The Heavy Business of Obesity

Americans spend over 60 billion dollars on diet pills, gym memberships, home trainers, and other new and fancy dietary aids. These numbers are mind-boggling, and they are a sad reminder of an industry that promises success but does not deliver.

Almost 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, and this is an alarming upward trend that leaves us all wondering where the 60 billion dollars go — and who benefits.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2013 and 2014, 37.7 percent of American adults have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30. The prevalence of obesity is higher in African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and especially in women of these demographics.

So, where does the money go? The problem starts January 1st of each year, when millions of people put their New Year’s resolutions into action and join a gym. The average monthly cost for a gym membership is 35 dollars, and most gyms offer yearly contracts, making people believe that this is a great way to save money. 

While thousands storm these gyms without any guidance or personal training for the first couple of months, the majority of these so-called “resolutionists” are nowhere to be seen by August. An estimated 67 percent of people with gym memberships never actually use them, according to stats posted by

Fad diets and trendy weight loss services, which offer such things as shakes, low-calorie meals, and point-counting systems, are also huge money-makers in this country. Americans spend approximately 2.5 billion dollars on these services, and while many see some success in losing weight, this weight loss usually ends when people cancel their memberships and return to their regular diets.

This comes as no surprise, as some of these services urge members to get by on low-calorie diets of just 800 to 1,000 calories per day. This is certainly not sustainable for the long term, and comes with the added danger of binge-eating after a short period of time. These “yo-yo” methods of weight loss are not a long-term solution, and can be dangerous.

The rest of the money goes into diet pills, home training equipment, diet drinks and meal-replacement shakes, bariatric surgery and other medical plans, commercial weight loss centers, and diet books. Do we really need all this stuff — some of which is highly risky — to achieve weight loss? 

MoneyThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with many doctors nationwide, are making a concentrated effort to educate and help people lose weight and get healthier. However, the question remains: what kind of advice are people given?

The new “My Plate” guidelines still recommend that roughly a quarter of your daily calorie intake should come from grains. According to these guidelines, men and women should also eat and drink low-fat or fat-free dairy products. These recommendations may no longer be valid, as new research emerges about the benefits of a diet higher in healthy, natural fats, as well as the downsides of many grains, especially wheat and processed grain products.  

Kaiser Permanente goes as far as recommending a strictly plant-based diet, and to steer clear of fats and oils with the promise that you will lose weight and feel better. Is it any surprise that the average consumer is more than just a little confused?

Luckily, a focus on healthy, whole foods is gaining momentum in this country, and across the world. More and more people are becoming educated about nutrition, and choosing whole foods, including grass-fed meats, and locally and sustainably grown vegetables and fruits. While these high-quality natural foods may sometimes cost a bit more, they are worth it to your health in the long run.

As far as exercise is concerned, do you really need that expensive gym membership? There are so many exercises that you can do at home — or outside, weather permitting — for no cost at all. When it comes to healthy, sustainable weight loss, ditching the sugar and processed stuff, eating real food, and getting a few hours of moderate exercise per week can make a world of difference. 

If we all decided to adopt a healthy, natural approach in all areas of life, we would have no need to shell out 60 billion dollars to the fitness and weight loss industries.

—The Alternative Daily


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