Taking My Life Back While Getting Fit On A Budget!

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Guest Post: Bonnie

Taking back my life and getting fit, You bet I am! My name is Bonnie and I’m a 53-year-old woman who has been overweight most of her life including childhood. I have a love hate relationship with food and used it as comfort source towards painful issues. I’ve been on many diet programs and have managed to lose some weight but no long-term successes. I realized the number one reason for the continued failures was my inability to embrace the healthy lifestyle as a “permanent change” and not a temporary fix.

Where It All Began 

It started back in 2007 when my husband took sick and diagnosed with end stage liver failure and liver cancer. I was so busy caring for him that my life was put on the back burner. I was filling my emotional void with fast and fatty foods, even if I wasn’t hungry. We eventually both lost our jobs due to his illness and I had to care for him as his memory was slowing drifting away. Shortly after we became homeless until our daughter and grandson opened their home to us. My husband was placed on the transplant list to hopefully get a new liver before he passed away which we had been told was likely around the 3 month mark. Two months to the day of receiving the pager we got the call that a matching liver had been found and he was to be immediately taken to the transplant centre to prep for the 8 hour surgery. He has since made a slow but miraculous recovery but then my health began to fail rapidly.

I ended up being diagnosed with

  • Arthritis of the hands, feet, knees and elbows
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Swellings of the feet and ankles
  • Blood pressure readings ranged high and low

Ultimately, as I was trying to walk on my sore legs and feet I tore my meniscus in my one knee. All of the above landed me in a scooter to grocery shop and a cane just to walk from one room to another. From that point forward the weight slowly would creep up to a serious level that I never thought possible. Eventually I couldn’t move or sleep without 6 pillows propped up under me as I couldn’t breathe. I also wheezed alot in the evenings yet I still didn’t do anything to save myself.

It was the week before Easter 2012, I woke up and life just hit me like a ton of bricks. “I’m going to die if I don’t do something to save myself from these habits I’ve created”, I thought to myself. My doctor had mentioned that maybe I should consider bariatric surgery. I was stunned and thought,”wow,am I honestly that overweight”.  On April 12,2012 I began my journey to a new healthy me to take back my life. Our mind is a powerful medium and similar to quitting smoking you must motivate and push yourself to achieve your goals one day at a time and without pressure.

Beginning My Journey

When I first started this journey I couldn’t even walk the simple 10 minutes to get to the mailbox each day. I gave up for the first few weeks due to so much pain and huffing and puffing but I didn’t let that stop me. Things have improved since and I now walk at least 2 hours each day. I split my walks up into smaller time frames as my knees and feet still give me grief  from time to time but I accomplish my daily goals, something I never dreamed of months ago.

Myths about Spending Money to Get Fit and Healthy

I would like to dispel the myth that unless you are rich you can’t afford to eat healthy. Yes some items are higher priced than cheap boxed, canned and processed foods but there are ways around that. My Grocery Budget is now based around mostly fresh fruits and vegetables that are on sale or in season. Our weekly menu plan is based on what vegetables and proteins are on sale for the week.

Ways To Save Money On Food

If you have access to a yard you can sow and grow lots of vegetables for cheap except for exercise tending to your garden and water. I didn’t have that option this year to garden so I plan my shopping by using local shopping flyers, plan a shopping list and  save time and money by price matching and of course budgeting. I also tend to keep an eye out for reduced meat and vegetables that I can easily store in my freezer for later use.


I bought a several 1 lb packages  of fish reduced by 50% from the grocery store and then froze them for later use.

Money Saving Tip: I buy my yogurt on sale and in larger containers and portion them out in reuseable single serve containers.

Canadian Coupons

I use coupons to stockpile my paper, hygiene and cleaning products which enables me to save up a bit of money for the items that don’t come with coupons. This is where the grocery savings in my budget makes sense to me. I buy brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal, etc in bulk and save money by not purchasing smaller bags.

Eating Out and The Budget

The number was staggering after I took a hard look at the amount of money we spent eating out each month in our budget. If anyone were to do the lunch and dinner comparison they would see eating at home potentially not only has health benefits but can save you so much money. We would eat out about 2 times for lunch and dinner each week. The average cost for these splurges were a mind-blowing $100 a week a total of $400 a month in our budget. Can you imagine all the food I could buy each month with $400 added to my current grocery budget? 

Frugal Healthy Cooking At Home

An example of a cheap healthy meal I now make at home for a total of $2.35 per person is:

  • 1/4 medium turnip baked to make turnip fries $0.75,
  • 1 cup of fresh green beans $0.35,
  • 1 cup of brown rice $0.15, 4 oz chicken breast $1.10

If I went to McDonald’s for a value meal it would have cost me $8.02. Before beginning this journey to take my life back I wasn’t the chef in the kitchen like I am today. I typically ate out of boxes, cans, jars, and at fast food joints.

What I Used To Eat Then….

There was no stopping me when it came to burgers, fries, poutine, pizzas, Kraft dinner,white breads, pastas, rice, as well as diet pop, yep diet pop. I ate lots of processed foods high in sodium and other ingredients I can’t even pronounce. Eating convenience foods was likely one of the worst things I could have done for my body. Now I enjoy cooking frugal easy low-fat healthy meals everyday.

What I Eat Now…..

Now I have a healthy meal plan and I  eat as clean as possible. My new healthy lifestyle includes foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey, fish, whole grains, fat-free yoghurt, fat-free milk and reduced fat cheeses. I limit my frozen and canned fruit and vegetables due to my sodium level intake. I do however have many bags of frozen fruits and veggies in the freezer which I recently used smart source insert coupons to purchase them for $1.00. The fruits are great for smoothies or mixed with some fat-free yoghurt. This lifestyle change does take planning and getting used to, I won’t lie. I can equate it to couponing for the first time, overwhelming at first but in a short period it becomes second nature.

You Don’t Need Money and A Gym To Get Fit!

Another myth is you can’t lose weight and get fit unless you spend money by joining a gym in which I have no desire to. I walk and hike every day and these exercise methods cost me nothing. I enjoy hiking and have found plenty of amazing well-kept trails in and around our city and it’s lots of fun. While on my hike I sometimes pack a healthy picnic lunch and a refillable 32 oz water bottle and make an afternoon out of it.

The best thing about hiking and picnic lunches:

  • It doesn’t cost any money
  • You get amazing health benefits
  • Stress of everyday living vanishes

My life stressors are forgotten within 10 minutes of entering the trails. It’s also a great way to reconnect with your spouse or significant other. Another great free way to get fit is to bike ride. If you own a bike and use it you’re already ahead of the health game. If not there are lots of used bikes for sale at great prices on Kijiji or even free on free-cycle.

The Results

Its been 4  1/2 months and I have lost 70 lbs so far and although my feet and ankles still swell I am optimistic that as the weight melts off the swelling will improve. I recently went to the family doctor and my blood pressure is sitting at 120/80 which is perfect, especially for a 53-year-old woman who had high blood pressure 4 months ago. My resting heart rate has slowed considerably which speaks volumes on the benefits of my free cardio workouts every day.

I love the foods, exercise and energy that this new life has given me. I wish I had not wasted so much time but I can’t go back, only forward. I hope telling my story will make a difference in someone else’s life who thinks that they cant do it, they aren’t strong, don’t have enough money or aren’t motivated. I am living proof that you can go after what you dream no matter your age, wealth or health. With hard work and determination you can accomplish your goals even if one step at a time. Anything can be accomplished with hard work, determination and a refusal to fail no matter how impossible the big picture looks in the beginning.

I have done this without fad diets, gimmicks, pills, surgery or any other weight-loss aids. Clean eating, portion control, lots of walking and a fierce desire to save my life. Whatever your path is, don’t give up. We may have different methods of getting there but we will meet and celebrate at the finish line. Now its onward and upwards to reaching my final goal  a weight loss of 100 lbs. As of today September 3rd, 2012 I am 75.5 lbs lighter!

There is so much available for people who desire to eat healthy and get fit. We have to reach out and change the way we think. Taking my life back and getting fit while setting goals just like a budget are steps I am willing to take… to be me again.

You can Join Bonnie and her over 1600 Fans on her journey at “Losing It Like Bonnie” on Facebook.

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  1. Wow, that’s amazing! You look awesome, and that last quote about wanting it bad enough is right on ! People make SO MANY excuses and honestly, either you’re gonna do it or you aren’t. Glad to see that you’re doing it!

    1. Thanks so very much for the support !!! I have made those same excuses for years and it finally hit me like a ton of bricks … and I have been saving my life from that moment forward.

  2. Bonnie – you should be so, so proud of yourself! Losing weight is very hard (I’ve dropped 45 pounds myself) and you’ve done a cracker jack job of it!

  3. Wow, you have done amazing Bonnie. I was so inspired by your story. I have a lot of weight to loose but have been very discouraged by friends who have lost a lot of weight through WW and joining a gym; both which are not in the budget for me. Your story has shown that you can loose weight and get in shape on a budget. Thank you for sharing your story and success.

    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for the nice comments and yes you can do this without alot of bells and whistles. I dont pay anyone to weigh me and I am my own accountability police because if I cheat on myself then I pay the consequences. I also wont pay the gym membership fees to use their equipment when I can work out for free at home . Its also less chance of getting sick from hanging out in a huge room full of people and stale air but thats another story .. my germaphobia lol. I would invite you to come like my page and gain encouragement and ideas from us all.

  4. What an inspirational story Bonnie, thank-you for sharing! Losing weight is a difficult struggle and you are right, it can be very expensive unless you take yourself back to basics (natural, organic foods) and good ol’ exercise. I started a “Getting Healthy” routine at the beginning of summer. I have lost 16lbs and although I feel like it’s not going down fast enough, it’s still going down (and my bank account isn’t) ! I was most touched by the part when you wrote “go after what you dream no matter your age, wealth or health. With hard work and determination you can accomplish your goals even if one step at a time. Anything can be accomplished with hard work, determination and a refusal to fail no matter how impossible the big picture looks in the beginning.” I have to constantly remind myself that no matter how bad things look some days, I have many people in my life who love me and for that I am thankful. Somedays, I even feel like a hypocrite posting on Mr.CBB’s blogs because I have gone from being a married, working mother, who was debt free (except for our mortgage) to a separated, 2 yr unemployed, now living off of osap, with significant attorney debt, single mom and student. I think to myself, who am I to make any comments on money because I don’t have any LOL, but then I’m reminded that by sharing we can all learn from each other. Thank-you for sharing your story with all of us, I’m sure I’m not the only one taking away parts of your wonderful message.

    1. Thanks so much for your message. It has touched me most definitely. I too was a single mom of 3 little kids and was abandoned by my 1st husband and what little we had was gone in an instant. I do know the struggles and dont ever feel like a hypocrite for posting on any page about anything you have experience with . We all do learn and grow from each other and this is a great thing. As for the weight loss aspect , dont give up, you are going in the right direction and that is all that matters. Come on over to my page and follow along with us all for some motivation and support with that part 🙂

  5. holy cow….amazing results . I need to lose some weight that my inactivity and prescriptions have put on since I ve been ill. I have started to feel a bit better but facing surgery @ the end of the month. Oct 1st is my start date….going to try some of your tips ….thanks

  6. Wow! Congratulations!! I know how tough losing weight can be as several years ago I lost 30lbs for my wedding. Just remember when you hit a plateau, you usually just have to readjust a few things and the lbs start melting away again! I had the hardest times with plateau’s. You are an inspiration to others who need to lose weight or risk losing their lives. I hope they choose to do what you are doing. Keep up the great work! I have gotten to the point in my journey that I love working out, but I still struggle with the eating properly bit. I am hoping to get back on track starting tomorrow 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. What an inspirational story Bonnie. You should be so proud of yourself and all you have accomplished. Great point about how you can make yourself a healthy meal for less than what it would cost for a fast food meal full of calories, fat and sodium. I joined your Facebook page many weeks ago after seeing a post from you on Mr. CBB’s page regarding your journey. You invited me to join and I have enjoyed following your progress. You have such a great outlook and have been very dedicated to getting your exercise in everyday. I personally know how challenging that can be but it is something you need to do. Over time the exercising turns into something you want to do as it makes you feel great both physically and emotionally. You make my mouth water every time you post a picture of your dinner on your facebook page and it provides wonderful ideas for those also working to eat more healthy. Your meals look so yummy, filling and satisfying. I know you will keep up the hard work and will accomplish your goals. All the best to you.

    1. Hi Joanna, thanks so much for such kind words. I am so glad you are with me on this journey. Its comments like this as well as the interaction of you all on my page that give me such comfort :))

  8. Awesome!!!!!!!!!! You have done something so good for yourself and your family. You are an inspiration to everyone. it just goes to show what can be done with a little willpower. You Go Girl!!!!!!

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