Updated on 09.15.14

Developing a Financially Frugal Personal Health Plan

Trent Hamm

After partially implementing Volumetrics and seeing some success with it, I’ve made a realization that for my health to really kick into high gear, I need to look at making some bigger changes. I’m not obese, I’m just somewhat heavier than I was, say, when I first started dating my wife, and I’d like to get back to that weight and level of fitness (I did push-ups on our first date, actually). However, every time I look at various methods for getting into shape, the costs of it make me cringe, especially the maintenance costs like meeting fees and gym fees.

Thus, I sat down and spent some time looking over my various options and have come up with a plan for getting in better shape that I believe will work for me. Here goes.

The first step was visiting my doctor, which I’ve already done. We went over my current health situation in quite a lot of detail, and he suggested several things to try.

Doctor’s Orders and What They Cost

1. An aerobic exercise regimen

He recommended some sort of method where I could easily track my progress and something to keep myself motivated – he actually directly suggested that I pay for a medium-level aerobics class at a local gym. I can’t even conceive of myself actually going to an aerobics class, let alone paying the high costs associated with it, so I started to look for other solutions.

wiiMy frugal solution to an aerobic exercise regimen is the same solution that worked for me in college: Dance Dance Revolution. For those unaware, Dance Dance Revolution is a video game that comes with a floor mat. This floor mat has four arrows on it: up, down, left, right. When you play the game, a song plays and you simply step on the arrows in time with the music. On the screen, arrows fly up to the top and when they cross a line at the top of the screen, that’s when you step on that specific arrow. So, when the up arrow crosses the line on the screen, that’s when you step on the up arrow on the pad.

When you get familiar with it, it becomes rather good aerobic exercise, to the point that the Wii version of the game includes a “Workout mode” that keeps track of calories burnt and time spent exercising – that mode basically keeps tossing songs at you until you stop. Even better, the Wii version includes using the normal remote as well, requiring you to get arm motions into the exercise. Basically, the game provides its own motivation. The best part? I can do all of this in the privacy of my own basement. The startup cost is a bit high, but the maintenance cost is nil – you don’t have to keep paying gym fees or class fees when you have DDR at home. Cost: $69

2. Plenty of water intake

He encouraged me to drink between 12 and 16 cups (2.8 liters and 3.8 liters) of straight water each day, and directly replace any sodas in my life with that amount. A typical can of soda is 1.5 cups, so this replaces somewhere between 8 and 11 cans of soda a day. While I do drink some soda (with a strong personal preference towards Hansen’s Natural), I don’t drink nearly that much and the rest of my fluid intake is almost entirely water and milk (and the occasional glass of wine or craft beer).

If I follow his suggestion completely (and I plan to), this will eliminate almost all soda from my diet entirely. Not only is this strictly healthier, it’s also significantly cheaper, considering the amount of water I should drink in a day can be pulled from the tap for less than a cent, versus the cost of several cans of soda. I calculated the daily savings (versus buying soda in bulk), and I figure I’ll save somewhere around $2 a day doing this. Cost: -$2 a day

3. Eating a healthier diet

He felt that my current diet was the least of my problems, since I’m at least partially following the Volumetrics plan and I prepare quite a bit of food at home, but he encouraged me to prepare as much as I could at home and try to follow the Volumetrics principles. I asked him about a vegetarian diet and he said if I try that, I should make sure there are lots of beans in the diet as they’re the strongest source of protein in a vegetarian diet. I am going to attempt a one week trial run of eating vegetarian just to see how it goes, but mostly I’m going to focus on what I do now. Cost: Slightly cheaper, but negligible

4. Creating specific, tangible, realistic goals

He suggested various things, like a certain number of aerobic exercise sessions a week, an avoidance of fatty foods for a certain period, and a certain number of days without drinking any fluids but water and skim milk. He also encouraged me to not set goals related to my weight, as a person’s weight on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis can fluctuate and not necessarily go down – he actually said it’s much like the stock market in a healthy economy in that it generally goes in the direction you want, but a given day or a given week, it can go in the opposite direction.

This made a lot of sense, so I prepared a small list of discrete goals for myself. Four sessions of aerobic exercise a week, 13.5 cups of water per day, and halving the number of meals I don’t eat at home (or in the form of leftovers). If I make all of these for a month, then I’ll reward myself in some amusing, simple fashion that I haven’t quite created yet, but the excitement of the goals themselves will keep me going at first, anyway. Cost: a little bit if I hit all my goals, but if I hit all of them, I’ll be healthier, so… negligible?

Except for the startup cost for DDR (and that’s mostly because motivation is a very key part of the puzzle for me and aerobic exercise), this is actually extremely inexpensive and in some ways saves money. The near-entire elimination of soda from my diet will pay for the DDR setup in a little over a month, so in the long run (if I stick with it), it shouldn’t be too bad at all. I think I have a pretty good likelihood of sticking with it, too, as I’ll just exercise in the morning as part of my routinie some days and I don’t really change my diet much at all except for the soda. Best of all, it’s not going to cost me much of anything.

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  1. ClickerTrainer says:

    I’ve found going to a supportive gym is highly motivating for me. It’s too easy for me to get distracted by other tasks if I’m at home.

    You CAN find gyms that (1) don’t require a year ‘commitment’, (2) don’t charge high fees, and (3) are friendly and supportive no matter who you are or what you look like. I pay $30 a month, and it’s month-to-month only. Since I average 5 times a week, that works out to about $1.25 a day. There’s no juice bar, there’s no fancy outfits, just a bunch of people sweating and lifting….those gyms are out there, you just have to look beyond Golds.

    That being said, I really want to try DDR. I just can’t justify buying a Wii for that.

  2. m says:

    What’s worked for me for years, and with almost no expense:

    *running and/or walking. Free but for the cost of running shoes. Added bonus: enjoying fresh air and getting outside.

    *exercise videos. They don’t cost much and price per use comes out to pennies or less over time since I have a few that I use regularly.

    These save a lot of time since I don’t have to drive somewhere to begin exercising, I can do them anytime from home, and they are cheap, and they work.

    I have been a vegetarian for more than a decade and second your doctor’s advice about getting enough protein. Beans will do it but they must be serve as a complete protein by eating them with rice, bread, etc. Beans alone will not provide adequate protein. Protein shakes also work, as well quinoa, which is apparently a complete protein on its own.

    Good luck with your program. I think it’s wonderful and I know I always feel much better after making positive changes in my diet and exercise regimen. Hope you will too!

  3. Mrs. Micah says:

    My roommates had DDR in my Junior year. Much fun, though I wasn’t nearly as good at it as they were.

    As a frugal tip to the universe in general: If you’re looking for workout DVDs, try putting out a Wanted ad on Freecycle. Plenty of people buy them but never use them. Have people e-mail you a list of their titles and figure out what you’d like. Or try Craigslist.

  4. !wanda says:

    Ha. In my college, you could do DDR as an “independent gym” class for a term (we had to take three classes of gym for graduation). You just had to write down that you’d done it for three hours a week, the same amount of time as a normal gym class.

    If you want to track your weight, to get over the weight going up and down phenomenon, you could try measuring yourself at the same time and place every day, making an Excel spreadsheet, and tracking the 10-day moving average. When my friend tried this, he found that his daily weight fluctuated, but the 10-day average steadily went down. It’s probably a good idea for you because you’re very motivated by reaching specific numerical goals.

  5. Sarah says:

    This sounds good (I think the water consumption business is really overrated, but harmless–and choosing an exercise you find fun is so important), except one thing is lacking: any strength training component. Strength training is just as important as aerobic exercise for long-term maintenance of weight and ability to carry on life activities (like hauling toddlers around). And for real strength training, it must be said that a gym makes it much easier. You *can* find a non-scammy, frugal gym if you look around–your city may offer public facilities, and so may the YMCA. Your job may also offer a gym subsidy. (If you do this, check your health insurance also; many plans now offer a rebate on gym fees if you document going a certain number of times per term. I got $400 back on my gym fees this year that way, and all I had to do–besides being diligent about going–was submit a printout of my visits.)

  6. Um, what exactly led to you doing push ups on your first date?

    Also, work more exercise into your day by taking your kids for a walk or to the park :)

  7. Sarah says:

    I completely agree with you on DDR. I am an outpatient dietitian who works with overweight and obese children and I frequently tell them to play DDR. Somehow, the fact that it is video game makes them forget it is exercise as well. I even have it for myself (one of the PS2 editions) and I love it.

  8. SJean says:

    I recently started running, which costs me only the shoes. I find it easy to self motivate and use a podcasted running program.

    But a lot of people hate running. :)

  9. leslie says:

    I lost 40 lbs in the last year and for the first 6 months of that (when I lost the bulk of the weight) the only exercise I did was DDR and walking. I would get up early and walk 3 times a week and then the other days I would do DDR for 45 min. to an hours. Now that my youngest is a little older and doesn’t nap as much I have joined a gym with excellent childcare included in the cost. After I lost the wieght I wanted I truely wanted to get in good shape and quite frankly DDR wasn’t going to get me there. The gym has, however. So, I highly endorse DDR but you are eventually going to have to add something else in (running, power walking etc.) because once your fitness gets to a certain point DDR isn’t going to do it anymore. Having said that though I do still do DDR on occasion if the kids are sick and I can’t get to the gyms etc.

  10. Andy says:

    The main thing is to do something you love doing, then its easy. Sounds like DDR will be a great match for you! I enjoy biking and walking.

  11. HebsFarm says:

    Added bonus: you WILL lose weight even if you only accomplish half of these goals because you’re a MAN and fat seems to melt right off of you guys… so unfair…

  12. vh says:

    waitwaitwaitwai… You’re gunna pay $69 for a dance game? But…you have a wife and surely you have a gadget that will play CDs. Why not go over to the library and check out some lively music (free) and just…well, dance with your wife? :-))) Love conquers all, even fat!

    Seriously, if you’d like to dance for exercise, ballroom dancing amounts to quite a workout. Check out your local community college to see if they offer any dance classes — many cc’s do, and what a boot! Not only are the classes fun and lots of exercise, you and your wife will learn a skill that will stay with you the rest of your lives.

    Just walking 40 minutes or an hour every morning will also help. A year or so ago, my blood sugar levels were borderline diabetic — and I’m not overweight. A friend and I started walking around the neighborhood every morning before work, and lo! When I went in for a checkup last month, the blood sugar levels had dropped 100 points, well into the “normal” range, and my cholesterol levels also had improved from “normal” to “excellent.” Didn’t change my diet, except to substitute lots of sweet juicy fruits for baked sweets and sugary coffee drinks.

  13. Elaine says:

    Aren’t there community centres in your area? Around here they are much cheaper than gymns.

    And I’m going to go on the record here that your doctor doesn’t know crap about vegetarian protein. You don’t need to chow down on beans constantly, and you don’t need to combine them with grains, but you DO need to eat a wide variety of things. You have a circulating amino acid pool, so (to simplify things) let’s say you need three amino acids (A, B, and C) besides the ones your body makes. Beans have A and B, grains have B and C. You eat some bread in the morning, so you’ve got B and C floating around. You have refried beans for lunch, so that adds A and B. You pick up a C from the pool, which leaves a B floating around. At dinner you down some veggies (which have A and C) so they team up with the B that’s chilling in your acid pool. Like I said, very simplified example, but you get the idea.

    Furthermore, almost all foods except for fruit and fats/oils have enough protein per calorie to meet your body’s requirements. In other words, as long as you eat enough calories, and as long as you are not eating mostly fruit and fat, you will always get enough protein. Always. Even if you only eat vegetables – though you would have to eat a lot of them to get enough calories.

    So don’t worry about protein. You will have enough. Keep in mind that a healthy vegetarian diet is not about just switching beans or tofu for meat. It is about changing your WHOLE diet in favour of something that relies on a wide variety of unprocessed fruit & vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

  14. T'Pol says:

    I have been following your blog for quite a while and it is such a nice coincidence that we have both decided to improve our health and mentioned it on our blogs. Too bad, you cannot read mine since it is in my own language. I am quite overweight and I decided to pull together a team to work on this problem. I went through a very detailed check-up which my insurance company partially paid for. They do not pay for the dietician at all. Now, my dietician and an internist (is that the right word for it?) and I are working on a healthy eating plan and adding some moderate exercise to my daily routine. My diet is rich in water, anti-oxidants and Omega 3. I eat 5 small meals a day now and although it has been only three days, I feel more energetic. So Good Luck to both of us in improving our health!

  15. Aimeé says:

    My husband and I are both runners…we joined a local running club and do a lot of charity runs. The races serve as motivational tools plus the entry fees go to a good cause. Lots of people hate running, but it can be very meditative. Start by walking, then add periods of jogging until you can maintain jogging fulltime. My husband is a diabetic and lost over 50 lbs during the first year we were together by running. Now he’s in much better shape and his diabetes is toally under control.

    Other than shoes and the occassional race fee (optional), running and/or walking is totally free and you can do it alone or with other people.

  16. Kelly says:

    I think these are all fantastic, practical suggestions – and I’m glad that nobody jumped on the ‘gym memberships are a waste of money’ bandwagon. I get lots of benefit from my gym, so I justify the cost.

    I pay $42 a month for mine, which I most certainly get my money’s worth. When trimming my budget, cable TV got the ax, but my gym membership stayed! I go 4-5 times a week, take all sorts of interesting workout classes or exercise on my own, play basketball (badly!), do yoga, chat with like-minded folks, attend informal talks by nutritionists & trainers, and even sign up for group hikes and 5K events – all of which is included in the $42. Very worth it, to me.

  17. Woody says:

    I too bulked at the price of the gyms and the price of healthier foods. But when a close friend of mine who was in similar physical health had heart attack and nearly died because of it, the prices suddenly looked at lot better.
    Being frugal is nice, and having money is great, but it’s useless if you’re dead because of poor health. Weight how important your health is vs other things in your life, and I think the numbers seem a lot easier to swallow.

  18. Felis says:

    My husband prefers DDR over more formal exercise too. We have Super Nova for the PS2, but I was very interested in the Wii’s version with the hand motions. There is a decisive learning curve to get the hand flicks to register on beat. I still haven’t mastered it although my husband has. Because of that frustration, I prefer to play it on the PS2.

    If all I had was the Wii, I’d still play because it’s a great game. But if you are looking for what you had in college – it is different, and maybe not in a good way. Do you have any way to try it before you buy?

  19. Susy says:

    I’m also in the walking/running club like many others. My husband and I go on a 45 min walk every day and sometimes we take a second 25 min one in the evenings to relax. I joined a local running challenge and committed to run 5 local races throughout the year. It was so much fun!!! It was the motivation I needed to keep running all year! This year my husband decided to do it with me and we’re having fun running together.

    We don’t have local gym (we live in very rural Ohio). So we bought some free weights & a bench for the basement (actually they were a Christmas present to me from my husband – and no I wasn’t upset). So 2x a week we do lift in the basement.

    I don’t want to look like a model, I just want to be healthy and happy and not spend so much time working out I can’t do anything else.

    I applaud your wanting to get healthy. It’s not only important for your health but for the future health of your children. Since you’re starting when they’re young they will go grow up with a good example of a healthy adult!

    If you want a great health book to read check out Dr Walt Willett’s “Eat Drink & be Healthy”. I use his food pyramid it’s FANTASTIC!!!

  20. Amanda says:

    Sometimes large (and even medium-sized) companies will partially subsidize the cost of a gym membership. Don’t automatically assume your company doesn’t – I worked for a 45 person company (no, not an uber-rich Silicon Valley startup) that did. It’s worth asking HR.

    Also, check Craigslist for used exercise equipment. I’m sure your local CL won’t have nearly as much as the one in NYC (I swear, you can get 3 free exercise bikes a day on the NYC ones) but it’s worth a look. You might also ask your friends. I know a lot of us have invested in health equipment which gets turned into a $2000 clothes rack within a month.

    Just some thoughts. :)

  21. A says:

    I am a personal trainer and I think that it is great that you want to get in shape. As long as you can stay motivated, there are an unlimited amount of exercises you can do without any equipment or a gym membership. Running, lunges, pushups, single let squats, body rows, etc. Also, you can turn a basic body weight workout into a cardiovascular workout by doing it in a circuit fashion without rest between sets. Improving your overall health is the best motivation of all. Be sure to mix it up so you do not get burnt out – make this a lifestyle change and not something temporary. Best of luck!

  22. Andrew says:

    Trent, try http://www.simplefit.org/ for a pretty well-thought out fitness plan.

  23. Madd Hatter says:

    I have a friend who has struggled with his weight his entire life, and has never stuck with any exercise regimen… until he started playing DDR.

    I don’t know if this is really “frugal”, but anyone who’d want to try but doesn’t want to buy a Wii can look for a used Gamecube, a used dancing mat (Gamestop carries them, feeBay), and a copy of DDR: Mario Mix. No hand motions, and gimmicky Nintendo characters floating around, but same general premise.
    Oh, and “IRL” dancing, ballroom or otherwise, will be hard-pressed to burn the calories DDR on medium to expert will, it gets pretty crazy.

    All that said, agreed that DDR is not a perfect solution for those who want optimal health. For that, you need muscle mass, and hence, hit the free weights. But the vast, vast, VAST majority of this country would be well-served just by going the DDR route and losing the excess flab.

  24. guinness416 says:

    Some gyms (local ones especially, not so much the big chains) will give you a discount for paying up front, if the “maintenance costs” are an issue. I negotiated $500 for the year for myself and the husband, in a fantastic big city gym. We don’t get towel service and all that nonsense, but the equipment and hours are top notch. We do go several times a week and absolutely love it though. It’s only a rip off if you don’t use it. I agree with those above who recommend running, hiking & cycling too. Cheap, addictive and enormous fun, but where I live only possible for part of the year.

  25. Ryan says:

    Good luck with teh vegetarian diet! I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 6 years (the last 5 of which I’ve been vegan) and I if I can make it this long, you can make it a week. keep us posted on how it goes and enjoy your meat-free week!

  26. Nice post, Trent. I actually partly justified buying a Wii by the exercise I could get with it. :)

    Seriously though, I think that DDR is a good idea, but there is also going to be the Wii Fit soon, which should offer some nice exercise options. I’ll wait for that before I make any purchases.

    I’ve had success with the slow and steady approach of cutting calories and walking. I’ve lost 9 pounds since starting my blog and tracking my weight. The blog is an excellent motivator!

  27. wealthy_1 says:

    Congratulations on your decision to make your health and well being a priority. You are setting a wonderful example for your very young children. They are watching you and will form good health habits because you are forming good health habits.

    Many nutritionists recommend eating 4-6 small meals throughout the day. I do this and then drink at least 2 cups of water between each meal. This helps to keep that hunger feeling away. Many times when we think we’re hungry we may be thirsty, bored, or anxious.

    Have you ever tried having a big salad before eating your pizza? This could be filling and may keep you from overeating the pizza.

    I think the best tip that your doctor gave was to think of your health plan like the stock market. It’s so true that weight flucuates.

  28. Josh says:


    We got an Elliptical like this one, it was actually the 710E for $399. I use it 3 times a week for 45 mins each time. I’ve lost about 10 lbs. I really like this as apposed to a gym. My fiancee was the one who wanted it and I’ve used way more than her. Although she says she’ll use it this winter. She wants to be in shape for the wedding next October.

  29. Carrie says:

    I used to have a night/weekend/early morning job as a Dog walker/excersier. Not only did I get to excersize I made some extra cash too!

  30. icup says:

    Not to be a wet blanket, but the cheapo mat that comes with most versions of ddr is simply not good enough to play most songs in any difficulty that will get your heart rate into the aerobic zone. You are going to want to get one of the thicker padded ignition mats (something like $50-$75 at best buy).

    Unless you have really thick carpet under the cheapo mats, any kind of long term play in any mode other than the easiest is going to result in soreness and possibly even injury to your shins/ankles.

    If you don’t want to believe me, fine, but for god’s sake call your doctor and ask him what the result would be if you ran for 45 minutes on a concrete floor in your socks, which is essentially what you are doing when you play ddr.

  31. Elaine says:

    I loved doing DDR for exercise before it started bothering my downstairs neighbors. I wore a heart rate monitor, and doing DDR for an hour on “Difficult” burned around 400 calories. Since I can easily play DDR for two hours, that’s 800 calories a day, and comparable to running 10K (which takes me a little over an hour).

    And yes, I burned 400 calories an hour using the cheapo mat. :) It is, however, kind of difficult to pass any songs on the Extremely Difficult level with it… not accurate enough.

  32. Michelle says:

    DDR is amazing, I have a tip for you though. I was getting very frustrated when the mat would slide around on the floor while I was playing at a high level. The stickies that come with it did not last too long, but I did get velcro at a craft store and put them on the floor and bottom of the mat so it would not slide. It worked perfectly

  33. Johanna says:

    Don’t be afraid of tofu for your vegetarian protein fix! My favorite way to prepare it: Cut a block of tofu into thin (quarter-inch) slices, slather them with some sauce or marinade (anything you use for meat is probably fine), lay them in a single layer in an oiled baking pan, pour some more sauce over top, and bake in the oven until all the sauce dries up.

  34. Minimum Wage says:

    What if you have an expensive pre-existing condition and you’re trying to make ends meet by living on mac-and-cheese?

  35. Ben says:

    Hi Trent,

    I’ve been a reader for a few months now, and I love your blog. Thanks for these great health tips! I recently had to switch health insurance providers, and over the past couple years my health has been sliding – my weight and triglycerides both went up. As a result, the new provider dinged me pretty bad, and my insurance is higher now. However, I think I will take some of your doctor’s good advice and see if I can re-apply later and get it lower.

    As for DDR, I wanted to make you (and all your readers) aware of a cheaper alternative that’s just as good. There is a free, open-source program called StepMania (http://www.stepmania.com/) that is pretty much a perfect DDR clone for PC/Mac/Linux (with some aesthetic changes). I have used it before, and it is fantastic! You have to purchase a pad separately (anywhere from $20 for a simple pad to $500 for a professional arcade-style pad, site has specifics), but they also provide instructions on making your own, or you can use your existing Xbox/PS2 pad and get/make a cheap USB adapter. Also, due to the open-source nature of the program, it does not come bundled with songs, but you can download song packs by the dozens from their site. You can also make your own, using your own songs from tools found on their site.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know. I wish you luck!

  36. Michael says:

    Great health is a great investment and money saver. My “plan”:

    Water with almost all meals, or unsweetened tea;
    Not a lot of desserts or bread in our household (we do have a holiday exemption …);
    Running twice a week on lunch hour at work (2 x 2 miles);
    30 pushups a day;
    Walking at least two miles on Saturday and Sunday mornings with my son;

    Rural living and a long commute gets in the way of real weight lifting at a gym. The hair is getting a little gray but I still have the same waist size I had in college!

  37. Elaine says:

    Hey, there’s another Elaine commenting here? hehe, it’s not often there’s two of us :)

    Johanna, that is indeed an excellent tofu preparation method and one that I espouse whole-heartedly. However it is not the best you have ever tasted. This is: CHOCOLATE MOUSSE. The recipe goes like this. One box of Mori-nu brand extra firm silken tofu. 8 oz dark chocolate. Blend the tofu till smooth. Melt the chocolate. Add it in the blender and blend ’em both together. The end. It is hands down the best chocolate mousse you will ever have tasted.

  38. Trina says:

    My family has been vegetarian for about ten years, recently leaning towards vegan. It can save money and be a very healthy, satisfying diet, if you put a little effort into it. (Some vegetarians eat an awful lot of cheese!)

    I suggest taking it gradually, substituting more and more veggie meals for your regular ones, and letting your favorites become familiar and easy. Get some good cookbooks from the library (try Vegan Vittles by Jo Stepaniak) and see what you like. Protein is not a problem – you don’t have to eat beans every day. And seitan (a wheat gluten protein that resembles chicken) is delicious! Best wishes on your healthy lifestyle choices!

  39. Ben says:

    Several years ago when I was a single man, and had just started my thirties, I had to stop playing sport due to injury. I packed the weight on. Once my injury had settled down, I lost just over 32 pounds in 4 and a half months by doing the following. I stopped drinking sodas and alcohol and drank plenty of water. I ate a healthy breakfast every day, a healthy lunch, usually salads with wholegrain bread, every day and a healthy dinner, usually a small amount of lean meat, plenty of vegetables and a moderate amount of carbs each night. Before dinner I would go for a walk, that had three very steep hills, and do some stretching exercises for my back when I returned home. I challenged myself to walk the same distance slightly quicker each time. My mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks were seasonal fruit, at the time it was a steady diet of peaches, nectarines and melons. I allowed myself some gourmet quality ice-cream once a week. I also used the walking time as a way of thinking through some life issues.

    Following the above regime lead me to feeling the best, both physically and emotionally, that I had ever felt in my life.

    Unfortunately I have let being a father to two boys being a justification for not doing any exercise, because I don’t have enough time.

    I’m going to change this, so I wish Trent the best in getting stuck into getting fitter and healthier.

  40. Jeff says:

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned crossfit (crossfit.com) yet.
    They have a stong group that believes in home gyms. I have built my own over time in my garage.

    They post a workout of the day which is tough, but can be scaled. See the link to brandxmartialart gym for the scaled version. I often do the buttercup version and am beat.

  41. Mariette says:

    This comment is geared towards the Elaine who talked about not needing to worry about eating lots of beans.

    I’ve been vegetarian for over 15 years and have gone through many of the phases: vegan, macrobiotic, raw, food combining, you get the idea. And in my experience it’s important for people who are transitioning to vegetarianism to make sure they eat beans for their protein. Often the lighter fare associated with eating primarily veggies and grains with smaller amounts of bean products isn’t satisfying enough for meat eaters who are trying out being veggie. They feel like something is missing and can feel like they just aren’t satisfied with the meal, still hungry or experience intense food cravings. None of which will help them stick through the transition so they need something more substantial in the diet so that what they are eating is just as grounding and substantial as what they might get from a meat dinner.

    Also, everyone’s bodies are different as are their lifestyles, some people need more protein than others and not everyone can get all the nourishment they need from a light food combining diet.

  42. Rebecca says:

    Something that I haven’t seen anyone else suggest yet–

    I’ve found logging down what you’re eating and how much your exercising on a daily basis is *very* important to losing wait and just generally getting healthier–much like tracking your finances, it helps keep you honest. I tried various haphazard ways of dieting, but nothing really seemed to make a difference. Then I looked into programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, but like you, couldn’t bring myself to cough up that much money on an ongoing monthly basis.

    Then I found Calorie King’s Nutrioun and Exercise Manager ( http://www.calorieking.com/software/ckdietdiarywin.php ) software program. They have a subscription plan just like WW and others, but you don’t have to use it–you can just use the software alone. It makes entering in food dead simple. There’s a huge database of restaurant and home staples to choose from, and you can add your own. It also has a database of common exercises, will tracks calories burned, will give you nutritional breakdowns if you want them, graphs your weight to show your progress, and gives you target calorie counts to shoot for in order to create a slow, natural path to losing weight (or to keep it off, if you’re already there).

    I’m not associated with the company or anything, but it’s really worked for me–I’ve lost 30 lbs so far. They have a 7-day free trial download, and at $45, it’s really cheap and well worth it, IMHO.

  43. Trent, since you enjoy charting your progress, you might want to check out the Hacker’s Diet:

    It was designed by an engineer, so it’s very mathematics based. The eating and exercise plan isn’t anything to write home about. It’s the tracking tools and spreadsheets that are exciting. Plus, it’s free!

  44. Sylvia says:

    Trent, Myhusband and I converted to the Christian Orthodox faith a couple of years ago. We have to do without meat, eggs and diary products on Weds. and Friday. We have a strict fast coming up for 5 weeks for advents. Then our Lent period is extremely strick. We have learned to love vegan eating. I find that I prefer it actually. I’ve learned to cook all kinds of beans in different ways. Get a good vegan cookbook and try some of the recipes. Recently when you listed the things you had cooked for company, I thought: “If they eat this much meant all the time, they won’t be healthy going into their middle age. So it is good for you to start preparing for middle age now.

  45. Jennifer says:

    It is so funny that I came across this post today. My daughter just got DDR for her birthday and I love it! I had just decided that I would start doing it for exercise – and I thought it was an original idea! LOL! Good luck. I hope it helps us both with a little weight loss. :)

  46. Elaine says:

    Mariette – good point. My transition from omnivore to complete herbivore took seven months, and by now I have almost forgotten about the transition period.

    I was speaking in general though; I don’t see vegetarianism as much as a “diet” in the sense that you go on one to lose weight. For me it is a complete lifestyle change, and for it to be successful in that sense, the focus should be on a wide variety of whole foods, not on substituting something else for meat. It has worked well for me, at my last appointment with my GP I had a complete blood count and all my vitamins, minerals, etc. were excellent across the board.

    While we’re recommending veggie cookbooks – The New Farm cookbook was my first one, and it has a strong emphasis on simple, cheap food, and doing things yourself. There is a huge section on making tofu from scratch, for example. I love it.

  47. KarenFLA says:

    I have been drinking lots of water for years. All the sodas except Diet-Rite and RC Cola are full of sodium. I drink tap water at home and in restaurants.
    I just get up early every morning and go for a walk for 45 minutes. It takes me 15 minutes each way to get to a gym, and I usually just didn’t go, so I’m ahead time wise. I used to walk with people but they were always having things come up so neither of us walked. Now I go by myself and I take my cell phone and call friends and family who have the same cellphone carrier so it is free and who are early risers or driving to work at that time. I catch up with everything (my mother loves the calls and my inlaws tell everyone their daughter in law calls every week)and have the time later to get stuff done around the house after work instead of calling people.
    My daughter bought me 8 sessions with a personal trainer and although some people might feel it is a splurge, for me knowing someone is going to knock on my door so I have to work out is worth the $40 once a week, so I continued it. My daughter found her on Craig’s list and checked her out. Most of them charge $80 for the hour.

  48. Amy says:

    I’ve found that the best exercise routines are those that you can incorporate into your daily routine, or those that involve activities you genuinely love doing. If you can’t walk to run errands, can you ride a bike? Also, all of those suggestions about taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the far end of the parking lot, etc. really do work.

    There’s a really wonderful feeling that comes from having a body that feels strong and healthy, and can do things. I’d suggest setting accomplishment-related goals, like completing a certain number of reps, beating a certain level, etc.

    Finally, consider that exercise is a big investment of time, and it’s an important investment in your current and future health. There’s really nowhere I feel better spending my money on than eating healthy and engaging in physical activities I love doing.

  49. Brian says:

    Some great advice so far and I agree with Sarah about the ‘strength training’. Resistance training(using body weight or weights) is the only thing you can do to actually INCREASE bone density and it is functional to life. Train for function and you will get healthy.

    A mixture of aerobic and anerobic(weight training, interval training,etc.) training is the best for both function and health.

    On diet—stay away from high fructose corn syrup and the ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ which at actually ‘trans fats’ and they both lower your good cholesterol and rasise you bad cholesterol. Both high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils are in just about anything processed. Read the labels and even if it says “trans fat free”, doesn’t mean it is if it contains partially hydrogenated oils of any kind.

  50. Marcy says:

    Trent, if you are serious about trying the vegetarian diet, I highly recomend taking it one step at a time. I have been a vegetarian for 16 years but I was not raised on much meat to begin with, so it was easy for me. You will hear so much about how to be a healthy vegetarian and you have to weed thru the myths. I hear all kinds of crazy things. The most important thing is to find out what your body needs (I recomend seeing a dietician) and plan around this. Dairy products are complete proteins, so if you drink a glass of milk, that’s one serving. Beans are good proteins, but not always complete(except for the soybean).

    Learn the concept of complimentary proteins. Combining beans with rice makes a complete protein. If you start by adding more veggies and fruits and keep making small changes toward the vegetarian diet, it’s much easier. Many people give up meat all at once and they often fail. But most americans get too much protein in their diets anyway. so cutting back on meat while adding more plant sources is good.

    I lost a lot of weight when I became a vegetarian. I felt so much better, more energy, I can’t really explain it but the change was great. Then I stopped drinking soda and lost about 15 lbs over a short time. A while back, I was influenced by some friends to drink diet soda and gained about 8 lbs in the course of a week. I really don’t think it’s all about the calories.

    This is also a great time to teach your son some healthy eating habits. It will be easier to teach him now than latter on when he’s stuck in his ways.

  51. Johanna says:

    Marcy, it’s not actually true that you need to eat complementary proteins together in order to benefit from them – you just need to eat them over the course of a day. So you could eat rice with lunch and beans with dinner, and they’ll do you just as much good as if you ate them at the same meal.

    Frances Moore Lappe introduced the idea of complementary proteins in order to show that it’s *possible* to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet – but she inadvertently created the persistent myth that you *have* to be so careful about combining foods. Putting together a well-balanced vegetarian diet is actually a lot easier than she made it out to be.

  52. J. says:


    I know you like your cooking, and your beef. But all these vegetarians are trying to convince you to give up meat and/or dairy. Don’t let them! The truth is now coming out: saturated fat & cholesterol have never been shown to be bad for human consumption, esp. when moderated with adequate omega-3 fats (yum, salmon) and monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil). if anything, by replacing saturated fat with trans fats and high-omega-6 oils (esp. corn oil), we’ve made ourselves less healthy.

    as you know, meat, dairy, and meat-derived stocks are protein sparing: you don’t need a mountain, but a moderate amount is frugal (if not always as cheap as a strict vegan diet), b/c the gelatin helps you make the most of any protein in your diet.

    i wish the cholesterol and saturated fat fear-mongers would go away, but their (false) message is firmly entrenched in our culture. europeans, who don’t sub-classify fat by hydrogen bonds, mostly wonder what all the fuss is about over here…

  53. tuck says:

    I agree with the post above recommending the Hacker’s Diet software, but the diet itself is far worse than “nothing to write home about.” It is a TERRIBLE, AWFUL concept for a diet, that is bascially starvation, and will lead in most cases to bingeing and putting on more weight than you were before.

    I know the HD author claims it is for short term only, but you have to have SUPREME self-control for this diet to work, and if you are looking to lose weight in the first place, you probably don’t have the extreme self-control and deprivation this diet calls for.

    Also wanted to say that when you are ready to incorporate light weight training, you can buy adjustable dumbells (usually up to 25 lbs.) for fairly reasonable.

  54. Gem says:

    I second the exercise video suggestion. However, I would strongly suggest seeing if your local library has fitness videos and trying them out before choosing what to buy. You may also be able to try out fitness videos your library doesn’t own via interlibrary loan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interlibrary_loan).

    Regarding being vegetarian, there are some really great cookbooks out there. My favorites are:

    * Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
    * The Moosewood Cookbok by Mollie Katzen (there’s a huge Moosewood cookbook series but the ones by Katzen are the best imo)

    If you’re feeling very adventurous, there’s an excellent vegan cookbook called _The Voluptuous Vegan_ by Myra Kornfeld. Again, I highly recommend checking out the books before buying them.

    Library Tip: Many libraries belong to an organization called OCLC and upload a list of their holdings to a union catalog called WorldCat (http://worldcat.org/). After searching and choosing a book, you can enter your zip code and it will show the closest participating libraries that own a copy of that book. It’s very convenient if you’re close to several libraries.

  55. Maggie Shaw says:

    Sorry if I seem confused but you can’t conceive of paying money for a gym yet you were spending money on soda? A few months back didn’t you recommend not even buying juice because it was basically flavored water being sold? I haven’t had any soda (save for Ginger Ale when I am sick) since January 1 of this year. When I hit the year mark, I’m rewarding myself.

    I’ve also found a great workout buddy and we support each other by showing up to boot camp classes together. I’ve started a second bet with myself: If I can make bootcamp for 52 straight weeks, I get another small prize.

    You might want to try meetup.com. In NYC in Central Park, personal trainers offer classes for a bunch of people. The cost is minimal and even if you only go once, you might find someone else to work out with.

  56. Sarah says:

    You might be interested in the “No S Diet”, nosdiet.com – and combining that with whatever nutritional guidelines you decide to follow. It’s a psychologically sustainable diet:
    * No Snacks
    * No Sweets
    * No Seconds
    Except (sometimes) on days that start with ‘S’

    I LOVE cooking and convinced myself I could do it because, as the homepage says, “No pleasure is denied, just unobtrusively delayed and contained.” It’s not easy, but healthy and sustainable. Definitely read the homepage for more persuasion.

    … And I also became a vegetarian in 2007 except for relatively rare meals of grass-fed beef, or other pastured/sustainable meat. We don’t focus on health so much as pleasure though, and the No S diet helps keep us from gaining weight. :)

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