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Obesity and Decline in Savings Could be Connected

Australia has taken over as the most obese country, but the US isn't far behind and we have dwindling savings accounts to go along with our gluttonous reputation. Slate writer Rob Cyran asks whether the two are related and brings up some interesting points to support his hypothesis.

  • From 1980 to 2003, obesity rates rose remarkably, consumption as a percentage of the country's gross domestic product rose, and the U.S. savings rate plummeted.
  • According to economists from the University of Miami, obesity took off when women started earning more and restaurant portion sizes grew. Families started eating out more often as women spent more hours away from home and restaurants increased portions to stay competitive.
  • Researchers from New York University claim the number of new products introduced in restaurants bragging of huge portions increased sevenfold during the '80s and '90s.

What do you make of his findings? Do you think that as we get control of our eating habits wiser savings habits will follow?


Join The Conversation
MisterPinkNoTip MisterPinkNoTip 9 years
Eating healthy is more costly right now, but with the rising price of corn, hopefully partially hydrogenated (etc) corn syrup will begin to be replaced with cane sugar. I think this will help a lot. However, I budget myself so that I am able to shop at Whole Foods. Their produce and canned products aren't that expensive, especially if you buy 365 brand items. Where they get you, though, is with the price of the prepared food and already chopped fruit. I think that if people really wanted to eat healthy, they would just have to devote more time to shopping at farmer's markets, organic stores, and cook at home instead of looking for the easy way out. BTW, Whole Foods' website has some great money saving recipes. I like to make a large amount of black bean stew and freeze some for times when I don't have time to cook after class and work.
omfg7891 omfg7891 9 years
"I'm surprised Australia takes the cake (haha) for most obese country! You would think with such beautiful weather & beaches, the population would make serious efforts to stay slim in order to fit in shorts and bikinis." lol its just a steoytype.. same with how australian are meant to be into sport..which we are..we love to sit on the couch and watch ;) lol the fact that australia is number 1 doesn' surprise me in the slightest.. but is canada 3?
Geisha-Runner Geisha-Runner 9 years
"Because Mommy wasn't there to cook healthy for her family. See? Women ought not work. They ought to stay home and cook healthy meals for their families. Obesity crisis solved." I have to agree with hithatsmybike in hopes that remark is sarcastic. Healthy living is more expensive. Families look at the bottom line. "I could buy 1 apple for $1.50 and have is as a snack for 1 of my children. Or I could spend $2.50 on a bag of cookies and have that as a snack for a few days for all four of my children." Food costs are going up. People are going to go for whatever is cheapest. What good is it spending your food budget on organic and healthy food if it only feeds your family for 2 days?
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 9 years
... I sincerely hope your "women ought not work" comment was sarcastic, but I can't tell.
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
That was a good article, tee026. Good link, y'all, good link. Click it.
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
"And as women's wages grew and more women worked outside the home, more families found themselves eating takeout or in restaurants." Because Mommy wasn't there to cook healthy for her family. See? Women ought not work. They ought to stay home and cook healthy meals for their families. Obesity crisis solved.
MaggieLei MaggieLei 9 years
I agree with chatondeneige on the responsibility issue. If you are being careful to eat well and be active, I believe there is a good chance you will be more careful with money also. The same may apply to consumerism. If someone is greedy at the table, they may be over-zealous in spending too. If you take a good look at what people are spending their money on we might be able to find the answer too. Many people are spending their money on cars, video games, new computers, TV's and other items that encourage inactivity.
Meike Meike 9 years
Perhaps, those same Americans who are dining out frequently and gaining weight from it are also purchasing every easy-diet pill, program, book, etc, to get back to normal weights. Just a thought.
Kaciegrrl Kaciegrrl 9 years
I will definitely say that as a single woman who loves to cook, but doesn't, I spend entirely too much on dining out. If you go down my bank statement, probably 30 out of 50 expenditures will be dining out-related. And that does get expensive!
tee0206 tee0206 9 years
Even at regular grocery stores, processed, unhealthy foods are so much cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. For instance, when I don't budget all too well, one of my first cuts is going to be healthy foods. I'll survive on canned soups, beans, ramen, and rice until my next paycheck. Normally, I'd buy seasonal fruits and veggies and maybe chicken or steak. Here's a good article:
nateshatesh nateshatesh 9 years
This is so interesting but yes i agree caues it all adds up in the end. Yeah eating healthy is expensive but home cooking sometimes can be alot better than double chesseburgers and french fries and the only reason why the demand for is so high is people like the fact that its "fastfood" and cheap. When getting off from a long day of work most people just like to stop by a drive thru instead of going home and cooking over a hot stove.
chatondeneige chatondeneige 9 years
Hmm. I'm torn on this. My immediate reaction was that relation does not inidicate causation. Overall, this study is pretty limited. On the other hand, anecdotally, when I find myself having to be more responsible in one area, I find myself to be more responsible in most areas of my life. I'm living the rock star lifestyle (aka, living at my folks' house) for now, like a lot of people right out of college. The two weeks I had to take care of the house by myself, I found myself spending less money, eating in more frequently... So maybe there is causation there!
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
Interesting. Perhaps it's true -- healthy eating is more costly. However, in the long run, I think I save money. In the undesirable event I develop some serious medical condition due to unhealthy eating, the medical costs would definitely surpass the cost for healthy foods. Believe me, I know. Obesity is in my family. I've seen the medical bills for medical conditions bought on by obesity (emergency room visit due to a heart attack, diabetes, medication to control high blood pressure and cholesterol, etc.). In my family member's case, he had medical bills that added up to over $100,000, and this was BEFORE several major surgeries. So yes, healthy foods is costly, but it's NOTHING compared to the cost of medical treatment in the event it's needed (contributed by obesity).
lauriegilbert lauriegilbert 9 years
hithatsmybike, Canada does have the same type of menu. BK, Wendy's, and McDonalds have all got "Value Menus" where you pay as little as 3.99 for a full "meal." The burgers themselves are as low as 1.19 too. :(
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 9 years
I'm surprised Australia takes the cake (haha) for most obese country! You would think with such beautiful weather & beaches, the population would make serious efforts to stay slim in order to fit in shorts and bikinis. The discrepancy between healthy eating and junk food prices in the USA is alarmingly large, especially with the ridiculous "dollar" or "99 cent" menus put out in the fast food industry. In Canada, they would go broke if they pulled that, so grabbing a big mac is hardly cheaper than making a sandwich at home. I also find the new "healthy = organic" trend a large concern, especially since this is largely bullshit in most cases. It's so fashionable to be "organic" these days, they'll attach that label to anything to justify a higher price tag. People, both as individuals and families, have to make a commitment to a lifestyle change, as opposed to a simple diet adjustment. Fast food should be avoided like the plague. The amount of salt in prepared foods is nothing short of horrifying, and when you couple that with the preservatives and then deep-fry it in a vat of trans-fats and then eat it, it's like you're ingesting poison. No, seriously. Our poor livers :( Just say no!
lauriegilbert lauriegilbert 9 years
Healthy eating is definitely more expensive, and if budgets are tight it is easier to treat kids to a 4 dollar happy meal than an 8 dollar sit-down somewhere. When I decided to switch to a better diet my food budget increased by almost 40%.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
I agree with their findings!
shmuffin123 shmuffin123 9 years
I agree with Liberty to an extent in that often "healthy" foods and organic products are much more expensive. For example on my last trip to the grocery store the whole grain wheat bread I normally buy was almost $4 a loaf, while the store had potato bread on sale for $1.67, guess which one I bought? With the cost of everything rising, I'm afraid sometimes the "healthy" way might be the more IMMEDIATE expensive way...b/c yes i know being "unhealthy" in the long run is even more expensive. But if I'm feeling the pinch as a single woman making a relatively decent salary, I can't even imagine how families with kids are making out.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
I always thought of healthy eating as a luxury. Organic products are more expensive than McDonalds, for example. But I can see how eating out somewhere other than McDs can hurt the bank and the belly. So, it makes sense that appetite and financial self-control might be related! And — I didn't know Australia was the most obese country. Interesting!
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