Tuesday, 13 December 2011


I was in my absolute favourite shop Precious this evening picking up some sale bargains from their fab clothing selection and got chatting about the trends in peoples spending habits.

In a time of austerity and uncertainty it's natural for people to cut back on discretionary spending and save more money for their rainy day fund and when it comes to clothing, admittedly a weakness for most city chicks, this is translating into more considered purchasing - less impulse buys and more 'how much will I wear this' and 'does it go with the rest of my clothes'.

But don't worry, I'm not about to got all SATC on you, I know my limits when it comes to fashion advice! However it got me thinking on health investments and getting value for money.

The health industry, weight loss products in particular, is worth billions of pounds and is an easy sell - people love the idea that buying a product or taking a pill will miraculously make you model thin. But when you think about the return on your investment you may find these quick fixes aren't such good investments.

Diet meals and shakes - certainly these make dieting easy, buying all your food pre-prepared means no time spent shopping, cooking or meal planning. BUT:
Firstly it's not cheap - buying ready meals is more expensive than preparing healthy meals yourself and alot of the diet shakes are overpriced versions of protein shakes you could easily make at home with pure whey protein and fruit which would be a) cheaper and b) healthier.
Meal delivery services such as purepackage and bodychef offer much healthier options but definitely aren't a cheap option.
Secondly, most diet meals are highly processed reducing their nutrient content. Shakes and bars usually have a high milk content and sugars or artificial sweeteners to make them palatable, all of which are positively bad for you.
Thirdly, this way of dieting doesn't teach you how to eat properly in the long run. Do you really plan to spend the rest of your life drinking slim fast?
Investment value: low
Better alternative: Invest in some education - give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll have food for life - the same goes for healthy eating. Books by The Food Doctor and Michel Montignac are good sense places to start and secondhand copies can be picked up very cheaply on Amazon.
A nutritional therapy consultation is a more expensive way to get educated but after a couple of consultations you'll be able to navigate your way through the supermarket or restaurant menus and pick the foods that work best for you for the rest of your life, instead of vexing over the calories or weight watchers points in everything you eat so in the long run it's money well spent.

Gym membership: Let's face it, city gyms aren't cheap, even if you get a corporate discount so the cost per wear clothing principal is very prescient - if you're only going once a week your gym
could be costing you up to £25 a pop. But saying that exercise itself is a great investment, helping prevent diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and a host of other debilitating diseases. Whilst keeping you in shape and your energy levels up.
Investment value: Unless you have a free work gym or go several times a week this may be a poor investment. If you are already a member make the most of the classes and free services. Most gyms will offer free or heavily discounted personal training sessions when you join which you should take up. Go armed with questions and pick up as many new tips and exercises as you can then there's no need to commit to weekly sessions, although having a PT session every couple of months can keep your training varied and targeted.
Better alternative: exercising outdoors is almost free, bar buying appropriate shoes, and certainly running and cycling are great cardio workouts. For toning and equipment based exercise pay per go gyms and park based boot camps are usually good value for money. Your local council gym may also be surprisingly affordable even if it doesn't have the luxury spa facilities!
Can't afford a personal trainer? Don't worry, just pair up with a buddy and take it in turns to train each other picking different exercises each week. Running and fitness magazines are cheap good sources for training inspiration.

Natural supplements:
Vitamins and minerals are certainly good for you but there's a totally vast range out there from the basic vitamin C to the latest natural diet craze such as colon cleanse tablets or goji supplements. Good supplements can help keep you in good health, encourage fat burning and get your skin, hair and nails in great condition, whilst a bad one can be a total waste of money but is unlikely to cause you harm.
This is where sticking to reputable brands is a good policy. I mainly recommend Biocare, Eskimo, Solgar and Higher Nature products (all available from nutricentre) as these brands base their products on research and feedback from qualified practitioners. In some cases they may be more pricey than the supermarket version but if you look at the actual amounts of individual nutrients in each tablet you'll find that per microgram you're probably paying more in tesco or boots and just swallowing a load of unnecessary fillers. In addition if you call up the manufacturers they can give you some guidance on the best supplements to take for your requirements or send you their informative catalogues.
Investment value: poor to excellent depending on your selection
Best option: go for reputable brands and long-standing formulas rather than the latest fad product. Ask for advice either from the supplier or a nutritional therapist, to make sure your taking the best supplements for your needs.

Once you've applied some health investment common sense you should have some money spare to
invest in some rewards - Ms Haribo is the expert on self-incentivizing as a means of motivating, but in essence just plan a reward for when you hit your goal, whether it's losing a few pounds or giving up chocolate for two weeks. I've certainly got my eyes on a new season dress from Precious as a reward for losing my Christmas pounds through my January zen diet!

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