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Why New Year weight loss resolutions are pointless for you but profitable for firms

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

There’s nothing more certain in life than death, taxes, and being forced to feel bad about yourself when the New Year rolls around. It’s perhaps unsurprising to feel this way, considering people tend to consume around three days worth of calories on Christmas Day alone.

You may feel like you’ve escaped the clutches of the “New Year’s Resolution” but for a number of industries, January is the key time to lure in and hook consumers into spending a lot of money and time on products or services that statistically don’t work in the long term. According to Statista, 45% of vow to lose weight or get in shape in the New Year. However, by February, 80% of these resolutions fail.

While the diet industry — now trying to repackage itself as the ‘wellness’ industry — thrives throughout the year, the first quarter sweet spot of when people feel most vulnerable and low about themselves, is where it gets its claws into you.

In the US alone, the diet industry is worth $68.2bn (£53.9bn) and is set to grow to over $70bn by the end of 2018. That even vastly exceeds the fast food industry in the US, which clocked a revenue $203.2bn in 2015, according to Statista. Globally, the ‘weight management market’ is set to exceed $442bn by 2025.

Women in particular spend a vast amount of money each year on weight loss-related products — from food to diet clubs. In January alone, those aged between 25 and 34 tend to spend over £1,000 in January on “self-improvement.”

Gyms usually see a spike in new memberships in January — some report an increase of around 20-25%. But as many have pointed out, gym memberships are a “racket” and can lock people into costly cycle of spending where leaving incurring a huge fee. The average gym membership is around £47 but studies have shown that half of us don’t end up going anyways, wasting over half a billion pounds in the UK.

Some may say the New Year weight loss kick should be welcomed. After all, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 and as of 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight and of these people over 650 million were obese, according to the World Health Organisation.

But the causes and consequences of obesity is complex, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as numerous scientific studies. Plus making people feel bad, such as stigmatising weight gain or that they are just not socially acceptable at the size that they are, can end up making the situation worse. Bombarding people with adverts about how they should focus on getting smaller and lighter because they should be upset with themselves, probably isn’t the optimal situation to focus on getting healthier.

So really, while the New Year’s resolution to lose weight may feel like a good place to start your health kick, it’s more likely you’ll lose more pounds in your wallet than pounds on the scale.