RCR W5D2: Five Important Lessons From The Simple Dollar

Technically, this blog post at The Simple Dollar is about personal finance, but if you replace the finance terms in each one with the appropriate exercise or diet equivalent, it can be applied just as easily to the journey toward fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

Here are my slightly modified versions of the author’s wise words.

1. Every time you opt for an unhealthy meal or blow off a workout, you sacrifice a bit of your dreams.

I’m sure we all know someone who has been trying to lose weight for years but for one reason or another never follows through because they let their immediate desire for a brownie or a break from exercise overshadow their ultimate goal of being healthy and fit. Maybe that person is looking at you from the mirror. 😉

As Zig Ziglar said, “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want now.”

I know that it isn’t always easy to do what you know you are supposed to do — pass up the junk food and drinks and get up early (or stay up late) to exercise every day — but some degree of work and sacrifice really is necessary if you want to rise above the norm and not settle for the lumpy bod of the Average American. Just as it takes discipline and commitment to save money, score straight A’s in school, or become skilled at your chosen field, you have to be willing to put in the sweat time and say no to the extra calories with consistency to make it to your goal.

Jiggle-free thighs and rock hard abs aren’t ever going to be handed to you!

That leads us to point #2:

2. There is no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to fat loss.

Despite what the infomercials and check-out line magazines try to claim, there is no quick fix outside of cosmetic surgery with a fat-sucking vacuum for love handles, belly fat, saddlebags, double chins, saggy butts, bat wings, muffin tops, chub rub, moobs, or any other problem spot of your choice. You simply have to suck it up and WORK for it…and then you have to keep on doing that exercise and healthy eating stuff for the rest of your life if you want to keep it.

‘Nuff said.

3. My lifestyle and eating habits weren’t nearly as healthy as I believed them to be – and neither is anyone else’s.

Yes, it’s true. Before I started my first Body for Life challenge in 2004, I used to think that I made pretty good choices at the dining table. Sure, I knew I needed to move my body more since I had a sedentary desk job, but I figured that I could at least keep my weight at an acceptable level since I was eating well. 😉

Behold my idea of a healthy day of eating in 2003:

  • Breakfast: Big bowl of Raisin Bran cereal (~2 cups) with 1 c. skim milk
  • Lunch: Whopper Jr. with no cheese; BK side salad with Catalina dressing
  • Snack 1: Pack of Starburst or candy bar from the vending machine at the office or a handful of candy from the ever-present candy bucket on my co-worker’s desk
  • Snack 2: Small bag of chips from vending machine
  • Dinner: Beef or chicken and veggie stir-fry with 2 c. white rice
  • Snack 3 (if still hungry): Another bowl of cereal

Erm…yeah. That was my idea of healthy back in the day. 😛 About the only things I did right were eating every few hours, adding a salad to my lunch, and maybe dinner, but I thought I was doing pretty well compared to my peers.

4. Fitness isn’t just for rich or naturally skinny people – it’s for everyone.

There seems to be some kind of persistent misconception amongst the currently unfit that being active, in shape, and strong is something achievable only by those with enough money to pay for expensive gym memberships and personal trainers or the lucky few who were born with the sort of genes that allow them to think about performing a bicep curl while eating a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s and instantly sprout muscle and lose 1% of their body fat.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. Anyone can take (cheap or free) steps to improve their diet and start an exercise program. I’m not telling you to curl soup cans from the pantry — How utterly useless is THAT favorite nugget of advice from women’s magazines? — but you can certainly perform EFFECTIVE bodyweight exercises like squats, push ups, dips, one-legged deadlifts, and planks in the privacy of your own home, and the last time I checked, cardio exercises like jumping jacks, burpees, running, walking, and dancing were all free, too.

Don’t feel too embarrassed if you suffer from this delusion. Until I was 21 years old and had my attitude about this forcibly corrected by 8 weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I thought exactly the same thing.

5. Success is a choice.

This one is the biggie.

Getting into shape and staying that way is, like everything else worthwhile in life, something YOU have to make the decision to do as a mature, functioning adult in our society. Yes, it was probably easier when you were a student and participating in team sports. Someone else guided your training and scheduled your exercise. You just had to show up and work. The same could be said about my time in the Army — morning PT was just something I was expected to do as part of what the Army called “soldier readiness,” and someone else was in charge of planning it. Now that we are out on our own without those external structures to force us to work out, it is up to us as individuals to CHOOSE every day to do the right thing when it comes to diet and exercise if we want to succeed.

You can whine until you turn blue about poor genetics and try to put the blame on the manufacturers of calorically-dense junk food, the lack of outdoor parks and activities in your city, and the video games, TV, and Internet that are turning us all into myopic, sedentary blobs with atrophied muscles…but it still boils down to personal choice in the end. You can choose to take on the deconditioned, overweight mantle (and accompanying health issues down the road) that modern 21st century life in the United States is ready to lay across your shoulders, or you can choose to get off your butt for just 30 to 60 minutes per day, learn how to cook some tasty, healthy eats, and start reminding your muscles, bones, and lungs what they were meant to do.

It’s up to you.

1. 15g walnuts, 20g raisins
2. 1.5 c. shrimp and chicken jambalaya with additional 1 c. peas
3. 2 chocolate peanut butter protein popsicles, 5 baby carrots
4. 2 slices firm tofu, 1 t. Szechuan chili paste, 1 small apple, 1 T. ANPB
5. 3 egg white/1 whole egg curry scramble with 1 c. spinach, 1 T. ketchup
6. 4 oz. tilapia with 1 T. SF apricot preserve glaze, 1 c. green beans and Brussels sprouts

* HIIT Run (Afterburn-style 3.5 & 8.5-10 mph; 30 min)
* Stationary bike (Lvl 8; 15 min)
* Elliptical (Lvl 7; 15 min)

One thought on “RCR W5D2: Five Important Lessons From The Simple Dollar

  1. Hiya Maggie,

    Kinda found this blog by from Kotaku =)

    Just wanted to point out also that skinny does not mean fit XD I don’t do any exercise at the moment (although I used to swim 3 times a week in highschool) and I’m skinny even though I eat everything :3

    That said, I can’t go running for 20 minutes without gasping for breath like a fish out of water :3

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