Despite what the endless array of commercials and infomercials suggest, it is possible to lose weight without burning up your credit card. In fact, some of the most important aspects of healthy weight loss are free or close to it. Here are five ways to achieve your weight loss goals on a budget.
Exercise for free
As countless news stories and talk show segments have told you, walking is a fabulous way to get your exercise. You probably already have a pair of sneakers, and no special wardrobe or equipment is required. Taking a brisk walk will burn calories and firm up muscles. You can take it up a notch by “power walking” (pumping your arms rhythmically while you walk fast) or “interval walking” (alternate walking at a moderate pace for several minutes and walking fast for one or two minutes).
Other free workouts include jogging or running, calisthenics (like jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups), and exercising along with televised workouts available on some cable and satellite systems. The key is to get your heart rate up for an extended period of time while moving and challenging your muscles. You can find many free workout programs that will guide you through a series of exercises on the Internet and in fitness magazines.
Exercise on the cheap
If none of the free options move you, there is a more extensive selection of exercise choices available for way less than a gym membership or fancy home fitness equipment. There are literally thousands of exercise DVDs to choose from for anywhere from $1 – $30 a piece. You can even try out a workout by purchasing a used copy on E-bay for spare change or borrowing it from the library. Add a $20 set of hand weights or a resistance band and you’re in business.
It’s also worth looking into exercise equipment available at your local mass merchandise or big box stores (like Walmart or Costco). You can sometimes find a manual treadmill, stepper, or mini trampoline for less than $100. It might not impress your friends like Chuck Norris’ Total Gym would, but it will still help you get a workout.
Prepare your own meals
In addition to exercise, you need to trim the calories you are consuming to successfully lose weight. One of the easiest ways to do that is to cut out the manufactured, processed and packaged “convenience” food that we all eat too much of. The cost here is your time, not money. If you focus on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, you will be purchasing real whole foods for close to the same price as the packaged stuff. Then you can control how much sugar and fat is added to your food and easily cut your total calories.
This applies to snacking too. Fruits and vegetables, whole nuts, and whole wheat crackers and hummus are more figure friendly and less expensive than hitting the vending machine every afternoon.
An extension of this idea is to eat out less. When you eat out, you lose control over portion size. If you are buying lunch at work every day, you could be spending as much as $50 or more each week. You can easily purchase the ingredients for five brown bag lunches for far less. Try turkey on whole wheat with an apple and yogurt, homemade pasta salad with olive oil and lots of crunchy veggies, bagged salad with a hard boiled egg or canned salmon. All of these are probably lighter than what you usually buy for lunch.
Switch to water and herbal teas
If you are like most Americans, you spend more on sodas, energy drinks, and other flavored beverages than it would cost to buy a good water filter and some reusable water bottles. Drinking plenty of water flushes out your system and energizes and refreshes you. Many times when you want a snack but you’re not sure why, you are actually thirsty! Some people also find that drinking a glass of water before a meal helps them to eat less.
If water gets boring, you can head down to the coffee and tea aisle and try some herbal teas. Herbal teas are caffeine and sweetener free, and are great hot or iced. Mint teas in particular have a natural sweetness that might hit the spot when you’re craving a soda. There are several widely available brands that only cost $3 or $4 dollars for 20 – 25 tea bags, much less than you’ll spend on sugary drinks.
Sleep it off
Recent research suggests that getting a good night’s sleep can help you to lose or maintain weight. When we reach the deep sleep stages, our bodies are free to process and repair everything that we consume and damage while awake. The theory is that sugar metabolism is most efficient during this sleep stage. So if you aren’t getting enough sleep, more of what you eat is being stored instead of processed.
Another aspect of the sleep-weight relationship involves stress. If you don’t get enough sleep, you are more stressed during the day. More stress leads to more cortisol production, and cortisol seems to be related to storing fat around your middle. Both of these ideas are theories that are still being developed, but the key is that there seems to be a strong correlation between getting plenty of rest and staying trim. Plus you need your sleep to have enough energy to exercise!
Tough financial times should not be an obstacle to reaching a healthy weight. With these tips and more ideas you can find on the web, you can achieve your weight loss goals on a tight budget.