What a personal finance book can teach you about eating healthy

By Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

I was reading Ramit Sethi’s personal finance book I Will Teach You To Be Rich last week, and was struck by the similarities between managing your money and managing your weight by eating healthy.

Sethi believes that creating detailed budgets just doesn’t work for most people. Instead, he recommends something called “conscious spending”: splurging on the things you truly love, and cutting back ruthlessly on the things you don’t. Here’s how he explains it:

What if you could make sure you were saving and investing enough money each month, and then use the rest of your money guilt-free for whatever you want? Well, you can — with some work. The only catch is that you have to plan where you want your money to go ahead of time (even if it’s on the back of a napkin). Would it be worth taking a couple hours to get set up so you can spend on the things you love?

As I read this, it dawned on me that this is essentially the same strategy I try to use when it comes to eating healthy.

Eating healthy 95% of the time allows you to splurge 5% of the time, guilt-free

I stick to eating 3 small meals and 1 snack per day, making sure to fit in plenty of whole grains, fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and fruit. To keep myself honest, I track what I eat by writing everything down on my trusty iPhone’s notepad.

Because I know that I’ve been doing a good job of eating healthy (the equivalent to saving and investing enough money), I get to indulge in one big splurge meal per week. I don’t feel guilty or anxious about it, because I know that I’ve “made room” for it, nutritionally speaking.

Also, if I do the math, I know that the splurge meal only accounts for less than 5% of the meals I ate that week:

3 meals per day x 7 days per week = 21 meals per week
1 splurge meal / 21 meals per week = 4.7%

There is one thing I’d like to change, however. What I tend to do now is give myself some leeway with food over the weekend, and afterwards tell myself, “okay, that was my splurge meal of the week.”

I love Sethi’s idea of planning your splurge ahead of time. I think I’m going to try to take this proactive approach of deciding exactly where my extra calories are going to go, instead of categorizing a meal as a splurge after it happens.

How being a snob will help you with eating healthy

How many times have you eaten something high in calories, fat, or sugar that you didn’t really want, or even enjoy?

Maybe it’s left-over pizza from a catered meeting. It’s cold, stale, and kind of gross. But who cares: it’s free! So you bum-rush the conference room anyway to gulp it down.

Maybe it’s your newlywed co-worker who’s obsessed with using all the kitchen appliances she received as wedding gifts. The results of her culinary experiments are god-awful, but you can’t refuse her food without being rude, so you eat it anyway.

Instead of wasting all these excess calories on foods you don’t really enjoy, what if you became more of a snob about food? What if you focused on eating healthy for most of the week, and saved the splurges for the things you really love?

What are your strategies for eating healthy?

Making room for nutritional splurges is just one way you can go about eating healthy without depriving yourself of the foods you love. What other strategies do you use to eat healthy?

PS: If you’re intrigued by the idea of “conscious spending,” check out Sethi’s blog I Will Teach You to be Rich. It’s a great (and free!) resource about personal finance.