The diet and fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar entity. Everyone is out to convince you that if you ever want to be anything other than morbidly obese, you have to buy their product. Sorting it all out can get a little overwhelming.
I’d rather save all of my money for a new pair (or 5) of heels, but unfortunately, some investment is required to get your dream body—but not as much as you may think! Check out my list of where to spend and where to save, and both your wallet and your love handles will thank me.
Don’t buy the ab shredder/home gym system/ultimate-skinny-bikini-body-in-twelve-seconds-a-day machine.
Because it doesn’t work. And even if this particular machine does work, I guarantee you; you can get the same results without buying the machine. Companies make loads of money convincing you that you can’t possibly get fit without their machine. Don’t believe them.
Do invest in a comfortable, supporting pair of running shoes, walking shoes, or cross trainers. Nothing will stop you in your exercise tracks (pardon the pun) like aching arches, bothersome blisters, or tight toes. Exercise isn’t usually the most enjoyable part of the day—don’t make it any worse than it has to be. By buying a quality pair of athletic shoes that fit you properly, you’re giving yourself the best chance possible to stick to your workout routine. Don’t be afraid to get advice, either! Head to your local sports store and consult an expert. You’ll learn about things like your striking pattern, the specific shape of your foot, and if you pronate or not– and can pick shoes accordingly! The advice is free, friendly, and truly helpful.
Don’t buy any books. Especially diet books. They aren’t going to tell you anything you can’t find for free online, and more importantly, they aren’t going to tell you anything new. I know we’d all love a book that told us about new, groundbreaking research that proves we can eat chocolate chip cookies all day, every day, and still lose weight—but it isn’t going to happen. And even if that book DID exist, it wouldn’t make it right. Remember, just reading something in a book doesn’t make it true. Company after company after company are trying to sell you their books, but they aren’t privy to some world of knowledge hidden to the rest of us. They’re taking advantage of the fact that we all want to lose weight—and making a lot of money doing it. Don’t buy in! Keep a super clean, natural, whole diet, stay active, and splurge occasionally… no book required!
Do buy good Tupperware. Tupperware is possibly the single most important feature of a weight loss program. Tupperware lets you pack healthy, clean lunches and snacks for work, and keeps you away from the greasy slice of Sbarro pizza from the Food Court. Trust me. Go get some.
If you need to lose weight, don’t buy a gym membership. Unless you live in Antarctica or on the surface of the sun, the best gym is right outside your door. If you need to drop pounds, your first priority needs to be a really clean diet. After that, you need cardio to maximize calorie burn. Instead of spending $100 a month on a gym membership, go on a brisk walk every day. If you have a bike, ride it. Park farther away from the store, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. You’ll be amazed at the results, for $0!
If you need to tone up, do buy weights. Plain, old fashioned weights. I know they aren’t terribly glamorous, but they don’t have to be—they’re effective, and that is far more important. Even better? You can find them at your local Walmart, currently on for .67/pound. Even better still? Check out your local garage sales– people moving will basically pay YOU to take their weights!
If you’re experienced, don’t buy exercise videos from famous trainers or sign up for expensive classes. Looking for yoga? Pilates? Booty barre, kickboxing, or piloxing? You can find anything your little heart desires online, including free, fantastic quality workout videos. Not only will you save the money on DVDs, but by doing online videos you’ll be able to access a fantastic variety of workouts that will keep your body guessing and your heart pumping. If you like the social element of workout classes and you have the money to burn, go for it. But if you’re pinching your pennies, do the workouts at home and get a coffee with your pals.
If you’re entirely new to exercise, do spend on introductory sessions with a personal trainer. When you’re new to working out, even the smallest things can seem intimidating. A personal trainer can help you with everything from explaining the purpose of certain machines, to telling you what exercises are best for you (especially if you’re targeting a certain area or are working around an injury), and, most importantly, teaching you proper technique and form. Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you simply skip this and copy the form and posturing of other gym users. I am routinely appalled by the poor form I see at the gym. People doing it wrong are the majority. If your form is wrong, you likely won’t get the results from the exercise (and thus are wasting your own time), and worse yet– you could injure yourself. Invest in a few sessions to learn the basics, and you’ll have the knowledge for the rest of your life.
If you need to lose weight, do buy loads of fresh produce, lean meats, beans, wild fish, and low glycemic index carbs. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive (check out my article on low cost, high value health foods here), but it does take a little extra effort. Invest the time to plan your meals ahead, visit the health food store, and make educated choices about what you’re putting in your mouth.
Don’t buy loads of fancy shmancy workout gear in order to motivate you to work out. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard ‘oh, if I buy some new gym clothes I’ll totally want to go to the gym more often!’?
No, you won’t.
Perhaps for the first day—maybe two. The novelty of your super cute new $200 gym clothes will wear off in a hurry, and what will you be left with? Just working out, minus the $200. I don’t care how cute your gym bag is; a month after you’ve bought it, watching Homeland and eating popcorn is going to seem a lot more appealing than using that bag to actually go to the gym.
Another problem with this theory? No one looks cute during or after a workout. If you do, you aren’t working out hard enough. You could be Gisele Bundchen and you still aren’t going to look your best doing wind sprints. That’s ok—own it.
If your workouts are lagging, you’re in a rut, and you’re looking for motivation, don’t look to clothes. Think of how you want to feel, how you want to look. This summer, do you want to cringe when you log onto facebook and see bikini pics of yourself, or do you want to be happy with them? Think of the feeling you’ll have at the finish line of the half-marathon you’ve signed up for, not about how cute the $49 yoga top in the store window is.
Do know yourself, your patterns, and your needs. For example, I know that no matter how many cute, stylish, and colourful workout tops I buy, I always reach for my old, baggy, worn out sorority t-shirts. Workout after workout, I feel more comfortable in them than anything else—so why fix what isn’t broken? On the flip side, I know I am tough on workout crops. I wear them five or six times a week, which means they get washed five or six times a week. I’m tough on them, and unless I buy my preferred kind (click here), I’m replacing them every two months. Three years later, I’m still rocking my first pair. They’re worth it, plain and simple. Be honest about your preferences and tendencies, and only spend money where you need it.
Don’t buy a $300 glorified pedometer, mapping chip, or some other gimmicky workout device. I know, I know, the chip you put in your shoe can tell you exactly how far you ran, and exactly how fast!
So can a map and a watch.
Don’t waste the money on something you can easily do yourself. If you’re a healthy, relatively active person, do you honestly need to know how many steps it took you to walk from your office to the bathroom? That information is only going to convolute and confuse your workout plan. Stick to the basics.
Do buy a notebook, a pen, and some tape. Set a goal and make a two-month exercise calendar, and tape that baby on your wall. You’ll love the feeling of satisfaction of crossing off workouts, and you’ll be more accountable (if only to yourself) with that schedule staring you in the face. An added bonus? You can use the leftover pages of that notebook to keep a food diary! It’ll keep you honest and help you figure out where you can cut calories.
Don’t buy premade ‘diet’ meals. The stuff they deliver to your house is garbage—expensive garbage, filled with preservatives and excess packaging. Don’t do it. Take the time to go to the store and make your own food—you’ll save money, lose weight, and may even enjoy the process!
Enjoy those full wallets and shrinking tummies!