How to Be Richer, Thinner and Happier… In Five Easy Steps, Part 2

Alexander Green
by Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist Wisdom of Wealth Wisdom of Wealth

A Note From the Editorial Director: We continue Alex’s four-part essay on losing weight and gaining wealth. Today, he offers five reasons most dieters fail. For seasoned investors, the list may look familiar. As Alex illustrates, “the parallels between successful investing and successful weight loss are uncanny.”

- Andrew Snyder


For most of my post-20s adult life, I was 6’3” and weighed about 220 pounds. I imagined I was about 10 pounds overweight. I was mistaken. According to a body mass index (BMI) calculation, I should weigh no more than 195 pounds. In other words, I was 25 pounds overweight.

To put this in perspective, a gallon of milk weighs 8 1/2 pounds. That meant I was essentially carrying around three big milk jugs each day, a considerable strain on my heart.

Incidentally, here is an easy way to calculate your ideal weight, according to Dr. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and Director of Sports Nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine.

If you are a man, take 105 pounds and add 6 pounds for every inch you are over 5 feet tall. (Depressing, I know.) If you are a woman, take 100 pounds and add 5 pounds for every inch you are over 5 feet tall. Now you have a number to shoot for.

Know the Principles

You might be wondering what the heck this has to do with investing. My answer is everything. As I noted yesterday, in my experience the same principles that create wealth can be used to create a leaner body. Investors and dieters who fail fall prey to the same five problems:

  1. They have a knowledge deficit.
  2. They have unrealistic expectations.
  3. They embrace all-or-nothing thinking.
  4. They fail to control their environment.
  5. They don’t stick to proven principles.

When I was trying to lose weight, my first mistake was thinking I already understood everything I needed to know about weight loss, despite the fact that I hadn’t lost any. After all, every day you either take in more calories than you burn or you burn more calories than you take in. So I just needed to exercise more, right?

Didn’t work. I was (and am) an avid singles tennis player. Three or four times a week, I would play for two hours or more and leave the court feeling like a wet rag. Yet I managed to eat enough to match (or exceed) the calories I was burning.

So I figured I just needed to make a few changes to my diet. I switched coke for diet coke, ordered the salad instead of the fries with my cheeseburger, and had frozen yogurt instead of ice cream for dessert. Yet my weight loss was somewhere between glacial and nonexistent.

Turnaround

Then, about a year and a half ago, my wife Karen invited me to join Weight Watchers with her. I was skeptical, but in looking into the company, I learned something interesting.

Two years ago, U.S. News & World Report published its first-ever Best Diets rankings. A panel of 22 leading, independent science experts ranked 20 different diet programs based on seven key factors: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, nutritional completeness, health risks, and ability to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease.

Weight Watchers finished at the top of the heap.

(Full disclosure: I’m not an expert on diet and nutrition, and I’m not endorsing Weight Watchers over competing weight-loss systems. I’m only relating my personal experience here.)

What I liked about Weight Watchers is that it offers a complete weight-loss system. I won’t go into all the details here, but Weight Watchers doesn’t tell you what you can or can’t eat.

Instead, it makes you accountable for everything you put in your mouth by requiring you to record what you eat and drink each day. This puts an immediate end to mindless eating. (And you can eat and drink more if you exercise more.) I had expected this to be boring at best, but I found it challenging instead - an enjoyable contest… with myself.

Within 90 days, I had reached my ideal weight and canceled my membership. And I’ve maintained this weight for well over a year.

The parallels between successful investing and successful weight loss are uncanny. I finally succeeded in losing weight because I corrected my knowledge deficit, aligned my expectations with reality, and stuck closely to a system that’s proven to work. Which is exactly how, years earlier, I had turned around my financial fortunes.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how you can avoid the five mistakes and start applying proven principles to your own goals - whether you’re trying to build a fortune, lose weight… or both.

Until then, good investing,

Alex

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