6 Ways that Dieting and Budgeting are Exactly the Same
The definition of diet is: the act of restricting your food intake (or your intake of particular foods). While the official meaning of budget doesn’t imply that there is a restriction of anything, those of us who have used one successfully, know otherwise. Not everyone needs to or chooses to diet. There are also those who can work within a responsible financial realm without budgeting. For those who are interested in either, however, here are 6 basic ways that effective dieting and budgeting are very much alike:
1. It really can be as simple as that. When I need to lose weight, I know that there are two things I can do to make it happen. I can decrease my caloric intake and increase my calorie burn. Doing one can have profound improvements on my fitness level, but doing both is pure magic.
2. You often don’t realize you need to act, until you’re in over your head. Unless you compulsively weigh yourself every day, the addition of 3-4 pounds of body fat may go unnoticed. The same can be said for $50 of funds that are spent but not accounted for. It’s usually only when someone is noticeably overweight (or develops health conditions) that they choose to purposely diet.
Likewise, many American don’t bring up a budget, unless they are in some kind of financial rehabilitation process. Unfortunately, once it gets to this point, it is more difficult to make positive changes. The frustration of it all can make it hard to pick up your head and start the long road towards improvement. (But it’s still worth doing.)
3. Snapshot reporting is not effective. Have you ever witnessed someone who “blew” their diet? Maybe they went overboard with the French fries or decided that they weren’t going to stop at 1 piece of cake. Instead of sucking it up and vowing to do better, they say “Well, I’ve already screwed up royally. I might as well enjoy the rest of today with everything I can stuff into my mouth and start fresh tomorrow.” This type of thinking is dangerous and untrue. The clock doesn’t start over at midnight, allowing your body to erase all the bad calories that were consumed from the moment you realized your blunder until the next morning. It all still counts.
Similarly, folks who make unwise spending choices within the context of a 30-day budget month, tend to do the same thing. “Well, I’ve already spent way too much on clothing, CD’s, dining out, etc. for the month. I might as well spring for that handbag I’ve really been wanting because I’m going to do better next month.” Instead of focusing on each act of spending as a singular decision, it’s lumped into a “monthly snapshot” that allows for clusters of impulsive behaviors.
4. Everything is not as it seems. I don’t tell people when I’m trying to lose a few pounds or when I'm going into "maintenance mode" by keeping an eye on what I eat. They almost always make comments on how I’m already thin or am crazy for thinking that it’s necessary. What people don’t know is that I’m at high risk for the cholesterol caused by excess body fat. I’ve had 3 cesarean sections in less than five years, and if I don’t keep my weight and fitness levels in check, I can experience complications from the surgeries that could leave me with limited mobility. (Plus, I think it’s a nice gesture to want to look the best for my husband, whom I love dearly.) When people try to diminish my health goals based on their personal situation or standards, it’s really not out of concern for me, and it can be disheartening.
With finance, the same happens all the time. If someone is making 3x what their neighbor is making, they might get eye rolls when budget-tightening is mentioned. “Oh, like they have to worry. I only wish I had as much as them. They must be tightwads.” What you don’t see is their medical expenses, how much it costs to send their kids to college, or what they are giving to their local church. (Or maybe they had a previous load of bills from a messy divorce, or a gambling debt from an irresponsible relative.) Is it ever OK to judge others for trying to be good with their money?
5. It can become a compulsion. It’s not uncommon to see “calorie-counters” taking their habit too far. When you see a friend or family member scrambling to add their lone Tic-Tac to the food log before they forget, you may have a problem to reckon with. Budgeters can get in that rut, as well. (When either dieting or budgeting becomes a reason for not sleeping well at night, it’s lost its effectiveness in making life better.)
6. It can offer so much freedom. On the flip side, there is beauty in the structure and safety that both dieting and budgeting provide. If I know that I can live happily and healthfully on a set amount of calories (give or take a couple hundred for life’s unexpected experiences), then I can make good choices without thinking about them. I can plan ahead for a “splurge” every now and again and not feel guilty. I can enjoy all things in moderation.
Money is exactly the same. Whether you choose apples or oranges, you can experience variety and passion in the things you do daily. They don’t have to cost too much or leave you feeling bad. It just takes a little perseverance, practice, and patience.