Getting thinner leads to a thinner wallet

8 Feb

It’s easier to point a finger at people who are overweight or obese.

But before you even raise a hand, ask yourself this: How the hell are they going to AFFORD losing weight?

I’ve been working on a second, second project besides writing about being in the poorhouse — trying to drop about 140 pounds. So far, I’ve managed to drop about 20. This has been awesome for me because each pound gone means I’m closer to having the figure, health and — most of all — life I’ve never had. It’s also been a major bright point in a majorly dark time. I need all the bright I can get, believe me!

There’s a yang to every yin, though. Trying to drop this weight has not been cheap, whatsoever. Trying to handle this whole weight loss deal financially has been almost as hard as trying actually lose the weight!

You don’t need a spreadsheet to link states’ obesity rates and per capita incomes. Mississippi has the highest percentage of obese adults, 32.5 percent. Its percentage of obese children is the highest, too — 44 percent. Mississippi also has the nation’s lowest per-capita income of $28,845.

Want more evidence? Then take yourself home on country roads. My state, West Virginia, is just behind Mississippi in both categories. Here, 31.2 percent of adults are considered obese. West Virginia — surprise, surprise — has the SECOND-LOWEST per-capita income of $29,537.

OK. Not every poor person is overweight, and not every rich person is thin. If you want evidence of the latter, pull up pictures online of various members of Congress. But there are ways the economically disadvantaged are more susceptible.

Economic hardship is a source of chronic stress. That stress could hinder people’s abilities to change weight-related behaviors, even when informed and motivated. I’ve tried to get this weight off for years, and I’ve been on track to do it many, many times. I’ve also failed many, many times. It just never failed that I would hit a stress roadblock from hell — college, personal/relationship drama, starting out as a reporter, beginning a new career, re-starting as a reporter, multiple unemployment spells, illness, injury and quitting smoking.

Not all of these are economic, of course, but they were all enough to make Mother Teresa run into the woods screaming and while opening fire with a semiautomatic. Guess what I did? When I was at home biting my nails about something, I’d find something to bite that would give me a better fix. During times I’ve been on-the-go or practically living in my car, I crammed whatever crap I could down my throat and did it quickly. And quitting smoking? Well, I had to increase one fix to make up for losing another.

If you’re feeling like hell, you’re going to eventually look like hell.

Then, there are, overall, lower education levels in impoverished areas. Lower educational levels could lead to an increased obesity risk because of limited economic opportunities (and any other links between obesity and economics I spout off here will likely result, if that’s the case). Less education also means that those affected may not have as much health information as others. How are they supposed to act on what they don’t know?

It’s not that people in impoverished areas don’t want an education. I’d venture to guess they have more motivation. That was certainly the case while I was growing up, anyway. That’s what made me study until I literally fell asleep on top of my books many, many times. But so many of them can’t afford education past high school.

Nineteen percent of Mississippians have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That number in West Virginia is lower with 17 percent. Compare that with Colorado. It has the nation’s lowest adult obesity percentage (18.9), and 35 percent of its residents have bachelor’s degrees or higher. It has the 10th highest per-capita income.

Then, your poorest areas tend have extremely limited recreational opportunities — or safe ones, anyway. People whose incomes force them to live in crime-infested areas aren’t going to go to the local park or basketball court. Sure, they may want to lead healthier lifestyles, but you’re probably better off obese than shot. We have a walking trail where I live now, but I’ve stayed away from it after such incidents like a shooting and a robbery.

In rural areas, a pile of dirt can only provide so much of a workout. There were no sidewalks where I grew up. If you were brave enough to walk to a neighbor’s house on the side of the road, there was a good chance you’d have to jump into a creek or ditch to avoid being slammed by Bobby Lee and his friend Jimmy Dale in their jacked-up 1976 pickup. There was also a good chance you’d wind up being bitten by a snake while walking in the more grassy areas, too. Kids often find themselves spread farther apart, so there are less playmates readily available.

Poorer areas, both urban and rural, have a lower tax base, and their governments barely keep police on the streets or the outdated fire engine running. So are they going to have enough money for parks and playgrounds? With unemployment on the rise and businesses shuttering — leaving local governments with less business and occupation taxes — more governments will probably have even less to spend. So, even if there is a playground or park, poorer areas may only be able to offer a patch of grass with a swing set — with only two intact swings and one’s rusty chains screaming “tetanus shot”.

You could always go a gym, providing you actually have one in your neighborhood or even your town. But have you seen some of these gym membership fees? Yikes! Also, if you’re working odd hours and days, like I do, some gym’s hours are tough to fit into your schedule.

Oh yeah, go to any fast-food restaurant or grocery store to see how much more healthier eating will cost you.

One of my favorite light items is grilled chicken sandwiches. I loved grilled chicken (can’t really stand it fried), and there’s also not much at restaurants that are waistline-friendly, anyway. At a McDonald’s around here, it’s a little more than $3. Double cheeseburgers are on the Dollar Menu. I’m grateful to the fast food chains for offering more healthy menu items (or something more than no choices at all) to their customers. I’m also grateful to my fellow West Virginian, Morgan Spurlock, for pushing them in that direction with “Super Size Me”.

Then, there’s your local grocer. As more consumers have become health conscious, more companies see that demand as profitable. So, thankfully, there are healthier versions of just about everything now. There’s even lighter versions of cheese, pizza and junk food. But a lot of these lighter versions have no generic. There’s often a BIG price difference between generic and brand name products. Generics are catching up. You can find store brand soy milk just about anywhere. But you’re still going to have a hard time finding generics for EVERYTHING.

But I’m managing to soldier on. I have managed to come up with economic fixes to get through this.

So, yes, we have a problem. Tomorrow, I’ll be throwing out some of the ways I’ve managed to dodge some financial bullets during what is going to be a long, long journey.

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2 Responses to “Getting thinner leads to a thinner wallet”

  1. injaynesworld February 9, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    I don’t exercise much, but this is pretty much what I eat every day: Large cup of coffee at 7 a.m. followed by a packet of instant oatmeal/no milk around 10a.m. The at about 2 a couple of scrambled eggs and maybe a banana. For dinner a big dish of steamed broccoli and a piece of grilled chicken with a glass of red wine and a small piece of 70% dark chocolate. I call it the poverty and stress diet and it’s really all I need to eat. I’m fitting in skinny jeans I wore 20 years ago. It’s cheap. It’s nutritious and it works.

    • flatbrokegirl February 9, 2010 at 2:17 am #

      Oh, that thing about the dark chocolate definitely caught my attention. I’ve been going crazy without chocolate!

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