The Costs of Being Overweight – How Much Money Can a Healthy Diet Save You?

April 17, 2008

How much does a double cheeseburger, milkshake, and fries cost?  While you may only pay a few bucks each time you buy it, eating that meal over and over can end up costing you a lot more than that in the long run.

Health Care Costs
Although we don’t think about it on a daily basis, our diet can actually have a big impact on our finances. Health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes, and heart conditions are expensive to treat and the price keeps going up.

The USDA released a report a few years ago that states that the medical costs that come as a result of obesity related problems are about $10,000 higher than they are for those with a healthy weight.  Do you know anyone who has an extra $10,000 to spend?

Of course a person that eats a balanced diet and follows a healthy lifestyle can reduce those costs considerably.  Not only will we save money it can potentially even save our life.  Those sound like two pretty big motivators right there.

Wardrobe Expenses
There are other costs to consider in addition to the actual doctor bills.  If you’re not eating well or exercising regularly, your waist will grow over time and you’ll have to spend money on buying larger clothes.  Plus size clothes sometimes come at a premium to standard sizes which can put a further strain on your wallet.

Life Insurance Rates
Obviously if clothing size was enough of a motivator there would be many more skinny people in the US so let’s look at another factor, the cost of life insurance.  As the population becomes increasingly overweight and obesity related deaths rise this puts a strain on the resources of life insurance companies.  This results in higher premiums for overweight individuals, a cost that can certainly add up over time. 

Productivity and Psychological Costs
When you exercise your body creates endorphins that can do great things for your energy level and mental state.  People that don’t work out and have resulting weight issues can have a harder time getting going and getting around which can definitely reduce their productivity. 

Being overweight can also be mentally discouraging, dealing with this anxiety or frustration can take a toll on a person’s productivity and could even trigger deeper psychological issues.

A Drain on the Pocketbook
It’s obvious that there are many different costs of being overweight and unfortunately a large number of people in the US are experiencing at least some of these problems. There are around 127 million adults in the US who are overweight, 9 million of which are in the severely obese category.  Just think about all the money those extra pounds are costing them.

Make an Investment in Your Health
Although some people will argue that it typically costs more to buy healthier foods and takes up more time than they have to exercise, hopefully this article has shown that being healthy just makes good financial sense.  It’s worth it to invest your money in healthy meals, work out equipment, and exercise programs; they will pay off in the long run.

Also keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle can save a whole lot more than money.  You’ll be able to have a more active, vibrant life with your loved ones and you’ll have the energy to do the things you love!


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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9 Responses to The Costs of Being Overweight – How Much Money Can a Healthy Diet Save You?

  • Mario Wilson

    I totally agree Ben. One thing that you mentioned, that most of us do not think about is the life and health insurance. I just recently purchased a life insurance plan, and since I was in good health, was able to get more coverage at a lower rate than someone that was unhealthy or obese. Thank you for the info!

  • Money Advice

    Nice post ! The health care cost reduces that which live the healthier lifestyle in our life. I found more ways for healthier lifestyle. The health care insurance is useful for many people but we can identify the correct plan with good concern. Here Some information about the insurance.

  • Ben

    Thanks for the info Lisa, I wasn’t aware of that study.

    I don’t claim to be a health expert by any means but in my opinion an “insane anti-obesity movement” is much better than the obesity issue in this country that’s starting off when people are just kids.

    Check out this information from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:

  • Lisa

    I agree that living a healthier lifestyle reduces health care costs and saves money in other ways. There is no question about that. But yet there is still a fatal flaw in your argument. Fat does not automatically equal unhealthy, my friend.

    Research has shown that a BMI of 25 – 30 — the “overweight” category — actually has a lower morbidity and mortality rate than those who are below 25 (in the so-called “normal” range) or above it. Being underweight is actually riskier than being slightly overweight.

    Here’s a bit on the limitations of the BMI according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

    The correlation between the BMI number and body fatness is fairly strong; however the correlation varies by sex, race, and age. These variations include the following examples:

    ~ At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
    ~ At the same BMI, older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
    ~ Highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness.

    It is also important to remember that BMI is only one factor related to risk for disease. For assessing someone’s likelihood of developing overweight- or obesity-related diseases, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines recommend looking at two other predictors:

    ~ The individual’s waist circumference (because abdominal fat is a predictor of risk for obesity-related diseases).
    ~ Other risk factors the individual has for diseases and conditions associated with obesity (for example, high blood pressure or physical inactivity).

    Yes, morbidly obese is a serious health risk. But please avoid making the mistake that ANY extra pounds equal unhealthy. That’s the very assumption that is driving this insane anti-obesity movement in it’s out-of-control direction.

    Read the blog Shapely Prose if you’d like to learn more on this. Just my two cents worth.

  • Ben

    No Debt Plan, I agree, finding time to exercise nowdays is challenging for me as well. I used to jog all the time but I do less of it now due to my busy schedule. I still try and at least get out for a walk and running around with my son outside helps as well!

    Frugal Dad, I saw you wrote on your site about riding your bike home from work, that should help drop those pounds!

  • Frugal Dad

    As a “big and tall” shopper I can tell you that you are right on the money regarding a costly wardrobe budget. It’s not like I can run into Old Navy and pick up a $7 t-shirt where the highest size is a large in men’s! I’ve tried to speed up my weight loss by focusing more on the financial impact of not being in good shape, instead of the physical aspects.

  • No Debt Plan

    This is where I can relate best to folks who hate dealing with finances. Taking time to stay healthy is not my strong suit.


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