Fat and Debt – Same Problem, Same Solution

I train clients who have all sorts of jobs – doctors, hairdressers, solicitors, marketing buffs, business owners, civil servants – all sorts of people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and it’s great. I love chatting (during rest periods obviously, not mid-squat…) about what they do.

I’m training a financial advisor at the minute, and during a conversation it occurred to me that he helps people organise their lives to get out of debt and avoid future problems,  in the same way that I help people turn around their health and body shape with diet and exercise.

And then i thought about how debt and obesity are similar – continually spending/eating too much and ending up with a big problem.

Why we spend and eat too much

overeatingOur urge to eat food we don’t need comes from same place as the desire to spend money we don’t have. We ignore the part of our brain that knows what’s best for us long term, and instead we listen to the part that wants instant gratification and to hell with the consequences. Live for the now maaaan, don’t be such a square.

And we are absolute geniuses at convincing ourselves that the food or purchase is actually OK, even if we’re in trouble weight or debt wise:

  • “Ah sure its only a big bit of cake, it IS Joan’s birthday, and I like Joan….”
  • “But this gadget is going to really improve my life, why would I NOT get it?”
  • “Everyone else is going out and I’d hate to miss it, and sure I’ll only have a starter and a few drinks that’s not much money or calories….”

All these reasons suddenly seem plausible even if we already know we are overweight/in debt and trying to turn things around.

Why do we do this though? Why do we make buying and eating decisions that we almost instantly regret after the initial buzz of “treating ourselves”? Well, many of us use spending or eating as a way to fill a void in our lives that an enjoyable job, healthy relationship or rich life experiences should actually fill.

Pesky advertisers don’t help…

We are encouraged through ads to consume calories we don’t need and make purchases we can’t afford or take on another credit or store card to get us spending money that’s not ours. If you read the small print for junk food and credit cards there’s always some disclaimer of course, about eating as part of a healthy diet or keeping up repayments unless you want to lose your house.

But we’re sucked in by the opportunity to indulge in junk or buy ourselves something, so small print schmall schmint.

How to turn things around to be slimmer and more solvent!

ID-100142013The steps to get ourselves out of the mess our over-eating or overspending has gotten us into are strikingly similar too. Broadly speaking if you’ve spent too much you either need to earn more or spend less. If you’ve eaten too much and put on weight you have to exercise more or eat less.

As Brad Pilon said, “In debt you owe money, in fat you owe calories” and those need to be paid back.

From the outset, when looking for solutions we need to avoid the too-good-to-be-true options – diet pills = payday loans, gimmicky diets = dubious investments with amaaazing returns.

Remember these companies can spend a fortune advertising to you to supposedly ‘help’, but it’s clearly a lucrative business for them too.

So what actual steps do we need to take to become slim and debt-free?

Let’s be realistic – the bigger the mess you’re in the longer it’s going to take and the bigger the lifestyle changes required – if you’re 100 lbs overweight then just replacing sugar with sweeteners in your daily Starbucks coffee isn’t going to get you far. If you’re 10k in debt then promising to stop buying that same daily Starbucks coffee won’t make much off a dent in your debt either.

Jennie on the great family budgeting site Embarrassing Budgets puts it very succinctly:

If you find there always seems to be ‘too much month at the end of the money’, a budget could really help. Knowing where your money goes is the first step to regaining control of your finances.

And the same can be said for your diet – unless you’re tracking your intake you won’t know where you’re ‘overspending’ with calories either. So there are a few steps you can take to make the process easier…

  • Write down what you’re eating and spending your money on, and analyse where it’s going wrong. Diet-wise are you eating too many snacks or too much late at night? Debt-wise what are the major areas you spend on that aren’t necessities – socialising, fancy grub, clothes, holidays? If you don’t track it you’re winging it and won’t get far.
  • You need support from somebody who knows what they’re doing and who has YOUR best interests at heart rather than their own bank balance.
  • You need to budget. You can’t spend yourself out of debt, and you can’t eat yourself out of being fat. Your budget needs to cover the necessities off what your body needs (for diet) and what your lifestyle requires (for debt).
  • Factor in some manageable splurges to keep you sane. Figure out what kind of blow out you can manage without throwing your goals off track. For diet maybe eat ‘right’ 6 days a week then oh so wrong 1 day a week. For paying off debt maybe get most of your clothes from cheaper places but allow a certain item you’ve been coveting every now and again.
  • Keep your head down and stick to the plan even if you feel you’ve plateaued. If trying to pay off credit card debt maybe some months you’ll only pay off the minimum. Maybe one month on a diet you won’t lose as much weight as you’d like. In both cases you’re still making progress.

backgroundCommit and be realistic

So there you go, one minute I’m chatting with a client while he sips water between exercises, the next I’m bapping away with my useless index-fingers-and-thumbs-only typing style sharing my thoughts. But I hope it all makes sense.

Giving priority to the Instant Gratification Lover in your head, rather than the Sensible One who knows what’s best can get us into a lot of trouble both with weight gain and getting into debt. But getting out of the mess is doable as long as you’re committed, realistic and can just keep your head down and keep plugging away.