Frugal weight loss

For something different today, I’m tackling a recent question from reader, Hope, on frugality and weight loss. She asks: 

you’re interested and willing, would you write a post regarding
frugality and weight loss/health? I know you’re losing baby weight and
you may have other knowledge to share, too.

My story is that
like so many, I’m overweight AND in debt. The two seem to go together
and it seems to at least partly be from the inability to say no to
yourself. Anyway, I’m on Dave Ramsey’s plan (thanks to you!) and I’m
trying to cut back all things that are a non-necessity. Currently I
have lost 25 lbs in the last 3 months by doing Weight Watchers ($39.95
per month) and exercising. I have a $42 a month gym membership but I
haven’t used it in months since I’ve been exercising at home. I have
about 100 lbs more to lose. These two things would be easy to cut out
of my budget and I would save $62 per month. However, I need the
accountability of a weigh-in to continue to lose the weight so I’m
hesitant to cut Weight Watchers.

I’ve been working out at home all summer but once the rain hits I may need to go to the gym. Do you have any advice? – Hope 

first off, I just wanted to say that I’m so impressed at your
motivation and determination to become more disciplined! My mom always
says that discipline in one area of your life invariably spills out
into discipline in other areas of your life, too. So, way to go! 

the only weight loss I’ve ever dealt with before is losing pregnancy
weight, I’m not sure that I am the most knowledgeable on helping with
this question. I do know that determination and discipline go a long
way, as does accountability.

Here are a few thoughts I had for you and then I’ll open up the floor for others to share:

I would first examine what it is about Weight Watchers that is helping you lose weight. I am guessing it is the accountability. I’ve never been to a Weight Watchers
meeting before, but I’ve heard that you have to weigh in and I know
that if I knew I had to weigh in in front of someone else every week,
that would be a big motivation to me! I also think you have to track
points and they keep track of that as well, am I right? Both things are
basically that you are just paying for accountability.

You could easily accomplish this same thing without paying the money by asking an acquaintance or two to be your accountability partners.
But, you would need to make sure that anyone who is going to be your
accountability partner is going to be a "slave driver." By that I mean,
you don’t want to weigh in front of someone who is too positive and is
going to respond "Oh honey, you’re doing a great job. I’m so proud of you for your hard work, even if you gained five pounds this week." No, you want someone who will really and truly keep you accountable for the long haul and won’t let you be a slacker. 

if you can’t find someone who will be this sort of persistent,
force-you-to-be-disciplined accountability partner, then I say that
paying for Weight Watchers
until you reach your goal weight and maintain it, might very well be
the way to go. In the long run, losing the weight and keeping it off
will not only make you feel so much better and give you so much more
energy, it will also invariably save you a lot of health problems in
the future. And sometimes, paying for something means you are
attributing value to it and thus will follow through with it. 

As far as a gym membership goes, I’m not sure what sort of exercising you’ve been doing, but there are many cheaper alternatives to paying full-price for a gym membership.
I’ve heard from some that you can often swap a few hours of nursery
services each week at the gym for a paid membership. That might be
something to look into. Don’t be afraid to be creative and think
outside the box. Call around to different gyms in your area and see if
they have any discounted rates for those who can’t afford a full-price
membership. Ask for a deal. Who knows what they might say? After all,
it never hurts to ask! 

If you
are walking as part of your exercise, you could find an indoor place to
go and walk on rainy days. What about a large store, or mall, or church
or school with a gym? Again, think outside the box here and see what
you might come up with. 

Since the
weather is nice, I’ve been running or walking everyday, which has been
great! I also enjoy a few exercise DVDs and found it’s much more
effective for me than trying to just do my own calisthenics or pilates

Also, this doesn’t help with the rain thing, but it’s another thinking-outside-the-box way to guarantee some regular exercise–sign up for a walking newspaper route!
We recently took two walking routes on as an entrepreneurial thing to
do as a family. The pay isn’t that great, but the exercise is fabulous
and when you’ve contracted to do the job, you have to do it whether you
feel like it or not! 

Now, for a few weight-loss ideas and thoughts from me: 

Moderation is key. Only eat when you are hungry and then, do not overeat. I repeat, do not overeat.
This will go a long way in curbing the pounds. If you feel somewhat
hungry, try drinking a big glass of water and see if your hunger goes
away. Sometimes that’s all it takes to tide you over for awhile. If you
have a habit of eating while you are on the computer or sitting in
front of the TV, slice up an apple or two to eat or a bag of carrots
instead of that bag of chips or package of Oreos. Not only will you get
in some great nutrition without much thinking about it, you’ll also
save yourself a lot of calories. As an aside, limit vegging or lounging
in front of any kind of screen as much as possible – this will also
help keep the pounds off! 

Avoid processed foods.
Not only are they not good for you, processed foods are usually loaded
with calories and artificial stuff. Rid your cupboards of anything
artificial and then don’t buy any more of it. Along the same lines,
avoid anything that says "Reduced fat, reduced calories, reduced
sugar…" these types of foods are usually crawling with artificial
junk and do not help your health in the long-run. Instead of eating
artificial foods, learn to enjoy made-from-scratch goodness. Make it
yourself, if at all possible, and your pocketbook will thank you! 

Avoid sugar.
This is a big one for me and probably my very hardest since I admit to
having a sweet tooth. I do allow myself a few desserts per week, but
since I’m trying to lose my last few pounds of pregnancy weight, I’m
really cutting back. And it’s amazing the difference it makes. What has
helped me is to just not have sweets in the house as much as possible.
Also, when I’m craving something sweet, I will eat a piece of fruit
instead or bake some whole-wheat bread and then eat it fresh with honey
and butter! 

Drink water.
Cut the soda and latte addiction and you’ll cut a lot of calories.
Instead, drink lots of water. I also occasionally drink fresh homemade
juice and usually daily have at least one or two cups of herbal teas.
As much as I love drinking a Starbucks coffee every now and then, I’ve
resigned myself to avoid it almost altogether until I’ve finished
losing the last of this baby weight. I have a huge mug that I fill up
with ice water and carry around with me all day. Having it nearby me
throughout the day means that I drink more. I try to drink the
equivalent of at least eight glasses of water a day when not nursing
and at least 12 glasses of water when nursing. For extra zest, I’ll
often squeeze a little lemon in the water, or make healthy lemonade

Eat a diet high in fiber.
I try to have the majority of my diet be made up of fresh fruits and
vegetables and whole grains. Not only do you feel better eating this
way, it’s better for you, and it’s hard to gain extra weight on this
kind of diet! 

Always be looking for ways to incorporate more exercise into your life.
Park farther from the door of a store and briskly walk. Take the stairs
whenever you can. Stand instead of sitting. Jog instead of walking. 

Don’t eat after 8:00 p.m.This might seem like a strange one, but it works. If you are really hungry after
8:00 p.m., eat some veggies or a piece of fruit to curb your hunger. 

Take on a new hobby or interest.
It’s not my usual thing here to tell you to add something new to your
plate (um, no pun intended), but if eating is a sort of "hobby" to you,
branch out and try some new things to get your mind elsewhere!
Volunteer, organize your closets, plant a garden, do some in-depth
cleaning project, learn a new domestic skill, go clean someone’s home,
take a class, start a business… do anything you can do that gets you
away from food and keeps you busy! Pretty soon, you’ll realize that
you’re so busy doing other things, you’ve forgotten to eat! (Please
note: I’m not advocating we just cram our life full or that we live a
life so busy that we often forget to eat. But sometimes, we need to get
out and get distracted so that we can get over addictions – which is
really what over-eating is.)

Write down everything you eat and drink each day. You’ll be amazed at how helpful this simple little exercise can be. I often find that I think I eat a lot less than I do and I also think
I drink a lot more water than I do. Writing it down helps me to see
just exactly what I’m putting into my body and helps me be able to
adjust my diet accordingly. Utilize a program like or to help you track your progress, fitness, water intake, and diet each day.   

Most importantly, if you are a Christian, ask the Lord for grace.
This is the most important. Don’t try to lose weight in your own
strength. Go to the Lord and ask Him to help you, to give you the
discipline, and the self-control. He is able!

are some of my thoughts on the subject. I’d love to hear others "weigh
in" with advice, personal testimonies, or tips for losing weight
without breaking your budget. Also, if anyone has any advice or
experience with Weight Watchers, gym memberships, or other weight loss
programs or helps, please do share in the comments section.

Originally published in September 2007.

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  1. says

    (1) I’d like to say don’t feel bad about not going to the gym as much as you would have liked.

    (2) Think about what has worked for you in the past, what is working for you now. Are there activities you did when you were younger, maybe hiking or tennis that you could get back into now?

    (3) You’ve lost 25 lbs in 3 months ~ that is great success.

    (4) Having a personal trainer may be a good option for you. If you aren’t going to keep your gym membership, perhaps you can look into online personal training. Just be sure to check credentials. One place you may try is If that doesn’t work for you, let me know as I have another link someplace.

    (5) Be proud of your accomplishment and keep up the great work!

  2. says

    Don’t skip breakfast! I know it is popular to think you shouldn’t eat when you are not hungry – and for the most part this is true, however, when you eat breakfast you tell your metabolism to start and you wake your brain up. Feeling tired and sluggish during the day will only make you crave more food so start the day off right with a decent, healthy breakfast and you can help save yourself extra calories, fat, and money food costs later in the day.

  3. Katie L says

    I was overweight AFTER the baby weight came off from my first pregnancy, so I decided to train for a triathlon in order to get to a healthy weight before trying to become pregnant again. I found a lot of (FREE)support (including weight loss support & online accountability groups for weekly weigh-ins) at Thinking of exercise as “training” helped me make it a priority, and it felt GREAT to cross the finish line. 18 months after my daughter was born, I finished my second sprint triathlon and had lost 35 lbs. My favorite part about triathlon (or any of its component sports) is that so much of the training can be done outside– good for the body and the soul!

  4. says

    I’ve been doing a series at the Frugal Bookworm about the “Financial Costs of Obesity” with some alternatives for how we can make changes and lose weight. Please come on over and read the posts and join us! Tomorrow, I’ll be doing a special post on “Emotional Eating” and how it’s affected me lately.

  5. Jennifer says

    I too have been going to WW on and off for the last 20 years. I was at a point where I thought it was the only way I could loose weight, but cannot justify the cost.

    I have been using a website called It has been terrific. It must be similiar to spark people. It is FREE and I just pop in everything I eat and it automatically counts calories, fat, protein, carbs, etc. I have found almost every food I eat is in it’s library so I don’t have to enter anything other than the item. It tells me how many calories I should be eating based on my current weight and the amount of weight I would like to use.

    I also enter my weight weekly and the website charts my weight loss (9 lbs in 4 weeks!)

    I HIGHLY recommend this to WW junkies who can’t justify WW prices.

  6. Evie says

    I have tried (and failed) most of the diets that are on the market today. I just recently joined Weight Watchers with my daughter and, I have to say, that this is the best program ever. It is not a diet, it is a way to learn how to eat properly. This program is worth the money that I am paying, just to see the look on my daughters face when she loses weight each week. Also, the online interface is worth its weight in gold. Food diary, meal planning, all of it. Money is tight, but this is something that I would find a way to pay for.

    Just my opinion.


  7. Anne says

    One other support group alternative is Overeaters Anonymous. There are meetings in most cities as well as online. They don’t require specific diets but the key component of the program is following a food plan (much like the spending plan in Debtors Anonymous). No official weigh-in, but accountability is definitely built-in. Not exactly WW, but maybe a good option for folks who can’t pay for it.

  8. Allyson says

    I’m a registered nurse and I lost 70 lbs with Weight Watchers. I am an avid couponer and am always looking to save a buck. But I also believe it’s important to take care of your body (you’ve only got one)! So… my suggestion would be to keep going to Weight Watchers (Like someone mentioned, it’s an INVESTMENT) But maybe since you’re not really using the gym membership find alternative forms of exercise that have been mentioned earlier(ie: walking in the mall, etc…) Good luck.

  9. Shannan says

    I also am on WW and I have found that the online access is a lot more extensive then at spark. I have around 70 lbs. to lose. I have successful lost the weight before my baby! (now 20m old) So I do know it does work. A good way to excercise without the cost is to walk around the mall..before they open is a good time. I have started a blog to help all WW’s with meal planning and recipes. Check it out…it is just in the baby steps right now and is in process of getting a new look so check back for the big reveal.

  10. Shari says

    I also have been getting out of debt with Dave’s “Total Money Makeover.” Following along those lines, I use what I like to call the “Total Diet Makeover!”
    I have put on about 20 pounds over the last five years due to health issues and the use of Prednisone. The weight went on easy, but wasn’t coming off. I was walking a couple miles a day and lifting weights two days a week, but it wasn’t helping. I realized I was just plain eating too much!
    So, now with a little planning (about 5 minutes each morning) I “spend” my daily calories on paper, on purpose, just like a food budget.
    I figured if I could stick to our financial budget like I had been, I could stick to this dietary budget. I just eat the meals I planned out on paper, and that is it. NO extra snacking! I have felt hungry for the first time in a long time, and stop eating before I’m stuffed. I am learning to say no to myself and be disciplined in my money and food life. I have started to lose weight and feel better about myself.
    It didn’t cost a penny! Hope this helps :)

  11. Robin says

    First of all GREAT JOB on losing weight!! I’m also a weight watchers member. And the support and morale at my weekly meetings keep me going, not just the accountablity at the scale. But foremost myself and my husband have put my weight loss in God’s hands.

    One tip to share is be sure and check out your local library for weight watcher cookbooks and other inspirational books. If your local branch doesn’t carry any then request and have them sent to your branch. I have found that losing weight has boosted my energy level enabling me to do more and given me more confidence eventhough I have only lost only 24lbs with about 80 more to go.

    We have save money by eating at home and not out since I know exactly what I’m cooking. Also I found a wonderful Sunflower farmers market next door to my meeting. They have AWESOME deals on produce. Good luck on the weight loss journey.

  12. says

    Spark People will also help Hope in the accountability department – especially with so many groups that she could join!

    It’s a fabulous website and helped me lose 40 lbs! I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  13. Stephanie says

    I have recently faced this problem, as I am trying to get pregnant and this birth will hopefully be a VBAC. That means I have to be in much better shape, but we couldn’t afford a gym membership. I scoured Craigslist for about a month and finally found a good treadmill for $100. This is much cheaper than a gym membership, and I bought a brand that both my sister and mom have, and the best part is, if anything ever needs to be replaced, you can go to the website and replace any individual part. My sister’s treadmill has lasted her 11 years and it’s still going strong, which is why I was great buying a used one (But BE PICKY!!!). As to the WeightWatchers – totally go for it. It is absolutely an investment.

  14. says

    I don’t have much to add except that was also very useful for me. You can take a tour of the site to see if it would be useful for you.

  15. says

    I like to go for weight loss programs for having myself good looking and maintaining it through out. This is a good weight loss program must be followed by one who is really willing to get slim.

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