Can weight loss save you money?
Can weight loss save you money?

If looking better and feeling better doesn’t motivate you to drop a few pounds, perhaps cold hard cash is the incentive you need to revamp your diet and hit the treadmill.

But can whittling your waistline really add some heft to your wallet?

Obesity is a growing epidemic and currently affects more than 72 million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extra body weight is associated with numerous health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

It’s a proven fact that losing weight can improve your physical and emotional well-being. In the following slides, experts weigh in on whether slimming down can also bolster your bank account.

Eat less, spend less?

Eat less, spend less?

Does dropping a few pant sizes trim food costs?

Quite possibly, according to Barbara O’Neill, a professor and specialist in finance resource management at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., and co-author of “Small Steps to Health and Wealth.”

When dining out, bring home half of an entree for a later meal, O’Neill suggests. At home, set aside leftovers for future meals, she says.

“This really adds up,” she says. “If you split all your dinners and eat 183 total meals annually, instead of 365, assuming that the cost is $5 per meal, that’s a savings of (about) $910,” she says.

While saving money, you can also shed pounds.

“If a half-portion dinner has 240 calories instead of 480, you could also lose 20 pounds in a year by eating half a food portion,” O’Neill says.

However, Jay Zagorsky, an economist at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, who has studied the relationship between weight loss and wealth, points out that “smaller portions do not always save individuals money.”

“You might lose weight eating only in the finest restaurants because the portions are small, but your bank account will not be larger,” he says.

Saving at the doctor’s office

Saving at the doctor's office

A person who is obese has annual medical costs $1,429 higher than someone of a normal weight, according to the CDC.

Obese people are at greater risk for many health conditions. That may mean more frequent doctor visits and hospitalizations, which translates into more medical co-payments and more money spent on medications.

“Eat healthy food, exercise, and get enough sleep,” O’Neill says. “Fewer doctor visits will save money on those pesky co-pays.”

Zagorsky agrees that weight loss can help people save on medical costs, but he points out that returns are not always immediate.

“The problem with being obese is that it leads to lower health outcomes later in life,” Zagorsky says. “If you put on an extra 30 or 40 pounds right now, there is no reason to believe that for the next decade you will have more doctor visits than if you keep the extra weight off.”

Instead, the effect of a poor diet may not show up until many years into the future. So, people should understand that losing weight may not result in savings right away.

“You will likely save on medications, but this will happen later in life,” he says.

Cutting insurance premiums

Saving at the doctor's office

A person’s physical health has a big impact on life insurance rates.

“Remember that to obtain life insurance, you must generally have a physical exam, and blood tests can reveal a lot about your health status,” O’Neill says.

Therefore, shedding excess pounds can improve your health and cut life insurance premium costs, she says.

“Lose enough weight and you may not have to pay the surcharges for unhealthy lifestyle habits that many life insurance companies charge,” O’Neill says.

“I would agree having a lower body mass reduces the cost of individual life insurance,” Zagorsky says.

However, he also points out that body weight does not factor into all life insurance policy rates. He cites statistics from the American Council of Life Insurance showing that almost 60 percent of all policies in existence are held under group or company names, or by credit card companies for individuals who purchase insurance on their bill in case they die unexpectedly.

With such group policies, an individual’s body weight does not impact his or her premium cost.

“This means only about 40 percent of all policies in existence are potentially dependent on body mass,” Zagorsky says.

Boosting your salary

Boosting your salary

Being overweight can also have one hidden cost that many overlook: a negative impact on wages and salary.

Being overweight may affect hiring and promotions, “especially in a tough economy,” O’Neill says.

“All things being equal, employers will probably not hire an overweight (or) obese person over others because of the risk of future health care costs,” she says.

The impact may be especially negative for women.

“Studies have found that discrimination based on weight in the work place is more prevalent for women than men, especially white women in professional occupations,” O’Neill says.

She urges people to begin their weight loss efforts immediately.

“Every small step to improve your health and personal finances can make a difference over time,” she says. “Don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ time. Just jump in and start doing a few things every day to improve your health and personal finances.”

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