Losing weight on a budget is like the underdog of weight loss options. When we try to lose weight, we are often faced with a multitude of programmes, diets, classes, and equipment to choose from, and they are all pricey: a personal trainer costs around £50 per hour, diet chef costs £190 a month, and a tummy tuck surgery costs £5,500 on average. These products/services are so well marketed that many see them as must-do/must-have to lose weight. As a result cheap options out there are overshadowed and under-explored. But why should people with financial constraints get discouraged or in debt when there are cheaper and effective ways to lose weight?
In my first pregnancy I gained 3 stones (20 kg). By the time my baby was 5 months old, I had lost all that additional weight. This was achieved with nothing pricey because with the arrival of our girl we made significant changes that left us with very little disposable income. We moved cities, got a bigger place, and decided that I take at least a year of maternity leave. So the only option I had to regain my pre-pregnancy form was losing weight on a budget.
Like most challenges in life, losing weight on a budget requires hard work; there was no cutting corners in my journey. These are three essential elements that made it possible for me to lose weight:
- Food: our weight (gain as well as loss) is often the result of what we eat
- Fitness: it’s an excellent way to reduce and prevent excess fat
- Mind: a strong mind achieves great things
FOOD: HOMEMADE BALANCED MEALS
We are what we eat. When we eat more than what our body needs, the excess food transforms into fat. This is then stored in our body, and as it builds up, we very likely gain weight. Nutrition is therefore an essential part of healthy weight loss journeys.
Finding out about the basic nutritional values the body needs is key here. I became my own healthy chef, cooking delicious homemade balanced meals that cost far less than the £190 a month diet chef meals. Fruits and vegetables are widely available and good priced nowadays. Use them to balance your diet and reduce your calorie intake (especially for anyone who struggles with food portions). So, for instance, reduce the amount of cereal in your breakfast and add fruits to it; for dinner have less pasta and more vegetables on your plate. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water (at least 2 litres per day).
Cutting back on junks such as takeaways and sweets is another crucial yet challenging adjustment to make. It is recommended to take gradual steps to achieve this. I, for instance, had my favourite piece of cake once a week. So setting treat/cheat day to once a week or once every two weeks is ok, and steering away from over-indulging is a must. Consuming less junk saves you money too!
One excellent way to facilitate healthy eating on a budget is to plan meals in advanced: breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. This can be done on a weekly or even a monthly. I do mine every week. It ensures that you only include the necessary food in your shopping list, and reduces over spending and food waste.
The NHS offers a great free 12 weeks weight loss plan with nutritional information (e.g. guide to food portions) and a food and activity chart to track progress. The average weight loss rate to achieve on this plan is estimated at 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lbs) a week.
FITNESS: HOME AND PARK/OUTDOOR
Exercise combined with a balanced diet is a great recipe for success when losing weight on a budget. In the UK, the average gym membership costs £45 a month, that’s £540 a year. You can dodge that, and still achieve great results by working out at home and/or in the park!
How to save money on fitness:
- Designate a place in your home where you can exercise. It doesn’t have to be a large space.
- Buy some light equipment, such as dumbbells and yoga mat.They are not expensive, and are a better and long term investment. I bought my yoga mat at Sportsworld for £8 and my set of dumbbells for £18 from Argos (about 3 years ago).
Using dumbbells for lifting and yoga mats for abdominal exercises help with strength and body toning. If you are unsure of what exercises to do, Youtube is full of personal trainers teaching their craft for free! Look for appropriate exercises for your level, and make sure you follow instructions correctly to avoid any injury. It is also helpful to follow active online accounts for support and answers when needed.
Jogging is a great additional option to vary the usual fitness routine. It’s free, you can do it in your own time, and you can burn over 300 calories in 30 minutes! I now run twice a week and use the Nike free running app to track my progress, and set myself new challenges. This app is also great if you want to create a virtual running group with your friends. If you like group motivation and challenge, you’ll like 5k parkruns. They are free, fun and friendly. Check out here if there is one in your area. For tips on jogging for beginners, visit this site.
If you have just given birth, make sure that you discuss with your doctor before to start exercising.
MIND: TRAIN IT
Like going to gym, losing weight on a budget requires discipline, consistency, and perseverance. This is when a trained and disciplined mind comes in handy. We all know too well how difficult it is to wake up motivated after a night interrupted by a crying baby, or turning down your favourite pudding at a dinner party. I have been there too many times!
As you start your journey to losing weight on a budget, train your mind along with your body. A good exercise to achieve this is to repeatedly vision your end goal when you are faced with temptation or negative thoughts. I personally found reading Buddhist teachings quite helpful with its emphasis on self control and real happiness . For anyone keen on self help books, I recommend « How to see yourself as you really are: A practical guide to self-knowledge » and « The art of happiness: A handbook for living » by the Dalai Lama.
It’s possible to lose weight on a budget, without gym membership fees, expensive tummy tuck cost or extortionate « special » diet schemes. Losing weight on a budget is based on acquiring key knowledge and gaining mental strength to make weight loss journey less stressful and successful, putting you in control of your progress. The option gives you the added bonus to easily incorporate acquired healthier habits into your lifestyle even after losing weight. This leads to sustainable results, which many struggle to achieve. So before giving up on your weight loss goals for financial reasons, why not try doing the above recommendations!