Get Healthy: Save Money

Taking care of ourselves, especially our health, is important for many reasons. Your body is central to everything you do. Neglecting to take care of it can restrict your ability to live a full, abundant life. Health problems can also cause short-term and long-term financial strain. Here are the ways your health affects your financial well-being and how taking care of yourself can allow you greater financial freedom for the future.

Weight issues have become an epidemic over the past few decades in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two out of three adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This issue is also affecting children. One-third of all American children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 are either overweight or obese. 

Not surprisingly, there are health concerns regarding excess body fat. Being even slightly overweight can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, osteoarthritis, stroke and even certain types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver, and endometrial cancers. A change in diet is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss efforts, but physical activity should not be neglected either. Exercise can be instrumental in the prevention of weight-related illnesses.

Economic impact

The lifestyle and diet choices of Americans is affecting the economy. Our idea of a “normal” size and weight has changed considerably over the years, and this shift in perception has a ripple effect that negatively impacts the nation as a whole. As a result of this growing epidemic, more and more clothing companies are beginning to alter their sizes to meet demand. There is now a growing social movement against what is called “body shaming,” i.e., when people are called names or are made to feel inferior as a result of their size or body shape.

Although this movement has helped people of all sizes feel unashamed and appreciative of their bodies, it has had a negative effect as well. While a person’s emotional well-being is of the utmost importance, physical well-being cannot be denied either. People are beginning to misinterpret the advice of fitness trainers, nutritionists and other health gurus as a form of fat shaming. In actuality, these specialists want to help.

The pharmaceutical industry is booming as a result of the obesity problem in the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, the pharmaceutical industry is raking in $300 billion each year. The Ghana Medical Journal refers to obesity as a “preventable disease” — and it really is. Although there are medical reasons that would contribute to a person’s weight gain, the vast majority of people can maintain a low body weight with proper diet and exercise. 

Costs associated with hospital visits, emergency heart and stomach surgeries, medications, and physical therapy for those struggling to move due to their weight could all be avoided — and not just for one individual, but for the entire nation. Weight-related illnesses cost the U.S. taxpayer up to $210 billion each year! Per capita, health-care costs for severely obese individuals are 81 percent greater than for someone with a healthy weight.

Individual costs 

Obese Americans spend 42 percent more on health-care costs than those who maintain a healthy weight. Some of the most deadly and costly illnesses are weight-related, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Roughly half of the U.S. population has taken at least one prescription medication within the last thirty days. Over 75 percent of doctor visits result in the use of drug therapy.

According to Time magazine, Americans spent $374 billion on prescription medications last year, the highest since 2001. Of these people, the moderately obese individuals are over twice as likely to be prescribed medications to manage medical conditions. The CDC estimates that just a 10 percent reduction in weight can reduce an overweight person’s lifetime medical costs by up to $5,000. 

People in poor health, in general, are spending thousands of dollars that could be invested in their future. A study by Olin Business School at Washington University discovered that future-minded people who contributed to a 401(k) were more likely to actively contribute to their health. According to an article published by Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, this could be explained as being an example of a “prevention mindset.” This is when individuals consider the future implications of their present-day actions, whether it be with regards to money or nutrition. In contrast, a Duke University study found that people with low credit scores were more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

The cost of healthcareIf you were to eliminate just $10 a day feeding a junk food habit — snacks, comfort foods, processed foods or fast food — you would accumulate $3,650 in just one year! Imagine what you could save each year if you continue to avoid bad eating habits. Although food off the McDonald’s Dollar Menu is cheaper than a head of broccoli, you could add that broccoli to dishes throughout the week along with other healthy ingredients to add variety and save money. Unfortunately people who diet often continue to buy fast food, restaurant food, frozen and boxed meals, comfort foods, snacks, highly-refined “diet” foods, sodas and energy drinks in additional to healthier food. If you try to justify eating junk food by eating an apple afterwards, you are only adding more calories and more grocery costs. 

If you make a decision to eat more healthily, what you remove from your diet can be just as important — if not more important — than what you add to it. A cheap and simple way to eat more healthily and save money is to shop along the outer rim of the grocery store. There you will find your meats, dairy, eggs and produce. Avoid shopping in the aisles, as temptation could cause you to impulsively buy unhealthy boxed or bagged processed foods. Only buy gluten-free grains, legumes, and other relatively unprocessed staple foods from the center aisles. These items are inexpensive and will last you a while. A combination of fresh and dried whole foods can help you save money now and in the long run.

You can cut costs by growing some of your own food, trading with neighbors who also grow produce, and purchasing from local farmers at your farmers’ market. You can also join a local community supported agriculture group so you can purchase organic produce boxes for a flat fee that is less than you would pay at a grocery store. If you are transitioning to a healthy lifestyle and want to save money without shopping around, websites such as coupons.com and couponcabin.com have manufacturer coupons that can be printed and used at most grocery stores. Mambo Sprouts is a company that offers coupons specifically for healthier foods such as fresh, organic produce and prepackaged non-GMO occasional treats. 

Exercising is the other side of the coin. Remaining active can greatly reduce your risk of many weight-related illnesses, as well as illnesses caused by physical and mental stress. Exercise can enhance brain function, improve blood circulation, and increase your level of endorphins to improve your mood and reduce stress. Furthermore, exercise improves joint pain due to inactivity and alleviates symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis. 

You can exercise without a gym membership and save money immediately. Many personal trainers offer their exercise routines on YouTube for free. You can also enjoy the great outdoors and go for a morning jog or bike ride. Being in nature has its own set of benefits. Playing with your kids, stretching your body after sitting for a long time, and doing housework are all easy ways to incorporate some exercise into our lives.

By taking steps now to improve your diet and lifestyle, you can live a long life and enjoy your kids, grandkids and maybe even great-grandkids. Insurance companies often take into account your current weight, overall health, lifestyle choices and expected lifespan when creating a health insurance or life insurance plan. Once your 401(k) and investments expire, you can enjoy a longer retirement. And the longer you live, the more wealth you can accumulate.

There are so many ways that losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle can affect your financial well-being, as well as the health of the whole economy. I hope the affordable tips provided in this article can help you to get on the right track. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a decision that will repay you right away and exponentially in the long run. Don’t be discouraged if you slip up. Returning to your old habits will only diminish any progress you have achieved. Remember, all progress, large or small, is still a step toward a healthier, wealthier and longer future for you and your family.

—The Alternative Daily

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