The cost of a body transformation
A 16 week physique challenge. Fat to fit in 12 weeks. 6 weeks to a slim and toned you.
Whatever the title or timescale, the promise of dramatic improvements to your health, fitness and of course shape in ever shorter periods of time lures many into signing up to one of the many body transformation plans available, whether it's with a personal trainer at your local gym or an online package followed by thousands of people around the world.
A big obstacle for many is the cost - can you actually afford to do it? Perhaps more pertinently, is it good value for money? I suppose that can only be answered at the end once you’ve seen the results.
Of course the huge range of options means it's difficult to say exactly how much you can expect to pay, but if you’re serious about making big changes to your body, there will be a cost that’s for certain.
Over the summer I did my own 12-week transformation as part of a project to see how much I could realistically change my physique in that time frame. Let's take a look at my example to give you an idea what you could be spending.
I wanted to work with Ultimate Performance, a worldwide brand with highly-regarded personal trainers. However as I am based in Wakefield and the nearest UP gym is over 50 miles away from me, online training was the only option.
I chose their three-month package as I knew one month was too short to see the significant results I was looking for, whilst six months would have taken me too close to the birth of my second child – I wanted to make sure I finished the programme having put all the work in!
Here’s the cost breakdown of everything I spent related to the programme:
‘Nutraceutical’ supplements (vitamins and minerals)£140Additional supplements (e.g. whey protein)£160Extra food (beyond what I would have bought normally in the three months)
|Three-month online training package||£399|
|"Nutraceutical supplements (vitamins and minerals)||£280|
|Additional supplements (e.g. whey protein)||£160|
|Extra food (beyond what I would have bought normally in the three months)||approx. £280|
Around half of this was spent up front before the programme began, with the rest spread out over the 12 weeks. On the face of it then, I’d say it’s quite reasonable to budget around £1000 all in to ensure you have everything you need to get good results from a body transformation. There are a number of things that will alter this though.
I opted for an online training package, so depending on your experience and motivation you may need one-to-one sessions with a good trainer which will cost considerably more. The figures above are also for a 12 week programme of course – it may well be cheaper for a shorter one and more pricey for longer. Remember though you’re ultimately paying for the result, not a block of time, so your decision needs to be based on your start point, what you want to achieve and what’s a realistic time frame for it.
Lastly, although you’ll almost certainly have to change the type and amount of food you buy, most of the increased cost will be related to the quality. The better you can afford the more difference it will make but, but how essential this is again comes down to the level of results you want. I’d generally suggest buying the best quality your budget will allow. It’s a similar story with supplements – by definition they are additional to a healthy diet from whole foods which should be the priority. It is possible to get good results without them, but if your budget stretches that far they could give you an extra few percent in terms of progress.
The real cost…
So that's the financial outlay, but here’s the thing. The true cost of a body transformation is nothing to do with money. The changes you need to make to your lifestyle - exercise, diet, sleep, stress management - all require compromise and sacrifice. Your body is a reflection of the lifestyle you lead and if you want to transform it, chances are you need to make some major changes to your daily life and that's not easy.
There's no magic single factor that will bring dramatic results. It's all about a long list of smaller things that collectively move you towards your goal if you do them consistently. You can be given that list and told exactly what to do by your trainer, but it's up to you to put them into action, and as John Lennon said: "life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans". Your family, work, friends and even you yourself will seemingly conspire against you to thwart what you're trying to do. That night out for someone's birthday where the wine is in full flow, the long weekend away you booked where you won't be able to fit a training session in, the report deadline that means you don’t get a chance to eat for 6 hours, the pre-prepared meal in the fridge your son eats without realising it messes up your carefully planned calories for the day…
Yes you can try to minimise these inconveniences by mapping your life out in advance for the duration of your transformation, but even that very process means by default that you are giving priority to your goals and making sacrifices elsewhere. You’ll find yourself avoiding meals out, facing the astonished glares of the other wedding guests when you refuse dessert, and constantly thinking about where your next source of protein is going to come from.
If you have a family, and particularly young children, they will find your new regime impacts on them so you need to manage that carefully – having the support of those close to you is essential to success and I’m grateful my wife put up with me having my head buried in my nutrition tracking app every evening.
The stronger your motivation and the more dramatic the results you seek, the more changes to your behaviour are necessary and the bigger compromises you make.
Does all of this mean you shouldn’t do a transformation? Not at all – it could be the kickstart you need to make significant and lasting changes to your health and fitness, and there’s no doubting you can get great results for that photo to hang on the wall. But you need to be prepared for what it takes, and aware that it could be very difficult to maintain the behaviours you’ve adopted beyond the deadline you’ve set. Is that photo going to be a memory you look back on wishing you hadn’t let it all go as soon as your programme ended, or the start of a new lifestyle that lasts?
With that in mind, perhaps transformations shouldn’t have an end date – health and fitness is something we do, not what we are so maybe we should consider ourselves continual works in progress in order to maintain the realistic behaviours necessary for the long-term.
Written by Paul Swainson