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Why I Was Fatter When My Finances Sucked

by J. Money on Thursday, May 3, 2012

agatha k before & after

(Guest post by Agatha K, The Fun Money Nerd)

I’m 33 years old. And I weigh 25 pounds less than I did at age 23. WTF?!?

I’m not saying I was fat at age 23, but I always thought I’d gain weight as I got older. I figured nature would start taking its course…that I’d get a saggy a$$ and grow a fupa (if you don’t know what that is, Google it).

So I took a look back and thought about what could have possibly changed to make me thinner now than I was in my 20’s. And, yes, I’ve had some diet and lifestyle changes… but not enough to make that drastic of a difference.

I realized the biggest thing that changed was the state of my finances. Back in my 20’s I was broke as a joke. I graduated college with a degree in Accounting but had absolutely ZERO skills about managing my own money.

By the age of 22 I found myself in $30,000 of credit card debt with no money in the bank.

And after 7 looooong years of constantly stressing and torturing myself, I finally realized I sucked with my money because no one had ever taught me anything about basic personal finance. I knew how to audit the financial statements of a publicly traded company, but not how to manage my own debt or start saving or investing.

So I started learning everything I could about basic money management. By that time, I had my own accounting & bookkeeping business and was awesome at handling other people’s money…so I started doing all those things for myself.

I also observed what rich peeps did with their money and started doing that too.

And it worked like gangbusters! Within 3 months I tripled my income…in 18 months I paid down all $30,000 of my debt…and I walked away with $20,000 in the bank.

I constantly get asked how I did all that. So I’m doing a free call about it on May 16th: Click here if you’d like to join me.

But let’s talk about the weight…I started shedding LBS without even trying. All of a sudden, I was 25 pounds thinner and I was feeling damn good! Sounds kookoo-for-cocoa-puffs, right? But it makes total sense total sense if you think about it…

When I was broke, I stressed about money CONSTANTLY. That means I had insane levels of cortisol (stress hormone) coursing through my body.

Cortisol makes you store fat, lose muscle, and have an out of control appetite. So the better my financial situation became, the less stress I had…and then less cortisol was in my body and the fat basically fell off.

Also, think about it from a biological “caveman” perspective: in today’s society money is our main source of protection. It gives us food, shelter, and water. So when we don’t have enough money our brain might just be fooled into holding onto more fat as a layer of protection against the perceived threat of having no money and losing everything.

Once we are in a good place financially, we feel less threatened and our body can naturally let go of that extra layer of protection (e.g. fat). That’s what happened to me!

If you are stressed about money, you might be wondering how you can stop it. Financial stress can be hard to get rid of so here is the key: you alone have the power to control how much stress you put on yourself. It’s all about perspective. You can choose to look at your situation and constantly freak out about…or you can choose to chill the f**k out.

So how do you chill out when you’re freaking out?

Here’s what I do:

  1. Meditate. I know this can sound weirdo crazy. But seriously, it works. Every morning, before I even leave my bed, I spend 10 minutes just breathing and being alone with my thoughts. It calms me down in the most difficult of times. Meditation is what helped pull me out of my financial freak outs back in my 20’s.
  2. Get Moving. Exercise is the cheapest form of stress therapy out there. It gets your blood pumping and releases endorphins, which make you happy. Try to get moving every day, even if you’re really busy. On days when I am crazy busy, I jump on my mini-trampoline for 30 minutes and it makes a HUGE difference in my mood.
  3. Save Your Mula! No matter how much (or little) money you have, you MUST save some for yourself.

I like to save at least 20% of my income, but if you can’t save that much than start with $10 bucks. Anything to get you into the habit of saving money!

Once you start building up a nest egg for yourself you will feel much more protected and your stress levels will naturally go waaaaay down.

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Agatha K. is an accounting nerd that makes dealing with money simple and fun. She blogs over at Agatha K, and is hosting a free telephone event on May 16th to answer her most frequently asked money Q’s. You can sign up to this event here.

 


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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think May 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

Thanks for the inspiration! You look great. I’ve always thought I’d gain weight as I got older…and I have. But I think it’s mostly muscle that I’ve developed through weight training. Now, at the age of 30, I know that my body can look better than it did when I was 20 years old. If I have the focus and discipline to get and stay out of debt, then I have the focus and discipline to get and stay sexy.

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2 Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living May 3, 2012 at 9:24 am

Wow, this is very inspiring. I’ve been debt free now for almost 18 months and before that, I struggled through $25,000 of debt in two and a half years after “waking up” financially. Now that I’m debt free and have a bunch of money in the bank, I’ve noticed my quality of life get exponentially better. I haven’t lost weight, (I don’t think) but I have lost stress and anxiety. Hopefully the extra flab on my belly will fall off eventually now too as my financial situation continues to improve. It’s truly a great experience and I’m glad you’re experiencing it too!

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3 Liz May 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

I love this post! I never thought about the stress/cortisol impact that your finances has on you. However I do notice that some of my overweight friends are also overweight with their spending. Their spending and eating habits match – they overspend and over eat by tricking themselves into thinking its not a problem – “It’s just a cookie” “it was only $20″ – they sound the same to me (plus I hate when people say something was “only $20″ – because they also complain that they can’t afford things like a new computer or a vacation – $20 is 1/75 of a new MacBook or 1/50 of a nice vacation!). Diet and PF are basically the same thing! Monitor, Moderate, plan, and if you do that, sometimes its okay to splurge!

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4 Sean @ One Smart Dollar May 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

Great job overcoming it all.

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5 TB at BlueCollarWorkman May 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

I bet without even being conscious of it, when you started taking control of your financial life, the motivation and discipline that you developed probably sloshed over into your healthful life, too, making it easier to lose weight!

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6 Darrell @ Debt and Buried May 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

Is it a coincidence that as a country our waistlines and credit lines have grown in lock step over the past few decades? Hmnnn. But there’s more research coming out about the ties between being overweight and being in debt. – http://debtandburied.com/2012/04/12/obesity-and-debt/

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7 Daisy May 3, 2012 at 10:16 am

It’s true that positive changes in one part of your life leak into other parts of your life — I know that when I was losing weight, my finances were a lot better too! Now I’m trying to force myself to be better with my financials and hoping that it changes in my health as well :)

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8 Christian May 3, 2012 at 11:08 am

Ah, the good ole public accounting days…

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9 Christa May 3, 2012 at 11:50 am

I agree that stressing over finances can make your body resistant to losing weight, but it may go a little deeper than that. Spending money during bad financial managment years often means going out to eat a lot. At least it did for me when I was working a ton of hours. I was stressed about work more than about money, and I was going out to eat a lot since I was constantly stuck in the office — both made me pack on the poundage like a bear going into hibernation!

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10 Agatha K, The Fun Money Nerd May 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Oh boy! I love that my humble little article got this great convo started. Yeah, it’s interesting to me how so few people talk about the money/weight connection because I there is a huge one….and yes it can run verrrry deep. I often tell people that “how you eat is how you spend” and vice versa. And J. Money HUGE thanks for featuring my article today…you are a rockstar!

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11 Aloysa @ My Broken Coin May 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Very true. When I stress, I start craving junk food (to the point of smelling french fries when they are not even there), sweets. I feel tired and miserable and want to stay on my sofa and indulge in self-misery while eating something very fatty or sweet. When you start doing right things with your life, you change not just your eating habits. You change yourself. Great post! Loved both photos by the way. :)

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12 John @ Married (with Debt) May 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Very cool that you have taken control of your life in more ways than one. Maybe it was the stress of being in debt?

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13 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for the great story. (And for the reminder that being in control of your finances is good for both your physical and mental health!)

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14 J. Money May 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Yayyy!!! Glad you all like this one! Was excited to share it with you after chatting w/ Agatha the other week via phone – she’s incredible!! And a lot more FUN than most other people out there in the industry, so def. hit up her call later if you want to keep up the motivation :)

And thanks Agatha!! Looking forward to continuing on with your journey.

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15 Jordann @ My Alternate Life May 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I actually found the opposite effect. When I’m stressed, my appetite disappears. I could always count on exam time at university to shave off an extra 10 pounds. Now that I’m more comfortable and less stressed, my appetite is back!

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16 SavvyFinancialLatina May 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

That is a great story Agatha! When I am stressed out I also gain weight. I eat when I’m stressed. Especially since I have no set schedule in grad school. Great journey!

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17 From Shopping to Saving May 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Holy cow, you look amazing at age 30 Agatha! You’re right, stress leads to weight gain because you are not taking care of yourself first and foremost! Also I noticed when I got my finances in order, I was more disciplined…this transferred to many other things such as studying and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

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18 Lance @ Money Life and More May 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I really enjoyed this post. Stress can do crazy things to your body. I recently have been able to drop some stress and the pounds are beginning to drop too!

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19 J. Money May 4, 2012 at 10:23 am

@Jordann – I’m like you actually :) If I’m nervous/stressed I can’t eat or do much really, takes a big toll on my body. Luckily though I only get that way for a day or so and then it’s back to normal! So not the worst in the world :)

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20 Stephanie May 4, 2012 at 11:40 am

I tend to be like Jordann, when I get stressed out I lose my appetite and my already-high metabolism skyrockets. Once in high school I lost nearly 10 pounds in a week (and dropped below 100 pounds, eek!) because I got super, super stressed out. But I also tend to weigh a bit more when I get more exercise, because I like weight training and when I slack off in the exercise department, I lose muscle.

In fact, right now I weigh about 5 pounds less than usual because I slacked off on going to the gym over the holidays, then I got bursitis (ugh, that sounds like such an old person injury!) in my right knee and gave myself another gym break to let it get better. I still haven’t gotten back into going to the gym. I may weigh less, but I feel kind of dough-y and weak, and most of my pants are too big now because I lost muscle in my lower half. :-(

But generally speaking, this Agatha’s experience definitely makes sense. Self control in finances almost certainly translates to self control in other areas. Also, if you’re trying to save money, odds are you’ll cook at home a lot more, so in that case trying to control your budget is one in the same with a healthier diet.

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21 femmefrugality May 4, 2012 at 7:14 pm

So true! Stress biologically helps you put on those pounds…both through hormones and making you want to run to the fridge. Back when we lived in caves the biggest reason for stress was not having enough food on hand. So now when our modern, sedentary selves are stressed, we still crave that ancient cure.

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22 Lou Rodriguez May 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Excellent guest post! Some people reading this may find it hard to believe that you graduated with a degree in Accounting and knew how to audit the financial statements of a publicly traded company but not know how to manage your own debt? Which to me means that you knew even less about managing and understanding credit since they are both inextricably linked But I definitely know better. It’s why I created my blog, the Amateur Consumer, because that’s, in fact, what we all are – regardless of our level of education. In 20 plus years of dealing with Credit and Finances, I have seen Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers have bad credit. The reason? Exactly what you just posted and I have been saying for a while; we are all amateur consumers. There are no prerequisites for graduating high school or college that teach you about money consciousnesses, about having a spending plan, and understanding how credit and credit reporting work. When you don’t know these things going into the game of life, you find yourself in a position of working for debt and credit instead of making it work for you! Loved the post!
P.S I am completely the opposite. When I’m stressed about finances or credit issues is when I actually intensify my workouts and even eat better (I know – strange :) It’s the one thing I know I can control at the time so consciously, I refuse to compound my issues with hurting my physical well-being. It has worked for me and helped me keep my head on straight. I might not be here otherwise. Again…great post!

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23 yourmoneytalks.com May 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

I would really love it to experience what you’ve experienced. That is such an inspiring story and that’s really a very different weight loss program! It leaves you with a lot of money and a beautiful body. That’s just wow!

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