The financial cost of obesity

Weight and finances have been discussed at length on personal finance blogs, but mostly the report [PDF] that put a figure to the staggering individual costs of being obese in America. Dr. Avi Dor, report author and professor and director of the health economics program at The George Washington University, and his colleagues quantified indirect costs, direct costs, and lost productivity to arrive at an estimated total cost of being an obese individual.

The High Price of a High BMI

After tabulating various costs associated with being overweight or obese, the researchers found that being an obese individual in the U.S. costs $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men each year. The overall annual costs of being overweight are $524 for women and $432 for men. The researchers defined “obesity” as a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30, and “overweight” as a BMI between 25—29.

Adding the value of lost life to these yearly costs makes the price tag even higher: $8,365 and $6,518 for women and men, respectively.

The analysis showed that obese women pay nine times more and obese men pay six times more in associated costs than do individuals at a healthy BMI. The results also showed that women are affected much more than men when it comes to obesity and job-related costs, including lost wages, absenteeism, and disability.

Non-Medical Costs of Obesity

Direct medical costs are an obvious cost driver—for overweight individuals, it accounts for 66% of weight-related costs for women and 80% for men. It's also the cost driver for obese men, but for obese women it accounts for just 30% of the overall costs. An obese female loses more income through lost wages (38%) than from medical costs.

“The data demonstrate that an individual affected by obesity faces not only high medical-related costs, but also higher non-medical costs…,” said Joe Nadglowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Obesity Action Coalition, in a press release. Non-medical, obesity-related costs accounted for in the research included the following measures:

  • Wages. The annual wage loss for obese males is $75, but statistically that figure is insignificant, according to the report. Obese women earning a median annual wage of $32,450 make 6%, or $1,855, less per year. The researchers note that there isn't enough data to determine why the relationship between weight and wages is clear for women, but not for men.
  • Short-term disability. Annual costs of short-term disability are $55 higher for the average overweight employee and $349 higher for the average obese employee than for employees at a healthy weight.
  • Disability pension insurance. The annual incremental costs of disability pension insurance is $69 more for obese employees. There wasn't a significant difference in cost for overweight individuals.
  • Sick leave (absenteeism). Five studies on absenteeism (missed work days due to illness or injury) found that obese employees are more likely to use sick days due to illness or injury. One of the studies (Finkelstein et al. 2005) found that severely to morbidly obese men miss two more days of work than men at a healthy weight, while overweight to morbidly obese women miss up between one and five more days than women at a healthy BMI.
  • Productivity (presenteeism). Obese individuals have more self-reported limitations at work or limitations in the amount of work that an employee can be performed, which lowers productivity. One study cited (Ricci and Chee, 2005) used nationally representative data to estimate that reduced productivity will cost an obese individual $358 per year.
  • Gasoline use. Jacobson and McLay (2006) studied the relationship between weight and fuel use, finding that almost 1 billion more gallons of gas are used each year due to average-passenger weight increases since 1960. The cost differences weren't significant for overweight and obese people, but the morbidly obese spend $30 and $36 more for females and males, respectively. (That figure was calculated using $2.35 per gallon of gas, the average price in the U.S. in 2009.)
  • Life insurance premiums. Compared to healthy-weight individuals, an overweight and obese person will pay an additional $14 and $111, respectively, in life insurance costs each year.
  • Value of lost life due to premature mortality. The researchers calculated the value of years of life lost (for specifics on how they made the calculation, see the retirement.The report notes that when it comes to retirement, severely and morbidly obese employees retire earlier than normal-weight employees, which translates to less income in wages and benefits. This is particularly alarming for obese women, whose wages are significantly affected by their weight and who, as females, already lag behind men in retirement savings, when research shows women need to save more than men. Because early retirement benefits vary widely, the researchers didn't include that data in their report.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the costs not included are significant, says Dor.

A Bigger Problem

More than 60% of Americans are at an unhealthy weight, with 33.4% classified as obese. If we continue at this rate, by 2030 half of the population will be obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and some types of cancer, among the leading causes of death, according to The Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

Those are some scary facts and figures, and the George Washington University only underscores an already-critical situation. After all, paying $6,518—$8,365 more per year for obesity-related expenses hardly seems significant in light of words like cancer, stroke, and premature death. Your health is your most important asset.

I wish I had answers, but I don't. Education seems like the go-to solution, but I'm not convinced it's enough. Like personal finance, getting healthy means making difficult changes in habits and lifestyle, not simply being taught that French fries are bad and spin class is good. So readers, I'll turn it over to you. Has your weight noticeably affected your expenses or income? If so, share specific examples and costs.

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LifeAndMyFinances
LifeAndMyFinances
9 years ago

My wife and I were just talking about this the other day! Obesity is a huge problem for the United States, and it’s costing everyone money in medical dollars. It has been really tough estimating exactly how many dollars are wasted by being obese, but I’m loving your numbers. As my wife and I get older, we are focusing on increasing our income and decreasing our waistlines! We are by no means obese, but with the hussle and bussle of the daily grind, it can be easy to lose control of your diet. If you would earn extra income while… Read more »

s
s
9 years ago

Going gluten-free has been the solution for me. Yes, some GF foods cost more and it is worth the price – better energy levels, better digestion and weight loss…

STRONGside
STRONGside
9 years ago
Reply to  s

I have actually found that gluten free food has caused much weight gain. Gluten free does not mean fat free. lol.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

You’re very right! Many GF baked goods use refined flours, which is bad for blood sugar spikes and weight gain. Many contain a lot more sweetener and salt than I care to consume.

However, many people find that not eating wheat is better for digestion. Gluten isn’t always the culprit — you can still enjoy whole grains like spelt and kamut which, while part of the wheat family, more people can tolerate.

olga
olga
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

And fat free isn’t calorie free. I do agree on cutting back on simple sugar/carb though, not only gluten-containing, but rice etc, as well as too many fruits. If you ever travel to Europe, you’d notice they eat plenty of fat, yet on average not obese as a population. “Hard” food takes longer to digest, so the signal gets to the brain (which by science takes 20 full minutes) that the stomach is full. Fat and protein makes you feel satiated, so you last longer between snacks/meals. No processed foods means just that – and no unnecessary carb overload. And… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

And thinking that “fat-free” food will keep you lean is an absurd notion.

s
s
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

Fat-free? No way – healthy fats are essential.

Herman S.
Herman S.
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

Why would it be fat free? Fat does not make you fat. Excess calories do.

Vanja Pejovic
Vanja Pejovic
9 years ago

In my opinion, more regulation on what food is allowed on the shelves and in restaurants would help. People just don’t have the time to educate themselves on every item they buy. On the other hand, drugs are illegal and people are reasonably well educated about them, yet there are still many users. (though, there are drugs that are not as bad for you as some foods).

So maybe the solution is adding an extra tax on foods that have been proven to have little to no nutritional value, and/or are unhealthy.

MikeTheRed
MikeTheRed
9 years ago
Reply to  Vanja Pejovic

Regulating what can be sold is really NOT the answer. Taking the stance that people just can’t regulate their diet on their own and thus someone must do it for them is the first step down a slippery slope. Your argument on drugs doesn’t work either. People are horribly educated on the proper use and consequences of drugs (both prescription and otherwise). And it’s not a reasonable parallel as a handful of pills can kill you, but a handful of pork rinds can’t. I have a reasonably healthy diet, eat a lot of veggies, keep my red meat intake low,… Read more »

Joe Amadon
Joe Amadon
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeTheRed

I think we are already in a position of thinking that the FDA is doing a lot more to protect consumers than they actually are. I don’t think limiting what is on the shelf is as helpful as implementing stricter control on what goes into our food and increasing what needs to be provided on the label. If I was faced with all the drugs most chicken and cattle are on every time I went to make a purchase, I’d be eating a lot more organic foods.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeTheRed

I think it depends on the type of “regulation”. Personally, I would love to see more regulation in how food is labelled so that things like sugars, sodium, allergens and additives were easier to spot and understand. I would like to know if my produce is genetically modified (as in has animal DNA spliced into yet — yes, that happens) and see recommendations for sugar intake.

But keep cookies and pizza off the shelf? That’s like saying most people can afford a luxury car therefore no one should sell them.

Joseph+Mwangi
Joseph+Mwangi
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

This is not a personal attack on the person who commented here – but i find it very hypocritical when people want to walk around ‘preaching’ less government and less regulation when it comes to issues they have vested interest on; and then more government and more regulation on other issues that they do not care about. If we agree that there should be policies that guarantee our kids can eat healthy in public and hopefully at home then we should also be in the forefront championing for funding for such programs in schools and public institutions. I am a… Read more »

Tomas
Tomas
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeTheRed

Why avoiding red meat? Contrary to the conventional wisdom, red meat does not cause any disease of civilization.

MikeTheRed
MikeTheRed
9 years ago
Reply to  Tomas

I more meant that I keep the amount in reasonable proportion to my diet. I say “low” because I don’t eat burgers, ground beef, steak etc every day of the week like a lot of folks I know.

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Vanja Pejovic

“Sin” taxes don’t really work either. That’s just another way to gouge people without raising a huge fuss.

Every smoker I’ve known said things like “Once cigs reach $xx per pack, I’ll quit” and they never quit based on price. Same with alcohol – higher taxes but there’s still alcoholics, drunk driving, etc. You’d have to tax something at an astronomical rate (like 50%?) before you’d see significant reductions.

Christine+T.
Christine+T.
9 years ago
Reply to  Vanja Pejovic

They don’t need to add a tax, they just need to stop subsidizing it.

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
9 years ago

The bit about how the cost of premature mortality was calculated seems rather bizarre to me. It looks like they just assigned an arbitrary value to a year of life.

Seems to me that dying, on average, 5-6 years earlier is a cost savings, if anything. It would mean you’d need to save less for retirement. (Not that that’s a good thing of course…)

Jen
Jen
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Piper

That earlier death is more likely to be due to medical conditions, however. So, not only do you die younger, but you’ve likely spent 5-10 years getting knee replacements, having complications from diabetes, etc.

Those are expensive last years, in addition to dying younger, perhaps while still working (or trying to still work).

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

No doubt it’s costly. But wouldn’t that already be included in the medical costs mentioned above?

GL
GL
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Piper

“dying, on average, 5-6 years earlier is a cost savings, if anything”
What a great argument. Just think how much money you’ll save if you die at 30 instead of 80! That’s 50 years’ worth of savings right there!!

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
9 years ago
Reply to  GL

Hehe. I never made the case dying early was a good idea or something to strive for. 😉

I just think it’s nonsense to include it in the financial costs of obesity by assigning an arbitrary monetary value to a year of life.

GL
GL
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Piper

But you did say that dying 5-6 years earlier could be viewed as a way to save money. I’m just taking it a step further. 😉

(I’m reminded of a character from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe who spent a year dead for tax reasons lol)

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  GL

At least one of the tobacco companies made that argument about their products. The fact that their customers died faster was pitched as a positive when they were lobbying some foreign government since it would save money on care for the elderly.

lisa
lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

Hi! The longest living person in our times lived to 115 years old . The person smoked 2 packs a day for 96 years and drank a pint of whiskey daily. Ther didn’t exercise much from the article either. Lots of it depends on our genes. Jim Fix died at 52 . He ran all the time.

Tegan
Tegan
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

Lisa, there have been heaps of people who’ve lived to 115, and a good handful who’ve lived longer.
Who is this amazing person you refer to? Or are you just repeating something someone else told you?
Does it make you feel better about not living a healthy lifestyle?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  GL

This reminds me of a fridge magnet I used to have that said “Financially I’m set for life — provided I die next week.” Ha!

aha
aha
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Piper

Actually, all the folks who believe that the obese or smokers are “costing us money” are probably wrong. According to one study, smokers and the obese die sooner and cost less in the long run. So the solution isn’t more regulation of food or smoking, unless you just wish more control over everybody else’s decisions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05iht-obese.1.9748884.html

fetu
fetu
9 years ago
Reply to  aha

I heard a program on the radio a few years ago that talked about how there will be less tax money coming in from tabacco as more and more people quit smoking and that soon it would not cover the health costs of smokers. The now non smokers would be living longer and also be needing a lot more support from the govt. It therefore actually helps the govt to have a certain percentage of the population addicted to smoking. :0)

twiggers
twiggers
9 years ago

I am married to an obese person and I definitely see that he has more sick days and doctors visits (he has diabetes). I also live with a morbidly obese person and his medical expenses are through the roof due to injuries suffered because of his obesity. Other things that I see: – vehicle costs: The morbidly obese need to drive vehicles that are large enough to hold their mass. So they are spending more on larger vehicles than they would otherwise need to (they obviously can’t comfortably fit into a Beetle). – food costs: Obviously they are eating more… Read more »

Ru
Ru
9 years ago
Reply to  twiggers

Clothing costs? Surely if you’re buying a tshirt with twice the fabric, the company are passing on the costs to the consumer…

Amber
Amber
9 years ago
Reply to  Ru

Disagree Ru. Have you gone bikini shopping lately? $125 for what?

Ru
Ru
9 years ago
Reply to  Amber

$125?! My bikini was £10 (~$15). I see your point though, a lot of clothing is expensive no matter your size although being a common size can save you money because it’s easier to find clothes second hand.

There are a lot of other things morbidly obese people might have to buy though, like reinforced chairs and toilets, mobility aids, etc.

Anna
Anna
9 years ago
Reply to  Amber

@Ru – If 60% (or whatever) of the country is fat, why are the plus sizes NOT the “common sizes” that save you money? There is no reasonable explanation for why it’s so difficult and expensive to find plus-size clothing, especially plus-size clothing besides mumus in 70s prints. Also, the percentage of fat people who require reinforced furniture and mobility aids is vanishingly small. I weigh about 315lbs and I have no mobility issues, I’ve never bought a reinforced anything, and the only time I’ve ever needed a mobility aid was when I sprained my foot last year and needed… Read more »

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Amber

I agree with Anna, I am 285lbs and I’ve had no need of reinforced furniture or mobility aids. My BMI is 46 and that puts me firmly in the morbidly obese category. However, one of my fears is having some kind of accident or something that makes me need assistance. There is no guarantee that if I weighed much less that my parents would be able to care for me, but it IS a guarantee that at my current weight none of my family or friends could move me. If I had to have help getting up or moving, I… Read more »

STRONGside
STRONGside
9 years ago

I agree that this is a huge problem in the United States. It sounds crazy, but another similar problem is pet owners who do the same thing to their animals. Dogs and cats who are obese have a much higher cost to care for and they generally cost a lot more with food and health related costs.

David Rugge
David Rugge
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

At least with cats, one way to keep them from getting fat is to let them outside. One of my cats went from 11 lbs to 8.5 lbs with the additional exercise. She’s also a much happier cat.

Don’t think that this will save you money, though. Your cats will be in better shape, but they will have health problems from other sources, especially occasional bites. Treating these is expensive ($150 – $300 per bite, especially if medicine or stitches are needed).

Leah
Leah
9 years ago
Reply to  David Rugge

On the whole, letting cats outside is not a great idea. Cats are actually really bad for local bird populations and are one of the factors in reduced bird numbers.

I keep my cat fit and trim by measuring out food (no free-feeding) and by making sure I play with her every day.

Annette
Annette
9 years ago
Reply to  Leah

My cats have always been outside cats. They are very healthy and they keep down the mice population around my house and barn. I’m also healthier since I don’t have cat hair, dander and litter box issues in my house.

Luke
Luke
9 years ago
Reply to  Leah

So to protect the numbers of birds, you’re willing to keep an animal in unnatural conditions by refusing to let a cat outside?

That strikes me as a bizarre juxtaposition of caring about (and not caring about) animals.

Tegan
Tegan
9 years ago
Reply to  Leah

Luke:

1. Cats are not a wild animal, they are domesticated
2. ‘Keeping’ a cat at all is not ‘natural’
3. ‘Natural’ is not always the best method anyway

Skye
Skye
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

My friend recently lost his 32 lb. cat to diabetes. He had to give it insulin for the last few months of its life…I’ll be honest, I found it all very amusing.

Shauna
Shauna
9 years ago
Reply to  Skye

My grandmother’s cat developed diabetes after years of being fed budget cat food. She spent thousands on insulin, needles, and disposal containers, but also switched him to a better quality food, and after two years of injections and carefully monitoring his weight, his diabetes went into remission. He’s now healthier than he ever was. Throughout the experience, we were all painfully aware how that budget cat food ended up being quite expensive in the end!

Skye
Skye
9 years ago
Reply to  Shauna

That’s what I find upsetting about diet-related diabetes, the fact that it’s preventable! I commend your grandmother for taking her cat’s diagnosis seriously and nursing it back to health. I think my friend enjoyed having a fat cat.

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago

Wow, lots of great data here! I’d be really interested to see this balanced with the other side of the coin. That is, what increased costs are associated with being a healthy individual? Some things that come to mind: * Gym memberships * Healthier, natural foods (more expensive than junk food) * Activities (sitting at home watching TV is cheaper than wakeboarding or traveling to a campground, etc.), * Sports equipment and uniforms * Gadgets like heart rate monitors, GPS wristwatches * Club memberships and team dues * Social costs (beer and wings after the weekly softball game) * Gas… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, these questions were my same ones too. You can certainly make a case for how obesity puts a strain on the health care system and how that leads to higher premiums for everyone (including the healthy). But I’m not sure how much of this holds from an individual, microfinancial perspective. Obesity certainly can cause a decrease in quality and quantity of life. But that’s not the same thing as financial costs. It certainly and unfortunately can cost MORE money to be healthy. Unhealthy foods tend to be cheaper. If you don’t work out, you don’t have a gym membership… Read more »

Jen
Jen
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Very few of the purported costs for being healthy are necessary, though — you don’t need any special equipment to walk or run every day. Fitness videos are available from the library. Some health plans offer discounts on gyms or free weight loss programs.

Cutting out junk food and empty calories consumed in great quantities (think soda, for instance) certainly would save enough to buy some healthier foods. Eating truly unprocessed healthy foods like oatmeal is definitely cheaper than anything processed and junky.

David+Rugge
David+Rugge
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Another hidden cost of good health is time. Extra time used to work out, extra time used to cook healthy meals, etc. That can add up fast over a week.

On the other hand, I think that one can be healthy without spending anything on gym memberships or exercise equipment. Situps, pushups, and calisthenics do not require any equipment, and good instructions on how to do them are available all over the net.

Claire
Claire
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

This response is to David+Rugge (comment 35…there’s no reply button there). Really? The time factor? How much time did/does an obese person spend being inactive (watching TV perhaps) or eating more than they should? Spending 30 mins at the gym (40 if you include time to change into workout clothes). And it takes no longer to cook healthier than to cook unhealthy. Actually, I’ve found that healthier cooking is quicker: seafood takes very little time to cook, and healthier cooking does not involve things like breading (which I find to take a long time). Take this scenario: you are going… Read more »

Carla
Carla
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I can actually put together a robust salad, steamed veggies (in place of grains) and stove top grilled fish together in less than 15 minutes. In terms of healthy meal prep mid week, that’s virtually no time.

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

@ Claire … living to 80, you may be on a host of medications no matter how fit you are. There are plenty of thin and/or fit people out there who still have issues with hypertension, cancer, alzheimers, strokes, migraines, etc. Being fit (as opposed to just thin) can set you up for better health but it is no guarantee.

And, while being obese sets you up for poor health it is also no guarantee that you’ll be miserable in your old age.

Diana
Diana
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

For those debating the time, finances & healthy living issue. This is actually a topic that comes up often with social workers. Many of you have stated that it takes no time at all to prepare a healthy meal. One person talked about fish and fresh veggies. If you are poor, you usually don’t work near your home because there are no jobs where you live meaning you commmute. So on top of your work day (which is at least 8 hours, usually longer) you have commuting time. I’m away from home at least 11 hours on a work day.… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I have to be very careful with my food budget in order to eat well. I eat a lot of vegetables — which can get pricy during the winter here in Canada. Dairy alternatives and whole grain products also get pricy. However, I think there’s balance. For instance, eating meatless meals and meals that use little meat (like stir fry or wraps) keeps my protein costs low. I’m also not spending on desserts, sodas, candy and other junk food on a regular basis. In PF terms, it’s like cutting some non-necessities out of your budget and allowing yourself a little… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

The costs of being fit are very varied. I consider myself fit and active. I personally probably spend a bit more on groceries, but since we don’t eat out much, we probably still spend average on food. I stay fit by running, which is a pretty cheap activity, especially if you use minimalist shoes that don’t need to be replaced as often. I think it would be dishonest to average what I spend with what, say, a bicyclists who likes to buy a new expensive bike every year spends. Being fit can be done pretty cheaply. Some people just choose… Read more »

Jon
Jon
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Great list of questions. I’d classify myself as fit and active so thought I’d take a stab at answering these. In my case, staying healthy does not require expensive gear or a huge time commitment in my opinion. * Gym memberships – No gym membership. I exercise at home and run/bike outside. I picked up a set of adjustable dumbbells for $400 four years ago mostly because I didn’t like the high cost of gym memberships and didn’t find myself actually going to the gym on cold days. * Healthier, natural foods (more expensive than junk food) – My grocery… Read more »

Belligero
Belligero
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Are you serious? Trying to rationalize eating junk food in front of the TV by claiming that it’s cheaper is a bit of a stretch, even by the standards of some of the cheapass commenters on this site. I’m not sure where your idea of fitness comes from if you think it has to involve driving to the gym, and softball games accompanied by beer and wings. Getting off your rear end and doing stuff not only saves money if you use your energy productively, but it’s also a free way to get fit. Time spent passively on the couch… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  Belligero

I think maybe you misunderstood. I’m not trying to rationalize remaining unfit. I am actually extremely fit, which is how I recognized all the ways in which it is more expensive. I shower more frequently, do more laundry, eat more food (exercising burns more energy than being sedentary), am prone to occasional injuries (I’m a runner, so I’ve had custom orthotics made, in addition to a few sessions of physio for various joint-related injuries). The extra hot water from the showers and laundry, the extra laundry detergent, the extra electricity from running the dryer in the winter when we can’t… Read more »

Susie
Susie
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I don’t know, you have to eat more to stay overweight, too.

missy
missy
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

That is your expenses for your healthy lifestyle. I think what the others were trying to point out is that there doesn’t have to be any added costs to live a healthy life. It all depends on the choices that you make. You can clean your house (for free) wearing old sweats or your PJs (for free)while burning calories (for free) and you end up with a cleaner home and a leaner body with no gym membership, workout clothes, or pedometers needed. And there are plenty of free “excercise” options out there, mainly it’s just doing normal stuff instead of… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin — look at this way: eating well and exercise generally means people have more years of good health. Why does that make a difference financially? I’ve seen several studies now that point out many people are forced to retire due to their health. The more I read, the more I realize that health is a long term investment. I dare say your being smart with your body will pay off later. True, people could always lose weight and start exercising “later”, but damage is already being done to the body. It’s like saying you’ll start saving for retirement after… Read more »

Carla
Carla
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

@ Missy – Your post is a good reminder that not all things works for all people. “…You can clean your house (for free) wearing old sweats or your PJs (for free)while burning calories (for free) and you end up with a cleaner home and a leaner body with no gym membership, workout clothes, or pedometers needed. And there are plenty of free “excercise” options out there, mainly it’s just doing normal stuff instead of sitting.” Done. I think most people here already clean their own homes. I clean my small one bedroom apartment and that is in no way… Read more »

Annemarie
Annemarie
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Plus where you live. Living in the suburbs, where your neighbors probably are thinner and the grocery stores have produce, is more expensive than living in the inner city.

brooklyn money
brooklyn money
9 years ago
Reply to  Annemarie

Where I live (NYC) people in the suburbs are a lot fatter than people in the city. We in the city walk places and a lot of people are in very body-conscious industries, like fashion, etc.

Kate
Kate
9 years ago
Reply to  brooklyn money

Same here. I’ve always noticed fatter people in the burbs where people don’t get to walk as often, its almost impossible to bike due to freeways separating towns and less access healthy foods due to lack of farmers markets and independent natural food stores.

Amber
Amber
9 years ago
Reply to  Annemarie

Whooo Captain Stereotype!

GL
GL
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, were you serious when you wrote this post, or is my sarcasm detector malfunctioning again?.. * Gym memberships – you don’t need a gym membership to exercise (shocking, I know!) * Healthier, natural foods (more expensive than junk food) – just because you don’t eat fast good and other processed junk, doesn’t mean you have to buy organic vegan food, etc. There are tons of healthy options even on a small budget. * Activities (sitting at home watching TV is cheaper than wakeboarding or traveling to a campground, etc.) – you don’t need to spend money to exercise; you… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  GL

GL, this post isn’t about cheap ways to exercise. It’s about the general extra costs of being obese. I was attempting to compare that the general extra costs of being fit and active. Is it possible to get fit without spending any money? Of course. It’s also possible to be obese and frugal (comparison-shopping your diabetes test strips and such). But in general, people who are obese incur additional costs over people who are not obese. I was simply attempting to point out that in general, fit and active people also incur additional costs over people who are sedentary. I… Read more »

David S
David S
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Ah, thanks for the clarification. However if you think about it those costs you listed could just replace costs you already have. If you sit in front o f the TV all the time and get a gym membership, cut the cable and go to the gym to watch TV. The membership fee is about the same if not less than your cable bill. Natural Foods – Get your raw ingredients (like wheat not ground flour) and make your foods yourself and it will be cheaper, while also keeping you active keeping the weight off. Activities and related costs –… Read more »

Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I would add the cost of injuries from an active lifestyle. I do martial arts and ski. Aside from the fact that these are pricy activities in and of themselves, 90% of my non-routine doctor visits are because of injuries I’ve gotten doing these. Scratched eye, concussion screening, torn ligaments, MRI’s, X-Rays, physical therapy, the ankle surgery I will eventually need…

Janette
Janette
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaitlyn

My sister (50)- who is thin and exercises all the time to make sure she stays that way- has had three major surgeries to her legs from injury and many physical therapy sessions- from neck strain to toe damage. My mother- 81 and obese- has been in a hospital five times- to deliver five children. She has had PT because she was knocked down at a store by a person who felt they needed to be at the counter first- a thin person. My sister takes five different prescription medications- and a number of other non prescription. My mother takes… Read more »

Tegan
Tegan
9 years ago
Reply to  Janette

Congratulations, your family is an exception to a rule. Anecdotes are not data. 🙂

Jaime+B
Jaime+B
9 years ago
Reply to  Janette

Actually, anecdotes are data. They are not, however, necessarily representative of all the data.

John Phung
John Phung
9 years ago

I am technically obese (Height: 5’4″ Weight: 190lbs BMI: 32.6). However I train with weights regularly and my bodyfat is around 17%. I don’t think I’m part of the group referenced by this article.

Even though my weight is high for my height, my costs hasn’t gone up simply because I try to think of food as “fuel” so I don’t eat junk food etc.

Adam+P
Adam+P
9 years ago
Reply to  John Phung

There are certainly people who are BMI rated obese but not actually an unhealthy weight and these people are almost always athletes and body builders.

In a perfect world we’d use bodyfat percentage rather than BMI, but BMI takes two seconds to calculate with height and weight while accurate bodyfat requires you to become immersed in a pool of water.

Bodybuilders and other abberations on the BMI formula are rare enough, statistically speaking, that the data is still accurate. It’s not like the obesity % of Americans is secretly low and just being thrown off by millions of Mr Universes.

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam+P

Actually, you don’t have to be a Mr. Universe to throw this data off. And yes, that data could be used in these studies. Last week, my company had a health fair. Our insurance company gave anyone who would get their biometrics and turn them in, $20 cash. The biometrics included blood sugar testing, cholesterol check, blood pressure and BMI. I asked them what is being done with the information and was told they give some analysis to our company and all the raw data goes to a university research program. One of my coworkers was shocked to see that… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  John Phung

I don’t think 17% body fat qualifies as obese, does it? The BMI calculation based on height is meaningless for people who exercise with weights.

http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=82475

HH
HH
9 years ago
Reply to  John Phung

The fact of the matter is that they ARE talking about you and quite likely they are talking about several if not the majority of the people that are self righteously sitting there reading this thinking it doesn’t apply to them either, only people who are “really fat”. But they are kidding themselves. Because the difference between “healthy” (and I object to the use of that word to describe people that are in an arbitrarily defined category of what one group calls “average” weight, though it’s no longer average) and overweight can be one pound or less, and that is… Read more »

BIGSeth
BIGSeth
9 years ago

There are a lot of things that have led us here… I’ll start with people eating out at restaurants all the time. This is a byproduct of both the need/desire for dual income households and trying to cram too much into our days and no longer having time to cook for ourselves. Once at the restaurant this is now compounded by ‘value’ being presented to us as a giant meal at cheaper places or one possitively loaded with fat at the higher end places. Lack of exercise follows. I would suggest this is mostly due to there being less manual… Read more »

olga
olga
9 years ago
Reply to  BIGSeth

So agree! I also was talking about the food prepping just last weekend. I will never understand why going out is considered to be faster than cooking at home from scratch – as well as I will never understand a claim “I can’t cook”. Anybody can cook, my kids could since they were 10 at least. I can make 4 meals in a matter of hour from scratch by sticking my head into fridge/pantry without knowing ahead of time what was in there – and I don’t even think of myself as a good cook or liking to cook. It… Read more »

Laura
Laura
9 years ago
Reply to  olga

With due respect Olga, not everyone can do what you do. I hate cooking and cleaning up with a passion, especially after a long hard day at work. It may take the same amount of time to eat out as to make it myself (usually less as we live near a lot of eateries), but I enjoy myself a whole lot more when I spend that time socializing/catching up with my husband than struggling in the kitchen. Life improved when I acknowledged that I simply need to build eating out in the budget instead of conforming to advice that doesn’t… Read more »

MikeTheRed
MikeTheRed
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Exercise issues/physical limitations aside, your post illustrates a big problem I feel our society has regarding any difficult lifestyle adjustments. Namely, using “I can’t” when you mean “I don’t want to” You CAN cook your own meals at home. You choose not to because it’s not something you enjoy. By eating out, budgeting appropriately for it etc you’ve made a lifestyle choice that makes you happier. There’s nothing wrong with that at all if it’s what makes you happy and improves your life beyond any negative consequences there may be. It’s a subtle difference in wording between “can’t” and “don’t… Read more »

olga
olga
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Have to agree with MikeTheRed in terms of words, I guess it was my point, but the language barrier in thinking came across too harsh. I tried to imply “everybody can”, and yes, we choose not to. I never say anybody else has to run – aslong as you do something. Swim, walk, bike, play badminton, chase kids in a backyard…and we can socialize while cutting food on the counter-top – with my husband, and kids too. When my husband sleeps in and skips a workout, all I need to hear is that he “owns” his decision. I will never… Read more »

Laura
Laura
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Thanks for the replies, it helps me realize that language can be limiting… I do take responsibility for eating out instead of cooking; that’s a choice, and one I make voluntarily. “I can’t” means no matter how much I “should” be like someone else and do what they do, I’m not. I have had plenty of people say, “Oh, I can’t understand why you don’t like cooking/eating gourmet food/working out in the gym LIKE I DO, if you just did what I do, you’d like it too! So what’s holding you back is you because you won’t try it [again]… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  olga

@Laura — I’m not a big fan of cooking either 🙂 When I was finishing high school, I worked and both my parents worked and in an effort to cook at home, we ended up relying on a lot of convenience foods. Even though they claimed to be healthy, the amount of sugar, sodium and refined carbs in them was appalling. It was a diet disaster. Cooking at home doesn’t always mean healthy! When I lived on my own and my parents retired, all of our diets improved. As I’m only cooking for myself, eating at home is the best… Read more »

Karen
Karen
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I hate to cook. Absolutely hate it. But I have a small child to feed and I want to know what’s in his meals, so I force myself to do it – most of the time. One of the luxuries I allowed myself as my finances strengthened was to hire a personal chef to cook me a bunch of freezable meals each month. It’s nothing I couldn’t do myself, but at the end of a long day it’s awesome to know I don’t have to.

Susie
Susie
9 years ago
Reply to  BIGSeth

And restaurant food is just high calorie, even if you don’t super-size. Look at the nutrition information so readily available, that nice steak is so extra tasty because it’s drenched in butter, etc. Salads at restaurants can be crazy high! etc., etc., etc.

No+Debt+MBA
No+Debt+MBA
9 years ago

I’ve found that when I’m at a healthy weight, eat well and am physically active I have a lot more energy and am more cheerful. I imagine that long-term this could make a big difference in my productivity and earnings.

Meaghan
Meaghan
9 years ago

I’ll hold back from commenting on the study until I’ve read it more thoroughly, but I have some doubts as to how much of the medical costs are attributed to being overweight and how much of the costs are related to a pre-existing condition that causes weight problems (thyroid, other medications, etc). As well, although I personally think that health and weight are important, some of the language here is worrisome. There have been numerous studies debunking the usefulness of the BMI scale, and the authors seem to barely stop short of suggesting that employers demand the height and weight… Read more »

Jessie
Jessie
9 years ago
Reply to  Meaghan

I think this is a very good point, especially that the figures do not take into consideration that obesity can be caused by a preexisting medical condition and the medical costs associated are for the preexisting condition. Personally, I fall into this category. I’m one of the healthiest fat people you’ll meet (thankfully, I’m not diabetic) and my medical costs are related to the preexisting condition and not heart/lung/blood sugar/cholesterol/etc issues. I’m not saying that the figures would drop dramatically if people like myself were taken out of the equation, but it is definitely a factor that was overlooked.

chacha1
chacha1
9 years ago
Reply to  Jessie

These situations are overlooked because they are statistically irrelevant. The cause of the overweight isn’t the subject; the financial consequences of overweight are (and clearly the reference is to excess body fat, not to high BMI due to extreme bodybuilding). It’s a common misconception (rationalization?) that medications can “cause” weight gain. Certain hormonal, medical, or medication issues can *contribute to* metabolic imbalances that change the way a particular individual processes calories. They do not “cause” weight gain, however. The cause of excess body fat is always the same – more calories consumed than can be expended. Overweight and obese people… Read more »

Jessie
Jessie
9 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Without going into waaaay too much detail, trust me I fall into the exception to the rule. Whether you believe it or not there’s not a thing I can do through pills, exercise or nutrition to lose weight. It means I can also eat super unhealthy things and sit on my butt all day and not gain weight, though I choose not to and instead maintain a healthy lifestyle. Pills don’t make me fat. My condition does. So, yes, statistically speaking removing my individual case wouldn’t make a difference. BUT, taking into consideration *all* of the exceptions, including the body… Read more »

lisa
lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Hi! I am a woman. I weigh 298 pounds. I have tried to lose weight by following a 1,200 calorie diet and exercising at the gym for 3-4 hours a day.All I did was get sicker. I have low FERRATIN count , low vitamin C & D& they don’t know why. People who have thyroid problems can gain 100 pounds in just a few days or on steroid meds or depression or insulin. I know people who have donme it & they were not esting any more than before the problems. I want to lose weight, but the more I… Read more »

Christine+T.
Christine+T.
9 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

The whole calorie in calorie out things is just completely untrue and one of those diet myths that people love to spount. I eat more than anyone I know, tons of butter, fatty meat, sour cream, ice cream and weigh 108 and don’t exercise. Digestion and hormones play a huge role and if it was as simple as eat xx calories then all those 100 calorie snack packs and low calorie frozen meals would have solved the problem already. Lisa it sounds like maybe you already know you are low thyroid or have symptoms of low thyroid check out “stop… Read more »

sarahk
sarahk
9 years ago

It seems like the study showed a correlation between lower wages and obesity, but not causality. It could be just as possible for those data to indicate that having lower wages makes a woman more likely to be obese.

This leads into a discussion about food deserts, nutrition education, and how emotional states (being poor makes you feel bad) relate to unhealthy eating.

Marsha
Marsha
9 years ago
Reply to  sarahk

Exactly! Correlation does not equal causation.

Christine
Christine
9 years ago

I have noticed, with people I know who are obese or overweight, that there are many added consumer costs that go along with being at an unhealthy weight. Cars and furniture must be replaced more because of the added weight applied to them over and over again. This weight leads to wear and tear on the fabrics and the mechanics that go into keeping those objects in working order. Clothes often cost more in larger sizes (my husband has to pay at least 2-3 dollars more for shirts because he wears an XXL). These are the 2 that I have… Read more »

Janette
Janette
9 years ago
Reply to  Christine

Ba!

You are saying that a fat person uses more than a thin person. How often are your clothing pieces changed (shopping)- or shoes bought- or place redecorated? THAT is where the use comes in. You are fooling yourself if you think being fat causes more consumption- it is shopping that causes more consumption.

Hi! I'm obese!
Hi! I'm obese!
9 years ago
Reply to  Christine

I actually think that I spend less money on clothing as a result of being fat for the simple reason that fashion is targeted towards thin women. Many women like to shop for fun and wear designer clothing as a status symbol. They enjoy finding outfits that flatter their figures and discovering new styles every season. As a fat woman, I hate shopping for clothing, so I buy clothes only when I really need them. Nothing flatters my figure, so I just stick with the basics. The styles depicted in fashion magazines aren’t made for someone my size, so I… Read more »

CradleofIdiocy
CradleofIdiocy
9 years ago

What if your job is the cause of your obesity? Well, then we have quite a conundrum, don’t we? This is especially true if you’ve sold your soul to get into this highly specialized field. It’s what happened to me. I gained 50 lbs over 6 years. Luckily, I’ve lost 20 lbs since moving to a new job in the same field but the stress is still there…as is the temptation to overeat. When I think about it, eating was one of the few pleasures I got out of life. Now I don’t even get that anymore. Even though most… Read more »

slug+|+sunkcostsareirrelevant.com
slug+|+sunkcostsareirrelevant.com
9 years ago
Reply to  CradleofIdiocy

So, you’re a taste-tester for Twinkies? What kind of job CAUSES obesity?

xysea1971
xysea1971
9 years ago

I can think of an instance. I switched from a highly active customer service position where I was moving around all day long, to a sedentary position in front of a computer. It was a promotion and good for financial reasons, but my metabolism took a hit because I am stuck sitting on my can for 7 out of 8 hours a day. I do walk on my lunch, and I try to watch what I eat but in three years my weight has managed to creep up 15 lbs over what it used to – and I am pretty… Read more »

Leah
Leah
9 years ago

I had a friend who became obese as an investment banker. He actually quit and went to a much lower-paying job (after paying off his student loans ASAP) because of the stress of the job. He said he got obese because of a few factors – long work hours (think 80 hrs/wk) – work meetings at restaurants – the habit of drinking each evening to wind down from the stress of the day Once he moved to a more reasonable job for him, he used his extra time to begin exercising and learning how to cook. He found the trade-off… Read more »

techsupported
techsupported
9 years ago

For one thing, if I am not sitting still at my computer station, I’m not working. I’d get more exercise as a waitress, but I make more as a web developer. Twinkies are not required to gain weight! If you have a sedentary job like I do, and you are not overweight, I would venture to guess that you are under 50. Just give it some time, youngling. 😉

Amber
Amber
9 years ago
Reply to  techsupported

This is why I got serious about running.

phoenix
phoenix
9 years ago

I’m another person who is GAINING weight simply because I work at a desk job where I sit ALL day. While I have a lunch break, if I take it, I have to work longer, so I typically eat at my desk and work thru lunch. I never had this problem until I moved to a sitting-type job. The pay is better and I love the job so I stay, but I have no time to exercise. (Meals are not fast food, but Lean Cuisine for lunch and a protein bar for breakfast and a home-cooked regular meal with veggies… Read more »

Mike+Holman
Mike+Holman
9 years ago
Reply to  phoenix

Either you have to exercise more and/or eat less.

You can’t blame your job for your weight – sorry.

MArc
MArc
9 years ago
Reply to  CradleofIdiocy

I gained weight when I changed jobs too. Yet my job was not the cause of that gain – my eating and exercise habits were. The job (and the stress introduced by it) were a catalyst, but the choice was ultimately mine. When you look to pin the blame on outside causes, you’ll never improve (outside of the relatively rare genuine medical causes for weight gain, of course). I’ve lost 50 lbs by simply eating less of the bad stuff, more of the good stuff (not eliminating anything entirely) and walking more. My job simply gave me an excuse to… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  CradleofIdiocy

“not being able to find someone to marry because of our degenerate society. (This isn’t just limited to me. Otherwise our society wouldn’t have birth rates below replacement level.)” I think you’ve made quite a fallacious leap in logic there. For one thing, why would a society of degenerates be less likely to marry each other than a society of non-degenerates? Wouldn’t a society of degenerates happily pair up with other degenerates at an identical rate? Secondly, you’re equating marriage with birth rates. You claim that the lower birth rate is due to the lower marriage rate, but you haven’t… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  CradleofIdiocy

Anyone out their chained to their desks – I recommend nerdfitness.com and the forums at nerdfitness.com/community. The author of the blog no longer works a desk job, but there’s hundreds of people on the forum working 8, 10, 12 hour days and still staying on track with working out and eating right.

Jeff
Jeff
9 years ago

Life insurance is a prime example. My brother-in-law and I are both 27 years old. He, recently having a baby, and I, being the ultra-planner, both applied for life insurance this year. He is overweight (maybe obese), and I spent the last 18 months getting in the best shape of my life. So we both applied to AAA with the same requests(30 year, term, $1 million), our jobs, family health, etc, are all very similar. In actuality the health of his family was likely presented better than mine. We got our quotes within about 6 weeks of each other. My… Read more »

olga
olga
9 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

Wow, that’s a scientific experiment, I say! If that doesn’t make a statement…

Amber
Amber
9 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

Thank you for sharing! I hope this jolted your brother to get more serious about his weight.

slug+|+sunkcostsareirrelevant.com
slug+|+sunkcostsareirrelevant.com
9 years ago

Obesity is an incredibly complex dilemma made up of genetic and psychological factors, and of course a large amount of personal responsibility. Without the individual’s desire to change the societal problem will never be resolved.

Becky
Becky
9 years ago

You left out environmental factors. Individuals’ genes and sense of responsibility did not suddenly change at the beginning of the US obesity epidemic. We now mostly live in environments where it takes effort to do things (exercise, eat whole foods) that used to be automatic (our jobs were more physically demanding, our transportation system required lots of walking, commercially processed foods were unavailable, and food itself was expensive). Leisure time involved visiting (more walking), dancing, and sports; snacky treats were hand-prepared by Mom and thus limited in availability; gelling in front of the TV in a stupor was not an… Read more »

Laura
Laura
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

YES. Becky is spot on.

Becky F
Becky F
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

Yes, I’ve read a few studies/articles lately about “will power” and how it relates to weight loss and obesity. The basic idea is that in any given day, an individual has a limited amount of will power that gets used up throughout the day – which is why people tend to overeat at night. The more temptations you face throughout the day, the earlier your will power gets used up. All of these environmental factors you describe mean that if you do want to exercise and eat right, you have to use TONS more will power to do it than… Read more »

Everyday+Tips
Everyday+Tips
9 years ago

When I see someone who is very heavy, I just think about their poor knees, heart, lungs, etc. It just has to be so hard on the body to support all that weight day in and day out. Some people seem to be able to live just fine being overweight, but I think they are the exception. I know many who have had knee replacements, and weight probably was a major cause. I also know people that have had gastric bypass, and they end up just as heavy as they were the day before the surgery. That stomach sure must… Read more »

Janette
Janette
9 years ago
Reply to  Everyday+Tips

When I see someone very slim I think:
Do they smoke?
Will I be paying for a knee replacement soon?
How many hospital bills will be for injuries during classes?

I have had two brothers in law and one sister in law all die in their 50’s. None were obese.

I am not saying it is a problem- but the problem is in proper nutrition and not in a person’s size….

Tomas
Tomas
9 years ago

On a more technical note, BMI is very poor indicator of whether one is obese or not. It will never tell you what is the actual proportion of fat a person carries on himself/herself. Waist measurement is the marker you need. And interestingly, being overweight /as defined by BMI 25 to 29/ leads to longer and healthier life. * Being overweight was not associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease * Being overweight was not associated with an increased risk of death from cancer * Being overweight was associated with a reduced risk of deaths not related… Read more »

Cgirl
Cgirl
9 years ago

There’s a difference between weight loss and finance.

With personal finance, everyone who puts $5 a week into a savings account has $260 in that account at the end of the year.

With weight loss, it’s less democratic. Some people can cut out pop and lose 15 pounds. I cut out pop, and didn’t lose anything. But I continue on with it because I believe it’s healthier for me.
…but I have to take it on belief. I don’t get to see results.

Eric
Eric
9 years ago
Reply to  Cgirl

Not drinking pop/soda IS healthier for you, hands down. Unless you’re buying more expensive (albeit tastier) specialty sodas, you are chugging high fructose corn syrup, which has all sorts of health issues (despite what those commercials paid for by big corn tell you). Even if you drink soda with real sugar, it’s still a lot of unnecessary sugar in your body. As for diet soda, that has also been shown to have negative health effects due to the aspartame. You’re better off without it, including the lack of (real or imagined) spikes in blood sugar. And yeah, your point stands,… Read more »

Shari
Shari
9 years ago
Reply to  Eric

And don’t forget that pop is terrible for your teeth, so even if you don’t lose weight, you may save money on dental bills. (My own experience proved this to me!)

Anne
Anne
9 years ago
Reply to  Cgirl

This is so true. Weight is NOT democratic, no matter what people believe or say. For some, keeping their weight down is a very time consuming and difficult process.

I too cut out pop and didn’t loose a single pound. I did it for financial and health reasons. I only drink pop now when I’m out in restaurants. And only then occasionally.

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Same thing here–I cut out soda and didn’t lose weight. But I did save money–

Interesting, though, was that about a year after I stopped drinking it, I had a Coke in a restaurant on a very hot day. The rush was unbelievable–comparable to the rush from a drug high (and yes, I know what that’s like to–or I used to). It led me to firmly beleive that sugary sodas are probably very addictive. Just like with drugs, the mroe you take in, the more you want, even if the original pleasurable feelings are gone.

Jennifer Reed
Jennifer Reed
9 years ago

Good article. No doubt being overweight and obese is more costly. Echoing Tomas’ comment, BMI is not accurate for individuals. Hopefully, companies using BMI as a factor in figuring insurance rates, etc. will adjust their methods. This Men’s Health article really puts things in perspective and provides background on why BMI is so widely used. Time for a change maybe. http://www.menshealth.com/weight-loss/truth-about-bmi

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer Reed

The article you linked decides BMI isn’t a good measure because it doesn’t work for a particular professional athlete who is 6’1 and 217lbs. Good lord. I lose faith in humanity sometimes, even though this community at GRS is usually one of the best I’ve seen on the net. YES, BMI doesn’t work well for professional athletes, who have huge amounts of lean muscle tissue. We get it. For the other 99.9% of the population, it’s okay to use BMI as a trend indicator that we’re getting more and more obese in Western countries. Please refute that statement by saying… Read more »

Jennifer+Reed
Jennifer+Reed
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Is there a reason people have to get so mean and nasty with their comments? Can’t people contribute without getting bashed and threatened?

Luke
Luke
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer+Reed

In all fairness, I think Adam raises a very salient point. Far too many people quote the exceptions to the rule to try and disprove theories/indexes that are generally accurate. For example: ~Athletes have high BMI, therefore BMI is nonsense ~My dad/gran/cousin smoked for 50 years and didn’t die from lung cancer, therefore cigarettes aren’t dangerous ~I lost money on my pension because I never increased my contributions, looked at the funds it was invested in or calculated how much I’d need in retirement. Therefore, pensions are all a scam and you shouldn’t have one Far from being iconoclasts, people… Read more »

sally
sally
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Further, I wonder whether the number of bodybuilders with low body fat but high BMI are swamped by the number of people with ‘normal weight obesity’ – misleadingly OK BMI but a high level of body fat.

Somehow, I basically never hear people say/write, “My weight puts me in the normal weight category, but I’m actually fat because I have so little muscle mass.”

I don’t think anyone is arguing that BMI is anything like a perfect proxy for obesity at the individual level, but it does seem both handy and reasonable for epidemiological work using huge sample sizes.

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

I do refute it, because I know people who are athletic (by no means professional) who have inaccurately high BMI. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or weight lifter – you just have to be relatively muscular AND relatively short. And yes, there are millions of people out there who fit these two characteristic who ARE skewing the data.

Carla
Carla
9 years ago
Reply to  Jaime B

* I do weight training 4 days a week and cardio in addition to that. (I can leg press 335 lbs for example). I am no pro though.
* My bone structure is on the high end of large for a woman (according to my doctor).
* I wear a size small to medium and 6/8 and really cant go smaller -structurally because of my build.

With that said, my BMI is 27.5 which would put me in the high overweight category.

Margie
Margie
9 years ago

Here’s the thing, though. Nobody can agree on how to change this. I have strong opinions on the subject but they are heretical to the medical establishment and plenty of laypeople (including many here, I’d be willing to bet). I bet a bunch of people will chime in and say “It’s easy to lose weight. All you need to do eat less than you spend in energy.” I personally believe this is bunk. Then there will be people espousing gluten free or exercise (does not help with weight loss, FYI) or veganism or vegetarianism. Me? I topped out at over… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago

BMI is certainly not the best indicator of obesity for all people, especially for more fit people with lots of muscle. But we’d be kidding ourselves to think that the errors in BMI as a scale are leading to a false obesity epidemic. Interesting point someone made about the correlation between obesity and making less money-again, correlation does not equal causation. It could also be a third factor leading to both the obesity and the lower income. As far as obesity being caused by a medical thing, I’m sure that there are many cases of this, but I don’t think… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Excellent post. I read “The Sugar Fix” not too long ago, and it proposes that the day Congress decided to put in massive corn subsidies (early 1980s) and Coke and Pepsi (and tons of others) switched to HFCS instead of cane sugar was the tipping point. This was also the period that started to villainize fat in favour of white carbs. So you have high fructose ingestion with high refined carbs…and 30 years later an obesity epidemic. I don’t think it’s lack of activity to blame, I think it’s too much sugar and refined carbs. People need to eat more… Read more »

Mo
Mo
9 years ago

I do believe that obesity is a problem, but this sort of scaremongering is only making things worse. Being overweight or obese is actually correlated with having a 66-77% LOWER risk of death before age 60. The CDC studies looking at death from obesity toss out 90% of all deaths when creating their statistics. When you are massaging the numbers that much, you can prove whatever you want. Another issue is that underweight is actually quite dangerous as well, with 25% higher death rates. That never makes the news somehow. A woman of Jennifer Aniston’s height and weight has a… Read more »

Anne
Anne
9 years ago
Reply to  Mo

Mo – I can COMPLETELY believe that story about your friend. I have my own story I won’t go into…I have friends with similar stories.

I even had a friend whose doctor blamed her soft tissue injury on her “baby weight”. She was not fat! She was carrying a few extra pounds after the baby was born. The injury didn’t magically go away as she lost of the weight naturally. But it took ages to get a decent diagnosis and proper treatment.

Jenny
Jenny
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Hah! I have a similar experience. I was hit by a car several years ago and broke my foot. It didn’t heal properly (even I can see on the x-ray where it is deformed) but everytime I go to the doctor I get told to lose weight and the pain will go away.

Alexandra
Alexandra
9 years ago
Reply to  Mo

Some corrections on the “facts” of this post:

– Being slightly overweight is protective, but being obese is NOT.

– There are HUNDREDS of studies that show that diet and exercise are effective for large scale weight loss.

Becky
Becky
9 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

I think she means “large scale” as in thousands of people losing weight and keeping it off successfully; not “large scale” as in one person losing a large amount of weight.

Gretchen
Gretchen
9 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

Actually, the “facts” state that the entire overweight category of the BMI (25-24.9) is at reduced risk of death and no increase of cardiovascular issues. There is no “slightly” overweight category.

Jan
Jan
9 years ago

I think I have to disagree on this one. I used to be obese. Then I joined a gym ($70 per month) worked out with a trainer couple times a week ($45 per session). Started buying more produce and had a lot of green smoothies for breakfast (much more expensive than cereal). I shop at Whole Foods once a month to stock up on all natural whey protein and other spices (more $$$). I am much happier now with the weight gone now, but it’s not cheaper by any means. Fresh produce, even non organic is much much more expensive… Read more »

Ashley H
Ashley H
9 years ago

Great article supported by some hard facts. I have been waiting for a post on this topic – thanks April!

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago

According to the ridiculous BMI chart, I am obese. I hike, hike or walk over 100 miles a week. I strength train and I eat well about 90% of the time. I have no medical conditions related to anything and I am not on any medications, other than birth control. I realize this is one piece of anecdotal evidence, but I don’t see how my weight is causing me to lose money. I have a great job with a great salary, and I believe this is directly related to a lot of years of experience and several degrees. But I… Read more »

Alyssa
Alyssa
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

I’m right there with you. I’m not as active as you, but I’m still active. Since I’ve been at a desk job where I work 10 hours/day, I’ve seen the weight creep up. I walk as much as I can, but there’s only so much you can do. It would be nice to have a standing desk!

It sucks that BMI is the standard number because it’s definitely not accurate.

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

With all due respect, I don’t believe you. I think you’re likely calculating your BMI incorrectly (and are in fact overweight, rather than obese), or are grossly exaggerating your level of exercise. I simply do not believe that an obese person walks more than a half-marathon, every single day of the week. Even if you did, your knees would be hamburger.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I am the organizer for a biking group on meetup and as a result, I usually ride 4 times a week at 20 miles a clip. I used the BMI indicator found here: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ – it said my BMI was 33. Just a little over the line from overweight to obese. I don’t really care whether you believe me or not. I think the problem is that no one really understand what obesity looks like. Take a look at this link, http://kateharding.net/bmi-illustrated/ My knees are not hamburger because I have always been fat and athletic. But that is really not… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Hang on, you’re changing your story now. First you said you hike or walk 100 miles a week. Now it’s biking 80 miles a week.

Looking back at your original post, you said you “hike, hike or walk,” which it now seems was probably a typo. I’m guessing that first “hike” was supposed to be “bike.” That changes things significantly. Also 80 != 100, which is another big difference.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Good grief. I am not changing my story. I simply didn’t include the miles walked or hiked, thinking that you could do that math on your own. I wear a pedometer every day, so the last 20 miles is included with hiking or walking.

So, to sum up. Approx 80 miles biking, 20 miles walking and hiking.

Adam+P
Adam+P
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Lisa, are you even LISTENING to yourself? Do you REALLY believe you are the typical obese person represented by the medical community and the obesity epidemic in the Western World (it’s not just America, obviously)? No. You are not. You are an athletic person who gets excersize and eats well 90% of the time by your standards. Maybe there is a medical reason you are still obese despite eating well and massive amounts of excersize. It seems almost certain, because otherwise it doesn’t make sense. But please, do not mistake yourself for a typical person who is obese in America.… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Adam, I don’t think we are necessarily arguing different things. What I’m trying to point out is that the metrics used by health agencies and insurance companies are flawed. And like I said, I am merely one point of anecdotal evidence. But when those agencies use that damn BMI chart to classify individuals as overweight or obese, they are misleading us all. That’s why I posted that link about what obesity really looks like. I hope people will take a look at it. It’s not all those people you see on The Biggest Loser. Sometimes I think the media blows… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Lisa I owe you an apology and I’m sorry. The bottom of the blog post asks for people to share whether it was costing them money to be obese or not…and you shared that! I would delete my post if I could, or move it to it’s own point because while it’s valid in and of itself (the typical obese person is not healthy) I shouldn’t have brought it into your discussion on how it’s affecting you personally.

Kudos on being active by the way! The world would be a much better place if everyone had your resolve.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Adam, no apologies necessary! I am glad we are on the same page. Have a good one.

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Good grief. I am not changing my story.

Yes you did. Your first post didn’t say anything about biking.

You said you walked or hiked 100 miles per week.

I called you out on it.

Then you said you biked 80 of those miles.

You made a mistake. You made a typo. You typed “hike” instead of “bike.” Scroll up and see for yourself.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Holy crap. I can’t believe you’ve given me all this grief over a typo. Well, now at least we know that I am a bad typist AND fat. Whew.

Minal
Minal
9 years ago

Nice article with lots of facts, but sadly, education is not the way to motivate change because logic often loses out to emotional motivations. For a good book that discusses more effective ways to motivate change, check out Switch by Chip & Dan Heath: (http://www.heathbrothers.com/switch/).

Skye
Skye
9 years ago
Reply to  Minal

Excellent read. The research on how environment effects behavior is particularly interesting.

adrian
adrian
9 years ago

I am in the obese category with a BMI of 42,but I haven’t experienced these costs at all. In fact, I’m the healthiest person I know. I haven’t had a cold or flu in years and I take maybe one day a year in sick leave, far less than my co workers. I don’t even notice higher grocery costs as I’m not a large quantity eater and fruits & veggies can be pricey. My clothes cost slightly more & maybe my fuel costs are higher, but that’s about it.

Crystal
Crystal
9 years ago
Reply to  adrian

Then the only people you know are MORBIDLY obese. Please do not embarrass yourself by claiming that you are a ‘healthy’ obese person. No such thing.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Crystal

Really? No such thing? So, by your theory, every single thin person is healthy? Is that how it works?

Tegan
Tegan
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

At least attack what she actually wrote, rather than putting words in her mouth. 🙂

Becky
Becky
9 years ago

I think these numbers underestimate the cost of obesity for an individual, especially for women. There are financial costs associated with the emotional trauma obese women suffer on a daily basis in our society. While wages for the same work tend to be lower for obese people, this does not take into account how much harder it is for an obese person to get hired or promoted. Much in the same way racial discrimination can be invisible to people who are not themselves racial minorities, fat discrimination tends to be invisible to the skinny, based on our stereotypes about fat… Read more »

Margie
Margie
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

“Human nature did not suddenly change in 1980 when U.S. the obesity epidemic started. Our ancestors were not thinner because they posessed some kind of virtue that we don’t have today.” Yeah, I think this is very true and worth repeating when the “personal responsibility” lines come out of the woodwork. I personally believe that obesity is not caused by some essential character flaw. I don’t think it’s caused by gluttony or sloth or a psychological problem. I have been both thin and very, very fat in my life, but I’ve been the same person with the same personality the… Read more »

jreffy
jreffy
9 years ago

Why on earth are we using the BMI to indicate obesity rates in the US? I personally feel that the obesity “epidemic” in the US is not nearly as bad as what we are led to believe. As many people have already stated, BMI is a very poor indicator of true weight/health. I’m currently sitting at a BMI of about 28/29. Like JD, I am a CrossFitter, play for a local Rugby club, and regularly participate in events, like 5k’s, and even did a relay run from Madison to Chicago (197 miles). However, I’m apparently a part of the overweight… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  jreffy

I’m not sure I’d be holding up football players, baseball players, or wrestlers as paragons of fitness. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but an awful lot of footballers have been dropping dead during practice lately. Their hearts can’t take the exercise while carrying all that extra weight. And baseball players? The guys who spend 3 hours standing/sitting around doing nothing, and need a break after 7 innings? Uh, check out the guts on those guys. They’re not exactly poster boys of fitness. BMI says they’re overweight because they are overweight. And finally wrestlers. You mean like Rulon Gardner? The… Read more »

jreffy
jreffy
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

“An awful lot of football players have been dropping dead at practice lately” Really? Could you name them for me? I mean, it should be easy to rattle off a ton of names if an “awful lot” of the 100’s of thousands of people who play football on the college and professional level are keeling over dead. Furthermore, how many of them died due specifically due to their weight? Baseball players do more than “stand around for 3 hours”, what about practice? Off-season training? Or how about all the work they put in to get to the MLB in the… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago
Reply to  jreffy

“Wayne Rooney, (5’10″, 175), BMI – 25.1 (overweight)”

I said “obese,” not overweight.

All I’m saying is BMI isn’t perfect, and that bickering over its flaws is simply a red herring. At the end of the day, it’s a useful indicator. If you’re a professional MMA fighter or an olympic bodybuilder, maybe you can disregard BMI. But for the other 99.9999999% of us, it can be a useful guidepost.

Becky
Becky
9 years ago
Reply to  jreffy

I agree that BMI is a ridiculous measure that does more harm than good. Yet, the fact that BMI generates bad data doesn’t mean we don’t have an obesity problem in the U.S.

Look at any group photo (other than a professional sports team) from today and compare it to a photo of a similar group from 1961. Look at school yearbooks. Go downtown or to a mall and look at the people walking around.

We most certainly are fatter than we used to be, on the whole, although you personally may be fitter.

Marsha
Marsha
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

When I was in high school 30+ years ago, I was considered plump, pudgy, borderline fat. At the same weight today I’m actually on the thin side of average. And my size 12 prom dress from the 70s? It’s about a size 6 or 8 by today’s standards. (Yes, sadly, I still have my prom dress. Hoarding is another subject for another day.)

Karen
Karen
9 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

Oh yes, the “vanity sizing” that goes on with clothing now is unreal. I’m the same weight as I was in college, but when I buy pants now they’re typically two sizes smaller than what I bought in the early 1990s.

John+Sherry
John+Sherry
9 years ago

Having once been an unhappy overweight April I think there are plenty of heavy costs to pay for being on the large size. If not the money, without doubt the health implications, the reduced lifestyle options,and the great damage to self-worth those many extra pounds bring. When the food goes in I always ask, ‘What’s really weighing you down?’. Answer that and watch the weight mysteriously begin to disappear and the person come magically back to life.

Alysa@ImpulseSave
9 years ago

This is a term I call Monesity which is a TERRIBLE thing because it means money lost and weight gained! There are a lot of studies out there that talk about why Americans on the whole are larger. I wrote about it in a recent blogpost because of a Harvard study which said most people don’t have time to make healthy meals especially in this economy when both parents are working. So, we eat out cheaply (which can be accomplished most efficiently at McDonalds et. al). But what shocked me was the amount of money eating out cheap cost me!… Read more »

Helen
Helen
9 years ago

I really like your term “monesity” – I’ve been thinking about it and giving it a definition of my own. To me, there are several things that contribute to my “monesity”. Spending money on eating out seems like the most obvious one – I also eati out way more often than I should out of a sense of convenience. I used to bike to work a lot – a 40-km round trip – but I’ve gotten lazy and I rarely do it anymore. That makes spending money on gas and parking during my commute another example of monesity for me… Read more »

Sam
Sam
9 years ago

When it comes to obesity/weight issues, people tend to discuss too much in detail and not enough action (exercise). Fitness is much like a budget. You need a lot of discipline, motivation, attainable goals and long-term vision.
For example:
Finance
Saving/Debt = Incoming $ – Outgoing $
Fitness
Weight Gain/loss = Incoming Calories – Calories used
You have to:
1.) Decrease one end of the equation or increase the other end to see the result. (or combination)
It is really that simple. Instead of talking about the little details and possibly being overwhelmed, please go outside and do something.

Margie
Margie
9 years ago
Reply to  Sam

It’s actually NOT that simple. While it’s true that calories in/calories out is something that describes what happens when you gain weight, humans have pretty much no chance of consciously changing that equation because we have little to no direct control on the “output” end of the equation. Sure, you can say “Well, you can go for a run,” but here’s the thing: you have no idea whether or not that run will A) cause you to be hungrier later and unconsciously eat a bite or two more, negating any calories burnt or B) if you perfectly calibrate your calories… Read more »

Kristina
Kristina
9 years ago
Reply to  Margie

It is that simple, when the calories in are the densest lowest calorie source of nutrients you can find. It’s not that simple if your body isn’t getting what it needs. You’re not hungry because of the exercise calorie deficit, you’re hungry because you have nutrient needs. That may be because you ran and need more protein to rebuild the muscles etc (or you could just be addicted to the seratonin released when you are full on simple carbs – but that’s another story. One problem is that fruits and vegetables have lower nutrient contents then they did 50 years… Read more »

Megan E.
Megan E.
9 years ago
Reply to  Sam

While I agree it would be nice if it were that simple, it’s not. In GENERAL, sure, eating less and doing more will help, but it’s WHAT you eat and WHAT you do, along with genetics, etc – the equation is more complicated. Eating 4 cups of ice cream might give me 1400 calories but were they good? probably not… so eating the almonds, egg, tomato, whole wheat bread, fish, salad, etc that also equals 1400 calories is better – but the equation you posted won’t account for that. Exercising will increase muscle mass, which uses more energy to sustain… Read more »

Sam
Sam
9 years ago
Reply to  Megan E.

Hi Megan and Margie: I am not a dietitian or a fitness expert and I really appreciate your replies. You both brought very valid and important aspects of fitness. If my tone came across as an arrogant person in my previous post, I apologize. What I am trying to say is people dig into too much detail and over look the bigger picture. My cousin struggled with her weight since she was a child. She used to complain about her weight while eating in front of the TV. She would also research about the “healthy” way to lose weight for… Read more »

David R
David R
9 years ago

It would be interesting to see you compare the costs of being overweight to the costs of “pursuing fitness.” Gym, workout gear, sports injuries, etc.

GL
GL
9 years ago
Reply to  David R

You don’t need a gym or workout gear to pursue fitness. There are tons of free exercises you can do without any equipment whatsoever – and for free! You don’t need any special gear, either. Unless you’re a nudist who doesn’t own any clothes, the ones you already have will suffice. Now give me 50 pushups and run for 2 miles! 🙂

Carla
Carla
9 years ago

I was overweight for a good portion of my 20’s. I was unhealthy due to the weight, but in the short-term, it didn’t cost me much. I decided that I wanted to change my life and my appearance so I changed the way I eat and my overall lifestyle. Low-carb, combined with eating huge portions of veggies with meals, never skipping meals, avoiding most forms of sugars and of course avoid processed foods is what saved me. I was always active; I tell people all the time I was a “fat runner”, but I had to step it up a… Read more »

mike
mike
9 years ago

If I may humbly say “Yes, I have the answer”. And it’s quite simple.

But it’s so simple and the results are so profound, it just can’t be believed.

And you could prove it to yourself in 2 weeks.

The problem is you have to do yourself, and it takes work. You can’t buy health in a pill.

Read Dr T Colin Campbell’s book: The China Study

Alexandra
Alexandra
9 years ago
Reply to  mike

Oh please, the China Study???

A quick Google search will bring up tons of references that show that Campbell cherry-picked his data, leaving out all the states that did not match his pre-formed hypotheses.

He then used his cherry-picked observational data to make causal conclusions, when every 9th grader knows that you can’t prove cause from a correlation.

He is NOT a good scientist and the China Study is garbage.

phoenix
phoenix
9 years ago

For me, the issue that causes me to gain weight is the issue that produces the money. Sure, weight is food – exercise. But in my current job (a desk job), I sit ALL day and make more money than my prior jobs, I work longer hours, and I don’t have time to exercise. With my natural metabolism, I’m one of those who needs more exercise to stay in the “normal” weight range. I gained weight when I moved to this job. In my last jobs that did not pay as well, they were tons more active, so I was… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago

This commenting is starting to remind me a lot of the biking to work commenters. Excuses excuses excuses. Yes, BMI can be pretty dumb for some people. Yes, losing weight is hard and harder for the obese because they have a lot to lose. But, for most of America we have a choice. Really, it’s a bunch of little choices. You can make excuses and whine about your choices being limited by this and that, but in the end, for the majority of people it is a matter of personal responsibility. If you look at my family you know that… Read more »

phoenix
phoenix
9 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

You dismiss a different POV as “excuses, excuses, excuses.” But it’s not that–it’s simply a matter of different priorities based on different circumstances. Most of the comments here that I’ve seen aren’t by people complaining “poor me, I just can’t.” It’s a matter of different priorities. It is OK for people to make different choices than you have made. For me, I weigh more because I work a desk job that has long hours, am raising a family with young children, am finishing an addition we did ourselves, and I don’t have the time to exercise. (My eating is not… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  phoenix

I so relate to this post. I have been unable to get the pounds off since having kids and breastfeeding (still). I don’t like the image I see in the mirror sometimes, but I try not to stress over it. You have to be kind to yourself, especially when you have younger children. I am exhausted and sleep deprived. I haven’t slept through the night in over three years. Let’s talk about what sleep deprivation does to your weight! And even before I had kids and was pretty small, I never fit into the charts. And I have genetics to… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

That is exactly what I was talking about. Excuses. At least your excuses you say is a choice. That is better than the “I can’t eat healthy because…” or “I can’t exercise because I don’t have time…”. But really, you don’t have to choose between being healthy and spending time with your kids. Why not do activities with your kids? Take them on bike rides, walks, go play tag with them etc? Have them roller blade or bike while you run. I don’t know their ages obviously, but kids left to their own devices burn through a lot of calories… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Stephanie, I hope you’re not a counselor. Your constant use of the word “excuses” is telling and not really helpful. What you think of in such a negative way as “excuses” is really just explanations for life. And when a woman who has had a baby says she’s gained weight, she is not blaming her child. But pregnancy changes your body forever. That’s just a fact. And I don’t see cause and effect as merely excuses or unhealthy blame of another. And your comparison to the sleep deprivation of children to graduate school is like people I know who try… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

You denigrating my experiences with sleep deprivation in graduate school is on the same level as you claiming I’m judging you for being a mom and having trouble keeping the same shape. You have no clue what my sleep deprivation was like. I dealt with it for WAY more than 3 years and went for months without a good night sleep. I spent many nights up all night because of my own stupid brain. Most nights I couldn’t sleep at all and would be up till the wee hours of the morning, so frustrated that time was ticking away and… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I know people who battle with insomnia to the point that new parents get more sleep than they do! I also know people who haven’t had a full night’s sleep in years due to pain or another healthy issue waking them up. Their sleep issues aren’t their choice. (You can choose to be a parent or a student, but you usually don’t choose to suffer from an illness)

I don’t think we can really compare whose lack of sleep is better or worse because it’s an individual experience and it’s going to have different consequences for all of us.

phoenix
phoenix
9 years ago
Reply to  phoenix

Stephanie, I’m not sure where you got the thought that I’m not “active” with my family. We are a very active family but in my book being “active” is not the same as “exercise.” Exercise is getting my heartrate within the range, keeping it there for 40 minutes, pushing myself. I also count my weight-lifting regiment as exercise. I have no time for this. But we are an active family. We do things together (not running because I’ve always hate running), but we bike, we swim (my fav), we hike. We play sports. Yes, 30 pounds is a bit of… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago
Reply to  phoenix

My mom is sick due to the unhealthy choices that also led to her obesity. I’m very scared that something is going to happen to her and she won’t be around or herself. I want to have kids someday and I want my mom to be around to meet them. Her mom had a stroke very young and was never really “there” after that, so there’s definitely bad genes to combat. If she told me that she couldn’t be healthy because of having kids, that would make me very upset. I would say “Mom, please, I wish you would have… Read more »

HH
HH
9 years ago

What exactly is the point of this article and what the hell does it have to do with personal finance? I am sick of the media convincing everyone that not only is my double chin and arm wobble causing me great personal detriment but also drowning the country in debt and causing global warming! Now it is not only making me poor but making everyone else poor and having those poor skinny people to pick up my slack cause I take so much time off work and when I’m there can’t get it done. Excuse me? People like Stephanie and… Read more »

Adam+P
Adam+P
9 years ago
Reply to  HH

I don’t doubt you *personally* being healthy. I’ll take your word for it. But I take issue with you saying “there are plenty of us big fatties who eat healthy and excersize” if by *plenty* you somehow mean a statistically significant number of you? Someone with healthy eating habits and daily recommended excersize habits does not get to 275lbs+ to begin with, baring some sort of untreated medical problem with their thyroid (or also unless they are like 7 feet tall or a massive bodybuilder type). Most people who maintain these healthy habits will over time come down from obese… Read more »

Susan
Susan
9 years ago

I have found that for me personally, I can only concentrate on 1 major life change at a time. So for the past 4 years, I’ve been working on getting my financial house in order and my weight has increased. When I was more concentrated on my weight, I didn’t pay attention to my spending. I’m at a point that my finances are in order and just needs basic maintenance, so now its time to start working on the weight loss. Hopefully I can gte to the point that I can keep both fully in check and under control!

fattybobatty
fattybobatty
9 years ago

This post makes me so angry, and JD I have loved and respected most everything that comes through here. Do none of you people realize that the weight loss industry feeds us all this obesity scaremongering BECAUSE they make money off of it? That in effect, the public at mass has created a war against its own constituents, in some instances likening fat people to terrorists and considering them a target that needs to be defeated. Does that ever help larger people to lose weight? No, it only makes them feel shitty about themselves, and it separates people from their… Read more »

Stefanie
Stefanie
9 years ago
Reply to  fattybobatty

Thank you for saying all of this. You are completely right. This blog has been slowing leaning more and more towards fatphobic ideas for some time now and with this post, I am out.

A person’s health cannot be judged on how they look; should losing weight or remaining thin because one has cancer be seen as healthy? No. Same with fat people – you have no idea what my health is by looking at me and my fat ass, so don’t judge me.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Stefanie

!?!?!?!??!!

I guarantee you that GRS is not fatphobic. To write about obesity research is not to be anti-fat. I don’t give a rat’s ass how skinny or fat you or anyone else is. I’ve been fat, and I know what a struggle it can be. And I know people who are fat not because of choices but because of their biological makeup. Trust me: I don’t judge anyone based on whether they’re big or small. I may judge myself, but I let other people fight their own battles.

fattybobatty
fattybobatty
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I haven’t thought of GRS as fatphobic, but this article certainly spurs fatphobic thought, conversation, and people to come out of the woodworks. Obesity is compared with financial health, which is much easier to fix (JD you’re an EXCELLENT example, as am I), as you’re not fighting years of evolved body mechanics and its not quite a fair correlation. I’m not against getting to a healthy body size and weight, but failure to do so should not lessen anyone as a person and make them feel like a wasteful burden upon others. No one should have to feel like less… Read more »

Nancy
Nancy
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I don’t believe this site is intentionally fat-phobic, but this article has certainly allowed the haters to have free rein. As a person who has lost 80 lbs. and is struggling to maintain that loss, it is really disenheartening to see all the ignorant and hateful comments. I would also like to suggest a website that will give a better idea about the difficulty of losing weight and maintaining weight loss: http://www.drsharma.ca/ Dr. Sharma specializes in treating people with obesity and has a clear viewpoint on what weight loss and maintenance entails. No, this doesn’t directly reference personal finance, but… Read more »

fattybobatty
fattybobatty
9 years ago

also, I’m not saying that we don’t need to be healthier as a nation. We do. I’m just saying that the definition of healthy is different for everybody, and that some of you people are like a mob with pitchforks about obesity. This is not a healthy attitude towards our fellow men, and in fact it hurts a hell of a lot more than it helps.
We should be promoting health for everyone, and stop with this war against fat.

krantcents
krantcents
9 years ago

I agree it is a huge problem. I would like to see medical insurance taking the lead in solving it and I do not mean medical procedures. Everywhere you turn, we are marketed to death about food, fast food and snacks. Restaurants provide portions that are enough for 2 people. Fortunately, I am in great health and shape and have been for most of my life. I think in this over consuming nation, we do not need all this help to eat more.

Anna
Anna
9 years ago

I typed up a big comment about how much I disagree with this post and how disgusted I am that you would post this thing which basically encourages more prejudice against fat people, but I decided to just address two specific issues: It often costs fat people more for medical services not because they have more problems but because medical professionals are as prejudiced against fat people as the rest of the country and tend to say “lose weight” instead of actually treating what’s really wrong (see http://fathealth.wordpress.com/ for many stories). Because of this, many fat people (especially women) forgo… Read more »

shallowwater
shallowwater
9 years ago

I’m deeply disappointed that April wrote this terrible post, and that JD posted it. While I believe that perhaps their intentions were benign, the net message I have gotten from the article and all the comments is one of fat-phobia and fat-shaming. Body size and weight is nothing like personal finance, and comparisons between the two are offensive to everyone.

Hi! I'm obese!
Hi! I'm obese!
9 years ago

Based on my BMI, I’m “morbidly obese.” I think a lot of people would be surprised by what qualifies as “morbidly obese” — I can fit in a regular car (and even buckle my seatbelt), walk a couple of miles and climb stairs without getting out of breath, and wear clothes other than mumus. This is not to say that I am proud of my weight or that I don’t wish to be thin every day of my life, but please realize that not everyone who is considered “morbidly obese” is confined to bed and unable to function. As for… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Hi! I'm obese!

Although the article talked about the possible perception of overweight/obese people as stupid or lazy in hiring or promotion decisions, I haven’t seen that viewpoint expressed here in the comments.

karla
karla
9 years ago

I haven’t read all the comments (yet) but I see some of the conversation turn towards regulation.

Our doctor was telling us that Finland started to solve part of the problem (heart disease and cholesterol) by encouraging agri-business to make 2 changes. One change was to feed chickens with better food (increasing Omega-3 in eggs. I actually already buy these)

I forgot the other, but it had to do with grain production.

They didn’t try to educate people, they didn’t try to change habits, they just changed the quality of the food.

The longitudinal study shows that it worked.

AmandaLP
AmandaLP
9 years ago

I am very disappointed in this story. While I agree that there are medical costs associated with poor health habits, these are not caused by obesity, but rather the health habits. A thin woman who has unhealthy habits is just as likely to have similar complaints as fat woman. We just think that one’s body weight is under direct control, and thus anyone overweight is “bad,” and discriminate thusly. There are many stigmatized identities that one can have, and all can impact one’s health, not because of the identity itself, but because of the overwhelming bias against stigma that we… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  AmandaLP

Anyone can have any health complaint, but many issues are MORE LIKELY to occur and symptoms can be worse if a person is overweight. For instance, skinny people can suffer from sleep apnea, but people who are larger are more likely to. Anyone can suffer from arthritis, but the first thing experts advise to manage the disease is to lose weight — even as little as ten pounds can significantly reduce pressure on the joints. Excess weight can make GERD worse too simply because of the pressure on the esophagus. However, skinny doesn’t equal healthy and underweight people have health… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Er… Make that almost anyone — I likely won’t have to worry about prostate cancer 😉 It’s just that the more I read, the more I see that there are many many people who don’t fit the patterns we think. Non-smokers get lung cancer. People who shun the sun still get skin cancer. Strong swimmers can still drown. You get the idea 😉

Andy
Andy
9 years ago

If obesity is becoming an epidemic, why doesn’t the medical community take greater strides to prevent the problem instead of being reactive and incur the costs associated with being overweight or obese? As an exercise physiologist I can attest that the medical community does not do enough to prevent this potential health epidemic. The medical community should treat the prevention of overweightness and obesity like it does injuries, with physical therapy. Make it mandatory for exercise physiologists to have a license and have insurance cover the prevention programs. Make the position of exercise physiologist more lucrative to attract the best… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
9 years ago

@AmandaLP:

“We just think that one’s body weight is under direct control,”

It is. Stop making excuses. What goes into your mouth is one of the few things that individuals have 100% complete control over. No one can force-feed you into being obese. You did it to yourself.

“Black families have a wealth gap of $150,000 compared to White families, yet we would never suggest that one change their race.”

That’s an outrageously ridiculous comparison. Of course, you cannot choose your race. But you absolutely choose what (and how much) you eat.

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