Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Small Substitutions

I'm sure most people have seen those annoying articles that say things like 'If you just take the stairs, you'll burn an extra 50 calories per day.  That's five pounds a year!'  Even though I know articles like that are total bunk, I still read them all the time because they have those deceptive titles like The One Diet Trick you Won't Want to Miss!  Of course I don't want to miss that!  Then I actually read the article, and it's crap.

The problem is, in a roundabout way, the advice actually does work.  Both for weight loss, and for personal finance.  If you stop drinking that daily latte, you'll save $1000/year and up to 300 calories per day.  The only problem with that advice is, if you skip the latte, then maybe you buy yourself a reward pastry, and then you've consumed more than 300 calories, and spent only slightly less money.  At least in my case, I found small substitutions that work for me, and it actually did work.

I've been involved in this weight loss competition for over eight weeks now, and I actually have learned something.  I've never really tried to lose weight before, and it's harder than I thought.  I assumed that if I just let myself get a little bit hungry every now and then, the weight would fall off like it did when I was in High School.  Apparently things change as you age.  Even though I supposedly burn 700 calories per workout (pre-injury), I wasn't really losing any weight because my body had become too efficient at running.  I needed a change up both in my workouts and in my eating.

Likewise, with personal finance, the times I've been most successful, is when I change up my routine--avoid old temptations, and sub in different things,  Instead of shopping recreationally, and telling myself that all that walking around is great exercise, I just go for a walk, or go to a museum.  Instead of checking modcloth.com daily, I try to find new blogs that I like to read, or drag myself away from my computer and read a book.  Lately, I'm still blown away with how much money I'm saving by walking or biking to work--especially considering how expensive gas is these days.  Sure, it's only a two mile drive, but four miles round trip certainly adds up.  I haven't filled my gas tank since March 5th, and I still have 1/4 tank left that should take me through the end of the week.

With my eating, I've made a few other painless substitutions that have had significant impact on my weight loss progress.

  1. I've substituted cucumber slices for crackers/pita bread.  I'm a late night snacker, and try as I might to purge this habit, it's just never stuck.  Usually my go-to is hummus and toasted pita bread (or crackers, but I've tried to stop buying those because they're expensive/bad for me), which in the grand scheme of things, is not the worst late-night snack.  Pita bread is rather high in calories though, and now that I'm tracking those calories, I realize I'd rather 'spend' them somewhere else.  Enter sliced cucumber.  Just as delicious as pita bread, but in a different way, and it basically has no calories.  So, my late-night snack just went from ~300 calories to ~75.  Also, cucumbers are cheaper than pita bread.
  2. Use less half and half in my morning coffee.  I had gotten into this rather ridiculous habit of dumping in way more half and half than I needed.  I think it's because I buy the 1/2 gallon sized container now.  I've consciously cut back though, and I'm not sure it's really helped me lose weight, but somehow it makes me feel better and more frugal.
  3. Hummus instead of mayo.  My typical work lunch is a tuna sandwich with mayo, something green (on the sandwich) and a yogurt.  I use the olive oil mayo that's reduced calorie, but the other day I wondered if I could use hummus instead (there is a theme here, I really love hummus).  Turns out, it's delicious!  Double bonus, I can use twice as much hummus as I was using mayo, and it's half as many calories.  Plus, my sandwich gets less soggy.
  4. Less beer.  Sigh.  This has been the hardest change by far.  I love beer.  I love it so much.  Some people drink soda, I drink beer (but not in the morning, obv).  Unfortunately, beer is high in calories, and it makes me want to snack.  So, I've greatly reduced the amount of beer I drink, and for those occasions when it's been a rough day at work and I just want an alcoholic something, I've been selecting red wine, or just having one beer instead of two.  Only problem with red wine, is then you have to finish a whole bottle, but you have a few days.  This has saved me money and calories, and possibly made me more productive.
So that's where I am right now.  I'm adjusting to my new income and my new weight loss plan.  Both are going pretty well, and it's refreshing to know that I can change things without completely upending my life as I know it.  Anyone else have any successful substitutions to share?


  1. I'm giving up on flavored, fat-free, sugar-free "creamers" for my morning coffee and using chocolate soymilk instead. Since the addition is mostly to cool down the coffee, I can still get a bit of added flavor plus some healthier soy in my diet. Even the organic half-gallon at regular price is competitive with the fancy 'creamers' and if you hit a sale, then you're winning doubly!

  2. @Katy--that sounds delicious! Plus, soy milk lasts forever. Next time I have a coupon, I'm going to try that out :)