I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, but it really picked up steam after dinner with my sister L. We struck up a conversation about money and food, since we’ve both been in debt and slightly overweight. I asked L if she thought there was a connection between the two. She answered with preternatural wisdom:
“When you’re resigned to the fact that you’re going to owe money, it doesn’t matter how much. When you’re resigned to the fact you’re going to gain weight – same thing.”
She’s right, too. When a situation becomes inescapable and oppressive, it often doesn’t matter how much more is piled on. To borrow a psychiatric term, we usually have to hit bottom before we actively decide to change. But how does this happen in the first place? Is it societal pressures? Or our own lack of awareness?
To read Maxed Out, James D. Scurlock’s treatise on the predatory credit industry, you’d think that we’re all being victimized, and debt is as culturally ingrained as closing our mouths when we chew. Undoubtedly, there’s some truth to this. Banks, credit card, and loan/mortgage companies make it their goal in life to profit from us as much as possible, whether or not we can actually afford it. They target us with advertising from birth, and all too often, exploit the uneducated and poor to bulk up their bottom lines. What’s more, the business of money is difficult to navigate, and it’s only getting harder. It’s easy to see why anyone could give up – why anyone just wouldn’t want to know – and I think the same principles apply to food marketing and weight.
On the flip side, many (if not most) finance and food blogs claim that personal responsibility is all you need to get by. Taking control and informing yourself will overcome negative cultural influences, a.k.a. those industries which profit from your increasing debt/waistline. In terms of programs that promote this concept, none are brought up more than Weight Watchers and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
If the internet is to be believed, Dave Ramsey is second only to FDR in rescuing Americans from financial ruin, while Weight Watchers has turned a nation of 500-pound Krispy Kreme devotees into an army of lean, fit triathletes. (Slight exaggerations both, but you get the picture.) I believe this is because they do the following:
- Emphasize permanent lifestyle and behavioral change over temporary band-aids and quick-fix scams.
- Give people the information and tools to make changes.
- Ask people to take responsibility for their actions.
I think weight and money have everything to do with personal responsibility. I think being unaware of what went into my mouth and came out of my wallet held me back in lots of ways. I think I can’t blame profit-driven industries for anything when I willingly bought into what they were selling me, without looking any deeper.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. I’m a middle-class, semi-educated white girl with no kids and no mortgage. My realm of experience is incredibly limited, which is why I’m VERY interested in opinions from readers. Assuming that weight and money are tied together...
- How much does personal responsibility factor in?
- How much do outside/industry pressures factor in?
- Do you have a good story?
- What are the solutions to either problem (obesity and/or debt)?
(Photos courtesy of smallbiztechnology.com, daveramsey.com, and jupiter images.)