I'm a Weight Watchers master. In 2003, I was 5'8" and 160 pounds — not exactly ideal for a 25-year-old single girl living in Manhattan. I spent three (!) years on Weight Watchers, and for two years, failed repeatedly. I obsessed over every drop of salad dressing and kernel of popcorn only to learn at my weekly meeting weigh-in that I’d gained half a pound. I quit multiple times, but would return months later with new resolve. Finally, in my third year, something clicked. I dropped thirty pounds in just six months.
To this day – and two babies later—I can still lose weight when I want to by altering certain habits. Here's what I do, and how I'm now using the same rules to shave pounds off of my spending: What I learned from Weight Watchers: How I’ve applied it to my money habits: On Weight Watchers, you’re allotted a daily number of “points” (like calories). When you run out of points for a day, you have to resort to zero-point foods like carrots, or risk not losing weight.
Determine after fixed expenses (rent, phone, etc) how much spare cash you have per day. Plan for days when you know you’ll exceed your daily budget (night out at the movies) and spend less on other days. Plan your meals every morning. Before you even make your breakfast, visualize each meal so that you don’t break for a cheese steak out of convenience.
Plan your spending every morning.
Today, I need to: meet Cristina for coffee, pick up dry-cleaning, buy a gift for baby-shower. Ask, can I make it work inside of my daily allotment? Adjust accordingly. If you trip going down the stairs, get up and keep walking. Don’t throw yourself down the rest of the stairs. (This metaphor got me through many tough days on Weight Watchers) If you spend more than you budgeted, don’t burn your budget and go on spending. Acknowledge that you fell off the wagon, get back on, and proceed. When eating out, order two appetizers, not an appetizer and an entree’. Two appetizers are generally more than enough food to qualify as a healthy meal. When eating out, order two appetizers. Save 30% on your meal! Don’t totally deprive yourself, or you’ll binge. Don’t deny yourself small, frivolous gifts, as long as you buy them consciously.
I've learned that, for me, diets of any form work better when I can track progress in my head. That's why I like simple rules I can repeat daily. If a system is too complicated to track, it's not a good system.