The High Cost of Being Obese

The overwhelming fact is obesity affects your health and your wealth.


The numbers are staggering -- more than one-third of Americans, age 20 and over, are obese. That's according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity leads to all kinds of health problems, and that's not all. A Family with a New Outlook There's a new attitude at the Brennan household. "Just cut out all the junk, and went with the healthier choices -- lots of fruits and vegetables," said mom Leslie Brennan. Add their new exercise regimen and you come up with drastic results, especially for Leslie. She's lost 100 pounds and counting -- freedom for someone held captive by obesity for most of her life. "There's new things I'm trying, and there's new things I'm experiencing, but in a healthy perspective, very healthy perspective," Leslie said. The Stigma of Being Fat Before that new perspective, obesity wasn't only a health concern for Leslie, it also cost her a new job. "She flat out told me, 'You cannot fit in what I carry in my store, so therefore I'm not going to hire you.' And I knew I could do the job. I had been working in retail and clothing," Leslie said. Leslie is by no means alone. A survey of more than 2,000 human resource professionals found that when faced with two equally qualified applicants - one of normal weight and the other obese - a whopping 93 percent would hire the candidate who is not obese, purely on the basis of weight. "There are studies that show that employers do fire people based on their weight, so there's tremendous discrimination in the workplace in terms of hiring and firing," author, speaker, and therapist Dr. Linda Mintle said. Leslie agrees that there is a stigma attached to being overweight. "The stigma that goes along with being overweight is you don't take care of yourself, you don't make good decisions. You're lazy," she said. It doesn't stop there. Obese people tend to make less money than thinner workers. They can also have higher medical expenses and insurance costs. Life insurance premiums, for example, can be two to four times more expensive for people struggling with obesity. "I know our premiums were going to go up with life insurance and things like that if we didn't begin to lose the weight," Leslie said. Obesity can also cost you in the area of transportation. For example, when you fly, airline seats range in width from 16 to 21 inches. If you cannot sit in the seat properly, and in some cases with both arm rests down, you may have to purchase an extra seat. The overwhelming fact is obesity affects your health and your wealth. Government studies even show that every one point increase in body-mass-index or BMI can mean a $1,000 drop in net worth. How Obesity Impacts Loved-Ones Then there's the personal impact on those closest to you -- your family. "There's things you just can't physically do. And if you can do them, you're in the process of feeling you're going to have a heart attack because you just can't catch your breath," Leslie said. Your time with your kids can be hampered. Whether it's not keeping up with them on the playground at a local park or not being able to ride rides at an amusement park. Many rides have size limitations. "I got in a seat, and I could not buckle the harness," Leslie recalled. "There was no way it was going. I looked at him, and he said 'You're not going to be able to ride,' and I said, 'No.' And it's very humiliating. You get up out of the seat, and you leave." Obesity also affects how you view yourself, and how you believe God sees you. Leslie said, "I believed that when He saw me, He saw my sins. He saw fat me, and this is who I was. And everybody else kept telling me that, so they must be right, and I deserved this somehow." She said she had to learn to alter her perspective and learn how God really saw her. "He doesn't look and see the outside of me and think, 'Well, you know what, she's not as good as him.' That has changed my entire world," Leslie said. That inner healing also led to lifestyle changes and healing on the outside as well. "If you think, 'I can ride a bike with my kid. I can get down on the floor, and I can play with my puppy.' There's some incentive sometimes in our thinking that will maybe motivate us towards, 'It's really more about living a healthier lifestyle and getting control over something that might feel like it's in control of me,'" Mintle said. And losing control of your weight might not only hurt your health, but your relationships, pocketbook and self worth. Eventually these so-called "hidden costs" can become all too apparent. Leslie said, "You definitely face a wider range of issues than most people realize."


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