Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Journey to Fitness: Finances and Beyond

For the past month, I have been working on creating a more healthy lifestyle.  Keeping track of my budget has become pretty routine for me, but working on fitness, nutrition, and finances at the same time is tough!   Whenever I'm faced with a challenge or feel a bit overwhelmed, I try to simplify things as much as possible by making connections between seemingly unrelated things. In doing that I find that I get a better understanding of each individual task, and can come up with ways to tackle them both at the same time.  So in an effort to help me (and hopefully you all as well!), I've brainstormed some ways that the journey to health and fitness and the journey to financial fitness are alike.  

Both require you to manage 2 main elements.  Whether it is income vs expenses or calorie intake vs calories burned, you have to be aware of what goes in and what goes out.

courtesy of PurelyFitness.com

Both also require a great deal of discipline.   Everyday I am faced with the temptation to overspend (thanks to commercials and those advertisements that flood my inbox and mailbox) or the temptation to overindulge (like the smorgasbord of fast food spots and bakeries lining my drive home from work).   And with both finances and weight management, the little things --be it a little splurges on daily latte’s or “I’ll just have another slice of [insert yummy dessert here]” --  can quickly add up and get you off track from your goal.  

Another similarity between managing finances and managing weight is that both money and food are falsely used as a way to solve problems.  Ever heard of retail therapy?  What about emotional eating? Engaging in these activities may feel good for a moment but really they do nothing solve your original problem and may actually create a new problem as you develop an unhealthy relationship with money or food.

While on the topic of unhealthy relationships, it is important to acknowledge that some of your financial and health related habits are learned behaviors.  How many of us grew up in a household with parents who overspent on material possessions, relied heavily on credit, or avoided bill collectors like the plague?  Similarly, some of us were conditioned to view  Mcdonald’s happy meals as rewards for any good behavior, and grew up receiving the “Paula Dean treatment” at every meal with lots of butter, lard, or Crisco.  As we grow older we develop our own unique lifestyle but whether we realize it or not, we take bits and pieces from our environment and experiences to form our habits.   My appetite grew exponentially in college, where most of my meals came from the dining hall (aka all you can eat buffet) or whatever fast food place was in walking distance.  At the same time, I got my first taste of swiping that plastic card (not credit, but a campus ID card I talked about here), which felt like it was linked to a limitless amount of money.  

Despite the similarities between money management and weight management, there is one MAJOR difference between the two, and this difference is actually the key to succeeding in either area.  With calories, you have to take in less than you burn to get good results, but with money the opposite is true, as success lies in maximizing the amount of money you bring in and minimizing your expenses!  

So, the easy part is done.  I know how my bad habits developed, know what I need to do to overcome them (discipline!), and know the basic keys to success in both areas of my life.  Now comes the hard part: getting it done! Wish me luck!

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