zen habits : breathe

Fiscal Fitness: Eliminate Debt with 10 Successful Diet Principles

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Recently I’ve been studying the habits of successful dieters — people who’ve lost 30 lbs. or more and kept it off. And in reading a recent Get Rich Slowly article, I realized that the same successful principles these people follow are the same ones that will get you out of debt and keep you out of debt.

Debt dieting and weight dieting are exactly the same.

Personally, I’m doing both, and it’s striking how similar the two practices are. I allowed myself to get lazy and get into debt with bad spending habits, and now I’m trying to work it off (debt-free by early next year!). I also allowed myself to get overweight with bad eating habits (and a lack of exercise) over the course of several years, and now I’m trying to work it off (flat stomach by early next year!).

Let’s take a look at the 10 habits and principles of successful dieters — again, people who lost a lot of weight (at least 30 lbs., but many over 100) and kept it off (see National Weight Control Registry for one of my favorite sources of info on this).

  1. Count calories. It seems difficult, but it’s not really, and it works.
  2. Weigh in weekly. Daily weigh-ins work for weight maintenance, but really you should weigh in once a week when you’re trying to lose weight.
  3. Exercise. Almost everyone who loses and keeps off weight incorporates more physical activity.
  4. Watch less TV. TV makes you fat. You can probably figure out why.
  5. Write down goals. If you put your goals down in writing, and make them specific, you’re more likely to actually achieve them.
  6. Log their eating and exercise. Writing down what you do really makes you more aware of it, and motivates you to do better.
  7. Public accountability. By telling others about your goal and your progress, either in some type of program or an online group or just your spouse and friends, you motivate yourself to do well.
  8. Baby steps. No one gains 100 lbs. overnight, and you don’t lose it that way either. Take small steps to eat healthy and get more active, and one step at a time, you’ll get closer to your goal.
  9. Lifestyle change. You can’t go on a drastic diet or exercise program and expect to sustain it. It has to be small, gradual changes that you can incorporate for life. You’re not restricting yourself, you’re changing the way you live.
  10. Rewards. You have to find (non-food) ways to reward yourself. Treat yourself without blowing your calorie limit.

So how do these weight-loss principles apply to debt elimination? You probably can see by now that every single one will work in the same way. Let’s take a look:

  1. Track spending. It seems difficult, but it’s not really, and it works. I’ve done it, and you can really see where your money goes. And it makes you more aware of your spending.
  2. Check-in weekly. You could actually do it monthly, but balancing your checkbook once a week really helps you to stay on top of your budget. And keep a graph of your debt elimination, updated weekly, so you can watch your progress.
  3. Income. Almost everyone who loses and keeps off debt incorporates an increase in income. It’s like exercise: you still need to diet (or control spending), but exercise (increased income) helps burn off the fat (debt) faster.
  4. Watch less TV. TV makes you spend. You can probably figure out why.
  5. Write down goals. If you put your goals down in writing, and make them specific, you’re more likely to actually achieve them.
  6. Budget. You really need to plan your spending, and log it to make sure you’re following the plan.
  7. Public accountability. By telling others about your goal and your progress, either in some type of program or an online group or just your spouse and friends, you motivate yourself to do well.
  8. Baby steps. No one gets into $30K of debt overnight, and you don’t lose it that way either. Take small steps to be more frugal and earn more, and one step at a time, you’ll get closer to your goal.
  9. Lifestyle change. You can’t drastically change your spending habits overnight and expect to sustain it. It has to be small, gradual changes that you can incorporate for life. You’re not restricting yourself, you’re changing the way you live.
  10. Rewards. You have to find (inexpensive) ways to reward yourself. Treat yourself without blowing your budget.

If you follow these 10 principles of dieting to help you get out of debt, you’ll be successful, without a doubt. They’re working for me, and they work for many others.

Maintenance Phase
Once you’ve lost the weight, or eliminated the debt, how does your life change? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet for either, but from my research, here are some things that others have found:

See also:



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