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I Feel Good

January 18, 2007

*We are three weeks into the New Year – Do you still remember your weight loss resolution? No worries.   It’s not too late to “Get on the Good Foot,” (James Brown, 1972).   In continuing with my Godfather of Soul themed “Hottest Financial Resolutions for 2007,” this week’s column will focus on tips on how to budget for your new work-out plan.   But first, some ground rules:

1. First, determine what your fitness goal is.  Are you trying to tone up? Live a healthier lifestyle overall? Lose those holiday pounds or freshman 15? Or is this serious weight loss (50+ pounds)where as your health depends on it? Whatever you choose, make sure you check with your doctor first and try websites likewww.epinions.com/diets to find out if the program fits with your lifestyle.   

2. Next, draft your budget. You’ve got to figure out how much you can truly afford to spend on weight loss and dieting.   Check out my July 20, 2006 column, “Stormy Weather” ( http://www.eurweb.com/story/eur26665.cfm ) for more on how to come up with a realistic budget. After you draft your budget, you’ll have a clear idea of how much you can spend on equipment, food and other fitness necessities.  

3.   Finally, determine whether or not any of this money you’re about to spend is tax deductible.   In general, when looking at a weight loss program, like Weight Watchers™, Jenny Craig™,  ™ and Lindora™, the food is not tax deductible, but the cost of the program itself may be.   See my May 25, 2006 article, “Weight Loss,” for more on the rules.  

      Now that you’ve set your goals, both physical and financial, it’s time to get busy and   “Pump That Body” (Mr. Lee, 1990, sampling James Brown’s “Lowdown Popcorn”)On the menu we have three entrees focusing on meal choice, exercise and support; with one sure to fit your budget.  

Entrée 1- Corned Beef Hash (budget $0-$49 per month)

      This is a tasty weight loss dish for little cash. Under this plan, you’re looking for low cost, healthy foods, free and inexpensive exercise routines and of course a support system to make you feel good.  

My picks:

Food: Healthy meal planning is essential to any weight loss plan, especially when you’re on a tight budget.   Even if you can’t afford a private trainer or the pricey pre-packaged weight loss meals, try passing on the fast food and cooking for yourself.   You can spend $6-$8 for one fast food meal full of saturated fat, starchy french fries and a carbonated beverage, or enjoy a seasoned baked chicken breast, stir-fried or steamed veggies and a baked potato for $4-$5.   Want dessert?   Go ahead, you can afford to splurge on a fat-free/no sugar added fudgescicle for a buck more.   If the stress of coming up with recipes and meal plans make you crave a Whopper™, visit www.savingdinner.com where Registered Dietician Leanne Ely will give you a full year worth of recipes, and a complete shopping list for $29.95.   Menus include low calorie, low carb and vegetarian friendly meals that are delivered weekly to your email mailbox.

Exercise: Every successful weight loss plan must have exercise. Affording a gym membership or personal trainer on a regular basis is outside the budget for this plan.   Try the free workouts and free personal training videos offered on Fit TV™ and at fittv.discovery.com .    This cable channel offers everything from step and yoga to Pilates and hip hop dance classes.   You can get video tips from personal trainers on their website and even participate in workout routines.

Runners Up: Also from the Discovery family is the Discovery Health 2007 National Body Challenge ( www.health.discovery.com).   Get free online exercise and nutritional information and an 8 week guest pass to Bally Total Fitness.   If you’ve really narrowed down the type of exercise that lets you work it, splurge and buy the DVD.   For less than $15 you could pick up Donna Richardson-Joyner’s “Sweating in the Spirit 2,” or Madonna Grimes’ “African Beat-Latin Heat.”   Finally, turn your everyday activities into a workout.   The next time you’re mopping your kitchen floor or battling a fussy newborn, throw on some James Brown and dance away.   Dancing is free, it’s fun, and it counts as aerobic exercise!

Support: www.fitday.com is a great free and comprehensive support tool.   With its online journal, you can enter your food intake, and monitor your calories, cholesterol and carbs for the day.   Also, you can track how many calories you lost from exercising.   The end result is a free charting of your progress each day.   Don’t be discouraged if you’re on a small budget.   Reaching your health goals are all about motivation and dedication and thankfully you’ve got plenty of options!

Entrée 2- Sirloin Tip Roast ($50-$199 per month)

      This is the budget where you can afford to splurge a bit and expect to get a higher quality of service; but of course you’ll take a bargain when you can get it.

My picks:

Food: With this plan you still need to cook at home as much as possible to get that body you want; but you can afford to pay for some of the prepackaged weight loss meals.   In the frozen food and deli section of the grocery store, try the tasty South Beach Diet™ meals and the desserts provided by Weight Watchers™.   This will take some of the pressure off cheating on your lunch and dinner meals. For your sweet tooth, try EAS™ shakes at www.eas.com or Pria™ Power bars www.powerbarpria.com.   Keep in mind, every meal and snack shouldn’t come from a box.   An apple, orange or banana is far cheaper than a cereal bar, it’s packed with essential nutrients, and isn’t man made.

Exercise: You can afford a gym membership.   The average cost of a monthly gym membership is $45, w ith an additional one-time initial start up fee of approximately $100.  Keep in mind; you will typically have to sign a 1 year contract.  Also, most gyms offer semi-private training sessions. By working out with one or two other members and a trainer, you can still get the benefits of one-on-one attention at a fraction of the cost of a personal trainer.

Runners Up:   Don’t like the feeling of a gym workout?   Look around for individual classes in your neighborhood.   Yoga, Pilates and Kickboxing classes are available in most places and usually the first class is free or discounted.   Also, don’t forget value you can get from your local YMCA™ or YWCA™.   They offer affordable individual and family memberships, you can get your workout for you, and tons of other activities for your kids, ( www.ymca.com ).

Support: Congratulations! You can afford to join a real live support group!   For example, Weight watchers averages $10 a meeting; so for a month of meetings, you’re looking at about a $40 investment.   Meetings include a weigh-in and counseling from a leader that has had success with the program.   There is no pressure to speak or share until you are ready, and you usually leave with recipes and lots of good advice. You can substitute the face-to-face meetings with free cyberspace meetings with others who are using your same program/plan.   Yahoo groups ( www.yahoogroups.com) offers support groups for Weight Watchers™, Jenny Craig™, Lindora™ and many others.  

Entrée 3- T-Bone Steak ($200+)

      At this level you can truly afford to splurge on some of the best plans out there.   You expect superb service and you’re willing to pay even a little extra for it.   You want it to be convenient, thorough and above all else effective.  

My picks:

Food: This budget starts with a customized weight loss program.   Try a program like Nutrisystem™ ( www.nutrisystems.com) where you can build a personalized program and the food is delivered to your doorstep.   Meals are approximately $300 per month, but the online support is free.   
Exercise: At this level you can afford a personal trainer. You may have preconceived notions of a harsh drill sergeant, but that’s not the case.   A good trainer is there to motivate and work with you on your level; but beware, they will push you to improve.   It’s best, to work with the trainer often ( i.e., 2 to 3 times a week), and it can cost you anywhere from $50-$70 an hour.  

Support: Along, with the crème de le crème of food, programs like Nutrisystem™ offers a support group as well.  

Runners Up: Weekly visits with your dietician or therapist can help keep you on your game and will range from $80-$200 per visit.   If you have a lot of weight to lose or are a chronic dieter, understanding the root of your weight issue is the most important part of your plan, and weekly visits with a medical professional who can assess your physical and emotional issues will help you reach your goals for 2007.

Note: The above picks were based on conversations with a focus group.   Some of the programs may not be available in your area so check with your local networks for recommendations.

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