Many MoneySaving techniques can be applied to dieting/healthy eating – I know, I do it myself. It’s all about adopting a ‘should I spend the calories?’ attitude…
I’m writing this after a discussion on my regular Radio 5 Live Consumer Panel slot. While in the studio, the UK Chief Medical officer was interviewed and I got involved, talking about how I manage my calorie intake (see my I lost 1 stone six pounds blog).
So I thought I would jot down a few, calorie saving expert (or more accurately amateur enthusiast in this case) thoughts…
- It’s all about scarce resources
In the same way as the amount we have to spend is limited, so is the amount of calories we can consume. Overeating and overspending both have negative effects, one too many pounds the other too few.
Unlike money though, the maximum calorie consumption we each can have is more egalitarian, there are far less differences between what we can eat (about 2,000 calories per day for women, 2,500 for men – but with some variance due to exercise levels – and reduced if you’re trying to lose as opposed to maintain weight).
Of course fat intake and what you eat in terms of fruit and veg matters too, but I’m going to stick with calories for simplicity.
- Check the cost before you buy
The only way to know if you can afford something is to check the price, the same is true with calories. The calorie differences between ‘sandwiches’ for example can be huge – don’t assume they’re all the same.
- Be aware of the calories in your pocket
It’s about thinking of the bigger picture – how many calories you have a day or a week. If you’re not good at keeping a mental track, then note it down on a piece of paper so you can budget.
- Think of the opportunity cost
The most important idea is about trading off one calorie for another. So while you may fancy ‘another coffee’, if that’s a milky coffee it could be 200 or 300 calories. Would you prefer that or a Mars bar? Or even a bigger meal in the evening? Being aware of the calories allows you to manage what you eat by saving now for spending later.
- Beware spending calories on drinks
When I first lost weight this was the biggest lesson. Drinks, especially fizzy drinks or fruit juice are usually full of calories. By shifting to low or no calorie drinks (including water or non-milky coffee/tea) you recoup loads of calories which are better to eat.
- Need crisps, go low calorie
While I adore crisps, the fat and calorie content of a pack of McCoy’s or Walkers can be huge, easily over 200 calories. For a very little switch to French Fries, Quavers, Hula Hoops, Monster Munch (normal-sized, not a grab-bag) you get a similar effect but with less than half the calories spent.
- Earn more to spend more
If you want a calorie splurge, you need to work for it (bit like with cash). So go for a long run, do some serious exercise and then you can feel comfortable about going for a big feast knowing you’ve earned it.
- Follow the calorie mantas
The Martin’s Money Mantras for spending money are well established, but they work equally well on calories. The questions for if you’re skint, work well for those who are dieting:
Do I need it?
Can I afford it?
Have I checked if less calories are available in something else?
- Crack the eating impulses
The host of techniques to stop you spending when you don’t need to, can be applied to eating too. The most potent is about planning.
Pre-arranging what you eat, so you know what your next meal is and when it’s coming help control the urges and let you stick within your calorie budget.
- Demotivate yourself
I should probably build a calorie equivalent of the Demotivator tool, that could work out how many calories and therefore pounds you would save by giving up your usual latte a day. Yet the principle is similar, cutting out a few unnecessary treats doesn’t feel like much, but if you do it regularly it can have a big effect over a long period.
Of course no-one’s saying it’s easy. And just like with debt, a change of circumstance, mental health and focus have just as much to do with it as pure ‘don’t overspend’ yet maybe phrasing it this way will help some.
Please let me know using the links below any more lessons from money that can be applied to dieting.