During the last year I have put my own health on the back burner as I focused on the health of my mother, who passed away in September at 54 after a long recovery attempt from a stroke. One thing I have a learned from her illness, and death, is that I need to take better care of myself. So, like millions of others planning their diet of choice in 2010, I have started planning for a healthier me.
Since I’ve always been a big guy, I’m familiar with all sorts of diet plans, training regimens-even the gimmicks. When I was younger, spending lots of money on gym memberships, bikes, creatine and other supplements, and high-quality food was pretty easy. Now that I have a family, and other mouths to feed, spending a lot of money on those same things seems like an expensive hobby more than an effort to improve my health. But, it seems the years of eating cheap and working (and sleeping) through planned workouts is catching up with me.
The Costs of Commercial Diet Plans
Looking at the various available diet plans through a frugal filter leaves few options. Most plans require you buy the plan’s food, or pay for a subscription to a website, or pay for group meetings, or counselors, or all of the above. This can add up quickly. For instance, take a look at the program fees for three of the more popular diet plans(as listed in the January 2010 edition of Smart Money magazine):
I tried NutriSystem for a couple months, but found it to be very expensive. Not only did I have to pay for the food, I also had to buy additional food to eat along with the NutriSystem meals (salads, vegetables, etc.). A few of the meals were pretty good, but I found all the canned, “red” sauce foods to taste like they had nail shavings in them (very metallic). I became convinced Dan Marino was full of crap.
Weight Watchers ($69/month)
If I had to pick a commercial diet plan it would probably be Weight Watchers. I’ve attended a few meetings out of curiosity, and found their points system to be more tolerable than counting carbs or calories. I also like that they have a “do-it-yourself” web-based plan for those like me who would rather not attend weekly weigh-ins.
Jenny Craig ($380-$770/month)
I don’t know much about Jenny Craig, but from what I’ve read it is one of the more costly diet plans around. The plan costs include enrollment fees, one-on-one counseling, and of course, Jenny Craig branded food and other supplies.
The Frugal Diet Plan
Instead of shelling out over $6,000 on a diet plan next year, I started thinking about putting together my own plan by taking some of the better ideas I’ve come across in the last couple years of blogging. These ideas cost very little, and in some cases actually save money.
Eat less to be lighter. Here’s a novel idea: eat less food to lose weight. It’s a concept that is simple when said out loud, but very difficult when parked in front of a buffet. This concept focuses less on what you eat, and instead how much you eat. This will definitely be an important element of the frugal diet plan I develop in 2010.
Eliminate “liquid calories.” Americans consume more than 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and soft drinks make up about 1/3 of that amount (Bottom Line Personal Magazine December, 2009). Considering one 12-oz can of Coca Cola has about 8 teaspoons of sugar, I could eliminate significant calories and carbs simply by avoiding soft drinks. And considering we pay $1.25-$1.50 for each 2-liter bottle (plus my daily, 3:00pm trip to the vending machine at work) we could save a good bit of money over the next year.
Grow more of our own food. Last year we skipped the square foot garden and I really missed it, not only for the fresh vegetables right out of our backyard, but gardening is also therapeutic for me. I enjoy getting out of the house for a few minutes of peace and quiet. And when I am not interested in peace and quiet, I love letting the kids help!
Eat like a kid. No, not ice cream and gummy worms for breakfast, but in kid-sized portions. Eat off smaller plates. Use smaller cups for juices and other drinks. The other day my son and I were finishing some Christmas shopping and had to grab a bite to eat on the run. I ordered him a fast food kids meal with fruit instead of fries. Instead of ordering the usual super-sized gut burger I always get, I decided just to double the kids meal order. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, fruit cup and water, all for many less calories (and a couple dollars) than I would have spent on an adult-sized meal.
Think like a caveman. My wife accuses me of this already, so perhaps I’m on the right track! Actually, what I’m referring to is making food choices based on the types of foods our ancestors ate. When humans first began roaming the earth, Oreo cookies and Mountain Dew were not staples of their diet. They eat things that came from the earth, not hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. In the coming months, I plan to eat more vegetables, fruits and nuts, just like the hunter/gatherers of the past. With the major exception being I’ll hunt and gather inside Kroger rather than a frozen tundra.
To review the highlights of my frugal diet plan, in 2010 I will eat less food, cut out soft drinks, and grow my own fruits and vegetables while eating like a kid and thinking like a caveman. Simple enough.
Photo by PicsmaKer