Several weeks ago I wrote about the high cost of being fat. I shared how I’ve spent $4500 over the past four years because I’m overweight. Since that post, I’ve been working with Lauren Muney, a wellness coach (about which more later). This morning, Muney sent me a New York Times article by Damon Darlin which describes how extra weight leads to higher costs.
Being fat costs money — tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Heavy people do not spend more than normal-size people on food, but their life insurance premiums are two to four times as large. They can expect higher medical expenses, and they tend to make less money and accumulate less wealth in their shortened lifetimes. They can have a harder time being hired, and then a harder time winning plum assignments and promotions.
Darlin’s article does a great job of summarizing the financial impact of being overweight. It’s these financial costs (resulting from health problems) that most worry me about being fat. Many find fat people unattractive, but I’m not one of them: I was raised in a family where fat was the norm, and it does not bother me. But the health risks and the associated costs do bother me.
For example, Darlin cites a study from the University of Wisconsin which demonstrated that by supersizing a fast-food order (at an average cost of 67 cents) leads to $6.64 in future medical costs for an obese man, and $3.46 in future medical costs for an obese woman. Super-sizing does not save money.
Many people do find the overweight unattractive, and consciously or not, they treat them differently. There is a social cost to being fat. (More here.) Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that “weight bias”, discrimination against the obese, is at least as strong as race bias. (The article points to Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test, where you can check your own internal biases.)
Studies have also demonstrated that there’s a direct correlation between obesity and net worth. The heavier the person, the less they earn. My initial reaction is that it’s impossible to determine which is the cause and which is the effect — does obesity lead to low net worth, or does low net worth lead to obesity? — but apparently this is a known problem with the research. Regardless, significant weight loss can lead to an increase in wealth.
A baby boomer whose [Body Mass Index (B.M.I.)] drops from 27.5, the middle of the overweight category, to 21.7, the middle of the normal category, sees an increase in wealth of $4,085.
Since first writing about my weight problem in October, I’ve made tremendous progress. This is largely due to Muney, a reader of this site. She wrote that because I had helped her make progress on her wealth, she’d like to help me make progress on my health. After working with her for a month, the results have been outstanding. I’ve lost weight. But more than that I feel great: my physical and mental well-being are the best they’ve been in years.
I look forward to continued progress, and to removing myself from the risks and costs associated with obesity. Right now, I’m going for a walk!
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This article is about Health & Fitness