My Mustachian Fail! How your Weight can get in the Way Financial Independence
This is the first post I have for my planned series of Mustachian Fails. You can definitely assume that our house has more than just one Mustachian Fail, including owning two clown cars.
I’ve struggled with my weight and food my whole life. I know what choices are best for me, but I am an emotional eater. This is one of the least Mustachian things about me, I’ve always struggled with my weight. Mustachians are supposed to prioritize health, and I know I have a ways to go on this front, which will extend my life and save money. Eating the correct amount of food for both of us helps to save money and cook less.
Not overeating is a ridiculous cost saver, especially on processed junk, we just call “garbage” in our house, i.e. we go to my in-laws for the weekend, who think corn is a vegetable and the only one they’ll eat and we fill up on our garbage quota. When we get home we are ready to eat some kale and a banana. Every extra pound you have is 3500 extra calories consumed, plus the calories to maintain the higher wait. In the US, you buy most of the calories you eat (unless you are an accomplished farmer/homesteader), so that’s a lot of extra money going out every month.
As a 5’4” adult female my weight has fluctuated from 180-240 (so none of those numbers are good, in fact, all qualify as obese), with most of that time the scale showing more towards the higher end of those numbers. There are four times when I’ve lost 20+ pounds, and I’m hoping that 2017 and 2018 will be the last years that I need to lose 20+ pounds (and the time when I don’t put it all back on). Here are those times, when I’ve lost the weight:
- 35 pounds when I spent a summer researching/working in Kenya. I was in college, and gave up the opportunity for a high paying internship, for this relatively low paying research grant. Flight and lodging were paid for, but I was on the hook for all my food. I didn’t have access to a kitchen, so I went to the grocery store almost daily or had to go to restaurants for food. I tracked every dollar spent for the first time in my life (and I’m thinking that’d be a fun thing to dig up). This kept me super focused on price, which meant I ate the Kenyan diet. Low on meat, no cheese, water/tea, no dessert, and very little alcohol. I also walked everywhere, public transit (matatus) was so tedious with the giant traffic jams!
- 20 pounds when I spent that next summer researching/working in East Africa. Ugh, I gained back almost all the weight I had lost the summer before during my last year of college. I was paying for the food in college, but for some reason tracking those costs didn’t seem as critical as when I was in Kenya. This summer, my food was almost all paid for by the research grant, and I had access to a kitchen. So I did eat more pasta and meat. Lots of walking and living in a house full of people watching every bite go in my mouth, probably, is what did it this time. I also rarely drank more than one beer in a night or three beers in a week.
- 50 pounds when I went paleo in 2013 over a span of 6 months. Mr. Kiwi and I both lost a bunch of weight, and ate paleo(ish) for about 3 years. He managed to keep it all off (he is 6’1” and lost 90ish pounds in total and now hovers just under 170, for his build he has no more weight to lose without sacrificing a limb). We went paleo to try something new for his chronic headaches, and it WORKED! for an awesome 17 months. Then came the New Persistent Daily Headache, which I’ll write about soon. We were riding our bikes all the time for transit and fun. I was also exercising and obsessively counting calories – too excessively. I started getting dizzy and passed out after one bike ride. After that I stopped counting calories and stopped losing weight. I had figured I’d just take a few weeks off and not obsess over my eating. I never really got into the swing of counting calories again. I stayed at 180ish pounds for 8 months or so. Then Mr. Kiwi’s headache came on, and I slowly gained weight back (have I mentioned I’m an emotional eater?).
- I’m down 24 pounds this year! With a goal to lose about 50 more. I’m taking it slowly this time. I’ve dropped meat/dairy at home, and I avoid it when we go out, which has definitely made the big impact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I LOVE (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE) cheese. I’m drinking less (but not zero, I love my microbrew, homebrew, and a frugal wine!). And, I’m biking some and doing yoga many days a week (I try for seven, but I definitely don’t hit that goal). I feel better (duh), have more energy. Over the last month, I’ve stalled out, but I have a few ideas for ways to keep the scale moving down.
I’ve come to realize that food and money are incredibly linked to my emotions, and are the two things that I can obsess over to an unhealthy level. For those summers in East Africa, I used not spending money to lose weight, which was great, and I need to incorporate more of that in my life. I also didn’t have access to a car, which led to more walking.
That third bullet, when we went paleo my food budget skyrocketed! We went from moderate spending as grad students on groceries, to eating paleo(ish), which is not a cheap way to eat. We ate a ton of meat, started buying almond milk, almond flour, maple syrup, Larabars (which are so tasty! Key Lime Pie is my favorite!), and didn’t really stress about the budget. We were focused on reducing Mr. Kiwi’s chronic headaches (and trust me, we believe in spending money when it comes to fixing the headaches, no need to skimp on healthcare). We were also working to lose weight, so we were cooking super fun/healthy recipes all the time.
We joined a high end CSA (for the record, I think CSAs are awesome if you eat fresh veggies and don’t garden, just hunt for a more reasonably priced one than we joined). Whenever I saw a fun recipe on pinterest I bought all the ingredients and cooked it, who cares if I didn’t know what coconut aminos was and if the recipe only called for 1/20th of the container – I’m not going to challenge this purchase or find a substitute! Buy! The result is that we still have a pantry filled with a vast array of odd sugars, flours, and substitutes that should probably go in the garbage. But I hate food waste, and these are too old to donate. This also does not mix well with my aspiring minimalist(ish). So, the challenge for July and August is to use up what I can from the cabinets!
We figured out the main food triggers for the headaches, and now Mr. Kiwi doesn’t eat any refined sugar. He also has to watch his fruit intake, since fruit can be high in sugars. This mostly means no more than one banana a day and when we go apple picking he can’t eat an entire bushel of free apples as we spend the day in the orchard (when we go fruit picking, we take the eat all you can while picking very seriously…yum unlimited blueberries). We limit the amount of refined carbohydrates also and eat very little bread or pasta. We mostly stick to whole foods that we chop and cook at home. Food tastes best this way, once you take a couple weeks off of eating the typical American garbage diet.
When we bought our house four years ago (wowza time does fly) we put in a garden. And this year, we doubled it. So now we are taking a crack at growing lots of our fresh veggies. While gardening might take time away from side hustling, I definitely see its impact on our grocery budget. Living a life close to my ER life is key for my happiness, and that involves time outdoors. I love getting food from my own yard and going out there all summer and coming in with at least greens for a full day of salads.
How will I overcome this Mustacian fail?
- Tracking the food I eat consistently for a month. I’ve used my fitness pal in the past, but I think I’m going to try instagramming all food before it goes in my mouth to keep some accountability. I probably won’t go for seconds or choose chips if I have to share it all with you!
- Biking more, substituting car trips with bike rides on weekends. If we want to go somewhere we must bike!
- No more chips! And put my food on greens instead of bread, pasta or tortillas. Yeah Mr. Kiwi needs those extra calories to fuel his day, but I carry plenty of reserves with me everywhere I go. Time to deplete those reserves.
- Yoga daily, I feel so much stronger when I practice yoga. Even if I can only get on the mat for fifteen minutes that’s better than zero.
- Meditate daily, staying present helps me to make healthy, mindful choices throughout my day
While these goals sound intimidating, health is so important, so that I can even be here to enjoy my FIRE days. I want to keep up with my friends, husband, and future kids. Why not start overcoming this fail today?
Thanks for joining me along my journey! What’s your Mustachian fail?