Rant of the Day: The Cost of Dieting

I can’t follow diets. I’ve tried and failed several times and now I just don’t bother anymore. The fact is, I have never had enough motivation to stick to a routine, the foods always seemed boring and let’s face it, I wasn’t ready to give up chocolate.

I was browsing the health section of the book store one day and came across the Women’s Weekly “21-day Wonder Diet” which had the tagline of “Lose up to 10kg in three weeks”. The low-fat recipe ideas looked delicious and the format of the book seemed easy to follow, providing a breakfast, lunch and dinner option for every day of the 21 days. Three different meals each day meant a crazy amount of variety and less possibility of me getting bored with the foods. I thought to myself, “I can do this!”. I bought the book and went to the grocery store, super motivated to buy all the foods required to follow this diet and get healthy.

But here’s my problem: I couldn’t follow the diet because frankly, I couldn’t afford to.

While the Women’s Weekly assured me success with their “triple tested every time” diet, they failed to inform me that success was only secured for those who have a measly few hundred dollars to spend on groceries each week. And that’s just for one person. Granted, each meal is meant to serve two people, but being only myself to feed, I had a lot of leftovers which I had to try and eat the following day. The whole reason I chose the diet was so that I wouldn’t have to eat the same foods every day so…that kind of sucked.

Back to the cost. I ended up spending at least $80 in my first shop, and this didn’t even include all the ingredients for the full first week of meals. On top of that, they conveniently mentioned in the very back of the book that there would be a whole list of “staples” that were assumed to be in my pantry (which SOOOO weren’t). The fact is, I’m a poor uni student and sometimes you gotta make do without the staples, let alone more expensive ingredients like rump steak, buttermilk and english muffins. If you think these foods aren’t expensive, then you’re probably not on my kind of budget πŸ˜›

Below you can see the first week’s shopping list as well as a list of the staple foods which you are assumed to have, and therefore do not have to buy. I don’t know about you, but who classifies a small can of anchovy fillets as a staple food? What about dried cranberries? Or a can of baby beets? I thought staples were bread and water. Was that only for people who live in jail? Oh, ok. Well, I can say at least 50% of the staples I did not have in my jail pantry.


The fact is, this diet, although “tried and tested”, was clearly only tried and tested on middle to upper class women with full-time jobs and a decent sized car to transport all the foods home in. I’m a lower class student with a casual job and no car. Go figure.

While the recipes were quite delicious and great low-fat options, I could only follow the diet for a few days before I gave up. That is, I ran out of money.

While I appreciate what the book is trying to achieve, it lacks an understanding of its audience and the factors that contribute to a successful diet or food plan. When creating diets such as the one Women’s Weekly is presenting, I think it is important to consider not just the foods that you include, but how easy it will be for the user to comply with that diet. Sadly, without an understanding of the social factors that relate to food and dieting (like time, money, access) many diets fail. I kind of wish I hadn’t bought the book and spent the $17 on some staple foods, like a can of anchovy fillets…?

I’m sure this diet could be really successful for the small female target audience I mentioned, but for me, and probably for many of us who don’t have a lot of money to spend on food, it’s a big flop. Healthy eating certainly doesn’t have to be expensive, but it may require a little extra effort and a bit of knowledge about where to buy your foods. I also may have to concede that I can’t eat different foods every day – eating leftovers ain’t quite so bad if you want to save some moolah πŸ™‚

If anyone has any thrifty and healthy meal options, I would love to hear from you!


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