5 Ways Losing Weight Is Like Getting Out of Debt

5 Ways Losing Weight Is Like Getting Out of Debt via KosheronaBudget.com

Today marks a pretty exciting day for me.

I am officially more than half-way to my weight loss goal. On July 1st, I set out to lose 50 pounds. Today, I stepped on the scale and – hooray! – had lost 26 pounds.

To celebrate, I’m writing this post, which has been floating around my head since about 15 pounds into my weight loss “journey”. As I worked hard to shed those pounds, it occurred to me that I had done this before. We hadΒ gotten out debt. No, the mechanics of shedding debt aren’t exactly the same as shedding weight, but the mental process is eerily similar.

If you have gotten out of debt or lost a significant amount of weight – and are now struggling to do the other, take comfort: You’ve gone through this gauntlet once before. You can do it again!

#1. For most of us, it’s not enough to cut spending, you also have to increase income.

If you’ve read our get out of debt saga, you know that one of the first things we did was look for additional sources of income. I found some freelance writing jobs, which ended up bringing in an extra $1000 – $1500 per month.

That may not sound like a ton of money, but it was a game changer for us. We used it to fund our baby emergency fund, to kick-start our debt snowball, and eventually to feed our full emergency fund. Maybe we could have done all this without that extra income, but it sure would have taken us a lot longer. And I didn’t want it to take longer. I wanted to be debt free NOW.

When I first started my “diet”, I tried just reducing my calorie account – since I’m not the gung-ho work-out type. But my weight wasn’t budging. In order to kick my adrenaline into high gear, I realized that I needed to start exercising. Exercise became my “freelance writing jobs”.

The added benefit, of course, is that exercise has made me feel more youthful, energetic and hopeful about my body than I’ve felt in years.

#2. Tracking your spending is the best way to know where you’re going wrong.

We spent the first two months of our get-out-debt journey not only cutting our spending, but religiously tracking every penny we spent.

This tracking illuminated a major problem: We had been over-spending by about $500 per month. No wonder we were in debt!

Tracking our spending forced the issue of accountability. We could no longer blithely burry our heads in the sand.

Counting calories has had the same impact on my weight loss. I signed up for My Fitness Pal (it’s free and it’s awesome!) on July 1. It’s an easy way to track the caloric and nutritional content of your eating, along with the calorie-burning benefits of your exercise. I can’t say enough good things about it.

At first, I just made sure I was at or under my caloric limit per day. But as the weeks went on, I started paying more attention to things like fiber, healthy fats, protein and vitamins. I figured out how different foods made me feel – whether they added to my energy level, or depleted it; whether they filled my belly for a few hours, or left me wanting more in a few minutes.

#3. You have to know your triggers — and develop a strategy to avoid them.

For most of us, over-spending and over-eating doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. There’s an emotional issue too, and at least for me, there are certain sights, sounds and smells that trigger that urge to spend – or eat.

The better my husband and I got about budgeting our money and tracking our spending, the more aware I became of these triggers – and how to avoid them. For example, we learned to grocery shop from a strict list to avoid those costly impulse purchases. On the other hand, we also agreed to allocate a set amount of “blow money” to myself and my husband each month in order to intentionally accommodate those instincts.

When it comes to food, I’ve realized that carbs are a major trigger. (I’m sure I’m not the only one.) I simply am not able to limit myself to just three-quarters of a cup of pasta. I can.not.do.it. So I don’t eat pasta very much any more. Because when I do, that meal is easily 600 or 700 calories and that inevitably puts me over for the day. I also avoid refined sugar, which seems to fog my brain — and my will power.

#4. You must embrace sacrifice.

When you first start getting out of debt, it really kinda stinks. It’s a lot easier (in the moment at least) to just swipe your credit card and remain in denial. It’s pretty much counter-cultural to be mindful of every dollar you spend and its impact on your overall financial picture.

But at a certain point, I realized that denial was actually quite debilitating. I was subtly, but constantly, anxious about money. The kind of anxiety you don’t even realize you have until one day the footsteps of the mailman (delivering bills you don’t know how you’re going to pay) causes a panic attack.

Losing weight is no bed of roses. It’s a lot more fun – and certainly easier – to overeat while lounging on the couch. But when I realized that I was winded walking up our stairs (WINDED!), and physically uncomfortable when I laid down at night, it dawned on me that I actually wasn’t having fun after all.

Truth is, I was miserable – physically and emotionally. As I started losing the weight, I got that immediate feedback that comes with paying off debt. I was rewarded for my sacrifice, which made the sacrifice a lot more palatable. In fact, over time, as I have seen my body change and my muscle mass increase, the sacrifice has even become sort of enjoyable.

#5. This isn’t a quick fix. This is a mental makeover.

I’m sure there are many more ways that losing weight and getting out of debt are similar, but I’m going to end the list with this one, because to me at least – it’s really the key.

No mater how much my husband and I deny ourselves today, we’ll probably never reach the point that we can spend or give however much we want – at least not unless we find some new (and much more lucrative) career paths. But that’s okay, because we have discovered that peace of mind is truly priceless. It’s far more valuable than any possession we could purchase.

Likewise with my body, I have come to accept that I will never be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. My reality has changed. Forever. I’m not a teenager anymore and metabolism is a waning thing. Exercising regularly is my new normal. Eating primarily vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein is my forever reality.

The fix to my physical malaise isn’t quick – and it isn’t temporary. But having energy again, being able to actually make a muscle, fitting into clothing that doesn’t say XL on the tag, and improving my health profile actually feels a whole lot better than a sugary piece of cake ever tasted. And that’s a forever reality I can live with.

Have you made a major life change? Gotten out of debt? Saved a huge pile of cash? Lost of ton of weight? Set of a goal of running a marathon – and done it? Do you relate to any of these emotional changes?Β 


  1. WOW Mara… I’m so excited for you (and that’s so fast to lose that much weight!) I lost 75 when I was in college and STILL fight it every day, but am so thankful that I did it. I still fight 10 pounds (blogging hasn’t helped one bit, as I’m sure you know!), but I do love the way exercise and eating correctly makes me feel.

    Love the way you shared how dieting is so similar to our finances… I need to remember that those sacrifices are always worth it. Great post!

    • You lost 75 lbs Laurie?! Wow, I’m so impressed. It’s funny, because my perception of you is that you’re a tall, thin woman! (Which you are!) It’s so interesting to hear that you still fight it daily – we truly aren’t alone!

      Blogging bottom is a real problem, LOL. I wish I could type on the treadmill!

  2. That is a huge accomplishment! I lost weight years ago but will always be fat ” in my head”. I don’t know if that’s not a bit disfunctional but it has kept me thin. Bravo to you! It’s not easy and you should be really proud of yourself.

    • I hear on you on the fat in my head thing. I think that’s one of the reasons I need to weigh myself daily. I know everyone says not to, but I need that constant feedback/reassurance. You’re an inspiration – thank you!

      • I have to weigh myself daily too or I distort things so quickly in my head. I’m about 1/2 way to my goal weight and I’ve lost about 37 lb. I’ve hit a bit of a plateau, but I’m going to make it to that goal!

        I’ve also been shopping for new clothes and I constantly have to remind myself that I can shop in the regular women’s clothes. I found jeans at Target!!!

  3. This is a really great post and so true. Would love to hear more specifics on what you ate, and also – curious – I find eating healthy to be so much more expensive than not. When I’m eating healthy, I’m loading up on fresh fruits and veggies and salad stuff which costs much more than the ingredients for baked ziti or meatballs. Any tips?

  4. BTW, Kol HaKavod!! It’s an amazing accomplishment. After I had my 4th, I lost all my weight (55 pounds) eating a healthy diet and losing a consistent 2 lbs a week. It was a GREAT feeling! Yasher Koach!

    • Way to go on losing 55 lbs! Those consistent losses are even more impressive. Mine has been more lose three pounds one week, nothing the next.

      As for what I’m eating, I’m definitely buying the produce loss leaders – and a lot of it. Aldi is my friend πŸ™‚ I’m also eating noticeably less than before, so food does last longer. And I use a lot of grains, beans, etc., which are pretty inexpensive as well. HTH!

  5. HIGH FIVE!!!! That is such a short amount of time to lose 26 pounds; you must be working hard. I could write a book here, having been on this journey myself (and passionately continuing it). I also dug us out of a huge amount of debt–though I still have quite a bit to go. I believe the confidence I felt conquering our budget helped fuel my ability to tackle my weight issues. I agree with everything you said–so eloquently. As to Sharon’s comment on cost–I’m spending much less on groceries than I have in many years, but I DRASTICALLY changed my cooking (and eating) habits. I’m reading up on vegan eating now, and I would say I’m eating vegan about 75% of the time. Dried beans are super cheap and in-season produce can be found reasonably priced if you read grocery ads and aren’t picky. Sadly, I injured my arm last week, and I can’t run right now. I’m very worried about the lack of exercise combined with Yontif food. This should be the biggest problem any of us has in the new year, though. I count my blessings–including this very helpful blog!

    • πŸ™‚ Thank you! I thought of your story as I was writing this πŸ™‚

      I ditto your grocery-buying advice. And I hope your arm is better soon. Can you do lower impact exercise?

  6. This is SO true! I think this may one of the most useful posts that you have ever written, and it is actually a metaphor for almost EVERYTHING.

  7. Wow Mara, what a wonderful accomplishment. You should be so proud of yourself. I agree that once you get into a groove, it gets easier and easier. It is just hard to get into that groove.

  8. Zipa Leah Scheinberg says

    Way to go, Mara!! Congrats…that’s huge!!
    I’ve found that the best way for me to lose weight is to cut carbs drastically – i.e. no wheat, gluten, flour, etc. It’s amazing what a difference this can make. If anyone wants more information, feel free to email me.

  9. That’s amazin, Mara! I was happy losing 15 pounds in that amount of time.

    I also like MyFitnessPal – and counting calories was more enlightening than I thought it would be. I’m elisheva47 if anyone wants to add me as a friend.

    • Fifteen pounds is fabulous!

      I think my next 25 pounds will take a lot longer. I had a lot to lose, so those first pounds came off faster, I think.

  10. YaShar Koach! I am trying to get out of denial, and get on the elliptical! I really need to start. I am so happy for you- thanks for the Chizuk!
    Shana Tova

  11. Wonderful! I am celebrating this year’s yontif 32 pounds less than last year. It does take a lifestyle change. I will struggle the rest of my life with my weight, but have terrific companions along with me.

    PS – we can indulge guilt free at break fast!

  12. Well done, Mara! Sounds like you have made a second total lifestyle change. Amazing. Thanks for the motivation. I finally downloaded 30 day shred and did the first workout. I nearly fell down the stairs afterwards, but I feel great. My motto is always, if Mara can do it, I can do it…thanks for sharing your journey!

  13. Wow you are inspiring!
    I can TOTALLY relate to your story.. I was overweight & in debt as well!
    I was a member at the gym for years & only lost a certain amount of weight after each pregnancy..(maybe 12-15lbs)
    I had tried WW, SB, the Diet Center, Fresh Start, you name it.. I even considered becoming a Mailman just to lose weight!!!
    I met my Health Coach at a Jewish Chamber event.. She & her husband were both losing lbs..& her husband was able to get off of his diabetes, cholestoral & High Blood Pressure Medications..Talk about saving $!!!
    I decided to meet with her, and figured I should give it a try..I didnt want to tell my husband since I thought he’d kill me..I was already going to the gym & finishing up a year of Bootcamp..had lost 12 lbs…& was toned up! So I hid it from him.. Until one day he saw the CC bill, but more importantly he noticed that I had lost 11lbs in 3 weeks!!! So I asked him, So do you want me to stop or do you want me to continue? Thank G-d he said YES.. I went on to lose 50lbs!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I went from a size 14/16 to a size 6/8!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have not been that size since I was a teenager. After a few weeks, ppl in my shul were like OMG look at you, your whole body has changed..
    I thought to myself, wow well if I could do this, then maybe I can pay it forward & help others do the same. So I signed up to become a Health Coach.. Well that was nearly 4 years ago…!!! I now have helped hundreds of others to attain permanent, weight loss they never thought they could..I have a team of Health Coaches across in major Jewish cities across the US ! The Jewish Press called to interview me.!!
    I now have an income almost matching my husbands!! Please Someone Pinch me! since, I am still in shock from this!! I am now able to contribute to help paying off our family debt..since we have 6 kids in Day Schools, High School, Yeshiva & College..
    & I am able to help my friend lose weight& make some money since her husbands been out of a job for 3yrs!
    It is truly amazing.. I am transformed & empowered…
    So, yes this program costs a little, but in the long scheme, I can honestly say I’m glad I spent the money which was a minor investment into a Happier, Thinner me. & Now there are Rabbis, teachers, friends& neighbors doing it..They tell their friends & so on. I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a guideline, a FREE coach & the willingness to make it happen..& then miracles do happen~!

  14. LOVE this blog post. It is so so true. I have also lost a significant amt of weight ~75lbs and started losing weight at the biggest loser resort. Interesting that day 1, lecture #1 is about budgeting calories in (eating) vs. Calories out (exercise). Happy to share their calculation sheet if anyone wants. The lecture is structured just like your blog post, just like everyone must balance their checkbooks, everyone must balance their calorie spending.

    congrats on the weight loss!

  15. Mara, this is an awesome post that I really needed to read today. So happy I found it on Thrifty Thursday’s cover of the link up party on LWSL. I was able to wrap my mind around paying off debt totally and it has crossed my mind to treat calories like money but your article covers several areas I had not thought of. I once started a chart in my bathroom that had the total number of calories I needed to burn in order to be at my goal weight but the number was so overwhelming it wasn’t long before I just took it down. I like your suggestions and look forward to trying to change my mindset again. If I can pay off my house, I can loose the last of my weight. lol Nice Post!

    • Mara Strom says

      YOU TOTALLY CAN DO IT! I’m so happy this post was there for you at the “right time”. πŸ™‚ One way I think the food thing is “harder” is that debt-free living holds out the lure of “living like no one else” one day down the road. With our eating, living like no one else doesn’t mean we get to pig out on potato chips and chocolate ever, which can be such a huge bummer some times!


  1. […] to Trim Your Household Spending} 8. Detours in Life {Easy Meal Planning} 9. Kosher on a Budget {5 Ways Losing Weight is Like Getting Out of Debt} 10. Stockpiling Moms {De-cluttering Your […]

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