Gym memberships, fancy protein shakes, diet pills, fitbits, expensive gym wear, personal trainer, fitness apps with a monthly payment, home gym equipment — it’s all so…expensive. But can you lose weight without it?
Yes, you can. In fact, I am.
First, a little back story…
The left picture was taken Christmas 2014. I was over 260 lbs, although I’m not sure by how much because I refused to step on the scale. I had just been diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few months prior and threw in the towel. I’d always heard that hypothyroidism caused weight gain, so I accepted that fate without even questioning it. Why waste my time trying to lose weight, if it isn’t going to happen? At the time, I was battling severe depression and anxiety, which I blame for the horrible state of mind I was in.
It wasn’t until January, 2015 that I received a wake up call in the form of a pre-diabetes diagnosis. I wasn’t diabetic yet, but if I didn’t make some changes it was a certain future. I have several people in my life who are suffering the long term effects of diabetes, so I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. Even if I couldn’t lose weight, I decided, I was going to take care of my body by eating right and being more active. Within 3 months, I lost over 20 lbs and was officially no longer pre-diabetic! I’ve lost a total of 65 lbs now, putting me right around 195ish. (We no longer own a scale, so it could be plus or minus a few.) I have a little ways to go, but I’m so happy and proud of how far I’ve come.
And I did it all without spending a dime.
Before I go much further, I want to clarify that I am not anti- spending money to lose weight. I think that if you do your research and can afford a program/supplement/piece of equipment, then by all means do so. I’m sure it will be beneficial and make things easier.
The fact of the matter is, a lot of us just don’t have gym memberships in the budget. We can’t afford an extra $20/month. The protein shakes everyone talks about run upwards of $4/piece. That’s just the price of a cup of coffee, they say. Trade your daily Starbucks for one of these! Not when you can’t afford daily Starbucks. This fitness app is only $10/month and provides a custom workout plan tailored just to you — cancel Netflix and it’s yours! Not when you can’t afford Netflix.
I’m not complaining about our financial situation. We are we are because of choices we’ve made and I’m content. I’ve learned how much we don’t need and how much beauty is in the simple, free things of life. I’m grateful for the lessons this journey has taught us.
I’m also not saying those things aren’t worth the money. They certainly are and I understand why the cost is what it is. But, for people like me who just can’t afford it, what you get for the cost is irrelevant. Money is money and some things just come first. (Like rent, car payments and groceries.)
So I wanted to share with you the ways I was able to lose weight without spending any money on it.
1.) Workout gear & Gym Equipment
Do you really need it? Meh.
This one I kind of spent money on, but not intentionally. I purchased a sports bra, a polyester tank (the one seen above in the picture), a polyester t-shirt and 1 pair of gym shorts 5 years ago to wear when walking. That was 3 years prior to my attempt to lose weight and before I gained all of my weight. After losing weight, it now all fits again. I don’t really count it as an expense, since I purchased it so long ago and not for this purpose. Those 4 items are the only workout clothes I own. My tennis shoes are my work shoes that I bought on clearance 3 years ago for $10.
You don’t need anything fancy to workout. Something light weight and breathable, like polyester, is ideal, but not necessary. An old pair of shorts/sweats and a t-shirt gets the job done just the same. And you don’t need matching pieces or 12 different colored leggings. Sweat doesn’t care what color your top is or if it matches your fancy leggings.
If you do have a little money to spend, I highly recommend thrift stores. You can find all kinds of workout gear in great condition! If you’re lucky, you might even be able to find a decent pair of tennis shoes. Once my stuff wears out or (hopefully) no longer fits, I’ll be hitting up thrift stores for replacements.
As far as gym equipment — sure, it’s helpful. But it’s not necessary. I have access to a small fitness center with a few basic machines through our apartment complex. I use it very rarely, usually just when the weather is bad. I don’t have any equipment at home. Perhaps down the road, when we have more space and money, I would be interested in purchasing some things, but for now I’m doing just fine.
2.) Find something you enjoy doing.
This is key. Find an activity you find joy in. This was hard for me, because I didn’t find joy in any activity. I attempted running several times, but just can’t do it. I don’t like workout videos, although I do keep trying them in hopes of finding the right ones. I can’t do pushups. I get bored walking.
My husband got into hiking a couple years ago and would drag me along. I hated it. I mostly hated it because I was so out of shape. It took some time, but now it’s my favorite thing to do and I frequently go out on my own. I love it! I enjoy exploring and finding pretty things to take pictures of. Nature photography is quickly becoming a new favorite past time. It’s such a good workout too! Usually the trails are varying in terrain and lengths and I can easily go 3-4 miles without even realizing it.
I also enjoy biking and walking my dogs, although hiking has my heart. (If my dogs were better behaved, perhaps I would say hiking with my dogs 😉 )
That’s the kind of exercise you need to find for yourself — the one you get lost in. The one that makes you forget everything else that’s going on, because you’re too busy enjoying yourself. Maybe it’s bike riding, martial arts, running, swimming or playing organized sports. You might think like I once did — that you don’t enjoy any of it. But I’m certain that if you start trying things, you’ll find something you do.
And you don’t need a gym membership. There are so many free ways to exercise — running, walking, biking (borrow if needed), hiking, playing catch, Youtube workout videos (see below), pushups/situps, etc.
3.) Pay attention to what you’re eating.
Educate yourself on nutrition. There’s so many free resources online and at your library that ignorance isn’t a passable excuse. I’ve checked out and read dozens of books on nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Sure, you’ll find conflicting information from time to time, but you’ll be educated enough to decide for yourself what matters and what doesn’t.
Groceries are a budget necessity and such an important aspect of weight loss. If you’re going to splurge anywhere on your weight loss journey, I would highly recommend you do it on high-quality, nutritious foods.
I use an app/website called MyFitnessPal to track everything I eat. It’s completely free and has a huge library of foods already in it. I can scan things that have a barcode or search for things that don’t. It even has most restaurant menus! If I’m making a recipe, it lets me input the recipe and how many servings and calculates all of the nutrition info for me. Using this app has taken all of the guesswork out of it for me and is the biggest reason I’ve succeeded. They also have an excellent online community via their website and some on Facebook that you can get plugged into for moral support.
Personally, I don’t follow any special diet. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I just allot for it in my daily calories. I try to exercise frequently to compensate for any overage. If I do have a bad day, I do my best to not worry about it and just start back up the next day. It’s a journey, not just a destination.
I also use an app called MapMyFitness for when I do exercise. It GPS tracks your activity and uses your information to calculate how many calories you burned. Sure, it’s not as accurate as a fitbit, but it’s free. It syncs with MyFitnessPal too, which is super handy.
Like I said above, I don’t do a whole lot of workout videos. I just don’t enjoy them and have trouble finishing because I get bored or it’s too challenging. (Still can’t do a single pushup.) However, when I do get in the mood for them, Youtube is where it’s at. There are soooo many completely free workout videos. I recommend Yoga with Adriene and Fitness Blender most of all. There’s plenty more though — dance, HIIT, circuit, etc. Just about anything you can think of, you can find on there. I pull them up on my TV and follow along.
I think the most important thing to remember is that weight loss is very personal. What worked for one person might not work for you. We all have different metabolisms and varying levels of hormones that make it harder or easier to lose weight. You really just have to get to know yourself and what you can handle. Treat your body well and it will return the favor.
So what do you need in order to lose weight?
Will power. Determination. Drive. Stamina. Desire. A plan. And, if at all possible, a friend. (If you need a friend, add me on MyFitnessPal! My username is kshay89.)