We all know there’s a price to pay for getting what you want, that’s just the nature of life.
But a new poll by American Express, showing that we Brits have increased our spending on getting fit by a hefty 56% in the last two years, does sound an especially expensive price.
Expensive, mind you, but not necessarily surprising.
Another survey a few months ago revealed that over the period of 30 years, the average woman will spend £105,000 on getting the body shape she wants, while recent estimates say the yearly value of the diet industry (in the UK alone) is £2 billion, and by 2017, worldwide, it’s expected to hit £220 billion.
If it all seems a bit overwhelming, though, don’t panic - you don’t need to find double your budget, or have a six-figure savings account, to get in shape, you can follow these simple cheap ways instead…
Go outside not inside
Our relationship with gyms is an infamously tricky one. We pay lots of money (an annual gym membership could set you back £1,000 a year), have a fit of new-joiner enthusiasm, then realise they are actually sweaty, embarrassing, busy and dark, and never really go again.
Save yourself the guilt, and the money, and swap in for out. A run, a jog, a brisk walk, a work-out in the park - not only is it entirely free, you’re also in the vitamin D and mood-boosting light, working on your own timetable, with the added bonus of going back to your own private shower.
There’s a whole host of ‘home exercise’ kits out there – nicely coloured weights, complicated sit-up machines, that sort of thing. Yes, they’re cheaper than the gym, but are they cheaper than carrying your shopping basket instead of using the trolley, or doing sit-ups with your friend sitting on your feet? Probably not.
Find ways to work toning exercises into your daily regime – other examples include putting tins of food on the top shelf, carrying washing up the stairs to dry and using a watering can in your garden, not a hose.
Don’t be fooled by marketing
That ‘miracle’ detox kit used by the celebrity du jour? Nothing some hot water and lemon every morning couldn’t do just as well. The special weight-loss club ‘fruit packet’? Why not buy some actual fruit. Remember that these companies are not only there to be nice and help you lose weight, they’re there to take your money. So stay clear of anything branded ‘diet’. It’s like baby and wedding merchandise: mostly just normal stuff with a name and 50% mark-up on it.
Tech a step back
On a similar theme, don’t be tempted to invest in the clever fitness gadgets around these days. The scales that can measure the exact percentage of body fat in your right arm; the ‘wearable tech’ telling you the precise number of steps you walked at 11am, and so on.
Of course, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on weight and movement when you’re trying to keep in shape, but go retro: do it with a tape measure and common sense - if you walked for around an hour, that’s probably enough steps for one day.
Down with the kids
If you’re on a weight-loss regime but still want to treat yourself, take a lead from those younger than you. Buy the mini-sized versions of chocolate normally reserved for birthday parties, or ask for the kids’ meal at the fast food restaurant. Not only are they obviously smaller and less fattening, they’re also significantly cheaper.
Make your own lunch
Again, a neat continuation of theme: it’s not only children who can have packed lunches. Preparing your own means you’re both in charge of what’s going into it - even ‘healthy’ options of soup and sandwiches in most shops are packed with sugar and salt - and also saving significant amounts of money - a report last year said people buying lunches out added up to £100 a month to their bills.
Sorry to be harsh, and blindingly obvious, but if you want to lose weight the cheap way, just buy less food. Portion size control is one of the biggest downfalls of staying in shape – recent research showed the average portion has doubled in just 20 years, and some people consume five times the recommended amount of pasta in a portion. Simple maths dictates this extra eating won’t only add to your waistline, it’ll bulk up your shopping bill too.