It’s not long now until Christmas Day, that cherished time of year when we don our elasticated pants, break the seal on the Quality Street and prepare to eat until we pass out.
It’s the one day of the calendar when diets, healthy eating and all thoughts of exercise are banished, to be replaced by cries of ‘just one more helping’, ‘where’s the remote’, and, let’s face it, sheer gluttony. It’s a special time.
Like most things, however, this abandonment comes at a cost, and I don’t just mean the suffusion of self-loathing on Boxing Day. There’s a financial price to be paid come New Year, and that takes the form of gym memberships, workout clothes and fad diets.
As a general rule of thumb, membership applications for gyms soar by around a third during January as our collective Christmas guilt gets the better of us. And I’m willing to bet that a fair proportion of shoppers braving the January sales are seeking lycra trousers and sports bras, not to mention surfing the web for the South Beach diet. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Come February, however, the allure of ‘dry’ January has worn off, the gym is to be avoided at all costs, and those stretchy leggings are gathering dust at the bottom of the wardrobe. Food packages may still be arriving from the fad diet firm but you treat the teeny portions as a starter before reaching for the takeaway menu.
And now there’s an altogether new kind of self-abasement going on: the recognition that you’ve signed up for a useless year-long gym membership and six months’ worth of quinoa packages.
A new study suggests that, as a nation, we waste more than £26 billion on fitness and diet crazes. According to www.P-Fit.co.uk, a supplement company, unused gym memberships cost the average Briton £429, while £179 is wasted on unworn workout clothes, and £57 on discarded health and fitness supplements.
P-Fit used data from the Office Of National Statistics and its own survey on fitness and diet habits to calculate how much money UK adults squandered in the health and fitness industry as a whole. As you can see, the results make for sobering reading. And, when asked why they kept spending money on objects which saw little use, seven out of ten people said they had ‘high hopes at the start’. A further two thirds believed that, if they spent more cash, they were more likely to use the products and subscriptions.
It’s the triumph of hope over reality. But maybe 2017 should be the year when you stop throwing money away on expensive clubs, clothes and condiments and instead, oh, I don’t know, move more and eat less.
Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator