If you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve been searching for a meal plan to follow, I have some bad news. You’re going about it all wrong.
I want to propose a new way of thinking about dieting for weight loss. Rather than a plan to follow I want you to think of it like a bank account.
Just like becoming financially successful, in order to achieve your ideal weight and body goals you must be mindful of how much is going in, how much is coming out, how much is left over and how you spend it.
Here are four ways your diet is like a bank account.
1. You have a certain number of calories to work with, and how you choose to spend them makes a difference.
Just like balancing a check book, you need to balance your energy intake. If you spend more money than you have, you overdraw your account and there are consequences such as fines and fees.
Overspending your food account has consequences, too. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight.
Additionally, what you choose to spend your money on affects what you get. If you buy more expensive items you might not have as many, but you might have better quality items.
If you choose to buy less expensive items you might be able to get more things, but they might not last as long.
Food is no different. Say you’re choosing between 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of potato chips. They “cost” the same in terms of calories, but you’re going to get a lot more food in your hundred calories and broccoli than you are in a hundred calories of potato chips.
Additionally your hundred calories of broccoli also has fiber and healthy micronutrients that are very beneficial to your health. Your hundred calories of potato chips might taste better, but do not have the healthy nutrients and actually have some unhealthy stuff like salt and trans fats.
In this situation even though the “cost” is the same, you’re better off picking the broccoli because it is a good long-term investment and has more benefits than potato chips.
(Sometimes, though, you just want the chips and it is worth it. The same can be said for that expensive pair of shoes that look hot but kill your feet. You have to weight the positives and negatives and decide what you really want.)
2. You need a little bit of padding in your account.
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to overdraw your bank account or your calorie account, because there are unwanted, negative consequences.
Instead you want to have balance, and if you want to make progress (financially or physically) you need to leave a little extra in the account.
Say you want to save for a big purchase. You’re still going to earn and spend money, but you’re probably going to save a bit more for a while. Not too much, because you still have things you want to buy, but just enough so that over time you’re building up more and more money towards that big purchase.
If you want to lose weight, you also need to save a little extra in the form of calories. If you were trying to maintain your weight, you’d want to be completely balanced between your energy expenditure (activity) and your food intake. To lose weight, you need to save a few extra calories each day. Not too much so that you’re miserable or exhausted, but just enough so that it adds up little by little over time to create weight loss.
3. Some people are naturally born with more in their account. Get over it.
We all can think of someone who was born into a wealthy family and has had money available to them most of their life. Some people are just fortunate in that sense.
We can also all think of someone who can eat whatever they want, still look great and never seem to gain weight. When it comes to calories, some people have great genetics and they have really good metabolisms.
There are those who won the financial lottery and those who won the genetics lottery. And good for them. But if they aren’t you, too bad. You can’t choose your parents, financially or physically. You have to work with what you were given and do your best with what you have and what works for your body.
4. If you work harder you have more to spend.
The more hours you work, the more you get paid, and the more that goes into your bank account. The same goes for your calorie account. If you move more, lift weights, increase your muscle mass, and you’re more active, your body is going to need more fuel in the form of energy (which is food) and you’re probably going to be able to get away with eating a little bit more than someone who does not work as hard physically.
Your neighbor who has that super nice car? He works 80 hours a week to pay for it. Your bodybuilder friend who eats 3000 calories a day spends hours each week in the gym building muscle. They earned it. If you want more, you can earn it too.
Move more, train hard and be active to build up your calorie account, just like if you put in more hours at your job it builds up your bank account.
Thinking of your diet like a bank account gives you freedom to choose. How do you want to spend what you have? What is worth it, and what isn’t?
Some of us would love to have a pair of $500 shoes, but we have to pay the rent this month and if we buy $500 shoes we can’t pay the rent. The same thing goes for your diet. Maybe you would love to go out and eat nachos and drink a beer, but you’re trying to lose 10 or 20 pounds. If you go out to eat nachos and drink beer you’re not going to lose the 10 or 20 pounds.
We are adults and we have choices and your diet is no different than any other choice that you make as an adult. Choose wisely and spend wisely and you’ll get more in return.