving Money: Why You Only Really Have A Few Options (Sorry!)

On a roll, I also used the finance/budget analogy with another member of my family recently. This person is keen to lose a bit of weight, but doesn’t want to do the meal plan/12-week transformation thing. She’s been there and done that, and doesn’t fancy the backlash (I don’t blame her).

This person is very good at managing her finances. Knowing this, I explained that there really are only a few ways to lose a bit of weight. And they are the same as being successful at managing money.

If you want to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. That’s the bottom line. The law of thermodynamics is key. You have to consume less than you expend, or expend more than you consume.

If you want to save money, you have to create a financial excess. You have to spend less than you earn, or earn more than you spend.

Your options are:

1) Track your food/drink as you go along and stop when you’ve reached your spend limit (track your money as you spend it, or track your calories/macros in myfitnesspal or whatever you use)

Pros: this will help you work out where you are “overspending”
Cons: if you want to “save”, you’ll have to stop when you hit your target, which might be partway through the month/day if you are “spending” more than you thought

2) Pre-plan what you’re going to eat/spend and work to it (a financial budget, or a calorie/macro budget). This can be as rigid as a meal plan/precise spending plan, or as flexible as eating to macro targets/spending within various “categories”.

Pros: it will be very precise and you will likely “save” (or “lose” in the case of weight) quickly and accurately
Cons: it might seem boring and restrictive, depending on your mindset and personality

3) Wing it and hope for the best. This only works if you are a person who naturally doesn’t spend much money, or who earns so much you could never get into debt. (The weight loss equivalent is someone who naturally undereats, isn’t interested in food, or is so incredibly active that your calorie burn is through the roof).

Pros: if you’re one of the lucky ones, this will work for you. Until your lifestyle, income, or habits change!
Cons: it doesn’t teach you anything about finance (or nutrition) and you might be left wondering WTF when things eventually change.

Have my amazing analogies (!) helped something “click” in your brain? Funnily enough, the above conversation actually helped ME wrap my head around budgeting! I realised that if I can track my nutrition, I can track my spending. I’ve already made plenty of savings and changed some of my spending behaviour!

Do you reckon your success at nutrition/money could be transferrable skills?

How Reframing Weight Loss As Budgeting Helps Make Sense Of It All is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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