Moving from emotional to analytical (with finance and fitness)

This morning, for the first time in more than eight years, I weighed in at 200 pounds.

I am not proud of this fact but it's the truth. I own it. I got to this point through my own actions, not because some cruel tormenter force-fed me cheeseburgers and beer.

When I'm overweight, I tend to internalize the problem, which generally leads to a vicious cycle of overeating, shame, and self-loathing. While I'm older now and more aware of my mental processes, I still struggle with self-defeating thought and behavior. (This is exacerbated, of course, by my recent battle with depression. In fact, I suspect the depression has a hand in my life-long weight issues. The onset of both seem to be correlated.)

Being fat affects my self-confidence and self-esteem. I'm less likely to be social. When I do go out and see people, I'm less engaging (and I know it). Right now, my weight is actually hindering my work too. In April, I started a Get Rich Slowly channel on YouTube. My goal is to produce a couple of videos per month — but I'm not willing to put myself on camera at the moment.

In short: Like many people, I allow my physical make-up to dictate my mental make-up.

People are funny like that. We internalize stuff that ought not to be internalized. When we do, it becomes much more difficult to do the right thing, to make the changes that need to be made.

Take money, for instance.

Net Worth Is NOT Self-Worth

People allow their net worth to dictate their self-worth. This is true at every level of wealth.

At one extreme, you have folks like the guy in the video below who — because they're rich — believe that they're better than everybody else, exempt from the normal rules of society:

On the other end of the spectrum, you find folks who feel terrible about themselves because they're buried under a mountain of debt.

In my personal life, I've seen tons of examples of how folks conflate net worth with self-worth. Heck, I've done it myself!

  • Back when I was trying to figure out how money worked, my debt made me feel like I was drowning, like I could not catch a breath. I felt miserable. I felt like I'd never amount to anything, as if my debt were an accurate measure of who I was as a person.
  • My father — who would have turned 73 yesterday — internalized money too. For most of my childhood, my parents struggled to make ends meet. Dad often told us that he felt like a failure because he couldn't give us everything he wanted to give us. When the ladies from church brought us food, he was mortified. Mom and dad rarely had people over to the house because they were ashamed that we lived in a run-down mobile home.
  • More recently, my little brother (who, at 45, isn't exactly “little” anymore) went through some rough times. A decade ago, he lost two homes to foreclosure. He declared bankruptcy. He moved his family to Seattle to make a clean start, but he couldn't find work. “I don't feel like a man,” he told me at the time, unknowingly broaching an interesting issue of gender dynamics. “I can't provide for my family. My wife is the one earning money. It's killing me.” (I'm pleased to report that Tony has managed to turn things around and seems to be doing well these days.)

In some ways, it's natural that we internalize factors like our fitness and our finances. They are, after all, scorecards of sorts. When I weigh in at 200 pounds, that's an objective reflection of everything I've done to my body during my 49 years on this planet. My net worth is an objective reflection of every penny I've earned or spent during my life.

Caveat
Both weight and net worth serve as a scorecard for how well we've managed our fitness and finances, but they're not complete measures. That's why we use other numbers, such as BMI and muscle mass (for fitness) or saving rate and income (for finance).

Plus, it's important to note that while for most of us, most of our weight and/or net worth is a result of the quality of our decisions, chance does play a role. Some folks are born into better situations than others. And some people suffer misfortune (or enjoy lucky breaks) that drastically affects their situation.

If I believe we shouldn't internalize factors like weight and net worth — and I do believe that — what then is the alternative?

Moving From Emotional to Analytical

I think it's better for our mental health if we do our best to approach these things analytically. This can be tough to do, I know, but to the extent you can temporarily set aside your emotions and feelings, you'll have greater success at correcting the problems and feeling better about yourself in the long run.

That's not to say that you should turn yourself into a robot. Nor am I asking you to suddenly become Sheldon Cooper. Instead, I want you to become more mindful and methodical about your approach to problems like money and diet.

This is issue — emotional vs. analytical — sometimes causes a divide in the world of personal finance. There are some experts who are wholly analytical and cannot fathom why people struggle with debt. They also don't understand why you'd possibly want to pay off your low-balance debts first (using the Dave Ramsey version of the debt snowball) instead of repaying high-interest debt first (the optimal version of the debt snowball).

But, as I've said for over a decade now, people wouldn't struggle with consumer debt if they were thinking logically. Asking them to make an instant leap from illogical to logical does't work. We shouldn't ask it of them.

Suboptimal (but effective) methods are a great place to start down the path toward better money management. In time, baby steps can lead to giant strides.

When I finally resolved to get out of debt in 2004, I took an analytical approach. I didn't turn into the hyper-logical Spock of personal finance (ha!) but I did decide to run my budget like a business. I decided to become the Chief Financial Officer of my own life. That made all the difference. (For more on this, check out the Get Rich Slowly course.)

Breaking Free From Emotional Actions

Moving from emotional to analytical has helped others too. In her book Dear Debt, Melanie Lockert writes:

“The emotions related to debt can be so consuming and overwhelming that they actually detract us from making progress toward paying off our debt. For so long, I was embarrassed by my debt. I carried around with me, feeling like I had nothing to show for it.”

How did Lockert turn things around? “The one thing that changed my life for the better was changing my relationship with money and how I thought about it,” she writes. She shifted, as best she could, from emotional to analytical. “I began to take action instead of dwelling on disappointments and complaining…” She made plans. She followed through on them.

This same approach works for fitness.

In Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, author Geneen Roth (no relation) urges readers to develop awareness, and from that awareness to formulate a plan and take action. Just as I'm a fan of tracking your spending, she's a fan of tracking your eating:

“Keep a chart of what you ate, the times at which you ate, and whether or not you were hungry before you ate. The importance of a chart is that it reveals your patterns with food exactly as they are and not how you imagine them to be.”

This is exactly what I say about expense tracking. Its value is that it lets you see what you really do, not what you think you do. It's all too easy to lie to yourself — or simply to be blind to your habits. (I know that Kim and I eat out a lot, but if I didn't track my spending I'd have no idea that we spend more on restaurants than groceries!)

Final Thoughts

Over the past couple of weeks, Kim and I have talked a lot about our fitness (or lack thereof). Neither one of us is happy with what we've allowed to happen. We're both ready to change. We want to change together.

To that end, I've been working with a personal trainer for the past six weeks. I'm becoming accustomed again to exercising every day. After talking to several friends who have enjoyed great success with Weight Watchers, Kim and I are going to do the program together. And because I know how important it is for me to track my stats, I'm going to track my stats. When I do this, it helps me to externalize the problem instead of internalize it. Making spreadsheets encourages me to stay in an analytical mindspace rather than an emotional one.

The same things that help me with my finances help me with my fitness. In the past, I've experienced success only when I've stopped being emotional about eating and started being analytical. I track stats. I keep spreadsheets. I make plans. I accept mistakes as minor glitches and don't let them derail my progress.

The bottom line? The more I'm able to move from emotional to analytical, the better I do with fitness and finance.

More about...Psychology

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herman schwartz
herman schwartz

I hate to break the news to you but nobody really cares what you look like. When you make a video we’re listening to your words. We’re not looking at the circumference of your waist. You’re not a stud muffin. How much money are you wasting with a personal trainer? Weight Watchers is good but you can down load a free app called ‘My Fitness Pal’ and track everything that goes into your mouth including your daily exercising. You answer a simple questionaire, your calories, fat and carbs are pre-determined, you post what you eat. Want to eat more? Exercise… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.

I agree, I don’t care what JD looks like, but fitness is about more than looks. It is about being healthy and living a long life. It is also about depression, fitness fights depression in many ways, not just via a boost to your vanity when you look better, but also in giving you higher energy levels, increasing feel-good hormones, as well as a feeling of accomplishment.

Kris g
Kris g

I know what it’s like at this place point with your weight, as I also had a wake-up moment recently. (At age 50….)Something I found as a free alternative to Weight Watchers is the app itrackbites. It follows the same system as WW, but without the $20/ month fee! It has taught me how to make over my eating habits, especially my love of sweets. Highly recommend.

Steveark
Steveark

Hey JD don’t listen to him, of course you are are a stud muffin with those rakish good looks of yours! It is normal for people to gain a little over time but with your focus and self knowledge and general will for success it is not going to be a big issue for you. My wife and I are in our 60’s and we run 18 miles a week and play tennis four or five times a week at a pretty competitive level so we don’t really have to do much else to maintain our weight. My wife is… Read more »

Mike in NH
Mike in NH

Haha…sorry just cracked myself up thinking how “it’s normal to gain a little over time” is the fitness version of lifestyle creep 🙂

Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Aren’t all decisions emotional? We make decisions based on our gut, we use reason to explain them. I mean, why do you care what you look like or what other people think of what you look like? And whatever reasons pop into your head are not the reasons that will cause you to lose weight. Because your decision to lose weight is emotional and it is by repeatedly resurfacing those emotional reasons that will sustain your effort.

KB
KB

Hi JD,

Every day, I start at 7am and walk 8 miles (also through rain, snow etc) and in the evening do 45 minutes weight lifting at home.
I have been doing this for more than 10 years. It has become an embedded mechanical daily habit, something I just do, just like eating and brushing your teeth. Granted I enjoy walking whilst listening to music, podcasts etc but if you continue doing something for a while it becomes a habit.
Regards, KB in UK

S.G.
S.G.

Out of curiosity, how long does 8 miles take you?

Francis Bach
Francis Bach

You got back on track before and you could do it again.
There are plenty of podcasts to help you develop a new eating protocol.
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Not eating for 16 hours and then eating your normal 1800-2000 calorie dieting in an 8 hour window.
The Concept is that you begin training your body to burn fat during the 16 hour period. Check it out.

Carolyn
Carolyn

Any podcasts you recommend?

Sheila Ward
Sheila Ward

Hah! I was going to ask if you’d read about intermittent fasting. Yesterday was my one year anniversary. I fast 18-23 hours per day. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the best thing I’ve ever done for my health. Check out the IF Podcast (ifpodcastdotcom) and the OMAD (One Meal a Day) Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/OneMeal). Google Dr. Fung (The Obesity Code) Dr. Axe, and Dr. Berg, etc. I’m almost 53. I wish I had discovered IF many years ago. I feel better than I’ve felt in years, and I’ve gone from pre-diabetic to having all my numbers… Read more »

Francis Bach
Francis Bach

Ben Greenfield Fitness, Mike Mathews, and the Model Health Show are my staples. Ben Greenfield is the most comprehensive. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting since December 2017 and finally got rid of the “inner tube” around my belly and successfully keeping it off.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

NYT had an article last month regarding a study that shows limiting times of eating helps metabolism and all sort of things.

Not from the IF approach, was done by a specialist in circadian rhythm, Dr. Satchin Panda.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/well/when-we-eat-or-dont-eat-may-be-critical-for-health.html

I’d beware of podcasts as some can be unscientific or extreme or trying to sell something. However— yes, IF helps.

mf
mf

Hey, before you go to weight watchers, you owe it to yourself to look at dietdoctor.com, which does a great job explaining low-carb eating, and why metabolically it works better than calorie counting/exercise, and so much more. Since you are a discerning reader, you may in particular enjoy pages such as: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/science https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/success-stories Most of the information is absolutely free, and there are no ads — here’s an overview: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb In particular they have a two week intro eating plan for newbies: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/get-started (They do have optional paid memberships, but being a paid member is not necessary to read the… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer

Thought I’d point out:

I’ve been on and off Weight Watchers for decades, the current version is actually pretty much limited-carb/lean protein/lots of fruits/veggies, and I don’t have to count a ton of stuff now. I lost most of my “bonus weight” without trying hard. Now I’m slightly below my comfortable adult weight.

I hate paying every month, so I’m trying to move onto another app, while still keeping the new eating patterns going. Most other cheap apps are calories in – calories out. Apparently, the new patterns aren’t solid enough yet.

BusyMom
BusyMom

I am very analytical when it comes to money. In fact, I found it hard to do something not logical even though I wanted it more than anything else – All I wanted to do was leave my job without another offer, and it isn’t hard for me to find another job. The only thing I would lose was my negotiating foothold. I couldn’t do it. However, I don’t have any logical sense when it comes to my fitness. My weight has been fluctuating in a 50 pound window for the past ten years – the lowest point being 10… Read more »

arob54600
arob54600

Man ditto, I am totally at ease with my finances. It’s something I enjoy, I love reading my blogs, I love crunching numbers and budgeting. Umm, I do not like looking at the scale, especially now I’m pregnant with our first child. I have no issues with planning money for maternity time off. I got a lot of issues (a mental block) with planning to loose that baby weight. Yikes. That’s scary.

dh
dh

One thing is to stay away from things like Weight Watchers and Paleo Diet, which make money by playing upon peoples weaknesses (the desire for shortcuts and the fantasies of losing weight by eating sausage and butter). All the best-selling diet books right now exploit the weaker aspects of human nature. Michael Pollan really nailed what a healthy diet is when he said, “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” This is all that needs to be known. There is nothing beyond it.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

Generalizations like Pollan’s are the Hallmark cards of nutrition advice.

I do terrible with a plant-based diet.

Any time I’ve tried vegetarianism, veganism, and even eco-Atkins (because I do best with low carb meals), I end up feeling TERRIBLE.

I’ll have the meat, thanks.

dh
dh

Well, Pollan’s advice is to eat MOSTLY plants, not only plants. You can still have meat. But if you study the healthiest, longest-lived people on earth, the people who suffer the least from all the western diseases and who live in the so called “Blue Zones,” you will find they eat a plant-based/Mediterranean-style diet, the staples of which would be something like: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, wild fish, yogurt, olive oil. You can of course eat other stuff, but the *bulk* of one’s diet should be what I just laid out, period, if your aim is… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

I couldn’t eat like a Mayan peasant if I wanted. Since I don’t work like a Mayan peasant, all those starches have nowhere to go except my midsection. There’s only so many carbs the gym can burn. Same with the “wholesome” whole grain business— it’s the same as the refined grain with me: highly addictive, fattening, and makes me sleepy. Only whole grain I can handle reasonably is hulled barley. Beans, beans are good for your heart, etc. I like to eat them, but as a staple they KILL ME. No thanks. Last, I read that nobody in the Mediterranean… Read more »

Accidental FIRE
Accidental FIRE

Health and fitness are very closely related, and the behaviors to optimize each are similar. Ignore the commenter who says no one cares how you look, because your health and longevity care. It’s rock-solid science that for men, carrying extra weight around your midsection increases your risk of heart attacks diabetes. I don’t want to die of a heart attack, and I’m sure you don’t either. That’s why we want to stay thin. To enjoy the money we worked and saved so hard for, and to live longer and more actively. Plain and simple. You have the discipline to get… Read more »

olga
olga

I’ve been yo-yoing for decades (not very wide, as I have a cut-off number from which I scare myself into action big time). And that despite the fact that I’ve run ultramarathons for a dozen of years inside that period. With age (and, um, menopause), “simply” exercising, especially at a lesser level than when I was competitive (even if still more than “normal” human) weight does creep up. Last August I had a hard time squeezing in my pants, and as a frugal person (a.k.a. link to finances) I refuse to buy new clothes. Period. I got angry this time,… Read more »

Anne
Anne

Yes, being in control of “anything” helps depression I have noticed. I straighten up the house, not that it is ever a wreck, but even a little more order makes me feel better.

By the way, welcome to America.

olga
olga

Thank you! I also straighten out the house, file papers, move furniture pieces (there are not many, but I manage to rearrange a few we have)…:)

Financially Free
Financially Free

If you really want to change your lifestyle and lose weight I would advise you to dig deep into the concept of self image. Once you understand how to change your self image your physical appearance will be changed forever.

This video has literally changed my life:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3QhS4WDqcA

Joe
Joe

I’m nearing my all time high with weight too. It’s hard when you get older. Eating is a problem for us. We don’t snack much and rarely drink alcohol. But I eat a bit too much during dinner. It’s really not that much compares to other, but I have a small frame. So that’s not good.
Work hard with your personal trainer and good luck! I’ll work on my weight too.

liz
liz

Hey Mr. Get Rich Slowly I think you are very sexy!! A guy who knows his way around words and finances, plus cares about his health is very appealing!!

S.G.
S.G.

J.D.

I am not going to throw in my 2c on weight loss because a) each journey is individual, and b) I struggle with it myself so it’s not like I have much credibility.

But I wanted to congratulate you for putting your struggles out there, not just sharing, but with a blog you put it out there for everyone to chew on and put in their opinion (often bizarrely militant). This is especially true when you are struggling and raw over the subject in the first place.

Eowyn
Eowyn

Hi J.D., I appreciate you and your work a lot. You’re a smart guy, so might enjoy listening to other smart people talk intelligently, and in a science-based way, on this podcast about eating, exercising, body image: https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/ It’s smart, surprising, and makes an amazing difference in how you feel as you go about feeding and moving your body in ways that help you be truly all-round healthy. Since age 12 I have wrestled with health, weight, body image, self-confidence, exercise, with various versions of ‘success.’ I never ever felt any peace with any of it until I started to… Read more »

Petra
Petra

Hi JD… I’m glad to read that you’re human, like me. Makes you all the more likable. So… keep up the good work that you’ve been doing these last weeks, and good luck. I’ll continue to enjoy your blogposts. (Podcasts and vids are not my thing).

big_guy
big_guy

When I read the first sentence “This morning, for the first time in more than eight years, I weighed in at 200 pounds,” I thought you were happy about it.

Why? Because I’m 230 pounds and would be very pleased to weigh in at 200 pounds!

Rebecca in MD
Rebecca in MD

I lost 60 pounds last year at age 60 using My Fitness Pal to log my food consumption and walking almost every day at least 5K steps (which you can track with your Health app on the iPhone. I also signed up for Healthy Wage, so when I lost the weight I earned $2,860!

Check it out – – – you and Kim could make a nice chunk of change and it’s extra motivation. https://www.healthywage.com/

h
h

you might want to take a look at overeaters anonymous. most people put in a dollar at each meeting, but you do not have to pay even that if you choose not to. it is similar to weight watchers minus the fees and weighing. it has helped a lot of people that i know.

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