The Money Diet: a setback in week 6

the money dietI'm afraid to look at my bathroom scale.

I have no idea if I've lost or gained weight this week. Well, actually, I have an idea, which is why I'd rather not weigh myself. The best I can probably hope for is that I've maintained my weight.

I'm in week six of "The Money Diet." For those of you who don't know, I'm using my wallet as motivation for losing weight. Every time I don't spend money on junk food -- as in, I look at something at the grocery store and am tempted, but I don't, or I go to a fast food outlet and buy a diet soda instead of a burger and fries -- then I count that as money I've saved, and at the end of the week, I add up how much money I didn't spend.

It's kind of goofy, and if you think too hard about it, there are a million holes in my plan, but it's worked so far. In five weeks, I've lost 16 pounds, doing amazingly well the first week and quite well last week. But in week six...well, it's been a pretty bad week for dieting and exercise.

Last weekend, for instance, I took my kids to visit my parents, who suggested I stop and pick up some lunch along the way and that they would treat. Well, I gave into my youngest daughter's wishes, and we went to the McDonald's drive-through, and even though I kept thinking, You will buy the grilled chicken sandwich, at the last second, I found myself saying, weakly: "An Angus burger, please."

But then the warring factions in my brain started having at it, and the next thing I knew, I was saying, "And I'll have a side salad, too"

I didn't buy French fries. Yes, instead, I bought a salad.

And just about then, 18 miles down, deep in the Earth, Hell froze over.

Well, that's how I remember it, anyway. So that side salad (and it wasn't bad) was a victory, especially if I can make ordering a salad a habit, but I don't know what happened to me. Because a few hours later, I'm suddenly suggesting to the family that we go out for pizza. And the next day was Super Bowl Sunday, and we watched the game and munched on Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not the grilled kind; the especially bad fried variety.

But that's not all. A day or two later, after we were back at home, a blizzard invaded my little corner of Ohio -- and numerous other states. Why is this bad? Well, naturally, before a blizzard comes, you stock up at the grocery store in preparation for being snowed in. Which in my mind means you not only stock up on food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but on every snack known to mankind. Then, when the blizzard hits, you hunker down by the fire, watch the snow come down, and blow through a bag of barbecue-flavored chips just like our ancestors used to do.

I actually did pretty well at the grocery store, though. I was determined to not completely blow it, especially after the weekend I had had, and in many ways, I rebounded. The old me would have stocked up on chips and pretzels...and ice cream...and a frozen pizza -- for the family, of course.

But I did none of that. I bought the usual groceries, a mix of meals and snacks. For myself, I stuck with non-fat yogurt, some cereal with a lot of fiber in it, and a box of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins.

Unfortunately, during the blizzard, my wife and kids made homemade brownies, and I had a few -- less than I might have in the past -- but still, I shouldn't have touched them. And while it's great that I bought the Reduced Fat Wheat Thins, scarfing them all down in one evening wasn't smart or what I intended.

So I'm not expecting much for this week. I might as well go and weigh myself. If everyone could wait just a moment, I won't be long.

... OK, I'm back. It was worse than I thought. I gained three pounds. The scale now reads 252. Oh, no, wait, that's four pounds. I'm glad nobody can hear me cursing right now.

But I'm going to try not to get too mad at myself. I'm still 12 pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of the year, and every diet has its setbacks. But sheesh...

So this is where I stand.

My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 248
My weight this week: 252

Yeah, okay, well, nothing to see here, folks. Instead, let's look at how much money I think I saved.
  • Bag of my favorite pretzels that I used to buy weekly (and sometimes twice a week), but still haven't. I've been putting this on the list every week, and this was a pretty high calorie snack because the brand always has a "buy one, get one free" sticker on each bag. So I kept buying two bags of pretzels and munching on them over the course of a couple days. Actual savings: $3.29.
  • I didn't buy a giant bag of Doritos or a tub of ice cream, and given the blizzard, the old me would have. Estimated savings: $8
  • I also didn't buy a frozen pizza to eat during the blizzard. I almost did, but then I figured that my family could use a break from the high-fat foods we consumed this week. My kids' body weights are perfectly normal, by the way, and they exercise a lot, but, yes, I know I'm going to be getting comments about how I'm not doing them any favors with the food I've been buying lately. I agree. Anyway, estimated savings: $7.
  • I was at a Walgreen's recently, and the cashier brightly asked me if I wanted a Milky Way candy bar for 49 cents. Well, sure, who wouldn't? But I said no. Actual savings: $0.49.
  • I also haven't bought any Skittles this entire year -- that was always a weakness of mine. I'd munch on them while writing articles like these. In fact, while I wrote the very first Money Diet story, which I wrote before January 1 (meaning before my diet began), I was... yes... eating Skittles. So I'm going to put that down as money saved this week. Estimated savings: $0.75.
  • I still haven't consumed any of my wife's stash of Coca-Cola. If I had, she would have run out of her supply far sooner, and we would have bought another 12-pack. Estimated savings: $3.50
OK, and I think that about does it. So let's pull out the calculator and figure out what I probably saved this week.

My total saved this week:$23.03
Total saved this year so far: $145.41

Now, of course, if I hadn't gotten that pizza or the food from KFC, I could have saved an extra $25. If you want to get technical, of course, even by fixing food we already had at home, we're spending money, since we're using up some of food supply that we'll have to replace later, so I probably wouldn't have saved $25, but something a little less. That's why I said it's best not to dwell too long on how this diet works. The idea of my money diet is strictly to encourage me to spend our food money in a smarter way and motivate me to lose weight. Nothing else.

Despite the fact that I continued to save money, I'm humbled by my weight gain this week, though I'm almost glad it happened. Clearly, I need to get more serious about losing weight, and this week was a good wake-up call. And I know I can do this. After all, I bought a side salad instead of French fries. But if I want to have some better results during Week 7, I need to get to the gym, and I really need to learn to appreciate the tastiness of non-fat yogurt and fiber-heavy cereal. Honestly, it's not that bad.

Of course, compared to a lot of other stuff out there, it's not all that good either.

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

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