Book review: “Lean Body, Fat Wallet”

Lose weight and keep it off. Save money and keep your wealth. How hard could those be?!?

Each concept seems so simple, but millions of people struggle with their weight and their net worth. Even if we manage to lose 10 pounds or save $1000, our efforts are wiped out by the same old symptoms that caused the problems. A few lifestyle changes are derailed long before they turn into lifelong habits. It takes months or even years to make progress, but it seems like only a few weeks before it’s all lost– or even worse, before we’re deeper in the hole.

So many people are trying to achieve these two goals that huge consumer industries have grown up around them. Nothing seems to work for very long, so we keep trying one “system” after another. Endless streams of experts and celebrities promote and endorse their products. Crowds of unhappy customers surge from one to another, hoping ever more desperately that this time they find the magic techniques to finally get it right. These problems have persisted for centuries, and modern life has only made things worse. Tasty foods and shiny new consumer products are everywhere, and modern marketing has made the temptations irresistible. We’re losing the battle: now you can gain weight faster than ever and destroy your finances at the same time! If it makes you feel depressed, then cheer yourself up with a few cookies and a beer. They’re yummy. Don’t worry, you can pay for them later…

Change Your Behavior

Change Your Behavior

Among all of this failure, why would a writer think that they’ve found a better solution? Why should it really be different this time? Even worse, why would two authors think that they could fit everything into one book?

It turns out that the two challenges have much in common, and the solutions do too. It would certainly make these struggles a lot easier if you could learn how to keep weight off, and then turn around and use the same skills to build your wealth. It makes sense to combine the techniques and accomplishments into a single book, especially if it saves the readers a little money.

Luckily for us readers, the answer is not “Just do it.” It took a long time for these little bad habits to grow into big problems, and it could take months to get rid of them. However, each of them grew out of small behaviors that became bad habits, and their solutions are also rooted in small behavior changes that will grow into new good habits. As you make progress you’ll feel relieved, energized, and happier. Those victories encourage you to keep going until you reach your goals. There are no easy answers, but there will be steady improvement.

The book teaches you to change your thinking. It’s not what you think, but how you think about it.

I first met Ellie Kay a couple of years ago at a USAA blogger conference. She’s a force of nature with tremendous focus and drive, and this is her 15th book in 15 years (this time with Danna Demetre). Ellie is “America’s Family Financial Expert” (and a military spouse) who’s personally lifted herself out of debt and raised a large family on a military paycheck. She’s earned several national awards for her dedication to military families and she’s been consulted in hundreds of media appearances.

Danna Demetre is a former registered nurse, a marketing manager for a financial company, and a fitness professional. More impressively, she struggled with binge eating and bulimia for well over a decade before finally finding the keys to change her reactions and her behavior. She moved to a healthier lifestyle, lost weight, and has kept her peak fitness for over three decades.

They have the credibility to make these claims, and they didn’t have to write a book just to promote their achievements. Each has already succeeded in life, and they’ve already overcome tremendous adversity to get there. They have the financial independence and the fitness to prove it. To put it bluntly, these two have the decades of experience to show that the changes are sustainable. Their book celebrates their accomplishments while showing you how to join them with your own successes– and how to stay there for the rest of your life.

These authors figured out how to change their habits– and yours. It’s straightforward, but it takes the effort. Each behavior change needs several weeks just to start turning into a new habit, and then many more weeks to strengthen and maintain the progress through life’s speed bumps. The good news is that they only changed four things in their lives, one at a time. I’m giving away all the book’s secrets here!

  • “You are what you think”: replace your negative thoughts with positive self-talk. They present the research and show how to use the behavioral-psychology techniques.
  • “3D: Determine, Distract, and Delay”: determine how you’re going to react to a tempting situation, distract yourself from it, and delay the gratification.
  • “In and out”: pay attention to what you eat and spend– and how much. Reach a balance between the calories and dollars that you take in, and the calories & dollars that you spend.
  • “Sustainable lifestyle”: replace the quick fixes and drastic measures with small adjustments to your daily routine. Eat a little less, exercise a little more, spend a little less, save a little more. Small steps and steady progress.

Maybe I didn’t really give away the book there. If you could change your life just from reading those last four bullet points, then you would have probably already done it. The real value in “Lean Body Fat Wallet” is their analysis of the research and the specific tips to maintain each of those habits. The authors show the tools and the techniques. Every chapter is also filled with the success stories of those who’ve overhauled their bodies and their net worth.

The best part of the book is being able to apply the same techniques to two different lifestyle challenges. When you start to succeed in your finances or your fitness, you’ll be able to do the same in the other area. I already appreciated the money parts of the book, but the eating & exercise sections caused a major epiphany at our house. I’d already (finally!) found the commitment to lose the weight, but now it’s staying off. No quick fixes, but no drastic measures or drama either– just small changes and more self-awareness.

The book gives you two lifestyle changes in one volume, and that’s also its biggest challenge.  Collaborations are always a huge coordination effort, but these authors have the editing & publishing experience to pull it off. The book introduces each concept and builds on them to reach success, but it switches back & forth between food and finances. There’s not a simple path from start to finish, but rather two lanes on the highway. While you’re reading it you’ll have to learn to switch from one to the other without losing your focus, and then a few pages later you’ll have to switch back to the other subject. You’ll find yourself flipping through the book and marking the pages. I found it much easier to work through on an e-reader where I can search for keywords and highlight the text. This is a challenge to read in hardcopy, although you’ll figure it out after the first few chapters. If you’ve been seeking an excuse to buy an e-reader, this is the book.

Ellie and Danna discuss the book in this video:

Related articles:
Book Review: “Give and Take”
Book Review: “Soldier of Finance”
Book review: “Rent vs. Own”
Book review: “You Are NOT So Smart.”
Book review: “All The Money In The World”
Book review: “Why We Buy”

About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
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