Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Lose weight or lose debt: which would you choose? February 9, 2012

Filed under: Fitness,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 8:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

Money on a Scale

I know that getting in physical shape and financial shape have some similarities.  You need to practice self-control, avoid giving into impulses.  And a big part of getting in shape (physically or financially) is balancing money (or calories) in vs. out.

Back in January, I asked a question of my twitter followers:

If you could wave a magic wand and either be at your ideal weight/fitness level or be debt free, which would you pick?

Well, what did my twitter friends have to say to this magic wish? Well, Brad (@bradkindercoach), Jenn (@payingmyself), Kristen(@thriftyandfit), Life Money Center (@lifemoneycenter) and Joe Taxpayer (@joetaxpayerblog) all said they’d want to be debt free (either because they had a mortgage, or because without debt they could pay for someone to whip them into shape!).  Jesse (@pffirewall) wanted to know how long the fitness would last, and only two respondents (@Metz77 and @FinancialSamura) opted to be magically made the perfect human specimen (Financial Samurai said “I’d rather be fit with debt”).

My “wish” was to magically be the perfect weight, in great shape, with toned muscles, and a decent running pace.  Wouldn’t that be great?

Why did I pick the physical over financial fitness?  Mostly because I already have a plan for how to eliminate my debt (eventually), and it’s definitely easier for me to prevent overspending than it is to prevent overeating.

We know how to be debt free:  pay off the debt, don’t incur more debt.  But at least for me, the answers for getting in shape seem a bit more elusive.  I know the basics:  eat healthy, don’t eat too much, exercise.  I understand that.  But it’s a lot easier (and less dangerous) to have a no-spend day than a no-eat day!  It just seems easier to “set it and forget it” with auto pay and making good money decisions.  So, even though the healthy body would be more difficult to maintain than a healthy net worth, I would love to have a good starting point (already at ideal fitness) and work from there.

I still owe over $33k on my student loans.  Would that mean I’d pay $33k to get into peak physical shape?  No.  I also know that wishing wont eliminate my debt or my flab overnight.  But I’m trying to get in shape, eat right, and exercise.  I’m actually starting to get in the habit of adding exercise to my day.  So that’s a start!

What about you?  Would you wish to rid yourself of debt or of fat?  Which do you think is easier to achieve and maintain?

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18 Responses to “Lose weight or lose debt: which would you choose?”

  1. Boy, given the option, I’d definitely choose to be the optimal weight and strength. I’ve struggled with my weight and eating all of my life, and I’d love (even for one day!) to be my ideal physical self. For some reason, dieting is so much harder for me than making money and paying off debt.

  2. eemusings Says:

    I don’t have debt or fat. Can I have another question? But give me a financial boost over a physical fitness one any day.

    • Stephanie Says:

      You’re a lucky lady! I can’t think of another question 🙂 But yes, it would be great to get a financial boost once I’m down to my ideal weight 🙂

  3. Kristin Says:

    I think you made the right choice. You can always get out of debt over time, and you’ve got a good plan. However, the more you age, the harder it becomes to control your metabolism, and weight can have other health effects that could be big expenses as well. My mom’s doctor told her that if she could lose weight, she might be able to avoid knee surgery (which would be super expensive, I bet!). I’ve been really impressed with all your tweeting, by the way. It makes me feel like a fitness delinquent!

  4. Grace Says:

    I have way more debt than excess weight, so I’d choose to lose the debt. Granted, most of that debt is my mortgage which is balanced by the value of the house, so I’m still on the positive side of the balance sheet. If I get the mortgage wiped out, it seems like someone is giving me a free house. If I really wanted, I could go to part time in my job and spend the extra time exercising.
    I’ve lost weight before, and I can blame my current weight on the baby.

    • Stephanie Says:

      Yeah, a lot of people chose “get out of debt” because they have a mortgage, so that’s a lot of money that could magically be taken care of. I’m guessing you still exercise quite a bit: lifting baby up, carrying baby around, putting baby down, repeat 🙂

      I don’t think I’d go part time just to lose weight. I’d probably just try little things instead of something so drastic!

      I’ve heard that women who breast feed lose weight faster. No idea if that’s true, but I do have a friend who slimmed down super fast after both of her children and she attributed it to breast feeding. Who knows?

      Speaking of the baby, I’d love to meet him! Maybe we’ll host a little get together so we can all coo at him 🙂

  5. Michelle Says:

    I have a pretty fast metabolism, so I’m not worried about weight. I would love my debt to disappear though. I have too much.

    • Stephanie Says:

      I used to have a fast metabolism! And, if you look at pictures of me from high school, I used to be a lot slimmer. I guess looking at those pictures inspires me to drop down a few pounds!

  6. I’d choose being debt free.

    I know this might come off wrong, but I’ve actually never struggled with my weight or body shape. I’m naturally slim and years of gymnastics through my youth & teenage years has left residual muscle mass so I look toned with minimal effort. At 26, I’m still waiting for my metabolism to flatten out and the weight to come on, but so far I’ve been very lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be active (and I hired a personal trainer for once a week for 2 months and it was awesome) but I definitely don’t go to the gym 3x per week or have any fitness goals. I think I’m just genetically lucky and have naturally good eating habits.

    I don’t even know my own weight because I don’t keep a scale. I think it’s about 130lbs and I’m 5’8″ and between a size 2 and 4.

    If only becoming debt free took as little effort as looking good!

  7. I haven’t had the experience of getting out of debt, but I recently lost over 20% of my body weight. As you said, financial management and weight management have a lot of similarities in terms of behavior. However, in its fundamentals biology is a lot more complex than math! One of the most important things I learned losing weight is that the ability to control weight through caloric balance is a myth. Weight is hormonally controlled so losing weight is a matter of programming your hormones through food choices, sleep, exercise, etc. Since I have experienced no recent upheavals in my understanding of algebra, so I will choose a) magic wand, please put my body at a healthy weight (in steady state!).

    • Stephanie Says:

      Way to go on your recent weight loss! Very good point about the added complexity of losing weight compared to money management; the math is much more complicated! I should definitely work on building a more regular schedule of eating/sleeping/exercising. My doctor also advised that rather than calorie counting, I should just exercise more, eat more fruits/veggies, and slow my eating so I can better recognize when I’m full.

  8. Jenn Says:

    I have a good bit of student loan debt, but I’m on a pretty good track toward paying off that debt. Losing weight is way more of a struggle for me. I recently joined weight watchers to help keep me motivated and accountable.

    I found this blog post that might help with both sides of the coin. “Steal These Diet Tips To Trim Your Budget” http://blog.equifax.com/family-money/steal-these-dieting-tips-to-trim-your-budget/

    (Ps: found you on Pinterest!)

    • Stephanie Says:

      Hi Jenn. Glad you found me! I felt a little guilty with my self-promoting on pinterest, but I wanted to share my thoughts (and get feedback!). Thanks for the link, I’ll have to check it out 🙂

      And good luck with weight watchers. I’d love to hear how it’s working for you 🙂

  9. Julia Says:

    I’m proud to say that I recently paid off my student debt! I didn’t have nearly as much as others do, but I’m still very happy that my monthly payment is now going into my savings account. So since I don’t have a lot of debt, I’d have to choose to be at my ideal fitness level.

    Although my high metabolism keeps me at a decent weight, it’s actually stress that inspires me to exercise. I’ve started doing yoga a few times a week (aiming for daily!) and I want to start running as soon as I buy sneakers. I agree with Kristin that maintaining the ideal weight can head off medical expenses, and add that keeping stress levels low can help too!

    The thing about having a high metabolism is
    a.) you have to eat a lot throughout the day. My older coworkers can get by with a soup at lunch, whereas I need a soup, plus at least two more courses. If I don’t eat enough, I’m hypoglycemic and crabby. So making the right food choices is really important.

    And b.) it’s easy to look slim without actually being in shape. I know plenty of people who weigh more than me (or think they do) and they work out far more than I do. Habits are hard to change, so I’d love to have a magic wand that keeps me on track!

    • Stephanie Says:

      YAY! CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so excited that you paid off your student loans! I also love that you thought of me when you did 🙂

      I’ve also noticed that when I’m getting really frustrated or angry at work, I love going to the gym, either for a long run on the treadmill (well, long for me!) or the yoga class.

      Also, good point on the whole metabolism thing. It can be a double edged sword. If you need to eat more, then you might end up eating more bad stuff if you’re not careful! And I also would like to be slim + in shape 🙂
      Would love that magic wand that keeps me on track, too! Sometimes I just want to sit on the couch and eat ice cream 😛

  10. Ella Says:

    Haha funny question, I would choose the debt cause I don’t have the fat!

  11. Savvy Scot Says:

    I think fitness and being happy with how you look wins everytime. Otherwise you will end up comfort spending on food/gifts/clothes etc etc.


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