Your weight and your wallet: The weight loss investment

I recently wrote about the financial cost of putting on weight. Weight gain is like a slow-moving train. You barely notice it until it's built up enough momentum that it's nearly impossible to stop.

Everyone has a breaking point, though, where you make up your mind that you will do whatever it takes to turn it around. My breaking point was both emotional and financial. After gaining 50 pounds, it was depressing to be so dissatisfied with my appearance and my fitness, and I couldn't bear the thought of spending my hard-earned paycheck on plus-size clothes I didn't even like because nothing else in my closet fit me.

Over the course of the two years it took me to pack on 50 pounds, I determined that my weight gain cost me about $10,000. Yikes! Finding a way to reverse that trend was like giving myself a $5,000-a-year raise. Think about that next time you lack motivation!

But it costs money to lose weight, too. Many of these costs are optional, but you're still going to spend at least a little bit. Here's a breakdown:

  • New athletic gear: $200
  • Gym membership: $40/month
  • Personal trainer: $50/session
  • Program membership, like Weight Watchers: $35/month
  • New cookware (because you're going to have to cook for yourself now instead of eating out all the time): $150

When I reached my aforementioned breaking point, I was finally ready to make a real investment in my health. It was a mental investment, a time commitment, and a real financial decision as well. I started with a gym membership, and about $200 worth of new gym clothes. The clothes really are important when it comes to a workout regimen. If you look and feel dumpy in your sweats at the gym, it's easy to get discouraged. The proper footwear is extremely important, too. Nothing derails an exercise program like an injury.

You don't have to join a gym or buy new gear to get in shape, but I knew I didn't have the discipline or the knowledge to do these things on my own. I have a few workout DVDs that I do on days when I just don't have the energy to get to the gym, but I do get my best workouts when I'm in that gym environment.

My area has several gyms to choose from, ranging in price and quality from ultra-cheap to ultra-chic. I took the middle road and joined Gold's Gym, because it was affordable and because it's a chain. I travel a lot, and being able to work out when I'm on the road is key to staying on track. Gold's has a good variety of equipment and lots of classes to choose from at no extra cost. Variety is also important to any fitness program, because if you get bored, you'll stop doing it.

I didn't have a lot of disposable income when I joined Gold's, but getting my weight down was one of my top priorities, so I decided to put every penny I could afford toward sessions with a personal trainer. My trainer pushed me to do things I wouldn't have made myself do, and gave me extra accountability. She also helped me establish a routine when I was just getting started. My workouts were more effective because of her, and even though she was by far the most expensive part of this investment, I'm glad I found room for her in my budget.

If you can't afford regular training sessions, I do recommend purchasing one or two here and there, because trainers can show you how to make the most out of every workout. They'll help you improve your form and tell you what you should be focusing on depending on your goals. I don't pay for regular sessions anymore, but I do go back to my trainer whenever I feel myself hitting a plateau.

Working out stopped the weight gain, but it wasn't until I changed my diet that I actually started losing weight. At first, I dieted. The weight came off fast, but when I stopped dieting, it came back even faster. I knew I was capable of losing weight, but how to keep it off? I joined Weight Watchers for the answer.

Instead of dieting, Weight Watchers taught me how to make adjustments to my everyday eating habits. When I joined the program, I'd lost nearly 35 of the 50 pounds I'd gained in my early 20s, but I had bottomed out and was even gaining some back. I finally accepted that I was going to have to learn to cook for myself. That meant investing in new cookware, as well as food. The whole grain and organic foods that I buy now are more expensive that the boxed meals I used to eat, but there are ways to combat those extra costs. Purchasing a share in a local co-op is a great way to get fresh, healthy foods inexpensively.

Sticking to the Weight Watchers program (which was easier than I thought it would be!), I lost the rest of the weight I'd put on, and then some. I've been keeping it off for a few months now, even through the holiday season. I feel like the change is permanent, and the investment has paid off. But it sure was expensive getting down to my current size. Since I'm now thinner than I was before I even put on the weight, even my old "skinny clothes" are too big, which meant buying yet another wardrobe. I hadn't kept all my skinny clothes anyway, so I was constantly shopping for new clothes while shedding weight. I saved a lot of money by shopping at thrift stores while I was in that transitional period. When I met my goal, I treated myself to a nice shopping spree, and then took four large boxes of my old clothes to Goodwill.

Without ever purchasing diet pills or surgery, I still managed to spend thousands of dollars getting the body I want. I knew there would be a lot of costs, but there were some I didn't expect. For instance, my fingers got smaller as I lost weight, and I had to get my wedding rings resized. My feet got a half a size smaller, too, so I had to replace shoes along with the rest of my wardrobe.

Weight loss is definitely an investment you have to prepare for -- mentally, physically, and financially. But when all the costs get you down, just remember how much it cost you to gain the weight in the first place, and keep the rewards in mind. Weight loss is expensive for most people, but once you permanently change your habits for the better, there is a significant return on your investment. It helps to keep the costs in perspective. You will spend more money on certain things, but you've also stopped spending money on lots of your bad habits.

How do you plan to keep costs manageable on your weight loss journey?
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