Friday, February 22, 2013

What Price Beauty?


I think the argument you hear the most when someone complains about not being able to afford the cost of exercise and diets is, "Yes, but can you afford the cost of obesity and the inherent health problems?"

While there is truth in that sentiment, it's not exactly a proper answer. According to the latest Census figures, over 260 million people have some sort of health insurance, but the median household income has continually decreased since the 2008 recession. At the same time, the Consumer Price Index shows that the cost of "Recreation" has increased over 5% in the past decade. So more people most likely have access to some sort of subsidized healthcare than they do disposable income to spare on gyms and diet plans. (This is based on very quick and dirty research, but I'd be curious if someone can strongly refute this premise).

And what we do see in the research is that being proactive is what makes one successfully lose weight and maintain that loss.

So, is there really a cheap way to be successful? 

I hate to say it, but I'm not sure there is. Even if you choose to not go on any specific diet plan, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables (again from the Consumer Price index) has steadily increased by about 50% in the past decade, which cereal and bakery products have increased by just under 30%. Those apples and greens add up against donuts and muffins.

And referring back to the above-referenced research, people do better in a  disciplined weight loss/exercise program than on their own. It's certainly true for me. I need to be pushed to exercise at a level that will help me maintain and I also need to NOT be around food that will trigger binges. That means buying the ever costlier fresh fruit & veg, while also spending money at a gym with a trainer. 

Could I have done the same with just a P90X dvd? Probably not in my apartment. And probably not on my own. And even that program has a cost to it. Just "moving more and eating less", while correct, is not always effective in itself.

And therein lies my problem. I do have a decent paying job, which is more than millions of folks do in this country. But moving into this lifestyle meant not only a sacrifice of time and sugar, it also takes a chunk of my earnings to keep up:

  • Trainer (2-3x/week)
  • Pilates (1x week)
  • 2 gym memberships (for use every day)*
  • Increased laundry and soaps from more showers and more workout sessions
  • Numerous alterations and new clothes for work because my body has changed so much over the past two years (I can't wear clown suits)
Not to mention the occasional new sweatshirt or shorts after my old ones have been worn to shreds. And new running shoes every year or so.

It adds up.  

I am fortunate that the timing was great when my trainer went independent just as my previous gym membership was expiring. My current exercise/training situation now costs less than a third of what it used to. But it still costs. 
But I know I have forgone other luxuries because I felt this was more important. Even with the large decrease in cost, the other cost of living issues keep rising, yet this is where my priorities lie. I've gone without a lot of stuff so I can be healthier and, yes, happier.

So in that sense, paying for this is also a lifestyle change. And that's the part that's not really spoken about when you hear about success stories. It rarely ever free.

Where is the research on this? Can it be that perhaps, yes, you CAN'T afford to effectively make this lifestyle change? 

I hope the answer to that is not just "you get what you pay for."

*The gyms are $20 and $19/month, respectively. They each have different equipment and different hours, which is convenient.

Akers, Jeremy D., Rachel A. Cornett, Jyoti S. Savla, Kevin P. Davy, and Brenda M. Davy. “Daily Self-Monitoring of Body Weight, Step Count, Fruit/Vegetable Intake, and Water Consumption: A Feasible and Effective Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance Approach.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112, no. 5 (May 2012): 685–692.e2. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.01.022.

Curioni, C. C., and P. M. Lourenço. “Long-term Weight Loss After Diet and Exercise: a Systematic Review.” International Journal of Obesity 29, no. 10 (2005): 1168–1174. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803015.
Meule, Adrian, Esther K. Papies, and Andrea Kübler. “Differentiating Between Successful and Unsuccessful Dieters. Validity and Reliability of the Perceived Self-Regulatory Success in Dieting Scale.” Appetite 58, no. 3 (June 2012): 822–826. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.01.028.
“Slim Your Body, Not Your Wallet.” Money. Accessed February 20, 2013.


  1. When Oprah lost all that weight I used to say it's easy if you're rich. You can afford a trainer, a chef, a motivator, clothing and someone to keep the trigger foods away. What's her excuse now? LOL
    A Healthy lifestyle costs time and money. It is a commitment to yourself. Some health insurance companies are finally rewarding healthy behaviours. I am concerned that the cheapest food is the least healthy and those without financial means have limited access.
    As a health care professional I want to avoid the outcomes I see in those who have made poor choices regarding their health. Genetics can be cruel, but those who can make positive choices should. Those who can't afford chance if a political solution in this climate.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks! Hope you health professionals keep reading! (Oprah might need more incentive!)