Use what's affordable to you

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FRAN SCOTT

On my drive home from work I see this Citibank billboard: "Your means/LIVE/your means." Solved, this puzzle reads "Live within your means." This principal can help you manage your finances as well as your body weight.

Undoubtedly, the best plan is to never fall into what Suze Orman calls bad debt, namely credit card debt. Do this and you would be living within your financial means. What's sound for your pocketbook is also sound for your waistline. The best plan is to never afford yourself calories you cannot afford: living within your calorie means. Keep in mind that the calorie balance you seek need not be tallied moment by moment, but rather, over time. Living beyond your financial means creates debt; living beyond your calorie means creates excess body fat. That's easily understood, but many people lack the understanding of what it takes to dig out of the body fat hole, so let's continue to use this financial analogy.

In the process of digging out of financial debt, the first step is to assess the hole, then stick to a realistic plan for living BELOW your means, consistently sending that difference toward the debt. How long it takes to dig out is a function of how big the hole was to begin with, and how much under your means you can actually live. This takes a great deal more discipline and commitment than just living within your means.

Would-be debt free and lean body folks often gloss over what living under their means is going to be like. The lifestyle that accumulates debt and body weight can be fun! To really get out of the hole, though, you basically have to do a 180 from the way you had been living while accumulating your financial debt or excess body fat. Want those great shoes? Want to overindulge in front of the TV every night? Not when you're digging out.

You're always in one of three states of weight management: living above your calorie means (weight gain), living within your means (weight maintenance) or living below your means (weight loss). Living below your means can be difficult for a variety of reasons. A woman I know had gastric bypass surgery, which forced her to live well below her calorie means. While the 40-pound weight loss has been a big win, she has mentioned that not being able to "go to" food in the ways she was used to has been more difficult than she'd anticipated.

As when digging out of financial debt, consistent excesses of calorie indulgences must end. Further, you must skimp on main meals, a.k.a., reduce portion sizes. It's not the best news in the world, I know, but an honest assessment of the hole you have dug and a realistic understanding of the real road out is your best approach. It's a hole, and holes have to be dug out with more energy than just maintaining level ground.

If you're traveling this road, keep in mind that there is a way out, and that the reward is totally worth it. Attaining and maintaining a healthy weight pays dividends in health and well being, as well as feeling good about a strong and lean body. Recall those thoughts on the days when you feel like bailing from your digging out plan. Those days will come, but when they do, you must buckle down and continue to execute your plan. This is the difference between just being motivated (wanting to dig out) and being committed (digging out even when you don't feel like it).

Fran Scott is a professional fitness instructor.

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