The cost of being fat and the countless consequences of obesity
The cost of being fat is monumental and infects all aspects of our lives. It affects your health, fitness, and quality of life; your employer’s ability to be profitable and successful; your partner, children, and loved ones; and society as a whole.
If you’re fat and don’t give a shit, I can’t force you to care. I wish I could. It would’ve been a lot easier than writing this 2,000 word appeal. But I can present you with evidence that your fat-storing decisions have wide-reaching, negative consequences for your health, wealth, work performance, family, longevity, and love life.
I’m also going to argue that we need to stop treating the symptom (poor diet/no exercise) and start treating the disease (obesity). We make bigger desks and clothing for kids that can’t fit in them; we make bigger seats on planes, buses, and amusement park rides; offices are buying plus-sized furniture, because the old plus-sized chairs are too small now.
Does no one else see the problem here? We’re enabling the negative behavior instead of discouraging it. Keep reading for unsettling studies and statistics regarding the cost of being fat. Can you afford it?
Please note—I tend to say “fat” instead of “overweight” not because I’m insensitive, but because I think politically correct garbage like candy-coating the term “fat” with “big boned,” or saying “it just runs in the family,” and other PC nonsense has some blame for our horrendous health. I was a fat-ass for 20 years, so please understand that I’m not a fat basher—I just find it toxic to deny reality. If we need to lose weight, let’s admit we have a problem—we’re fat.
This morning I caught an article on CNN proclaiming obesity rates may be worse than we thought. Since one-third of American adults and 17% of children are already considered obese, this is horrible news.
So, what gives? BMI—Body Mass Index, or “Baloney Mass Index” according to some professionals—is a simplistic and inaccurate measure of a person’s overall health. A new study suggests 39% of patients who were overweight by BMI standards should actually be considered obese due to their body fat percentage. BMI is alarmingly inaccurate for women—nearly half of the “overweight” women in this study were actually “obese” according to body fat percentage (25% or more for men/30% or more for women).
Why is BMI so inaccurate? It offers no distinction between “good weight” (muscle) and “bad weight” (fat)—so, a ripped body builder could be classified obese while someone with legitimate health concerns could be classified normal or overweight, when they should actually be obese.
Why is this bad? Patients aren’t being properly informed of their health risks. Being overweight isn’t good, but obesity multiplies the likelihood and severity of health risks. Patients misinformed by a false BMI are ignorant of their true health, and might be more proactive if they understood their true situation.
The Cost of Being Fat
The cost of being fat is gargantuan—ironic, huh? Like a plague, the cost spreads until it infects every aspect of your life. According to a study at George Washington University, the annual overall cost of obesity is $8,365/yr for women and $6,518/yr for men. This study includes medical costs, short-term disability, insurance, absenteeism from work, and a negative relationship between body-weight and wages (particularly in women). Let’s discuss the full costs of fat to individuals, employers, loved ones, and society.
Costs to an individual’s wallet , wages, and well-being
A 2008 study estimated the annual medical cost of being overweight was $266 per person. Cost of being obese: $1,723 per person.
- Note—of course, total medical costs of healthy people could exceed those of unhealthy people for a very simple reason—they live longer. But if you live longer, your total income should also be higher, and besides that your quality and quantity of life are higher… so, who cares about that higher total cost? I’m not complaining.
Overweight or obese workers tend to be sick more; miss work more; and cost more to insure. How do employers deal with this? Obvious answer: pay them less. Harsh? Yes, but since obese workers cost employers more, basic economics dictates that employers would pay them less. The only other option would be to increase everyone’s insurance premiums and/or decrease everyone’s wages, so what’s more fair—punishing the people specifically making negative lifestyle decisions, or making everyonepay for it? The first option gets my vote.
Quality of life
QoL is difficult to quantify, because it’s a very individual thing. Losing weight will have different impacts on different people, but the net effect will be overwhelmingly positive. I’m more productive at work; I’m more confident about my appearance; I’m stronger, more flexible, faster, and more agile than ever before; I’m not embarrassed at the beach; I have a better love life… and that’s just to name a few.
Costs to your employer and productivity
- From this study’s results: “Obese individuals had the greatest impairment at work (11%-15% of work time), greatest impairment of daily activities (20-34% of time), and greatest overall impairment (11-15%).” Lost productivity costs employers $12 billion per year.
Obese workers get sick more, call in more, miss work more… and cost the company more. Taking vacation days rules—regularly taking unannounced sick days caused by unhealthy habits hurts your company.
Health care costs.
We already talked about this in “lower wages” above, but one more startling statistic: the total cost of obesity to employers is roughly $73 billion per year. Still mad about that fat tax? I don’t think corporations are people, but believe they’re justified in cutting wages to pay for this. That is a lot of money that could be expanding the business, hiring workers, and increasing wages—but instead, it’s blown on a broken health care system and someone else’s poor decisions. Awesome.
Costs to your children, partner, and love life
Unhealthy parents create unhealthy kids.
If a child has one obese parent, they have a 50% chance of becoming obese. Two obese parents = 80% chance of the kid becoming an obese adult. Correlation doesn’t always imply causation, but even so, it’s a disturbing trend—so disturbing that states are intervening in extreme casesof neglect to take custody of children at significant risk. Children learn by their parents’ actions, so having excessive junk food at home or leading a sedentary lifestyle can encourage bad behaviors that are tough to weed-out.
- A note–DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT BLAMING GENETICS. 1% of ALL obesity is caused by physical problems, so unless you know for a FACT that you’re in this club—I don’t want to hear this cop-out. Even if it’s more difficult to lose weight due to your condition, it’s NOT IMPOSSIBLE.
- I have to make one more personal appeal here—please, think of your kids. If your kid is overweight, it’s very likely they’re made fun of and picked on. I tell you this as someone who was branded the fat kid for several years. Even if they act like all is well… it’s probably not. Please encourage them to lose weight for health reasons, but talk to them about bullying. Kids can be mean–I know.
- This study found that obese women were 30% less likely to have a sexual partner in the last 12 months; obese men were 70% less likely, PLUS they were 2.5x more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Obese men are also more likely to develop STD’s and obese women are 4xmore likely to have an unwanted pregnancy. Let’s also count the fact that sex, frankly, isn’t as enjoyable if you’re out of shape. If you’re not flexible, you can’t bend in fun, new shapes. If you’re not strong, you can’t support yourself for a long time. If your endurance is lacking, your sexual stamina will suffer.
Obesity can destroy your marriage, too.
I can’t find a good study regarding obesity/divorce rates, so let’s use a hypothetical situation:
- Bob marries Judy.
- Bob gains a ton of weight several years later.
- Judy encourages Bob to lose weight for his health; tries to interest him in exercise and a proper diet; takes him to the doctor; and does everything in her power to encourage healthy behaviors.
- But Bob doesn’t listen—he continues to gain weight.
- As a consequence, Judy can’t bear the sight of Bob, and while she used to think he was a stud, now she thinks he’s a slob.
- Fed up with it and appalled, she requests a divorce.
Can we blame Judy? I don’t think so. If Judy dumped Bob as soon as he gained 10 lbs., I’d have a problem, or if she chose to cheat on Bob, I’d have a problem. But Judy didn’t do that. She encouraged him—she tried to interest him in diet and exercise—she even consulted an expert in her doctor. Since Judy tried everything in her power, I think she has every right to request a divorce. If you think this is selfish, I beg to differ; I think Bob was the one being selfish by disrespecting his wife’s feelings despite her openness and willingness to give him a chance.
People want to be in a relationship with people they are ATTRACTED TO. THIS IS HUMAN NATURE. Is physical attraction the most important criteria for finding a partner? No—humor, drive to succeed, and compassion are more important to me personally—but still, physical attraction is pretty damn important.
Costs to society
Total annual cost of obesity in America = $147 billion (10% of all healthcare spending)
- Some experts think the true cost should be $300 billion (20% of all healthcare spending).
Higher fuel cost—I’m totally not kidding.
A Center for Disease Control study found that 1 billion extra gallons of fuel were needed to compensate for passenger weight gained in between 1960 and 2002. 0.7% of fuel used annually during that period would have been unnecessary without this weight gain. 39 million gallons of fuel is wasted for every pound gained by an individual American. Do you care about the environment? If so, you’ll be alarmed to know that this additional fuel consumption produces carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 10 billion TONS.
Instead of doing something to fix the problem—skyrocketing obesity rates—we’re encouraging the problem by making it more convenient to be obese. We are treating the symptoms instead of the disease.
- Kids are getting too fat for their desks in school.
- Workplaces also have to purchase bigger furniture for bigger workers.
- Clothing sizes get bigger and bigger, presenting a unique business opportunity for retailers catering to the plus-size crowd.
- Other profiting businesses: healthcare facilities, cemetery supplies, bathroom fixtures
The Cost of Being Fat—My Personal Appeal
If you’re not convinced that the obesity epidemic is a huge problem—or that being fat has serious consequences that aren’t merely individual in nature—then there’s nothing I can do to help you. Obesity wreaks havoc in several ways. It makes us sick; can ruin our relationships; decrease our productivity and paycheck; and it’s driving health care costs to unheard-of levels.
THIS HAS TO STOP.
Are these consequences worth eating shitty processed food and sugary drinks? Is it really so difficult to prepare meals at home and work out a few days a week? Are we so destructive that we can’t DO SOMETHING about our fat—NOT JUST FOR OURSELVES—but for our kids, our relationships, and our country.
Have I touched a nerve? Have I made you feel guilty? Are you uncomfortably aware of the consequences of your own behavior? I fucking hope so—that’s the point. I hope this wake-up call encourages you to DO SOMETHING about your fat.
If anyone in your life would benefit from reading this, please e-mail it to them or share it on Facebook. Let this be a rallying call for a fitter America and a fitter YOU. Who’s with me? Let’s do this.
- Pink slime for school lunch? – An Open Letter to Congress II (thewallenway.com)
- The HCG Diet – fast, but flawed. (thewallenway.com)
- Stop making excuses and start losing weight (thewallenway.com)
- Is eating healthy weird? How to deal with diet discrimination in your life. (thewallenway.com)
- My weight loss failure story – learning to accept failure to lose fat (thewallenway.com)
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