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Investing in weight loss

A reader commenting on my Me Minus 10 column a couple of weeks ago suggested that my talk of frequent yoga class-taking and treadmill running smacked of an insular lifestyle and reflected my sizable salary.


The comment made me think about the personal economics of weight management. Because, strange as it may seem, we freelance newspaper journalists don't tend to command outlandishly large salaries. I have to think about every dollar I spend, just as I imagine most of my readers do.

In theory, losing weight should cost nothing -- and, if you're eating a lot less food, should even save you money on groceries. And there are all kinds of ways to exercise for free, right?

I like to jog and walk, but my neighborhood is not amenable to doing either outdoors. I get most of my calorie-burning exercise on a 15-year-old treadmill on which fully half of the functions have ceased to function. It's set up in my gravel-floored, unfinished and windowless basement. There's not even a TV down there.

Yoga class is in a studio in my friend's house, three doors down from mine. In return for teaching a class per week, I get to take other lessons for free. But if I had to pay full freight, I imagine I'd be doing a lot more of my yoga at home and less in the studio.

In preparation for Me Minus 10, I've invested $45 in a new scale. I spent about $7 on a spiral-bound blank book to use as a food diary, plus another couple bucks on some of those new bleed-free Sharpie pens. I'm now eyeing a set of kettlebells, which several people, including MisFits columnist Vicky Hallett, have suggested I try as a means of adding weight training to my routine. From what I can tell, I can get a set for around $50.

It remains to be seen how my campaign will affect my grocery bill. Healthful food is generally more expensive than junk. But as Adam Drewnowski, an expert on the economics of nutrition, points out, you don't have to spend a lot of money to eat healthfully.

I have indulged in a few little pick-me-ups to make this effort a bit happier. I bought a $14 jar of One Minute Manicure, a scented oil and salt mix that makes my 49-year-old hands look and feel soft. I used it on my feet (with their freshly painted toenails -- another little picker-upper) before yoga this morning, and it sure gave me a lift.

My biggest expenditure so far, though, has been $100 for a pair of those Skechers Shape-ups shoes I've been seeing ads for. Wearing them is supposed to help shape and tone my legs and behind. My kids think they're hideous; I think they're kind of cute -- and quite comfy. I'll let you know if I see any change.

What kinds of investments have you made in your weight-loss efforts? Have they proven worthwhile? Share your experiences in the comments section, please!

Follow me and the other Local Living writers on Twitter at @wposthome/local-living. And keep track of my "Me Minus 10" effort to lose 10 pounds before I turn 50 at twitter.com/jhuget.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 9, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Me Minus 10 , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Comments

I bought a Wii with the Fit Plus and have es sports Active. Awesome workouts with varied and interactive routines. Once I knew I would keep it up I gave up gym membership. Ten pounds down and 3% body fat less after 40 days.

Posted by: jackdmom | March 9, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I'd agree that many neighborhoods aren't pedistrian friendly, but you must live in a real disaster if your "gravel-floored, unfinished and windowless basement" is better than being outdoors!

You might consider whether an hour of genuine sunshine a day, even if it's on the shoulder of a road, might improve your mood and increase your enthusiam for this health-lifestyle change.

I personally think the biggest "cost" of a healthier lifestyle/weight loss program is time. Most of the things that are involved can be acquired for very little money if you so desire.

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 9, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm with you on your "me minus 10" journey! Just wanted to make sure you know that those shape ups should not be worn at the gym or for running - they could cause serious injury - I think they even say so in the packaging. I've seen several people at my gym doing step classes and running in them and I always cross my fingers that they don't sprain an ankle.

Posted by: malay10 | March 9, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget the cost of good sneakers. If you are beginning to exercise regularly (and especially if you haven't in a while), plan to spend about $100 on a set of dedicated, fitted-by-a-pro sneakers. Dedicated means don't also wear them running errands and everywhere else. Work-out shoes should be done for just that. Your feet (and knees) will thank you.

Posted by: mdem929 | March 9, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I love classes at the gym & will dedicate myself to them to lose my last 15 pounds, but when I lost 20 lbs a couple years ago it was with my running, biking to work, and swimming at the local (free) pool in DC. For me it's more about dedication and willpower than how much you spend on gear or memberships to do it.

Food is another story: if I can stay away from cereal at breakfast (by having oatmeal or an English Muffin w/ cottage cheese) then I am usually ahead, calorie-and-financially speaking.

Posted by: lclcl33 | March 9, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I think my most beneficial investment has been a computer food log with a data base of food to track calories and all sorts of statistics. It definitely has paid off and keeps my on track.

Posted by: ChristopherHathaway | March 9, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

There are great online fitness tools that are completely free. Holosfitness.com is one such tool that serves as a social networking website focused on fitness. Its a great resource to help you get in shape, stay in shape, and lead a healthy lifestyle. Holosfitness.com has hundreds of exercises posted with step-by-step instruction, all of which are completely free. The site also has video instruction of many workouts and blogs posted by fitness professionals. Get in shape today with the help of Holosfitness.com.

Posted by: gstallkamp | March 9, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

For me, the one "investment" that has paid the most benefits is the cost of an additional cable box/DVR in the basement. I've had the treadmill down there for years, but so many evenings I would make excuses -- there was something I wanted to see that was only available on my main TV, or I wanted to watch something I had recorded -- but now there's nothing I can't watch on the treadmill instead.

Jennifer, if you find the treadmill as boring as I do, could you set up a laptop on a table in front of it, and watch DVDs or Hulu?

(By the way, walking outdoors (which I do love) is no substitute, workout-wise -- show me where I can walk consistently, exclusively uphill for an hour, even at night, without regard for weather, traffic, or personal safety. It doesn't exist.)

Posted by: Janine1 | March 9, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

In terms of financial investment (!) I agree with the person who suggested the WiiFitPlus: not cheap, but not nearly as expensive as gym membership or any of the high-tech 'home gym' equipment. For low-cost, add audio books to your treadmill walk / jog: you can get them at the local library. And if it's free you're after, forget $7 for a 'food diary notebook' - join SparkPeople, and the nutrition tracker, fitness tracker, and other helpful tools are (here comes the magic word) FREE!

Posted by: KaseyCoff | March 9, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It may be cheaper to eat less, but adding more fruits and veggies will drive that grocery bill right back up. I put back apples the other day when I realized they were $1 each! Not even the organic ones, just the cheapest Wegmans carried.

Posted by: Marimom | March 9, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I have invested in working w/ a trainer. At $75 a week, it is pricey but he is actually worth far more. He kicks my butt in an hour + sends me off w/ suggestions on diet, a plan for my workouts, and also does a bit of therapy when needed. A friend of mine who wants to lose weight asked me about how I had dropped so much. I told her that a good trainer will get you on track + keep you on it if you are willing to work + actually follow through on the workout/diet plan. I highly recommend it if possible. If your budget is limited, you can always ask about sharing work outs. My trainer + the trainers who work w/ him are willing to let up to 4 or 5 people share workouts. That can help you use a trainer weekly but at reduced costs. I'm not wealthy but I make a decent living, don't live in a high cost of living area, and I don't have an expensive lifestyle. I'm a gym rat who would be bored silly in a jewelry store for even 5 minutes but can spend hours in an athletic store. I set my priorities accordingly.

Posted by: mstevens357 | March 9, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

You're not getting it. It's not about lifestyle, rather it's how financially able are you to engage in weight loss activities? I don't care how much your sneakers cost. How many poor people are trying to lose weight?

Posted by: schafer-family | March 9, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I use Cybercise (www.cyber-cise.com) to follow along to exercise videos anytime I have time to work out. It is only $10 a month for unlimited access!

Posted by: jmf1 | March 11, 2010 6:43 AM | Report abuse

I too have been on a weight loss quest-invested in new shoes (Newton's - expensive but very light weight). The biggest help has been the DirectLife activity monitor. I chose it over others because it is waterproof and I often take Aqua Fitness classes. The coach and feedback have been very useful. One problem though. Even though I bought it in the US in US dollars and it was shipped in the US, Philips processed the charge in the Netherlands and I was charged a foreign transaction fee. Their customer service sees nothing wrong with this.

I would be interested in hearing about others who have used electronic devices to help them lose weight.

Posted by: paja1 | March 14, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

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