“Budget” Tips, Part 2 (recycled)

In Diet and Weight, Excercise, Family Doctor, Mindful Eating on October 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm
budget pie chart on doctorfoodtruth

Continuation of a two-part post translating money budgeting tips to healthy food choice/diet advice. The original article from The San Francisco Chronicle has 6 tips and #4, 5, and 6 are right here!

4) Increase your income rather than simply decreasing your spending. This was the one bit my ‘money man’ @PeteThePlanner objected to, since it can just send people back to the work-spend-work treadmill that is such a soul-killer. Ms. Mueller suggests taking on a part-time job to help ease the budget. Will the resulting overwork just make me feel even more deprived and deserving of the splurges and lifestyle that ruin a budget in the first place!

Interestingly, this is a piece of advice I am reluctant to teach in the food and diet realm too. Despite what Richard Simmons and Tony Little would tell you, I do not think exercise is the path to weight loss. I go into detail about this in my book, Food Truths, Food Lies, but in brief: It takes moments to eat or drink hundreds of calories and hours to burn them off.

The math is pretty simple and not knowing this leads to great frustration for millions. “Why isn’t the Ab-Roller making me skinny?!?” My painful but true answer: “Because it can’t.” Getting a part-time job to make ends meet is equal to planning to hit the treadmill to make up for a banana split. Who is really going to spend the 3 hours it takes to burn those 1,200 calories? And if I do put in that much sweat and effort, don’t I deserve a reward? More ice cream! Oops.

5) Spend money on maintenance. The SanFran article goes into the wisdom of keeping your stuff in good working order to prevent financially disastrous repair bills. You know, skipping the $30 oil change to “save money” then paying for the $2,000 engine overhaul. Not smart.

As a Family Physician, I believe this wholeheartedly. Fixing the diabetes or heart attack or cancer is so much harder than keeping our bodies healthy and whole in the first place. Avoiding obesity by being aware of food choices and calories is so much easier than struggling to lose those 50 deadly pounds. Please don’t neglect your amazing body! Doing that will always come back to haunt you.

6) Don’t panic about your non-existent savings account. In her last turn-it-all-on-it’s-head piece of advice, Ms. Mueller gives us permission to not panic about a lack of savings. Yes, it’s important, she says, but “If you take money away from paying off an interest-bearing debt in order to put it in a savings account, you’ll likely be losing money…” In other words, priorities matter. Some things are always more important than others. For her, paying off high-interest credit cards is numero uno.

For health, I think this means needing to accept where we are while working to change. If you have diabetes, please don’t stop your medicine so you can concentrate on weight loss. If my cholesterol is already dangerously high, quitting my medicine so I can use the money to buy organic at Whole Foods would be crazy.

Yes, health is always improvable. Yes, we should all want to be well. Yes, the effort is worth it. None of these truths mean I should stop doing the little things to pursue some grand health goal.

As a bonus tip, Mueller ends with the advice to stop being so secretive. She thinks using positive peer pressure is a great idea to help us stick to our budgets. If you’re going to make a change, tell someone you trust. Let them help you stick to it when it gets a little tough, as it certainly will.

For health and wellbeing, ditto. Join a group (Weight Watchers is great,) challenge a friend to join you, blog about it — make it known. We humans are social critters and having support is crucial in any worthwhile endeavor.

The last piece of advice that we always need? Get going!

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

  1. I am highly surprised a family physician would not see or recognize the benefits of exercise and diet for a healthier lifestyle. Maybe my 1 hour per day workout doesn’t workoff all the food I eat, but it does make me stronger, benefits my heart and body, and gives me more energy. That energy and strength can be used in keeping my thoughts on a healthier better me, as opposed to succumbing to tired feelings and just eating without thinking. As a person that has lost 176 pounds because of diet and exercise, I strongly believe in a holistic approach to weight management and loss. We should strive to be healthier and weight loss will be the benefit when eating better and exercising regularly.

    • I would be highly surprised too! Ignoring exercise is not at all what I teach my patients or want to teach my readers. Sorry to mislead – let me clarify: Exercise is great for you!
      My point about not planning to burn it back off is simply one of math. Taking in calories is far, far easier than burning them off. Your own Independence post (very nice piece, by the way) is full of suggestions about how to avoid over-eating. I think we are actually on the same team here, wanting to encourage others to make healthier choices and feel better. Happy Fourth!

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