Huffpost UK Lifestyle uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gemma Johnson Headshot

The Expensive World of Dieting

Posted: Updated:

In a bid to lose weight we tend to spend more on fancy know-it-all books, bland nutrition bars and ready meals, calorie counted to within an inch of their lives. MyFamilyClub.co.uk's Gemma Johnson wonders if we're wasting our hard earned cash on a weight loss road to nowhere?

Looks like we made it then. We successfully navigated our way through the choppy terrain of January to emerge blinking into the February light. I would wager a guess that the whispered promises we made to ourselves at the chime of midnight on New Year's Eve probably included some kind of weight loss element.

It makes sense of course. We feasted like Tudors during the festive break in the knowledge that come January we'd live a monk-like existence forgoing all the good things, the wine, the cheese, the chocolate. The money men knew this too, and so go on to create (just in time!) a veritable tsunami of books, manuals and celebrity backed DVDs all promising to make weight loss easy and to leave you feeling healthier, happier and thinner.

But now that we're a little way in to2013 and the novelty of the New Year is starting to wane, it's probably a good time to look at the whole nature of dieting with a clear and unrelenting eye. I wonder what portly William Banting, the author of one of the very first dieting manuals in 1863 (called Letter on Corpulence, fact fans) would have thought of the dieting industry today?

As half of the world starves, the developed world's waistline balloons outward at an alarming rate causing obesity to become one of the major world health issues. In fact, reports this week suggest that a third of obese women are bigger than they think, so it's no wonder that we're all trying our best to find a way to get and keep in shape by any means necessary. I have a great excuse as I am 7.5 months pregnant - bring on the fudge!

The unrelenting popularity of diets is hardly surprising. We hear such mixed messages that it's hard to know what's what food wise. Look at eggs; they've gone from being the bad guys (cholesterol boo!) to now being a superfood and an accessible source of cheap protein.

Amidst the confusion of it all, diets give us strict rules to follow, lending a sense of control. This can be reassuring as when you feel overweight it seems like your body and your cravings are working against you. Let me be clear. I have no problem with diets per se, what I always worry about is that most diets seem to need a whole new set of "bits" to make them work. And these "bits" cost money.

But don't just take my word for it. As CEO of money-saving website MyFamilyClub.co.uk, I speak to lots of parents mostly mums, who are looking for ways to shed the pounds without actually having to, y'know, spend the pounds. Let's take slimming clubs as an example. WeightWatchers and Slimming World have on the surface quite sensible ideas around cutting the bulge. But both brands promote a range of processed products (bars, shakes etc.) that could be seen as easy replacements for other lower calorie, non-processed and cheaper food.

Fans of slimming clubs are also encouraged to join weigh-ins and group support meetings at a couple of quid a pop. Now I'm sure Slimming World and WeightWatchers will point to reams of research that shows that face-to-face support helps when trying to slim down and I wouldn't deny this to be the case. But it's clear that to be part of the slimming club's WOE (way of eating) you'll have to cough up for all the paraphernalia that goes with it.

Let's not forget the celebrity DVD where a (usually) female celeb previously deemed as "big" loses a ton of weight before parading around in a bikini while the women's weekly magazines breathlessly ask for her secrets. This type of fodder is as cynical as it gets. For one thing, our celeb dieter promises that anyone can match their success and that by buying their DVD, a size eight is within reach. But they fail to mention that it's not just their "super easy workout" that makes all the difference, but rather their arduous and strict eating regimes complete no doubt with an expensive personal trainer.

I'm not anti-self-improvement. If you feel that you want to trim a few pounds for health or even vanity reasons then that, within reason, isn't a problem. However, consuming less shouldn't by rights become an expensive business. Add the costs of slimming club memberships, specially approved diet foods, celebrity DVDs and the never-ending weight loss tomes and what do you get? An industry that is raking in cash which by its very nature anticipates failure.

If the weight loss kingpins really believed that their diet was the answer to all of our prayers surely they'd go bust as they'd have no repeat business?