Staying alive and healthy in America can be expensive. In 2020, The US averaged $12,530 per person on healthcare expenditures.
That’s a used car, y’all! Worse, if you were making minimum wage, that would be 83% of your gross income!
Healthcare costs burn us so hard we might need ointment, (which is ten bucks at CVS by the way). Even if we’re one of the fortunate folks who has health insurance or is comfortable in our skin, we might wonder if we have unnecessary health expenses. So, where can we trim the fat? The answer might be in caring less about, well, fat.
America is obsessed with avoiding fat as a means to better health. In fact, let’s play with this. Think about how many times in the last week you’ve heard about dieting, being fat, and losing weight. It might be hard to count because we’re used to hearing it. That’s diet culture. It’s so much a part of our lives that we often don’t question it.
Money and The Diet Industry
The diet industry alone profits over $70 billion a year, according to CNBC. That’s not Musk or Bezos money, but you’d still be invited on the yacht. The diet industry makes their money by convincing us it knows our bodies better than we do. If we want a snack, diet culture smacks the cheap tortilla chips out of our hands and sells us the marked-up, organic, fat-free version.
If we’re hungry, diet culture says, “Nah, you just need water, and here’s a pink $40 hydration flask to make you forget about food!” Our very human cue of hunger is overridden by an industry that doesn’t know a thing about our individual needs, tells us to restrict our eating, and sells us solutions to beat our hunger. That adds up in the bank account.
If we ignore our hunger out of fear of being fat, we’re going to need help ignoring the grumbling in our stomachs. Apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose It, an app I used for ten years, do just that. While both have free versions, the powerful premium versions claim to make losing weight easier. They both offer reminders to count calories, track weight, and list everything you eat. Guess how much you pay for all this help? $40 a year.
We might also have a $99 FitBit, a $50 scale that tells us our body fat percentage, a $40 monthly gym membership, 40-ounce water bottles, and so on.
We haven’t even gotten into weight loss programs! A Duke study published in 2014 compared the costs of diet programs with Weight Watchers at $337 annually and Jenny Craig at over $2,500 annually. We can already see how, if we’re focusing on avoiding fat to improve health, it can get costly.
Be Healthy Without the Price Tag
It’s not to say we shouldn’t care about our health; instead, we can care about our health without diet culture. A recent Harvard Health report put it best: “popular diets simply don’t work for the vast majority of people. Or more accurately, they are modestly effective for a while, but after a year or so the benefits are largely gone.” It would suck to waste money on something we’ve all been told works that, in fact, doesn’t.
In short, diet culture likes to lie to us and take our money. We wouldn’t accept that from any person in our lives, and I hope we won’t keep doing it for an industry that won’t even take us out to dinner. In truth, the only thing diet culture is guaranteed to make thinner is your bank account.
Reprogramming our brains to understand that health is not a pant size is step one.
Then, finding the way of eating and moving our bodies that feels good to US, and doesn’t simply fit Hollywood’s standards is crucial. A daily walk is good for your heart, and some spinach on that bagel sandwich means you’ve gotten a veggie in your meal.
It’s important to remember that there is no $40 subscription required to be healthy. There’s no minimum spend requirement on your journey to your healthiest self. Divesting ourselves from the idea that we can simply spend our way to health is diet culture and capitalism lying to us- and we don’t need to listen to them.
Seeta Mangra-Stubbs is the founder and CEO of Whole Damn Woman, a self-reclamation and women’s empowerment company. She likes cheese and chai and is learning to accept her body.