I’ve struggled with two things most of my adult life: my weight and my credit card balances. Most of the time I find myself focusing energy and resources on fighting both fronts, but have found it much harder to lose weight than pay off debt. Apparently, I am not alone. After reading a post by a fellow blogger I began to ponder reasons why this seems to the be the case for most overweight people struggling with debt.
Like anything worth doing, both weight loss and debt reduction require a lot of discipline and hard work. Some people are fortunate to have been born to parents with fast metabolisms, but others like me just look at a milkshake and gain three pounds. Some have benefited financially from a family inheritance, or simply from their parents sound financial advice. However, I wasn’t exposed to personal finance concepts growing up (not making excuses, I own my mistakes), and my parents have both struggled with their weight for as long as I can remember.
My wife and I have remarked that if we focus on one plan or the other we seem to have success, but we struggle when trying to work on them concurrently. This sort of reminds me of the old save vs. pay down debt argument – which one comes first, and which one takes a higher importance. The fact is they are both important, but by trying to accomplish them at the same time you divide your resources, making each half of the plan less effective.
I have been able to pay down debt, but I still struggle with weight loss. I think I have found the answer to this riddle. Paying down debt provides instantaneous, concrete results. If I pay $500 on a credit card, my account balance immediately drops by $500. However, if I eat clean for a week, drink lots of water, and get in three or four good workouts, I may or may not actually lose any scale weight (based on fluid retention, muscle growth, etc.). This is discouraging, and typically derails my nutrition and training plan. I immediately revert back to bad habits, stop working out and eat everything in sight.
The answer for successfully losing weight and paying down debts is to extend the timeframe for accomplishing your goals. My weight wasn’t put on overnight, and my credit card balances represent years of unintelligent spending. Why do I think I can clean them both up in a month or two? It is simply not logical. Common sense tells us that it takes time to pay off thousands of dollars in debt, or lose fifty pounds of fat, but we as human beings let our emotions get the best of us.
To combat these emotions I’ve decided the best approach is to very closely monitor my debt snowball plan, but very loosely monitor my weight loss plan. I will continue to update my total debt balance with each payment made throughout the month. However, I will avoid taking measurements or stepping foot on a scale until the end of the month. Some argue weekly intervals are better because you can make slight course corrections if what you are doing isn’t working, but for me weekly weigh-ins are discouraging. Besides, if I am heading in the right direction my clothes will fit better, I will sleep better, and I will have more energy. These measurements are more important success indicators than body fat percentage or scale weight.
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