Too many visits to my doctor recently have convinced me it’s time to do something about a problem I’ve ignored for years: obesity.
I’m obese — according to BMI and the medical charts at my doctor’s office — and it’s a problem I haven’t wanted to come to terms with until now. Losing weight should help solve a lot of my medical problems, and as a personal finance writer, I’m wondering if losing weight will also help me save money.
My goal is to lose 50 pounds within the next 365 days — or about a pound a week. If I get there, I’ll still be overweight, but at least I won’t be as fat and will have a better starting point to hopefully someday get to a normal weight.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone. Nearly half of U.S. adults are expected to be obese by 2040, according to a report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Saving money with weight loss isn’t my ultimate goal, of course, but it gives me a bit more incentive and another angle to write about that readers may learn from.
While I’ve just started this year-long quest, there are some things about trying to lose weight and saving money that I’ve quickly come across, and others that I’ve researched. Here are some ways I hope to save money by losing weight:
Fewer doctor’s visits
I’ve been going to a chiropractor for years for lower back pain. He used to charge $25 per visit years ago, but that’s now up to $40. Every time I make that payment I leave his office thinking of many other ways to spend or save that $40.
I recently started lap swimming, and that $40 would almost buy a monthly pass at my local pool.
Having extra money also opens up all kinds of investment options, including building up an emergency fund and funding retirement.
Along with the chiropractor bills, there are visits to my medical doctor and my healthcare plan co-pays that add up. Throw in a prescription drug that I hope to be off after losing some weight, and I’ve got maybe $100 a month on average to either save or spend elsewhere.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who are obese incur $1,429 more in medical costs annually than people of normal weight.
Being overweight or obese increases the risks of other medical conditions, including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
Dining out less
It can be difficult to show restraint when dining out. Waiters are pushing alcohol, appetizers, desserts and other things to eat and drink throughout a meal, providing temptation to eat more. Even if you only order a main course and drink water, it can be difficult to cut calories, though you’ll save money.
I haven’t been to the Cheesecake Factory in years, partly because its portions are so huge and calorie counts so large that it seems like the last restaurant to go to if you’re trying to eat less.
Taking home half of a restaurant meal is one way to save calories — and money if you eat them in place of a meal at home. But how often does a take-home box of restaurant food taste even half as great as it did when it was fresh?
My solution is to simply eat out less and to make more meals at home. This often requires planning, or at least making do with whatever you have in the kitchen, but I think it will lead to less calories and less money being spent dining out.
I admit this is easier said than done. Going out to eat can be a worthwhile treat after a week of meal planning and cooking at home. Someone else can do the prep work, cooking and cleaning, and a restaurant can often offer better meals than I’m capable of making — or at least dishes I haven’t considered trying to cook.
But dining out less is a goal worth trying — for my health and for my wallet.
Life insurance companies are looking for the least amount of risk when insuring someone, and obesity is a health issue that they prefer customers not have.
Only smoking is worse than obesity for the health effects and higher life insurance costs. Stop smoking, as I’ve written elsewhere, will add more years to your life — 1.5 years for men and 1 year for women — but obesity will take away most of that gain.
Obese people who stop smoking may live longer, but the quality of life in those extra years will likely drop because they’ll have related disabilities.
High body mass index, or BMI, can by itself be enough for even an overweight person to be denied life insurance if their height and weight aren’t in good proportion. Even a few extra pounds could be expensive.
Here’s an from example from Christopher Huntley, co-founder of JRC Insurance Group: a 50-year-old man who doesn’t smoke and loses just five pounds from his current 230 pounds at 6-feet-2-inches tall could save 37 percent on a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy.
His annual premium would drop from $1,560 to $985 by losing five pounds before a medical exam for a life insurance application.
Earning $100,000 less
I work at home as a freelance writer, and I rarely meet clients in person. Most of my work is done online or over the phone. But I wonder, from time to time, if my obesity is enough to put a potential employer or client off.
Bias against fat people is pervasive, and overweight people earn less, are considered for a promotion less, and are less likely to be hired in the first place than non-overweight people, according to Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Over a 40-year career, a worker who is overweight is likely to earn $100,000 less than a thinner co-worker, the department found, with women penalized more than men.
The risk of future health care costs could be one reason why employers don’t want to hire obese workers. I go on job interviews from time to time, and this is one issue I don’t want a potential employer to even think about when they look at me.
It’s time to get moving.