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faith, Fortitude, Personal Development

The Danger of Ambition | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, most men learn about the dangers of ambition the hard way. 

We never intend to slowly distance ourselves from God, family, or meaningful relationships. We never aim to become evil, manipulative, or narcissistic. We never plan to commit adultery, get divorced, be prosecuted, get fired, or be canceled on social media. But ambition has led to all these results and more.

And for those who have been down these roads and experienced these results, we know the hidden dangers. For some, it begins with seeking a competitive edge. Or for others, begins with a desire to please others who are never satisfied. And others get caught in its trappings by the promise of achievements, notoriety, and prosperity.

So, son, in guarding and forewarning yourself of these dangers, here are some things you must know.

One | Ambition Feeds on Selfishness

“as to zeal, a persecutor of the church…”—Paul commenting on his past as the man formerly known as Saul, in Philippians 3:6

These short words are how Paul identified his former behavior. His zeal was second to none. He was known for his ambition. This was so widely known that his conversion to faith was unbelievable for many Christians.

And when [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.—Acts 9:26

What’s interesting about a man’s ambition is not that it’s all bad. Ambition, zeal, and industry are good, as long the object of ambition is not the self. When the ambition focuses on the self, a man will ultimately use others around him to accomplish his own end. They become his means to elevate himself, which has now become his central focus. This is tough to see when at first, but as selfish ambition grows, the effects are far-reaching. And as we discover in Saul’s life, he began using people for his personal advancement. And this process can become so self-serving and devious that deviation from this path can seem unbelievable and impossible to observers.

The dilemma is that there is no end to this progression until the pain of necessary change confronts a man. And depending on how callous and impervious to the pain we’ve become, it might require tremendous pain. Or, like in Saul’s case, we finally have a confrontation with Jesus Christ that knocks us off our feet and onto our knees.

Two | Ambition is Aimless Enticement

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

King Solomon- Ecclesiastes 1:14

Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest man to ever live, has something significant to teach us about the path of ambition. Money. Fame. Success. They are all attractive. Many a man will pursue them. The reason why men seek them is positive short-term gains. But the problem is that the short term gains always fall short. Moreover, the short-lived gains lead to aimless running. Therefore men from one temporary gain to the next. Before long, we look up and see we have been running after purposelessness and aimlessness.

No man wants this. We want the exact opposite—purpose and meaning. And as Solomon discovered, there was only one to find it. And in the final sentences of the book of Ecclesiastes, he tells us how to find purpose and meaning. The path to discovering it is not through human ambition but holy fear. Fear of the One who provides purpose to a man. And this is not aimlessness—this is our aim!

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Three | Ambition Compromises Character

And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”—Samson’s confession to Deliah in Judges 16:17

This confession led to Samson’s fall. But he did not arrive at this moment suddenly. He got there one small decision at a time. His selfish ambition eventually caused him to get closer and closer to the edge of compromise. Until finally, he thought he was impervious to failing. Thus, his ambition clouded his wisdom and exposed his character and, therefore, his life’s mission and purpose.

All human ambition will lead a man to do something that seems stupid. What’s interesting is that at the moment they do it, they don’t think it’s stupid. It’s just another choice in a series of choices that lead to a final and foolish decision. But what this decision reveals is their character. Therefore most men look back at this, realizing how stupid one decision was and the series of smaller decisions that led up to it—that can never be undone but can only be done differently from that point forward.

So what can we do?

Overcoming Ambition

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

Instead of surrendering to ambition, great men surrender ambition itself. In the act of surrender, we loosen our grip on what has a hold on us. And we offer it to God. We submit everything our ambitions have been focused on, which is the self, and we give our ambitions and the self to a holy and willing God. Then God, who we now worship—not the self—guides us down a new path focused only on him. 

And the best part is that God does something in this exchange that reignites the male ambition with a twist—it becomes holy ambition. Ambition focused solely on him and his purposes. And in this, we discover that God has a purpose for us and that he wants us to live in out in his character and in his way.

Son, be ambitious. But do not fall for the trappings of human ambition. They are, but folly, and many a man has fallen to its trapping. I love you—Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

faith, Personal Development

Sex, Porn, & Desire | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, I have met so many men who are compulsively viewing pornography that I must write this letter. While many of the notes I write to you, I look forward to writing; this one was difficult to write as the subject matter is sexual, and the challenge for men is hard to describe.

You already know much of this, but I think it is essential that you hear it from me, your father—not your friends and not a teacher—but from me, as I see the world through the lens of God’s Word. The reality is that most young men have viewed pornography by the age of 13, if not younger. And about 60% of students will use porn to learn more about sex and fill in the gaps in their sex education. And I get it—it’s everywhere. But pornography is not an instruction for your sex education, and there are a plethora of reasons why. But in this letter, I want to focus on what I believe is important for you to know.

We have to be honest. Honest with ourselves as men. Men look at porn for five basic reasons, and sometimes for all of them. We desire arousal, education, companionship, entertainment, or we feel pressured by peers. That’s it! But this is nothing new. Every man has these desires, but often they don’t admit it. I mean, think about it, when is the last time some guy admitted to you that he watches porn to learn more about sex? Or when is the last time a guy confessed to you that he goes to porn because he is in desperate need of companionship? Men don’t do that. At least I have never met a man who has, probably because many men have trouble being honest with themselves and even more about the feelings and desires they have.

But let’s face it, men have these desires. And men turn to porn because it is both a prolific and private delivery system to explore those five things: physical arousal, visual education, fantasy companionship, personal entertainment in moments they feel pressured to participate. So men think, why confess them to another man when I can figure it out on my own? And this thinking is fatal for a follower of Christ. Getting our desires fulfilled in this way, gives our desires to vices that are evil and insidious. We could spend all day talking about the ills of the pornography industry, and yet we would only touch the surface of the depth of the evils. There are better people with which to discuss sex and better ways to understand our male desires.

I believe the best place to go to for a great understanding of this subject is God’s Word. And why? God is the designer of man, sex, and desire. And since he is the designer of all this, why not turn to him?

If I were to pick from only a few verses in the bible on this topic, I would go straight to Jesus’s teaching. In the New Testament, Jesus addresses these topics in the greatest sermon ever preached the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to what Jesus says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.—Matthew 5:27-30

Now stay with me. There are a few things we can learn from this text.

First, Jesus knows that sex is not the issue. Sex is something God created for us, and he wants us to enjoy it, but it should be done in a way that aligns with his moral will. (I am not going to address all that here maybe in another letter).

Second, Jesus teaches that the act of adultery, (sex outside of marriage with another woman,) while wrong is not where the line is drawn on biblical infidelity.

Third, Jesus teaches that adultery is a manifestation of the core issue. And what is the core issue? It is what Jesus calls the “lustful intent.” The core problem is what happens in our hearts before we act. Now please note, the action is wrong, but it’s the misguided desire in a man that leads to misdirected action. And we discover that we are perpetually fulfilling our desires our way to feed our selfishness. And all mankind must come to terms with the fact that our desires are perpetually misaligned and we need Jesus Christ, his grace, and His Spirit to redeem, restore, and realign them.

Do you know what real men do—men of God? They understand that the desires of their heart only find the satisfaction they desire in God alone. Men who submit their desires to God and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and daily respond to the conviction of God by redirecting their desires toward something more holy—these men are real men. However, men who are led about by their wild desires controlled by visual stimulation combined with a physical release are not real men. Great men recognize their desires, confess them to trusted brothers, and attempt to find practical ways to find satisfaction in God on a daily basis when those desires, urges, and compulsions arise. If you can start now, while you are still young, to address these desires you may keep yourself from unhealthy compulsions that could lead to a life of relational devastation.

There are three things I want you to hear today, and this is not exhaustive on this subject. First, get to know what triggers your wayward desires. Only you will know this. Is it loneliness? Need for arousal? Desperation to understand? Lack of companionship? A need to fit in? And know the trigger specifically. What triggers my desires will differ from yours, but nonetheless, get to know them.

Second, when this trigger strikes decide in advance what you need to do to act in a way that is honoring to God. While the desire isn’t wrong, you do not have to feed the desire with a wrong action. Halt the process. If you act, you will only reward the desire. For example, if in loneliness you go to porn you are rewarding your loneliness. If you couple this with masturbation, you are only feeding the process with a more powerful reward. So decide now what you will do when the ungodly desire arises.

Third, feed the desire something more satisfying. For example, if you feel lonely, find another means of companionship. If you feel a need to understand, find another way to discuss your curiosity. But don’t feed the core desire with actions that are not honoring that lead to compulsions that dishonor God.

I believe one of the great responsibilities that we have as men of God is the stewardship and leadership of our desires. While this is impossible for man, the Holy Spirit can convict and guide. 

Let me know if you want to talk about this more. I love you son, Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Nutrition

Can You Say “I’m So Full” On Your Diet?

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Please don’t diet.

Diets in their traditional sense are not sustainable long term. They usually make you feel terrible, starved, irritable, hating life, etc. That’s why people don’t stick to diets and why there is a multi-billion dollar industry built around our propensity to quit and re-start the next diet fad. The results are an exhausting yo-yo through our healthy living journey. What’s the latest diet craze? Keto. No carb. Calorie In Calorie Out? Anyway, whatever is the latest thing is what people will do…and ultimately quit leaving their temporary results behind. Ugh. There must be another way. Good news!

I’m no foodie, and I’m actually not very good at healthy eating. I can dive off the wagon as fast as anyone, chomping cookies all the way to a delightful belly ache. But I’m now 1/2 way through an 80 day eating plan that has my nutrition dialed in like never before and I have to tell you what I’ve learned so far.

1. Using portion control containers is a pain to learn, then super easy.
Portion control containers is not a new concept, but it’s new to me. I loathed the idea of measuring my food, and I was certain it was complicated. Yep, I’m guilty of formulating an opinion without any real evidence or trying it myself.

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Here’s the thing. I have a complete written guide that spells out what the containers are for, when I should eat them, and in what combination. I really don’t have to think about it. Just follow the instructions.
2. I’m so full. I can’t eat anymore.
Mind blown on the first day. I selected the nutrition plan that suits my weight and goals based on a simple calculation to pin my calorie range. Mine happens to be about 2,400 calories per day to maintain weight (I’m not interested in losing weight) with 30-60 minutes of daily exercise. I ate so much food that by dinner time I was not even close to hungry. I ate anyway, as prescribed. Hey, I’m a rule follower. It seems very counter-intuitive to eat so much when you are supposed to be eating healthy, but when you eat the right foods at the right times the results will follow. Even Angie’s plan (designed for her to drop a few pounds) has her tummy full every day and she is losing inches and LB’s consistently.
One more thought about this. Simply counting calories and eating whatever you want does not work. You will be hungry because your body is starving for NUTRIENTS not calories. You must feed the machine that is your body!
3. “Meal prep” sounds like a curse word, until you actually do it.
Guilty again of opinion without personal experience. I assumed it would be terrible. “Who has time for meal prep?” Seven weeks in, I testify that meal prep works. Make a mess in the kitchen once and be done for the whole week. Having all your food set for the week is liberating. It’s easy to pack, so it can be taken to work (no excuses) and I don’t have to dig through the fridge/ pantry to find something to eat.

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4. My budget likes when I eat well.
You save money when you grocery shop with a plan. We no longer buy things that don’t align with the eating plan, so there is no wasted food and no worthless snacks in the cupboard. Our plan comes with a long list of options for every food category to take any guesswork out of shopping. Buying produce doesn’t go bad when you use it every day. Frozen veggies and fruits last a long time. Most boxed snacks, cereal and other “foods” are expensive if you consider that eating a serving of cookies or chips leaves you hungry in 20 minutes.

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5. Having a partner in this is the best.
I would really struggle doing this alone. Angie is my support and I am hers. We are in this together and that makes it more rewarding and fun. This adventure is something we have in common, and we pick each other up when it gets hard. It’s not all easy. Sometimes cookies sound better than carrots, but we have goals, a plan, and each other to press on. We are also in a larger “virtual” support group through a handy phone app with daily check ins and encouragement from others doing the same thing.

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6. I feel great!
Eliminating hunger from my daily struggle on my healthy living journey is FREEDOM! I don’t think about food like I used to. I eat what I’m supposed to, when it’s time, and it works. I don’t have sugar spikes and crashes, no bloating, my digestion is excellent, mental clarity is improved, skin feels better, I’m losing fat and adding muscle in all the right places.

So there you go. I guess this is my 40 day review of the nutrition part of the 80 Day Obsession program Angie & I are doing now. I didn’t even touch the workout part – maybe some other time. But even if this amazing Beachbody program isn’t for you, learning portion control and healthy eating has never been easier. Don’t be fooled by elaborate schemes, special “protein bars” or expensive mail delivery meals as seen on TV. You don’t need them. Do this. I’m happy to show you how.

faith, Family

Why Easter Is My Favorite Holiday

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A couple weeks ago, around Easter, I had it in mind to write about why Easter is important to me. Then I got very busy with other things, then we went away for spring break, then I made excuses about not having enough focused time and energy to do it. So here I am a few weeks removed from the holiday, but still thinking of it often. I need to write this. It’s as if the Holy Spirit keeps prodding me to do this. So here I am. Let me explain why Easter is my favorite holiday.

I love Easter for the same reasons most people do. Family gets together to eat lots of great food and hang out. Kids of all ages color eggs. 007 Gifts are given & received. Little plastic eggs are hidden everywhere for the kids to find. I personally enjoy hiding the eggs. The weather is warming up from winter so we can play outside and enjoy the warm sun. IMG_2125 There might be an extended family picture taken because everyone got dressed up for church. 005Little nephews play with my face. IMG_2124 Oh, maybe that’s just me. I digress.

Lots of people get dressed up for church on Easter. More people attend church Easter Sunday than any other time of the year. But why? Do people even know what is celebrated on Easter Sunday? If so, do they take the time to really think about what it means? I confess that I didn’t REALLY think about Easter too much until I was in college when a friend broke it down for me for the first time. Now, 20+ years later, Easter seems to mean more to me every year. Let me explain.

There is a component of Easter that involves the exchanging of gifts. We love to receive gifts, and we love to give good gifts as well. At Easter, we celebrate being given the best gift imaginable. All we have to do is receive it. The gift, of course, is Jesus. That might not mean anything to you because you don’t (yet) know who Jesus is. I won’t dive too deep into who Jesus is here, but trust me when I tell you that Jesus is love. The gift is his love. His love is so great for you and me that he willingly died a horrible death on a Roman cross to pay the sin debt we all owe to a holy, perfect, and righteous God. The crucifixion was on Good Friday. Then 3 days later on Easter Sunday, Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead! Jesus did this so we could be with him forever in paradise. Without his loving sacrifice and resurrection from the dead, we are all condemned to an eternity separated from God in hell.

Yep. This is truth whether you accept it or not.

There is no gift more valuable than that. And it is offered to us all. It is what we celebrate at Easter.

You probably have heard the children’s Sunday School song that says, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” This is also true. The Bible is all about God’s love for his greatest creation – you and me. Here is one example:

1 John 4:9-10 “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he first loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

What makes Easter more impactful for me every year is this fact that God loves me. Not only that, but he wants a personal relationship with me. He wants me to spend eternity with him in heaven. He knows I mess up, and make lots of mistakes, and act selfishly and full of pride at times, but he loves me still. There isn’t anything I can do to earn his love, or for him to stop loving me. That’s God. The ultimate creator of all the world is a personal friend of mine.

Dang. That is awesome.

The older I get, the more I realize how amazing this love is. It compels me to love God in return. Not because he needs it or demands it from me, but because he is so good and I am not. His love compels me to be a better person, to love others, and serve God with my life. It’s a journey I’m happy to be on. It is THE journey. I can’t imagine life without God.

I could go on and on about this love of God for me, site a list of Scripture to prove it, and share clever quotes from professional writers, bible scholars, and preachers to formulate the perfect argument for how awesome God is and why you are missing out if you don’t believe what I do. But I won’t.

This is my story, written from my heart for the purpose of being transparent with you and hopefully encouraging you in some way. If that is the case, I’d love to hear from you. One of my favorite things to do is have real conversations with people about Jesus and his working in our lives.

Fitness, Nutrition

How to Lose Weight On a Budget

Here’s Pro tip #1 on how to lose weight on a budget: Don’t spend your paycheck on imported superfoods, a personal trainer, and spendy meals.

Losing weight on a budget is completely doable, says Krista Maguire, R.D., C.S.S.D., and Beachbody nutrition manager. What’s more, eating healthfully on a regular basis doesn’t have to cost significantly more.

Maguire points to research showing that the healthiest diet patterns cost only about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diet habits.

That adds up to about $40 extra a month, an amount you can easily save in other areas, like meal prepping or making coffee at home.

That said, there are still a number of smart budgeting and creative hacks to help you stretch your dollar even further, says Maguire.

Before you get started, though, it’s important to map out your weight-loss strategy.

Identify Your Goals and Create a Budget

First things first: Spend a little time brainstorming your specific weight-loss intentions, whether it’s exercising three times a week or eating one serving of vegetables at every meal.

Next, consider what will motivate you to follow through (or not) with your goals. Do you need to participate in a guided workout program to exercise regularly? Or do you need a detailed grocery list to avoid temptation?

Having a clear idea of what’s necessary to carry out your weight-loss goals will help you stay on-track and effectively determine where to allocate your spending money.

13 Weight-Loss Tips If You’re On a Budget

1. Stock up on simple, healthy staples

“You don’t need fancy foods like chia seeds, coconut kefir, or organic sprouts to lose weight,” says Maguire. “Keep it simple and stock up on some basic veggies, fruit, lean protein, canned beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains [that you can] mix and match to make a variety of meals.”

Maguire adds that Beachbody’s Ultimate Portion Fix eating plan, which comes with a comprehensive food list and color-coded portion containers, can help you prepare inexpensive, nutritious, and delicious meals that won’t break the bank.

Not sure what to make? Check out Autumn Calabrese’s cooking show FIXATE for great healthy recipes and consider trying one of the hundreds of recipes available on the Beachbody Blog!

(Pro tip #2: Check out this comprehensive guide on how to lose weight with simple adjustments to your diet.)

2. Rely on budget-friendly sources of protein

Instead of meat, which can be expensive, look to more affordable sources of protein for your meals, suggests Jackie Newgent, RDN.

“Eggs are delightful beyond just breakfast time, [and] lentils and beans contain both protein and fiber; this nutrient combo is especially satiating,” she says.

If you’re a vegetarian, you’re probably well-versed in budget-friendly vegetarian sources of protein, like yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, quinoa, and teff, to name just a few.

For ideas on how to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your meals, check out these vegetarian recipes.

3. Do at-home workouts

You don’t need to belong to a pricey gym or buy an expensive (and space-hogging) treadmill to get fit and healthy.

When you join Beachbody On Demand, you can stream workouts from the comfort and privacy of your home.

You’ll have 24/7 access to hundreds of different workouts designed for exercise newbies, advanced athletes, and everyone in between.

(Pro tip #3: Find out which Beachbody program is right for you.)

4. Drink Shakeology

All Beachbody programs include a nutrition plan to help you learn how to eat a healthy, balanced diet, fuel your body, and make the most of your workouts.

Shakeology is an important part of that nutrition plan. It isn’t a meal replacement, but it can be part of a healthy meal, and it’s a great way to help curb junk-food cravings so you won’t be tempted by sugary or fatty (and expensive!) snacks.*

This superfood protein shake can also help you hit your daily nutrient targets when you’re on-the-go or don’t have access to a wide variety of healthy fruits and veggies.*

(Pro tip #4: Concerned about the cost? Find out how a Team Beachbody Coach manages to fit Shakeology into her tight monthly budget.)

5. Double down on water

Make water your go-to beverage, Newgent suggests. “It quenches thirst, provides zero calories, and can be virtually free,” she says.

Water should be an essential part of your diet, regardless: Up to 60 percent of your body is composed of water, and your body needs plenty of it to function properly.

The amount you need will vary by individual, but Beachbody experts recommend consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water daily.

Don’t like plain water? Infuse it with your favorite fruits and herbs for a hydrating and delicious drink.

In terms of cost, consider this: Replacing your morning coffee drink or afternoon soda with a tall glass of good old-fashioned H2O can save you anywhere from $2 to $5 a day, which amounts to a whopping $60 to $150 a month.

The same goes for alcoholic beverages, like happy hour cocktails and mimosas at brunch, which tend to be high in cost, sugar, and calorie count.

6. Go grocery shopping with a list

Instead of ambling through the grocery store with only a vague idea of what you want to buy, go prepared.

“Once you know what you plan to eat for a week, even if it’s just a rough outline, then you can wisely plan your shopping list,” says Newgent.

And a good shopping list will help you stick to your budget and your healthy meal plan. The key to creating one? Be specific, yet flexible.

“Keep some foods in general categories on your weight-loss menu and shopping list,” says Newgent.

Instead of listing apples and pears, for example, just list “fruits,” then wait until you see what’s on sale/in season in the produce aisle.

“As a bonus, it’ll likely be what’s most seasonal and [in] its peak of nutritional value and flavor,” Newgent explains.

7. Move more throughout the day

Ramping up your daily activity level outside of your regular workouts is an effective and affordable way to burn even more calories.

When you’re going about your day, all your movements — washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, and taking out the garbage — are often referred to as NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

Research calls NEAT an “essential tool” for controlling body weight. A Mayo Clinic report shows that the differences in energy expenditure between two people of about the same height and weight can vary as much as 2,000 calories per day based on NEAT.

So, get your NEAT on by making small changes to your routine: Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car farther from the store. Do a lap around the office every hour, or see how many calf raises you can complete while your coffee is brewing.

(Pro tip #5: Get more [almost] free ideas on how you can move more here.)

8. Buy healthy food in bulk

8. Buy healthy food in bulk

“You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods or Erewhon to be healthy and lose weight,” says Maguire. “Stores like Costco sell organic produce and other high-quality foods in bulk for lower prices.”

Before you head to the store, make a list of healthy foods you reach for on a regular basis. That’ll help you stick within your budget and prevent food waste.

Items like apples, carrots, eggs, mixed greens, beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains are great staples to have on hand at all times because you can use them in a wide variety of meals and snacks.

9. Meal prep and cook at home

If you adopt just one new habit from this list of weight-loss tips, make it this one.

Preparing your own nutritious meals and snacks can do wonders for both your body and your bank account.

Let’s face it: Dining out regularly can get expensive, not to mention super challenging if you’re trying to eat the proper portions and cut back on processed foods.

“By cooking more at home,” Newgent says, “you’ll have more control over calories and cost.”

Research shows that people who cook at home are more likely to choose nutritious foods and consume fewer calories per meal than people who dine out.

To maximize your grocery budget and save time, try meal prepping nutritious foods for the week so you always have something calorie-friendly at the ready, says Newgent.

For instance, if you cook a big batch of low-calorie soup and whole grains and chop your veggies at the beginning of the week, all you’ll need to do is mix and match and you’ll have dinner done in a snap.

As Maguire notes, buying presliced or precooked foods (say, a head of romaine lettuce versus a prepackaged bag of it) is often more expensive than doing the prep work yourself.

10. Skip the processed snacks and make your own

Processed packaged snacks can be pricey, not to mention loaded with refined sugar and other additives.

Making your own healthy grab-and-go snacks requires a little more effort, but it’s a weight-loss tip that can save you precious money and calories.

Planned snacks can help keep you satisfied and curb overeating at mealtime,” says Newgent.

For a high-protein snack, try mixing cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds with roasted edamame. Or try your hand at making your own protein or energy snack bars.

Or satisfy your sweet tooth with a Chocolate Caramel Delight Smoothie or a Pineapple Mango Smoothie.

11. For produce, go seasonal or frozen

When buying produce on a budget, it’s a good idea to look for seasonal fruits and vegetables.

“Produce that is in season is not only more fresh and nutritious, it is [also] more economical,” says Maguire.

But if you want produce that’s not local or in season — say, strawberries in January or brussels sprouts in the summertime — go for the frozen variety.

“It’ll be both budget-friendly and diet-friendly — and in ready-to-fix form,” says Newgent. Bonus: Frozen produce means less food waste because it won’t spoil as quickly as fresh, giving you more time to use it, adds Maguire.

12. Find your tribe

Exercise groups can help make working out more fun. They can also help keep you accountable for working out, increasing your exercise consistency — and your odds of achieving your fitness goals.

With a Beachbody On Demand membership, you’ll be assigned a Team Beachbody Coach who hosts online groups with other like-minded members and provides one-on-one guidance and support.

With groups, you can check-in, ask questions, share workout advice, and track your progress.

The Beachbody community is also a great place to get encouragement, find inspiring success stories, and share your own journey.

13. Be creative with leftovers and scraps

“Food waste can add up to a lot of wasted money,” says Maguire. Before you buy more groceries or call for takeout, try to use up whatever is left in your fridge or pantry.

Leftover brown rice? Use it to bulk up soup. Four eggs, half an onion, and a can of beans that haven’t been used? Make a filling scramble. Berries that are about to go bad? Throw them in a shake.

If you can’t eat food that’s about to expire, don’t stress — just freeze it to enjoy later on, Maguire suggests.

Check out these tricks from the pros that will make your leftovers taste like new:

  • Store leftover plain pasta with a little oil to keep it moist. If your pasta is sauced, reheat it in the oven (covered) at 350º F until heated through.
  • Use the stove for “soupy” grains like risotto; and use the microwave for grains like quinoa and rice — add a little water or broth to keep them from drying out.

The Bottom Line

With some practical hacks, smart choices, and a little elbow grease, you’ll find that losing weight on a budget is totally doable and may even save you money in the long run!

Author: Paige Smith is a freelance writer, editor, and perpetual optimist from Southern California. When she’s not tapping away on her keyboard, she loves to travel, read, drink tea, and get sandy (not necessarily in that order). See more of her at paigeashleysmith.com.