Updated on 07.18.07

On Losing Weight: Comparing Physical Fitness And Financial Fitness

Trent Hamm

Since starting with the Volumetrics weight loss plan about three weeks ago, I’ve lost twelve pounds. I should add here that there was some intense days of physical labor in there centered around moving, but still, twelve pounds is an impressive weight loss for such a short period of time. I’m not dehydrated – I’ve been drinking a lot of water – and I’ve been taking my regular vitamin supplements. In fact, I actually can’t complain about the food in the diet too much – you can eat as much as you like of a lot of things with it.

So why am I mentioning this diet success here on The Simple Dollar, which is (ostensibly) about personal finance? Many of the same techniques that work for dieting and healthy living also work for personal finance. I find myself using many of the same mental cues and thoughts in both activities.

Using visual reminders to stay on focus. With personal finance, I often use images of specific goals to motivate me – for a long time, I used a picture of a house to keep on track. With dieting, my visual reminder is a photograph taken of me at my heaviest – every time I see it, I feel sad and it builds my resolve to stay on task with my dieting choices.

Marking my progress using a progress bar. I often use a “progress bar” to keep tabs on my progress towards various goals. As I save a certain amount, I fill in a bit of a progress bar; after I lose a pound, I fill in a bit of another bar. This tool really helps me to see how every little bit contributes to a bigger goal.

Making good choices. For me, this usually means thinking about and researching the moves I make. I’ve started investigating the nutritional content of food much more carefully than before, entering into a new healthy relationship with food that didn’t really exist before. I’m also learning to cut down a bit on the excesses. Sounds like good financial planning, doesn’t it?

Using the ten second rule. As with frivolous purchases, I’ve taken to pausing for ten seconds before I eat something to think about it carefully. This has really helped, as I’ve talked myself out of eating at least a few items that were simply terrible for me.

Allowing myself occasional luxuries. My real weaknesses for food are twofold: big, monstrous, juicy hamburgers (using 75% lean burger on the grill, with the drippings hitting the flame below and sizzling up, the smoky flavor going right back into the meat) and Ben and Jerry’s Americone Dream ice cream. I allow myself one or the other once a week now and avoid the temptation for the rest, knowing that I will either have a grilled burger on Saturday evening or some delicious ice cream on Sunday. This is very similar to how I plan and prepare for frivolous purchases like my recent Wii purchase – I plan ahead for them and am thus much more able to behave well knowing that I’m doing it the right way.

Exercise is like an investment. Not only do you get the immediate benefit of dropped calories, but you get the “interest” of being in better condition when you need it (better oxygenation and better lung capacity).

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  1. Sean says:

    Aren’t you afraid of losing a lot of lean body mass if you’re losing weight that quickly?

  2. Congratulations … but 12 pounds in three weeks? That’s extremely unhealthy, no? The average recommended weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week. If you go much beyond that you’re probably losing more water and muscle than anything else. Be careful!

    I’m just a bit surprised that someone who practices somewhat conservative financial habits would be pursuing such a rapid weight loss plan.

  3. Laura says:

    Congratulations on your progress! Just be reasonable with your weight loss rate. Good health is priceless and your family will appreciate it.

  4. Amelia says:

    Trent, like the above commenter said, 1-2 lbs is ideal per week weight loss. However, the first few weeks of weight loss when making a big change in your eating/exercise habits is often atypically large. A lot of it is often water, really (not to discount the fat you’ve probably lost!) I wouldn’t worry about losing muscle quite yet – especially if exercise is involved in the process. Keep up the great work and don’t get discouraged when the per week pounds lost goes down to a more “normal” range.

    I am working on person finance and weight loss at the same time, too, and I do see a lot of similarities. I look forward to reading about your progress in this realm as well. Thank you!

  5. margo says:

    The 1-2 pound a week rule is a long-term average. Many people lose more weight than that safely, in the beginning. Besides just “water weight” there is (sorry to be gross) “intestinal weight” that some people lose that can be considerable, due to lower volume of food intake and/or a healthier diet with more roughage and fiber.

    And, men tend to lose weight faster than women, and that 1-2 pounds rule is a general rule of thumb for both genders. If I were Trent, I’d be concerned only if my weight loss continued at that rate past the first month, truly.

  6. paidtwice says:

    mmmm americone dream ice cream


  7. guinness416 says:

    Guys can lose weight quickly when they start out – one of my colleagues lost 9lb in 3 weeks just by taking up kickboxing! Besides, our host has ditched a 2-snickers a day habit, that alone is worth say 30 x 350 calories = 10,500 calories = 3lb!

  8. Mitch says:

    I can hardly think of anything more weight-bearing than moving, and I believe Trent has alluded to being slightly big-and-tall… wait and see, I suppose.

    On progress bars: There was a couple years back a study that simply weighing in daily can help an adult lose more weight. (Abstract @ Pubmed, see related articles. Not a good sign if an adolescent is weighing daily, though.) I recently read that after reading YMOYL, Elaine St. James started keeping her daily weight on a graph similar to the financial freedom graphs in the book, for people who like that format. Google 15 (adapting the Hacker’s Diet) uses a moving average instead of a daily weight.

  9. Matt says:

    What about the financial impact of the weight loss? Long-term medical bills? Cost of the program, food, possibly gym membership or exercise equipment. Due to recent decrease in income I’ve discovered that cheap food is often incredibly unhealthy.

  10. s says:


    There ARE cheap healthy options out there, you just have to search a little harder. And of course it’s still not quite as cheap as the $.30/day top ramen diet.

    Not sure if you have one in your area, but Trader Joe’s is a great place to buy fairly cheap healthy food. You can easily eat a nutrition balanced diet for under $5 a day there. You just will have limited variety ;).

    Even at regular grocery stores, if you keep your eyes open, you should be able to find deals on healthy food. Just avoid the reduced fat cookies and things packaged as “diet food” .. expensive and often times still bad for you!

  11. Dean McDonald says:

    I too am trying to lose weight. I gave up diet pop, I drink 2 32oz glasses of ice water per day and I am reducing the portion size of the foods I eat. I have lost 12 lbs. in 45 days. Not huge weight loss but it has been pretty easy. I am starting to add exercise so I hope the weight keeps coming off.

    For tracking I use the “The Google 15 Weight Tracker” on my iGoogle home page. You can weight yourself daily or every couple of days and it tracks your moving average fore lost weight. I am on the computer all day so it is a constant reminder for me

    You can add the “The Google 15 Weight Tracker” from here if you have an iGoogle home page:

  12. Sean says:


    Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma) recently wrote a great article in the NY Times magazine, exploring why “the most reliable predictor of obesity in America today is a person’s wealth”. For example, “a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots”. Look it up, it’s fascinating stuff.

    I agree that I’ve had to increase my grocery budget as I’ve strived to eat healthier. It really is a shame. Exercising on the cheap, however, is really quite easy. Cardio or resistance, no problem, you just have to get creative.

  13. This is exactly why I started health blog after a finance blog. I realize that there were many things that were the same.

    Unfortunately if you are trying to lose weight, you may find that things aren’t exactly the same. It’s easy to measure a dollar saved, but hard to measure a calorie. Your body tends to adjust for a diet at some point and you plateau unless you work even harder. I don’t see financial institutions adjusting to make it harder for you get out of debt.

  14. !wanda says:

    Congratulations on your weight loss! I’ve found, though, that weight loss is far trickier than saving money. You can use the same techniques for both, but calories are far more opaque than dollars are. Depending on their gut bacterial composition, for example, two people can get different amounts of nourishment- calories- from the same food. Also, weight loss is nonlinear, because at some point your metabolism adjusts to use less energy. Science is only beginning to understand how the body regulates weight, and it’s fascinating stuff.

  15. Amanda says:

    Two words: Glycemic index! : )

  16. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Part of the reason for the rapid weight loss right now is that I moved right as I started this. There were a few days when I got a disturbing amount of exercise, sweating like crazy and waking up incredibly sore in the morning. That definitely helped, as did the elimination of Snickers bars. I’m not worried about it, and I also don’t expect the loss to continue to be this rapid.

  17. wayne says:

    To quote Steven Tyler, “No food tastes as good as being thin feels”.

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