What Does It Really Cost to Be Healthy?

What Cost More: Healthy or Unhealthy Living?

When Austin or I speak, there are two groups of people that we notice:  those who run to speak with us afterwards and those that do everything to avoid us.  When we get to speak with individuals, nine out of ten people tell us the reason they can not get healthy:  their past failures, their family genes, all their medical challenges, and even cost.  I believe some people avoid us because they have these same concerns, but feel too embarrassed or depressed to deal with where they are.

What is the #1 Reason People say they can't get healthy?

It Cost Too Much

I used to feel the same way. I used to believe I couldn’t afford to be healthy.

What does the Bible Say?

Before we actually examine costs of both healthy and unhealthy living, let’s look at what the Bible teaches us regarding taking care of ourselves.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.                               

I don’t know why, but prior to my life transformation out of obesity, I viewed the above passage as addressing my spiritual actions in a physical world. My idea of honoring God with my body was working hard for him in the church, praying for and serving others, and even sacrificing my physical health to help others spiritually. I was deceived. I used these thoughts as an excuse to remain unhealthy and comfortable in the lifestyle I was living.

Time after time people say they just can’t afford healthy food or that they can’t afford a gym membership. If I even think of mentioning a trainer, I’m looked at like I’m speaking a foreign language.

I used to believe that I couldn’t afford financially to be healthy. In the past, I used the same arguments and had the same excuses.

I don’t anymore, and want to address the real issues:

Are we obese because we are in debt?

In an article entitled, More Debt Means More Obesity, Study Says by Charles Bankhead, (University of Mainz, Germany)  a study is cited that supports the premise that the more debt the greater percentage of people with obesity.  

I genuinely struggled with this question and its’ assertion. I believe we may be asking the wrong question. The correct question is “Are we in debt because of our obesity?” Now, admittedly, I have not completed a scientific study, but my experience is not that debt causes obesity but that obesity causes debt.

Person after person has repeated my story back to me. They, just like me, used food to help them cope with the stresses of life. Food addiction is just like any kind of addiction in that people will spend beyond their means on a regular basis to eat what they want or what they think they need or deserve. Food addiction pushed me in debt. One of the main reasons for my indebtedness was my obesity.

Does poverty cause obesity?

This question is similar to the first one, with a small difference. Statistically, there is a higher percentage of people who are both obese and struggling financially. I believe that it is true that eating healthy foods cost more than eating unhealthy foods, but we also must realize that the problem is much more than just the type of foods that financially challenged people eat.

Once again I believe that the question is too narrow. Poverty is not the primary reason a greater percentage of poor people are obese. The greater issue is one of using food just as others use alcohol and drugs to cope with the pressures of life. It happens that foods with higher carbohydrates and sugar are “feel good” foods, and are more soothing as well as being contributors to obesity.

What does it cost to be healthy?

A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating healthy cost about $1.50 a day more than eating unhealthy. Thus a family of four would have to spend $6.00 a day to eat healthy which averages out to almost $200 a month. On the surface this appears to be too great a burden for the lower middle class or those below the poverty line (over 46 million people according to 2012 Census figures).

This figure by itself causes many to shrink away from any kind of healthy lifestyle. When one adds a gym membership or even a trainer to the mix, becoming healthy just appears to be impossible.

This appears to be true until you consider my last question in this article:

What does it cost us to be Unhealthy/overweight?

I believe that the cost of obesity on a family is much greater than the cost of becoming healthy and I’m not looking to the intangibles of being healthy like mood, happiness, and general health. The cost that obesity placed upon my family was much greater than the cost of being healthy, and I’m addressing financial cost.

My monthly co-pays for my prescription medication were right at $200 a month. Those were my regular prescriptions. Out of convenience we ate out, quite often, and I hit a Starbucks on almost a daily basis. Imagine the costs of eating fast food once or twice a week, plus a daily Starbucks?

I can talk with you about the cost of my clothing.  I can buy 3 pairs of pants for what I used to pay for one pair pants when I was overweight. As a family we get better gas mileage; the wear and tear on our car is different; even our health expenses have greatly decreased.

What I can tell you is that we spend more on our groceries with an increase of about $300 per month, but we spend less as a family unit per month. We eat out less, our medical expenses are far less, clothing cost less; living, in general, cost less as a healthy person.

Our experience is that living unhealthy costs more than living healthy. Our family budget reflects this truth. My experience is that obesity brought about our debt.

How do you start to turn around your monthly living costs?  Start with small steps. Begin by first becoming aware of how much and what you are eating. Set up a free account on Myfitnesspal.com and start logging your food (on your phone or online).

You are not alone, and you cannot afford to stay unhealthy.

For more on this subject, look at these articles:

The Fit.Church eating plan

Fitness Makes a Difference

Beginner's Walking Plan

Biblical Basis for Health