Updated: 6/12/2012 12:58 PM ET|
Does being poor make you fat?
Researchers say obesity can often be blamed on a tight budget, not on moral weakness. But one particular skill can help you stay lean on little money.
Your income and social status are written all over your body, Adam Drewnowski says.
Drewnowski is an epidemiologist. He directs the Center for Obesity Research at the University of Washington in Seattle, and he lectures frequently. "I can pretty much guess the income of an audience by the number of obese women in the room," he says.
"If one-third of my audience is obese, I don't think, 'Oh, my God, these are people with weak willpower or who made bad choices.' I say, 'These are women who do not make more than $40,000 a year.'"
Poor women pack on pounds
Several studies, including Drewnowski's, show that poorer Americans are more likely to be obese than those who are wealthier. But when you look deeper into these studies, University of California, Davis, nutritionist Marilyn Townsend says, the difference is mostly among women: Poor women are much, much more prone to obesity than their wealthier counterparts.
The discrepancy between men and women isn't well understood. The drive for status may be what keeps wealthier women thinner, suggests Townsend, who specializes in behavioral change and works with other researchers, including Drewnowski.
Often, the obese are blamed for being morally weak, says a 2010 study in the International Journal of Obesity.
"People say things like, 'Why don't they just make a cheap pot of lentil soup and live on it for a week?'" Drewnowski scoffs. "Obesity is not the result of excessive indulgence; it's a symptom of lower socioeconomic standing in this country."
Lower-cost diets that are high in fat and sugar and lower in nutrients are more often consumed by people with lower education and incomes, Drewnowski says in research published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In smaller studies in Seattle, Drewnowski has found obesity as low as 6% in wealthy neighborhoods and as high as 30% in poor areas. (Obesity is a body mass index over 30; you can calculate your own body mass here.)
Drewnowski has even linked obesity to grocery stores: Customers of lower-cost Seattle supermarkets were up to 10 times more likely to be obese. As much as 40% of shoppers at cheaper grocery stores, such as Safeway, were overweight, compared with as little as 4% at stores such as Whole Foods.
"The minute you move to an area served by Wal-Mart -- because they place themselves in lower-income areas -- you will be surrounded by obesity," Drewnowski says.
The point is not that a particular store makes you fat or thin but that people who eat cheaply are prone to getting fat. Those who spend more generally are thinner.
There's "almost a straight-line correlation between wealth of the neighborhood and obesity among women," Drewnowski says. The 2012 federal poverty line for a family of four in the Lower 48 states is $22,050; that takes in nearly one in six Americans.
A spreading epidemic
Five years ago, only one state -- Mississippi -- had an obesity rate of more than 30%. But by 2010, 12 states had joined that club, according to a report published last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health, two nonprofit health advocacy organizations.
America's obesity problem is worst in the South. It's least bad in the Northeast and West. But here's how fast it's growing: The leanest state in 2011, Colorado, with an adult obesity rate of 19.8%, would have been the fattest in 1995. Two decades ago, not one state had a rate above 15%.
The two health advocacy organizations, among others, also link the problem with poverty. Their report says 33% of American adults earning less than $15,000 per year are obese, compared with 24.6% making more than $50,000.
Mississippi, with an obesity rate of 34.4%, is the poorest state in the union. Its poverty rate was 22.4% in 2010, the Census Bureau reported recently.
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Of course there is a direct correlation between food budgets and weight. Lean meats, salmon, fresh produce and fresh fruits cost far more than bags of cookies, bread, other starches and ice cream. And it is a downward spiral with age, as well: Consider all the very elderly who live on ice cream and cookies because they are filling, taste good to their taste buds and are quickly and easily served; the same with salty soups.
Does not matter if you’re rich or poor.
Not exercising and not eating healthy makes you fat.
Yes there is some truth to the poor not eating healthy because of cost.However look in the shopping carts of the poor. You will see tons of chips, cookies, processed and prepackaged food. Is that because you’re poor? Or is it that they are not that smart and or to lazy to cook something healthy. BTW you can look into the carts of people with money and see the same thing. Unless you have a health problem there is no reason to be fat. Eat right and get off your ****.
I freely admit to terrible eating habits. I think a large part of it is because I was from such an impoverished family as a child, that I craved the foods other people got to eat. For example, we only got water day in and day out. Do you think I drink water exclusively now? Heck no, I wanted soda so bad as a child and never got it that it's now my drink of choice. We didn't get potato chips or other junk food because we couldn't afford those things. There was no welfare or food stamps in my family. I'm trying to get away from soda, so I'm drinking more milk, which I didn't get as a child, and I'm eliminating junk food. I must admit that I feel better now that I've gotten away from the stuff I spent a childhood craving. I must also admit that the piddlin diet in my childhood resulted in weak bones and teeth for myself and my siblings.
I always find it funny that the people least affected are so far behind the times. This is very old news. The time has come to start doing something about it. American government seems to only be able to observe the problems in its kitchen... The food stamp program, as important as it is still falls short because it has not compensated for the cost of eating healthy or mandated nutritional hygiene.
Now that it’s becoming a health care/financial issue, obesity has become the cause for the day. Wake up, we enjoy your company.
The comments just reminded me of how cruel we are here in USA. There are many reasons for the obesity problem here. It is not one thing. Needless to say I sure hope we are doing better at teaching our youth how to eat better and exercise. We are very poor and eating healthy has cost us much more. I had to make many changes in order to afford the produce. (produce spoils fast so if you buy it eat it fast or buy smaller amounts of it. This is one time buying in bulk does not work) It WAS much cheaper to eat the unhealthy items. There are few coupsons to help with eating healthy as well. All the coupons are for premade stuff or processed stuff. That was how on my income of $22,000 I was able to feed my family of 5 without food stamps. Yes you read that right NO government assistance. Now that I have changed the food in our house to help us be healthier my groceries have skyrocketed. So it is NOT cheap to eat healthy and it take MUCH more time to eat healthy. So if you are working more than one job and have kiddos this is a very challenging situation. You may need to ask the kiddos to help with preperation.
So this is an other article that points to obesity is the cause of many reasons. Yet, we have narrow minded people who think it is due to will power alone. So to you all please do not be my doctor, please don't be the person who cuts my hair, don't be the clerk at the grocery store, I don't want you to assist me in any way because in your mind I am worthless. I am amazed at how easy some of you can disregard a human as worthless but you have. So I do hope that you find out what it means to be obese in USA so you can have some empathy.
Cheap food is fat food. America's dirty HUGE secret is millions go hungary, have no home, have no chance is our "cha cha" world. It is not shameful to be poor. It is shameful to have so much and there are so many in need. Remember government cheese and other bad foods for you pulling into your neighborhood in the 1970's? That is not even available today. Shame on America.
I've been toting this idea for a long time, and honestly find it very true. Because I have to work so often I'm always on the run and never have time to actually sit down and cook dinner. Most of the time we can only afford to eat sandwiches, but on days where we have a bit of extra ca**** more cost effective to just make a stop at Wendy's or Quick Check and pick up a burger or sub. Only costs about 5 bucks and takes absolutely no time. I have seen a dramatic increase in my weight since I started working all these extra jobs, which makes little sense considering I am constantly on the move. Unfortunately it really is poor diet choice, but I have no other options. Its either eat unhealthy and fast, or just dont eat. Not everyone has the time to sit down and cook a meal anymore, much less make time for breakfast! Even lunch its much easier to grab a donut on my 30 min break (while running errands I dont have t ime to do later) than make a chicken salad sandwich etc. Times are tough, and we are all suffering for it in more ways than just money.
POOR AND FAT BECAUSE OF IT
You have a real problem and it's not because you are poor. You should seek help to overcome your eating disorder and start to enjoy life.............it can be done. Little steps is all that is needed......lose a pound a week and in two years you would be amazed at how you look and feel about yourself.
I am an legal immigrant since 1984, a single 63yr old women. Worked for Fred Meyers 21yrs then diagnosed with cancer. After extensive surgery, 18 days in hospiital followed by 21 days in a so called recovery home. . . I was terminated from my place of employment due to " absense to preform my duties". At my age I m not a candinate for employment so am left to my demise. Tell me ...What would you do ?
I have no income so eat sparingly, last winter my residence was arounf 35-39degs as I couldn't afford the expence of electricity. I have egnored my health issues and quite frankly at this point would welcome the end, SO sick of suffering ! I have no family in the USA Nothing.
I am overweight and our income is above the poverty level. I am a stress eater and we are under a lot of stress for several reasons. We have a mentally ill teen who causes a lot of problems; I have very little time right now to spend in exercising; we have a good bit of debt from the failure of my husband's construction business a couple of years ago.
I am over 50, which tends to be a time of high weight gain for women. Actually, I eat whole foods and we are organic gardeners/farmers. We do not watch TV at all. So much for stereotypes.
AND...out of the four Wal-Marts in our area, three are in upper-middle-class areas. Now, I'm no Wal-Mart lover, but I find the writer's conclusion that they position themselves in low-income areas inconsistent with what I see around me and even with what I've seen in other areas I've visited. Also, Wal-Mart carries many foods that work in a sensible diet.
This is a nice piece of research that sadly looks only at the smallest part of the picture. It is not so simple as the economics of food prices at work with this very real disparity. Gym memberships are among the first things to be trimmed from shrinking budgets, there is a great deal mental stress involved in the worries about stretching slimmer budgets (sleepless nights alone caused by either insomnia or working several low-paying jobs at strange hours can affect metabolisms and comfort eating is a strong urge in the face of stress for many and other concerns will seem much more immediate and weight issues can often seem like the least of one's worries), low income individuals tend to skip the regular physicals when doctors are most likely to discuss weight and changes to diet and only go to the doctor when something hurts or their is an alarming symptom when doctors are least likely to discuss weight and changes to diet, and feeling good about oneself has a direct effect on desire and motivation to be more active and if one is more active one needs to actually stop and find the time to 'exercise' less.
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