The Dollars & Cents of Obesity

Among the many reasons that treating obesity is important, one of the less talked about is the financial reasons to be at a healthy weight.

In all my medical training there were countless conversations about the health consequences of obesity. The increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,  but zero mentions about the economic costs associated with it.

In 2010, The George Washington University school of public health released a paper that discussed the financial costs of obesity. They found the yearly cost to individuals for medical care, in 2005 dollars, was an additional  $346 to $2800 to individuals depending on the level of obesity. That’s potentially up to $200 extra a month a person spends on something that is not only preventable, but can treatable with some common sense dietary advice.

This extra money might not seem like a lot to some people, but let’s see what the costs are to the businesses that pay the majority of our health insurance premiums.

A study in 2014, “The Association Between Employee Obesity and Employer Costs: Evidence From a Panel of U.S. Employers”, was able to evaluate the costs of healthcare spending, sick day use, and amount of short term disability by groups that were normal weight, overweight, and obese.

A worker with a of BMI = 40 (which is technically called morbid obesity, a term I really dislike and loathe to use) compared to an employee with BMI = 25 (“normal weight”) will miss about 77% more days of work, and will cost $4,000 more per year in overall costs.  There is double the risk of short term disability filing as well, which can keep people from working for weeks to months.

Maine is a small business epicenter and many are struggling to deal with the increases in health care spending.

I see no better way to help Maine businesses than to improve the health of their workers and watch the number of sick days fall, the cost of their medical care fall and in turn the financial health of these small businesses  improves. Call me an idealist but I see a reality where small companies can save tremendous amounts of money and instead spend that money on bonuses for their employees or expanding their business.

At Weightloss207, we emphasize a low carbohydrate and ketogenic diet, formulated to each client’s individual needs, that incorporates intermittent fasting and stress management. These tools for improving health don’t just translate to possible thousands of dollars saved in health care costs, but they help individuals spend less on something as mundane as not needing to snack.

I experienced this just the other night before meeting with a client. It was early evening and I was starting to get hungry enough that a snack might be helpful. I looked at all the offerings at the hospital cafeteria and not one thing interested me. The pasta and breaded chicken are not part of my diet right now so I kept on walking. The chips and granola bars I used to eat looked like sorry excuses for food and i wanted no part of it. I knew I would eat in 2-3 hours and knew my practice of intermittent fasting meant I could go a few more hours without eating. So I had a few sips of water, felt my hunger quiet right down, and met with our client. As hunger always does, it came back later in the evening but by then I was home where I could control my food choices. I saved money by not snacking at the hospital, stayed in a fat burning mode for another 3 hours, and absolutely loved the roasted chicken thighs and Brussel sprouts my partner made(which only cost 3.25$ a serving!).

Some people want to lose weight so they can look good in their upcoming wedding photos, or so they can get off of their diabetes medication, or to help their aching knees. In a time when income is not keeping pace with the cost of everything else in life, I believe that a compelling reason to get healthy is to save your hard earned money.

In addition to the numerous ways a low carbohydrate/ketogenic lifestyle may help you, let’s add personal improved financial health to that list. Small businesses in Maine should take heed.

Remember, the greatest wealth in this life is health.


Sam Madore D.O.

References-

Dor, A., Ferguson, C., Langwith, C., & Tan, E. (2010). A heavy burden: The individual costs of being overweight and obese in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Department of Health Policy, School of Public Health and Health Services, The George Washington University.

Van Nuys, Karen. American journal of health promotion “The Association Between Employee Obesity and Employer Costs: Evidence from a panel of US employers” May 2014