The money diet, week 3 -- lost a little weight, gained a lot of money

pennyFirst, the bad news: My weight hasn't exactly plummeted since I started this money diet. Oh, the first week was amazing. The second week, nothing happened. This third week, I seem to have lost a pound or two.

But I am confident that I'm saving money.

For those of you who aren't in the know, I've decided to call my weight loss plan the "Money Diet." On January 1, I declared on WalletPop that I was finally going to lose weight, and as an incentive, I was going to start adding up what I'd be saving by not spending money on junk food.
During the first week, I lost 11 pounds. I know that sounds incredible, but I think it was due to my putting on the brakes on drinking all those sugar-laden soda pops I'd been consuming. I used to drink them far too much, but since January 1, I think I've had just two Cokes. I also cut out just about every other high calorie food imaginable. I guess now the numbers are becoming more realistic -- and less dramatic.

Of course, it didn't help that I went to the gym less this week, or that I broke my diet a few times last weekend when I celebrated my 40th birthday. Still, I'm pretty happy with these numbers.

  • My weight when I began: 264
  • My weight last week: 253
  • My weight this week: 252

Sigh. I have a long way to go, though I'm not really sure exactly where I'm going. Ideally, I'd like to drop another fifty pounds, but if I can knock off twenty more this year, I'll be dancing a jig, so . . . we'll see.

Before I offer my tally of what I really, really considered buying or wanted to buy but didn't, and how much I think I've saved this week, I thought I'd seek a few opinions from some real diet experts and see what tips they could offer for losing weight as inexpensively as possible. Here we go:

Grow your own organic produce. That idea comes from Kami Gray, author of The Denim Diet (a diet book designed to help you fit into that pair of jeans you wish you could fit into, which seems like a fun concept for a book). She's also a TV wardrobe stylist, so she knows something about staying trim (being surrounded by actors every day). Anyway, Gray says that growing your own produce doesn't just save you money, but, as she puts it, "The time you've invested in your garden encourages you to eat healthier and not let your efforts to go waste." And, you know, there's exercise involved in gardening. When the months get warmer, I may have to try that.

Brown bag it. Michelle May, M.D., author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle, had a lot of ideas for me, but this one stuck out: "Take your lunch to work," she advises. "You'll save money and eat healthier while taking food that you choose." No kidding. I don't think I need to elaborate -- that advice pretty much speaks for itself.

Focus on cooking one big meal, a few times a week. That suggestion comes from Dr. Richard Kozlenko, the director of research and development for NXT Nutritionals, a developer and marketer of alternative sweeteners and food and beverage products, in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Dr. Kozlenko told me that he likes to make one meal of the day a "giant meal," like a giant salad, soup or stew, with "everything in it -- fresh, lean, healthy vegetables, nuts and seeds, slices of chicken or fresh or water-packed fish." He might also add in low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, and maybe a hard-boiled egg. For the other two meals of the day, he goes light and eats something like a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or soup for dinner or lunch.

"Be creative but strict, with no artificial, high-calorie, greasy or overly sugary junk as ingredients," says Kozlenko of his large meals. By doing that, he says, "you'll begin to influence a habit pattern of what and how you eat that spreads to the other days of the week in how you prepare and choose your meals."

That "habit pattern" is what I've been hoping to get with my concerted effort to keep an eye on what I'm not spending every time I forego junk food. So here's what I think I saved in the past week:
  • I went on an overnight road trip for a writing project, and I managed to avoid stopping at any fast food places (save for a Diet Coke at a Wendy's). I also didn't pick up any bags of chips for the road. Since I could have done either on my way back, I'll put my estimated savings at...$10.
  • Bag of my favorite pretzels that I used to buy weekly but still haven't. Actual savings: $3.29
  • Less snacks and soda pop in general...I'm going to estimate my savings was $10.
But I could have saved even more money and lost more weight if (and, granted, it was my birthday) I hadn't bought some candy at the movies. That was $4.

My weekly total saved: $23.29
Saved this year so far: $71.56

I'd rather see more progress on the scale, but that's what's nice about this goofy diet. If you aren't happy with your weight, you can at least enjoy looking at how your bank account is doing.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop and co-author of the new book,Living Well with Bad Credit.
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