If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that it is pretty much impossible to do if you’re not eating the right foods. Most fitness experts say that 80-90% of weight loss is determined by your diet. It’s not as simple as just hitting the gym every day, you have to eat right as well, and it’s no secret that many of us struggle with that component of health. There are a plethora of reasons people don’t eat right: emotions, stress, lack of education and…money.
Money might be America’s biggest problem, especially with the ever-increasing cost of food.
I specifically remember the day I said goodbye to my $30 a week grocery bill It was the day after I finished reading a book on proper, balanced eating. It was the first time I went shopping and bought healthier (non-processed, fresh) foods. The bill was $75, a shock to my budget, and that has only become worse over the years. I find myself spending anywhere from $60-$100 a week on groceries, and that only accounts for enough food for me. I tell myself it’s worth it, because I feel and look so much better than I did when I was eating cheap, processed food.
But not everyone has the luxury of choosing organic, of buying healthy snacks (think: nuts, fresh produce, etc). Not everyone is even aware of what experts are calling healthy these days.
It’s no secret that obesity is a huge problem in America, especially in areas of high poverty. It is not, as Michelle Obama claimed, a result of “food deserts,” or places where fresh produce and other healthy foods are not available. Instead, one only has to consider the higher cost of healthier foods and the cheaper cost of less healthy foods. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that “a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit. It takes one trip to the grocery store to realize that leaner meats cost more and that the cheapest snacks are usually the most unhealthy. And fresh produce–I don’t even want to go there with organic–isn’t so cheap, either.
Which is why some consider obesity a large part of class warfare.
There are programs out there aimed at educating people in high-poverty areas regarding healthy eating habits, but education isn’t enough. Even if people are properly educated on the right foods to feed themselves and their children, those who are hovering at or below the poverty level–and I daresay some who aren’t even considered close–cannot afford healthy eating. Processed foods are cheaper. Processed foods can make us fat.
And let’s not forget school lunches. While it is true that school lunch (and, in most free/reduced lunch schools, breakfast) is free for students, it is also true that most experts would agree that the food served to our youth is not healthy. Not even close. I speak from experience. I work at a 100% free lunch school, and I refuse to eat the food, both because it doesn’t taste good and because it is so highly processed. The students often times forego the free lunch and instead eat cookies and hot Cheetos for their meal. Even less healthy than the lunch.
No wonder we have a weight problem in America. No wonder it is more prevalent in areas of poverty.
No wonder this is costing us billions of dollars in healthcare.
I do not know the solution to this problem. Perhaps, instead of reacting to the problem by shelling over billions of dollars in healthcare, we should be proactive and start making healthy food affordable for everyone. But as it is now, those living in poverty are at a higher risk for being overweight and/or obese, and that, in the long run, is more costly than healthy food ever will be.