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Want to Lose Weight? Here Are 3 Costs You Shouldn't Avoid When Getting in Shape

Dieting and losing weight may sound cheap. But, starving is not the answer to a sustainable weight loss. Here are 3 financial investments you can make to increase the likelihood of getting in and staying in shape for the long run.

Plenty of people want to be in shape and look good. But, diets are also very easy to fail. Sometimes, people get too ambitious and eager in the beginning, and eventually give up in disappointment or burnout. Other times, some actually reach their diet goals but quickly revert back to their old ways. However, a successful diet requires a long-term lifestyle change, which has many implications both socially and financially. While making social changes (i.e. who you spend time with) might be difficult, here are 3 financial investments that you actually should incur in order to make the lifestyle shift and start living more healthily for the long run.

Sign Up for a Gym, Commit to Going 3-4 Days a Week

If you are serious about getting in shape, you absolutely must make a commitment to exercise 3-4 times a week. To that end, you should plan to invest about S$100-S$200 per month on a gym membership. Despite what the popular media may be telling you, losing weight is less about the magical food or pill, and more about a simple scientific principle: you need to burn more calories than you consume. A sedentary man typically consumes and burns 2,200-2,400 calories per day just to maintain his weight (1,800 calories for a sedentary woman). Since burning 1kg of fat requires a caloric deficit of 7,700, it would mean that one would need to burn extra 550 calories per day to lose 1kg every 2 weeks.

While one could achieve this by eating less, starving is often very counterproductive in the long run. First, you can't starve forever. If you lose weight this way, you will eventually revert back to eating normally and return to your previous weight. Worse, dieting through starvation also tricks your body into a "survival mode" and lose muscle weight while building fat. In the process, your metabolism slows down significantly, which may even make you gain weight more easily than ever before. In this sense, achieving caloric deficit through exercise is a critical component of a sustainable diet. Investing in a gym membership is a good way to make sure you feel committed (or guilty) to working out (i.e. I spent so much money on this, so I have to use it").

Tips on Exercising:

  • Don't just run: building some muscle mass can increase your metabolism and calorie burn, which can help you maintain your shape more easily in the long run
  • Sign up with friends: personal trainers are expensive and it's difficult to keep motivating yourself to go to the gym alone. Working out with friends can make workouts more fun & easier to commit to.
  • Credit cards for monthly payments: credit cards can help you reduce the cost of your gym membership by earning miles or rebates on your monthly payments.

Invest in Eating More Healthily, Most of Times

As we discussed above, managing your calories is the most important part of losing weight. Therefore, it's important to acknowledge that no amount of exercise can compensate for a terrible eating habit. Just because you went to the gym today, it doesn't mean you can go home to eat fried chicken. Instead, matching a healthy exercise routine with a well balanced diet is the best long-term solution for getting in shape. It takes 1,100 of caloric deficit per day to lose 1kg of fat in a week, which would be extremely hard to achieve through exercise or diet alone. However, combining the two (reduce your calorie consumption by 550 per day while also increasing your caloric burn by the same amount) makes it possible.

Eating more healthily doesn't necessarily have to entail eating much less than you used to (unless you really have been overeating). Whether you are eating at home or at restaurants, swapping out unhealthy items that are dense in calories (fried stuff, desserts, etc.) with healthier options consisting of vegetables, fish, meat, fruits and even carbohydrates can help you significantly decrease your caloric intake while still giving you a fulfilling meal. If you must go to a bar, for a vodka soda instead of beer, wine or cocktails. Doing so most likely is going to cost you more than simply eating at hawker centers or fast food joints. However, considering that your body is the most important "asset" in your life, it's perhaps the most worthy investment you can make.

Tips on Eating Better:

  • Replace 1 meal a day with protein shakes: to lose weight while building lean muscle, you will need to refuel on protein while also reducing your calorie intake. Buying a pack of protein powder can also help offset some of your increased food cost.
  • Allow yourself to cheat: adjusting your will be mentally difficult in the beginning. To help you maintain your sanity (and social activities), you can still have a cheat meal once or twice a week as long as you are exercising.
  • Put a limit on restaurant visits per week: restaurants have to add a lot of oil, butter, sugar and salt to their food in order to taste good. If you can prepare your food at home as many times as possible, you can decrease your caloric intake significantly.
  • Grocery credit cards: credit cards like Citi Cash Back Card or OCBC 365 Card provide extra rebates on groceries and dining.

Don't Be Cheap with Your New Wardrobe

If you stick to our first two tips, you will start to feel the need to purchase a lot of new clothes. Your old outfit will soon start to look too big, and you won't be able to fully display the fruits of your hard labor in the past few months. While this is an unavoidable consequence of losing weight, buying new clothes can still be quite costly and sometimes mentally painful. However, you should look at it as an opportunity. After all, being in a good shape can help increase your confidence and happiness; why not add to that by helping yourself look good with better clothes? What investing in a good quality wardrobe can do is to commit yourself even more to staying in shape and living a healthy life. After having shelled out a lot of money on new dresses, pants and shirts, you would feel horrible if you could no longer fit into your new clothes in just a few months.

Tips on Buying Clothes:

  • Set a goal weight, and pick out a few clothes you want to buy ahead of time: this can help incentivise yourself to stay committed so that you can reach your goal and fully utilise these investments.
  • Shopping credit cards: OCBC 365 Card is particularly helpful because it provides 3% rebate on groceries and online shopping.

It's All About the Long Game

Losing weight is most likely to be successful if you play the long game. Taking shortcuts to lose the most amount of fat in the shortest amount of time can often backfire. Instead, focus on changing your lifestyle for good so you can lose and maintain your weight for a long time. In order to do so, making some of the financial, mental and social commitments we discussed above can help you keep yourself in check whenever you feel the temptation to fall off the track. Also, remember that it's okay to cheat once in awhile. The goal is to attain a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle that can consistently help you stay in a good physical shape. By giving yourself a break here and there, you can avoid completely falling off the track later and also make it easier to pick back yourself back up.

Duckju Kang

Duckju (DJ) is the founder and CEO of ValueChampion. He covers the financial services industry, consumer finance products, budgeting and investing. He previously worked at hedge funds such as Tiger Asia and Cadian Capital. He graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with honors, Magna Cum Laude. His work has been featured on major international media such as CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, the Straits Times, Today and more.

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