The Cost of Eating

Yes, we all know that eating healthy is good for us and eating unhealthy is bad for us.  This is not surprising news, mainly because it is drilled into our heads on a daily basis via news, twitter, blogs, newspapers, magazines… You get the idea.  So what does it cost us to eat poorly?

Health- This is the obvious cost of eating an unhealthy diet.  We all know this and it is constantly cited and analyzed.  It is also a really important factor, simply for the fact that a bad diet can cause serious complications, and may ultimately lead to death.  One of the most obvious health effects of eating an unhealthy diet is weight gain.  In 2008, 1.4 billion adults in the world were overweight, and 500 million of those were classified as obese.  There are a ton of obesity related diseases, The CDC lists coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancers, such as endometrial, breast, and colon cancer, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, degeneration of cartilage and underlying bone within a joint (osteoarthritis), reproductive health complications such as infertility, and mental health conditions, just to name a few.  That is a really long list of unpleasant complications all related to obesity.  The decision, YOUR decision, to eat unhealthy food leads to this nasty list.  YOU have more control over these issues than you might think.  In this study, researchers looked at two different measures of a quality diet and then assessed how they affected the risk of the chronic diseases mentioned above.  Both measures of a quality diet, which included more consumption of fruits and vegetables and less reliance on processed food, led to reduced risk, with the Alternate Healthy Eating index predicting risk just a little bit better.  Even small changes like eating more fruits and vegetables, like in this study, led to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  Food has a huge impact on so much of our daily lives, it is the fuel that runs EVERYTHING going on inside your body.  I know this comparison has been made before, but it really is a great illustration.  Think of your body as a car and the food you eat as the gas.  In order to run properly, your car needs the proper fuel, or else it’s not going anywhere and will likely have major troubles along the way.  The same goes for your body.  It needs the right fuel to function optimally.  Good food = good fuel.

Financial- There are a few factors to the financial aspect of eating a poor diet.  The first relates directly to the health factor, healthcare costs.  Let’s just look at the numbers.  In a 2009 study the CDC found that obesity related costs were around $147 billion in 2006.  By 2012, that number had risen to $190 billion, and exceeded the costs of health care costs for smoking which has in the past been the number one health cost.  That is a HUGE jump in just six years, and unfortunately it doesn’t look any better for the future.  Researchers are saying if we keep heading down the road that we are on, by 2030 health care costs will be somewhere in the $550 billion range.  I won’t speak for anyone else, but to me $550 billion feels like an astronomical price to pay for good health.  While I’m not saying this is the magic bullet to fix all problems health related, eating better foods can DRASTICALLY reduce this cost.  Instead of shelling out your hard earned money on medications and surgeries and other health costs, channel that money to a healthy diet.

“But Katie, that’s the problem!  My family can’t afford to eat healthy foods!  It’s just too expensive!”  Many people are under the impression that eating well is also synonymous with being expensive, and at a quick glance it does seem that way.  Go to the grocery store and find a bag of chips at will probably cost anywhere from 2 to 5 dollars.  If you compare that to a bag of organic chips, without added chemicals or preservatives, the price will probably go anywhere from 4 to 6 dollars.  For some families, they just can’t afford to buy all the “fancy” organic healthy food, and our family is one of them.  That doesn’t stop us from eating as well as we possibly can.  Somewhere along the line, it has gotten drilled into our heads that in order to eat well and be healthy we have to buy the top shelf, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, expensive products.  While I don’t think that any of those things are bad, they are NOT absolutely necessary for a healthy lifestyle.  Adam and I have a limited food budget, but we still manage to eat a very healthy and nutritious diet on that budget.  Every Friday I do one big grocery trip for the week.  Here is this week’s haul: photo

All this food cost us $46.80, which is what we usually spend on our big shopping trip.  I do also make a quick run on Wednesday’s to pick up a few things, but that is because at our local grocery store they give a 10% discount on Wednesday and that bill rarely goes over $20.  So for under $70 a week, Adam and I eat a healthy and balanced diet and there are others out there who spend even less on good food.  We have also made the decision to not eat out frequently and spend our money on whole foods that we can prepare for ourselves at home, which saves us money in the long run.  Americans are spending more and more money on eating out, which isn’t helping their wallets or waistlines.

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This article shows the trend of spending on food over the years, and it’s amazing to see how it has changed over the years.  More and more is being spent on quick convenient foods and then subsequently on medical costs to combat the result of eating those convenient foods.  You have the power to change that, all you have to do is make the conscious decision to spend your money on food that is healthy and not harmful to your body.

Emotional- This is one cost of a poor diet that might not be looked at as much, but it is a very important one.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and often the two go hand in hand.  There is an increased occurrence of self-image issues in obese individuals.  These include eating disorders such as binge eating, body dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem, and overall dissatisfaction with quality of life.  As mentioned earlier, mental disorders are also higher among overweight individuals.  So not only is eating poorly attacking our bodies, it is attacking our minds and even our sense of self worth.  In 2010, researchers conducted a study about the effect of public health advertisements on obese individuals.  Many reported that instead of helping or motivating them to be healthier, they often felt attacked and stigmatized.  So even things that the general public believes are helping spread the word about being healthier are in fact causing more stress and hurt.   Believe me I know how it feels to be unhappy about your weight or your body image.  I have struggled with self-image issues from a very early age and it is a tough thing to overcome completely.  But one of the things that is helping me everyday is the fact that I can take control of that with the way that I eat.  Again, I am in no way saying that food is the magic cure-all for every problem I have listed and not listed, but it is a very powerful aspect of our lives.

There are so many more costs that occur from the way we eat.  If I were to talk about them all, we could be here for days and while I would love to believe that you would thoroughly enjoy reading my every word on the subject (I never said I wasn’t just a tad disillusioned),  I don’t want to sit here and beat a dead horse.  Like I said at the beginning, we all have heard that eating bad is not good for us, it isn’t rocket science.  I hope that some of the information I have presented to you today has helped you see just how big of an impact the way you eat can affect your life.  I know it may seem like a huge step to totally change your eating habits, but it is worth it.  Not only to just feel better but to live better! I hope you have a fabulous Monday and talk to you guys soon! Remember to follow me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to get more updates, facts and insights into eating better!

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4 thoughts on “The Cost of Eating

  1. Pingback: Misconceptions About Healthy | The Real Hunger Games

  2. Just discovered your blog and it is wonderful. As a nurse who sees the effects of the accumulation of sub-optimal choices, I agree with your advice on exercise, healthy thinking, and nutrition. I dare anyone to get fat or sick by eating fresh fruits and vegetables (not talking about the cheese sauce or caramel dips here!). I believe we can subsist easily without sugar and highly processed grains, but we have become so used to them that it is a struggle to shed the cravings. Doing completely without something we are used to is hard, so moderation is probably best. We can consume too much of anything and create a toxic effect–think: water! Moderation and variety is truly the answer. If you want a square of chocolate, get one low in sugars and enjoy a small piece. I just don’t consume bags of chocolate chips, or 2lb bags of M&M’s for that matter. Not that it makes me “bad” to do so, but because it is not good fuel for my body. Having seen so much diabetes in my family, and in our patients, I am determined to treat myself better than before, and regret that I did not have this epiphany before my children were born. Sorry about those Happy Meals and walking tacos kids–but I was clueless. For grocery shopping, I learned to cruise the perimeter and get most of my foods that way. Our ever expanding garden supplements us with very fresh vegetables and herbs. Katie you are beautiful and so is your message. Good luck to you!

    • I should edit that part about the M & M’s and chocolate chips to add “any more!” because they were my favorite “by the handful” snack!!!

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful and encouraging comment! I also believe moderation is key, along with the fact that there is no one answer for the way we should eat. We are all so unique and different and that is what makes us great! I am glad that you have been able to find your way with your health and that you are positively impacting your children and those around you! If we can keep spreading this message, everyone can reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle! Once again, thank you so much for you comment!

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