The Cost of Being Overweight

The Cost of Being Overweight

The economic situation in our country has affected many of us negatively.  As gas prices skyrocket and food prices soar, we are looking for the highest and best use of our money just so we can make it from paycheck to paycheck without going in the red.  Many of us are looking at our spending habits and analyzing the necessity of each line item.   Knowing how difficult these times are – because I’ve definitely felt the effects of the economy on my own pocketbook – I want to address the danger of putting off a healthy lifestyle program based solely on the cost. 

A study published in the January issue of the Journal of Health Economics reports that an obese person incurs medical costs that are $2,741 higher (in 2005) than if they were not obese.  You might look at that number and think “Whew, I’m sure glad I have insurance!” or “Thank goodness I’ve got Medicare.” The problem is that with the rise in gas and food costs, the costs of medical care are shooting up as well.   It’s very likely that we will have to pay a higher premium for these costs to be covered in the future. 

Cancer, Stroke, Heart Attack, Diabetes, and joint issues are all seen at higher rates in those who are obese.   Well, at 190 lbs. four years ago, I certainly didn’t feel OBESE.  I knew I was overweight, but obese?  For heaven’s sake, I exercised every day.  I could run and ride a bike for miles, yet I was obese, thus I was at a much higher risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and joint issues. Take a look at the chart below to see recommendations for healthy body fat percentages and just where the classification for obesity falls.   We’ve scanned hundreds of clients on our iDXA machine who think of themselves as merely overweight – only to find they have body fat percentages well above what is considered obese.    How many of us are at risk for these serious health issues without even knowing they are obese?    What health risks – and financial risks are we taking?


Age Underfat Healthy Range Overweight Obese
20-40 yrs Under 21% 21-33% 33-39% Over 39%
41-60 yrs Under 23% 23-35% 35-40% Over 40%
61-79 yrs Under 24% 24-36% 36-42% Over 42%


Age Underfat Healthy Range Overweight Obese
20-40 yrs Under 8% 8-19% 19-25% Over 25%
41-60 yrs Under 11% 11-22% 22-27% Over 27%
61-79 yrs Under 13% 13-25% 25-30% Over 30%

Source: Gallagher et al. Am J Clin Nut 2000; 72:694-701

A study by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 63.1% of adults in the U.S. were either overweight or obese in 2009.  I’m sure a large number of these overweight and obese people have tried diet after diet – looking for the magic pill that will make them thin.  How much money is wasted on programs that don’t work?

Many people are hesitant to invest in a comprehensive weight loss program based on the higher cost.  It breaks my heart to hear people say that they can’t afford it.  The question I want to ask is “With the possibility of saving $2,741 per year, how can you afford NOT to do it?”

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