In 2008 Americans spent about 40 billion dollars on the diet industry. This includes things like diet pills, programs, books, meal replacements... Pretty much anything to help you lose weight. I couldn't find an updated statistic, but read in another place that it's 40-50 billion dollars a year. If this was in 2008, my guess is that it has grown and was even more in 2011.
I find it fascinating that we're so quick to spend money on things that in many ways do us more harm than good. There are some programs, such as WW, that I feel are pretty good. They promote healthy habits, and provide educational tools. However, I do not like that they basically (this is last time I did WW, a few years ago) said "eat whatever you want, just stay in your points." To me that's not a healthy way of thinking. Being healthy isn't just about losing weight and staying within your ranges, despite what you eat. Healthy eating is eating healthy foods... It's not conserving your flex points (if they still have those) for one big splurge. Sure, for weight loss this might be effective. However, I hold the opinion that health is important. If you're eating healthy and exercising, you're doing good for your body. If you change your eating habits and start eating healthy, you'll more than likely see weight loss.
By the way, you don't need to do a paid weight loss program to track what you eat and what you burn. There are FREE options available on-line (like SP, which I use).
I've spent money on WW...Twice. I don't recall the price but I believe there was a sign-up fee and I got the "discounted" monthly plan because of my health insurance. I think that was 135-150 a month. The meetings I went to weren't good. I hated them, actually. Because it was monthly I probably only wasted part of a month each time. I also did WW online for a while, a couple different times. I think there was a sign-up fee of about 30 dollars plus a monthly fee of maybe 20. I know that once I paid for three months at a time, got a savings, and used it for only part of the time.
The idea of replacing a meal with a shake is unappealing to me. I think this sets a lot of people up for failure. After a while people are going to get bored with eating a bar or drinking a shake as a meal. Also, many of these do not contain enough calories to help sustain your body over the course of the day. When I used a meal replacement shake, there were 220 calories per can. For two meals that's 440.... Add in a couple 100 calorie snacks and you're at 640. Using this idea, someone would have to eat a dinner of 460 calories (to eat a minimum of 1200 calories for the day). That may not sound like much to some, but to me, that's a big dinner.
I used shakes and bars. I spent some money on them...I didn't use them for long though (probably because I missed food!). I'd say in total I spent under 100 dollars on that stuff.
Here's an example of all of the foods that I can eat (before dinner, which will be less than 460 calories) to equal about 100 calories less than the above mentioned shakes and snacks.
Kashi Go Lean Crunch; .75 cup
Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk, .5 cup
Regular coffee 1.5 cups
Apple slices, with some caramel dip (pre-packaged, but I'd guess a tablespoon)
Strawberries; 1 cup whole
Pineapple rings; canned; 2 rings
Blueberries, .75 cup
Baby carrots; 3 oz
All of that is 601 calories.... That is breakfast, two snacks/small meals, and part of lunch (carrots). I would likely add about another 150 calories to lunch (today a light English muffin and some chocolate PB2 sounds good; and is 145 calories). So... 746 calories before dinner. That's only about 100 more than the two shakes and two 100 calorie snack plan. Today is a 1300 calorie day for me, so I actually have to eat quite a bit more (554 calories), which is a big dinner for me!! In this case, I generally have a protein shake, which consists of 100% whey protein powder and half a cup of Silk Light Vanilla (soy milk). This is a great 170 calorie post-workout snack. This leaves me with 384 calories for dinner, which is a pretty good dinner... If I had a plain chicken breast (seriously can have good flavor with just some spices or herbs), that's about 100 calories for a four ounce portion. I could add a salad with no cheese and light dressing (just greens and veggies; like in the bag) for less than 50, plus some steamed veggies for around 30 (depending on which veggies). That's a pretty decent dinner for under 200 calories. If it were a 1200 calorie day, that's all I'd need to eat and I'd still be under the 1200 calorie mark.
Given the choice between two shakes, two snacks, and a large dinner (for example; a meat, veggie, potato or rice, and maybe even some bread) and...
Cereal, almond milk, coffee, apples with caramel dip, strawberries, pineapple, yogurt, blueberries, carrots, an English muffin, PB2, protein powder, soy milk, a lean meat, salad, and steamed veggies...with the need for a few more calories (so I could indulge in some fat-free, sugar-free pudding for dessert!)...Or I could add cheese or a hard boiled egg to that salad! Heck, I could even have a square of CHOCOLATE!
I'd take option two. Every. Single. Time.
The problem with meal replacements is that they're not desirable. At least not to me. They may be packed with vitamins and such, but they're really not that healthy. After a little while, most people are going to get frustrated with them and want more food. Personally, eating more foods that are healthy sounds like a better option to me!
I have no problem with these shakes and bars as supplements. Even replacing one meal a day with one isn't a bad idea. If you're not a breakfast eater, it's probably a lot easier to drink something like that than it is to eat a breakfast.
I've discussed pills, patches, and the like before so I'm not going to go into much detail about the evils that are packed into such things. Or the nasty results (Alli, I'm looking at you) that they can have. I know that these pills (when I bought them) ranged from 20-25 dollars a bottle. I used... Dexatrim (the red box, before it got pulled from shelves), Dexatrim Natural, Metabolife, Hydroxycut, and a prescription med called Xenical (similar to Alli). I also purchased the Pink Patch. This was a weight loss patch that is changed daily. I think they were 50 dollars for a month worth of patches. I remember that I got some discount when I signed up so I saved a little bit. I've spent more than 200 dollars on pills and such.
When I spent this money, I lost some weight, but generally gained it all back...And eventually more. The times that I did lose weight and managed to not gain it back was when I did WW. I lost 25 pounds before quitting the first time and then 30 the second time. Then I quit again.
Other costs? Books. Exercise DVDs. Workout equipment. Gym memberships.
Some of these costs I'd lump into the health industry rather than the diet industry. I agree with obtaining these things IF you are really going to use them. Many people waste money on gym memberships, workout equipment, and the like. My advice would be, do not buy these things until you know that you will use them. I'm always amused by the number of cars outside the gym in January (resolutions!) and how that number seriously dwindles by March. People buy memberships thinking that they're going to get healthy. Then they don't use them. They don't get healthy. If you make a change, give it some time before you splurge on expensive things. You'll save yourself a few dollars if you don't follow through with a change.
In my case, I'd estimate that over the years I've spent in the low 1000s on random weight loss things that didn't help me or I didn't use enough. Why? I wasn't ready to change. I kept thinking I needed to lose weight, but never did anything healthy and stuck with it.
I once paid over 300 dollars for a gym membership. I think I went to that gym twice. I paid for a cheaper gym for a while, and actually got my use of it until I stopped going and then didn't cancel my membership for a couple years. I think that was either 20 or 30 dollars a month (a cheaper gym!). I had access to a free athletic center when I was in college. I think I went a handful of times. I went to Curves for a while. I think that was 30 a month and I had the amount taken directly out of my bank account. I'm pretty sure I paid that a few times more than I used it.
I've purchased books based on diet (South Beach, Atkins, The Zone Diet) and different eating habits (some for research on different ways of living/eating). The books ranged from 16 dollars to 25 each. I'm not including health cookbooks, like HG's, that I actually use.
I've purchased numerous videos over the years. The ones I bought but didn't use much were a step aerobics VHS that came with a step, tae-bo, pilates, aerobics... They weren't used. Most of the taps were probably between 10 and 20 dollars. The step/tape combo was...I don't know...Maybe 50? I can't remember the cost when those were the popular thing to have.
I continue to purchase videos, but the difference is that now I USE them. NOW the cost is worth it; not wasted.
I spent 20 bucks on a yoga mat that I didn't use. I spent some money on hand weights, a few different times, that I didn't use.
For the record I use the yoga mat now. And while that one was "lost" bought a second one...An extra 20 dollars (but the second one is cuter). I've also bought more weights, in various pounds. I use these. I wonder what happened to the hand weights I purchased when didn't use them. They ran away, perhaps?
I bought (okay, I didn't buy it; it was bought for me) a cheap tready. It was only 150 dollars...Very basic. I've since upgraded. I used it for a while. Then it sat, in the basement, unused until I decided to change my life. Then I basically wore it out. I'm glad I hung onto it. I'm glad I FINALLY started using it consistently.
My point is that until you're ready to change and stick with it - DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!
Seriously, try it on your own first. Especially with gym memberships. Get out and walk, bike, or use your old rollerblades. The only athletic equipment you really need if you're just starting out is a good pair of shoes and some comfortable clothing. Eventually you will want to include some weight training...Did you know, though, that when you start, you can use things like large cans of soup or bottles of water? Why not use those household items for a while, until you know you're going to stick with it and the cost is going to be worth it.
If you want to start tracking what you eat, and counting calories and such you really just need a notebook and a pen. Yes, that's all you need for a food journal. Maybe a calculator if you don't want to do the math. Read your labels, figure out the portions/servings/etc., and write it down. That's how I started.
If you have internet access, I'd recommend a FREE online program, like SP. There's no cost and it's a lot easier!! You can even track your fitness on there and it'll figure out what you burn in terms of calories (you will need access to a scale though so that your ranges can be calculated correctly). Many times your doctor's office will allow you to come in and just use the scale to be weighed. Just check with them on a good time/day to do so.
My feelings on things like diet pills and patches have been aired more than once in my posts. My personal opinion/recommendation is to leave those things alone. You do not need them to lose weight. They are BAD. Avoid them.
What you need to do is change your lifestyle. Be healthy.
You do not NEED to throw your money into the diet industry. Now the fitness/health industry is a different story, but don't do it until you NEED to. Take it from someone who has purchased equipment and memberships... Unless you know you've changed and you'll be consistent, it's a waste of money.
Maybe you're independently wealthy and don't care. That's fine; have fun with it if that's what you choose to do. However, if you're throwing your money away, maybe you should consider donating it to a charity instead. At least then it will be used for good rather than just wasted.
Did wasting this money cause me to become bankrupt? No. Did it mean I couldn't pay my bills? No. I was in the situation where I could afford to waste it, I guess. Looking back though it makes me kind of sick knowing that I could have saved it, or better spent it (like on things I'd). I'm just one of those people who's become concerned with not being wasteful, I guess. Honestly if I had millions of dollars I think I'd still be wise with it. Thanks, Dad for teaching me to be conscious, whether I have it or not.
We get too hasty to lose weight and don't stop to think about the money we're putting into various products, programs, and the like. People want the quick, easy fix...But don't want to make the changes and put in the effort that's needed to do it the natural, healthy way. Pills and shakes aren't going to change your habits. They're not going to change your mind. That's up to you. You need to find the inner strength to do it. No product or program will do it for you.
It may not be a large amount of money. It may not matter at the time you're spending it. Stop and think back over the years about what you've spent (or even what someone else has spent for you) and what you really got out of it. If it was a wasted expense, don't make the same mistakes again. Initiate lifestyle changes and healthy living. When you know you can stick to those changes and that your money will not be wasted, then make larger purchases on things like gym memberships or athletic equipment.
The diet industry is making billions of dollars off of us every year.... How much are you getting out of the money you're spending?