Do or diet? The true cost of diet culture
Written by Robert Bester, Consumer Finance Expert Robert has been a writer for six years, specialising in consumer finance and the UK lending market. Concentrating on consumer credit products, Robert writes informative articles that help customers manage their personal finances efficiently.
19th April 2021
5 minute read
The ‘new and effective’ way to lose that extra stone is absolutely the last diet you will ever need to go on. Promise. It will tell you all the ways you’ve been doing it wrong so far. And if it doesn’t work, then the problem is you. Sound familiar?
If you’re one of the millions on a diet right now, you’re not alone, but just how much are you spending on the quest to lose weight, tone up and get fit? Is it worth it? Or are you being led into a diet trap that drains your finances more than anything else?
Dieting could cost you over £30k during your working life
Research on the value of the weight loss and management market predicts that the industry will be worth around £219 billion globally by 2023. It currently stands at around £200 billion.
Arguably two of the most successful weight loss companies in the UK are Weight Watchers (now branded as WW, wellness that works) and Slimming World. If you attended one of their groups in person on a weekly basis, you could be spending around £257 a year, and that’s not counting all the extras you might purchase, such as branded recipe books, food, magazines and even weekly raffle tickets.
Add to that the average UK gym membership fee of £40.53 a month and you’re spending close to £750 a year.
The average person works from the age of 18 – 60, so over the average working life, this works out as a stomach churning £31,500.
*Prices correct as of December 2018.
More than half of the population are on a diet
In 2014, 29 million Brits went on a diet, (55% of the population) but with obesity levels rising, it’s clear that diets aren’t working for the majority of people.
Before you jump on the latest fad diet or miracle cure however, it’s important to note that weight alone does not equal good or bad health. Obesity in these terms is measured by BMI (body mass index), which is defined as weight divided by the square of height (kg/m²). A person is classified as obese if their BMI is 30 or higher. A BMI of 40 or more is often known as ‘morbid obesity’. This measure is not always definitive, and in some cases other measures are used.
Not all diets help you lose weight long term
Increasingly, people are opting for crash or calorie restrictive diets. Yet studies have shown that these diets can be counterproductive as one third to two thirds of those on calorie restricting diets actually end up gaining more weight than they lost.
Further negative effects can be:
- It can weaken your immune system
- It can cause dehydration
- It can damage hair and skin quality
- It can disturb your bowel habits
- It can make you grumpy and irritable
Marie Spreckley, qualified nutritionist, personal trainer and owner of the London Weightloss Clinic says that “crash diets are harmful for your health because you are likely cutting out vital nutrients.”
For example, low carbohydrate diets often lack fibre which Marie says
“is crucial for both your microbiome and overall digestive health.” She goes on to explain, that you can also “miss out on healthy, unsaturated fats on low fat diets, which are vital for hormone production, brain function, vitamin absorption and cell function.”
Perhaps the most stark warning from Marie however, is that
“juice cleanses and other, very restrictive, short-term diets cannot be adhered to for life and will likely lead you to binge once you’re finally able to consume the appropriate amount of calories, nutrients and food groups again, leaving you demotivated, disappointed in yourself and potentially heavier than before.”
So, while dieting can be good for you, when done properly, and a healthy diet is important, a poorly thought out crash diet could leave you in a worse position.
One in Five Brits admit they don’t have the willpower to stick to a diet
According to research by Mintel 19% of us can’t stick to a diet for very long, blaming it on a lack of willpower, but there’s now evidence to show that willpower is not the issue.
Linda Bacon PhD, in her book, Health At Every Size says,
“It’s way too easy to believe that you can control your weight through disciplined diet and exercise. The science just doesn’t support that myth. The reality is that biologic safeguards underlie your body’s resistance to maintaining weight loss.”
This means that your body will fight against the attempt to lose weight as a basic survival instinct.
If you think that this is just wishful thinking, Linda goes on to explain,
“Research demonstrates that most people, regardless of willpower or diet or exercise, regain the weight they lose. In fact, research shows that dieting is a strong predictor of weight gain! It’s not your fault that you are among the majority who hasn’t been able to keep off the weight thus far.”
Gym memberships could leave you out of pocket and still out of shape
You may have the best of intentions, but just jumping straight into an annual membership could leave you with an expensive gym you’re no longer using.
Here are some facts and tips to help you decide whether a splurge on gym memberships is for you.
Almost half of all new members stop going to the gym after six months - wasting £240 a year
If you’re considering joining a gym, there is a good chance you’ve thought of it before and for whatever reason haven't been able to maintain your attendance. You are not alone in this. It turns out almost half of those who join up in January, (44%) give up after six months.
And, after three months, 40% are visiting the gym less than four times a month. If that sounds like you, you may want to reconsider that expensive annual plan.
Given that the average gym membership is £40 a month, if you don’t use it for half a year you will be paying, on average, £240 to a gym you’re not setting foot in.
Annual plans won’t motivate you more
You’re probably thinking ‘But if I know I’m paying for an annual plan, I’ll be motivated to keep going.’
Sadly, this probably isn’t true. A study of nearly 8,000 gym goers, by the University of California, found that most are spending almost double what they could be paying per visit because they are signed up on a long-term contract rather than a pay-as-you go deal.
Half of us don’t know what we’re doing anyway
According to Nuffield Health, over half of us don’t know how to use gym equipment anyway. If you aren’t comfortable with gym equipment, and are unwilling to ask for help, joining a gym won’t just be expensive: it could be dangerous. If that sounds like you, you may be better of jogging around the block.
Do you know cancellation policies?
When signing up for a gym membership, it’s important to make sure you are aware of the cancellation policies. The Citizens Advice Bureau dealt with an average of six complaints about gyms and fitness clubs a day in 2017, with 60,000 people looking at its web pages regarding cancelling memberships in 2017.
Are you a good haggler? Then avoid any joining fees
If your local gym is one of the few that still have a joining fee in January, you can still probably talk your way out of it. If you’ve got the gift of the gab, then there’s no harm in giving it a go.
Check you can use Clubcard points
Tesco have teamed up with PayAsUGym.com so you can receive discounted vouchers for gym passes. So, if you shop at Tesco and you’re trying to get the best from your points, you may be able to use this deal.