Obesity is Causing Higher Health Costs, So Get Skinny by Going Green

obesity and healthcare costs.jpg

Photo from 4pack.wordpress.com

According to a new study, obesity is a leading contributor to the high costs of healthcare in America. Apparently, being fat is killing everyone’s wallet when it comes to insurance. Could going green help reduce the high price of medical care in the Land of the Free by offering a more healthy way-to-live? Ahhhh, yeah!
The study by Eric A. Finkelstein, Justin G. Trogdon, Joel W. Cohen, and William Dietz says there is an undeniable link between rising rates of obesity and rising medical spending, and moreover, amid calls for health reform, real cost savings are more likely to be achieved through reducing obesity and related risk factors.

Before You Know It
So, ok – being overly fat isn’t healthy…but what’s a fat person to do? This topic hits pretty close to home for me. For years I was a 5 to 6 times-a-week-gym-goer until one day I just stopped going. I canceled my membership to New York Sports Club and never darkened the doorways of an exercise establishment for 2 long years. I ate crappy foods and my social life disappeared. Maybe I was depressed, or just tired of trying to keep up with the New York way-of-life…but whatever the reason, the result was that I gained weight, and lots of it.

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Percent of Pop Older Than 15 w/ BMI Greater than 30, Graph by wellingtongrey.net

My pants were suddenly tight, and I had a belly where once there were six well-sculpted abs. I would get short-of-breath by walking a few blocks or up a flight of stairs and I was chronically exhausted no matter the amount of sleep I got. All the signs were there that I was unhealthy, but I completely believed I was doing fine. Then one day, I calculated my Body Mass Index, or BMI. Your BMI is a score based your weight and height. It can provide a reliable indicator of how much fat you have on your body and is often used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

Long story short, my BMI was telling me not only was I overweight…I was approaching the category of OBESE! This was a shock, I had never been overweight. I was the guy that was always skinny, active and energetic. I thought losing the extra 20 to 30 pounds I’d gained would be a snap…well…no!

The Cost of Being Gelatinous
Anyhow, the study shows that obesity is a leading cause for higher healthcare costs – costs related to obesity represents 9.1% of all medical spending. If you are obese, you can expect to spend 42% more on healthcare than a person of normal weight.

One of the longest lasting myths of green lifestyle is that it’s more expensive. But this study points toward a different scenario: obese Americans spend about $1,429 more on health care each year than the normal-weight Americans. There are many opinions about what causes obesity such as environmental factors, emotional state and cultural influences. But three leading causes are eating too much, eating crappy foods and sitting on your duff too much. The green lifestyle confronts all three of those factors.

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photo from dreamstime.com
Healthy living is green living – there’s a huge community of people in the United States that are bicycling to work nowadays…and a growing trend toward people running to work (not because they’re late, but for fitness). Strapping on pair of green sneakers for a walk or jog around your neighborhood is a great way to promote the purchase of sustainable products. And substituting all that dreadful overly-processed, sugary food-stuff with local and organic farmed produce will give you a new outlook on life.

The Difference Between Difficult and Impossible
I say this also knowing it’s not easy losing weight…if it was, we’d all be nice and trim. I’m extremely empathic to people feeling it’s not possible to drop 10, 20 or 30 pounds. Or worse, that your body image is that of being overweight, thereby dropping a few pounds will somehow mean you’ll lose who you are. In fact, it took me 2 more years to get back in the habit of exercising and eating right. At first, it was a few weeks of good behavior followed by a month of bad. I stuck with it, and now I’m super close to getting to my target size.

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Photo from litemexicanfood.com

The study shows that obesity increased by roughly 37% from 1998 to 2006 indicating that part of the reason for increased health costs during the same time period is directly due to people getting fatter. The benefits of going green as a way to get fit have never been so good. There are links to people with a bigger waistline having a larger carbon footprint and that junk food such as hamburgers contribute to rainforest depletion. If ever there was one thing everyone could do to make the planet better AND help reduce healthcare costs, it’s this. Do you really need any more reasons?

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