Here are my stats: At five-foot-one, I was under 90-pounds and almost-anorexic. For years, while other friends dieted and counted calories, I secretly smirked. I lost weight just watching them figure out portions, points and fat percentages. (zzzzz) I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The result: I was clueless about the discipline of dieting.
I've had a painful wake-up calls. When I was pregnant with my first two children, my weight was normal, but I developed gestational diabetes. My doctor put me on a low-sugar diet! Ha! Thankfully, when I had my youngest child, I discovered the beauty of lots and lots of exercise. I was in my 40th year, but I had an easier time with my last pregnancy because exercise kept the demons of diabetes away. Through exercise, I could eat whatever I wanted and still keep my blood sugar at healthy levels.
But now at 49: I exercise like crazy. But if I'm not careful with food, I'll hit the scale at 115 or heaven forbid -- 120 pounds -- which is a far cry from my 90-pound, 30-something body. Now, when I weigh myself at the supermarket, I look over my shoulder first to make sure no one is around. These day I could run a marathon and still gain weight from the scent of Powerade. It's so not fair.
Money is the same way. It's not fair. Some of us have too much; some of us have too little. But there's always a role for financial discipline.
For example, I know real trust fund babies (TFBs), who have become successful adults because they were well-schooled in the art of fiscal discipline, hard work and self-reliance. In fact, in New York I knew one TFB, who could not touch the fat trust fund unless she was well-employed. Bottom Line: The unearned money was tied to earned money. That woman was one of the hardest working people I ever met.
But I've met other TFBs who sat in cafes or wandered from job-to-job without purpose or drive.
The Lesson: You can be too rich and too thin. There is a value in struggling with money, diet and discipline.
- Don't rely on unearned gifts. Good looks, thin bodies and fat bank accounts are gifts that can prevent one from developing other important skills or traits. Develop discipline early because gifts of nature and time can be easily squandered or taken away.
- Don't take anything for granted. Back in the day, I could eat two servings of chocolate mousse cake and lose weight from chewing. Unfortunately, I took my fast metabolism for granted and never developed eating control habits. I now have a fat learning curve and a slow-burn calorie rate.
- Update your self image: Yeah, at one point in my life, I may have been slightly anorexic. I ate desserts, but little else. That's true. Ask my parents. But those days are clearly gone. In fact, I'm going to stop telling folks that I used to be super skinny because they think I'm making a funny.
- Acknowledge reality: I need to save more money. I need to earn more money. I need to eat less. Failure to do either of those three items will result in a horrible bottom line. Let's not go there.
- It's never too late: Even as I approach my 50th birthday -- it's in July, watch this space! -- I can still acquire dieting skills and better food control habits.
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Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in the Spring of 2008 by DPL Press.