Your weight and your wallet: Earning dividends

Losing weight is an expensive endeavor, but once you reach your goals, you'll see that investment pay off in so many ways that you'll never wonder if it was worth it.

First, there's the emotional benefit. Fifty-seven pounds ago, if you'd told me I could fit into the pants I'm wearing now, I would've given just about anything. But I did it without selling my car or my house or my soul, and the confidence and happiness that come with that are priceless.

I joined Weight Watchers to break through my last plateau and meet my final goals. Now that I've met those goals, I'm a Lifetime Member, which means I don't pay for the meetings and online tools anymore. Weight Watchers was a huge part of my personal success, and knowing I have access to those services for the rest of my life makes the idea of weight maintenance a lot less terrifying. And hey, now it's free! Of course I'm going to keep using the program. There's $35 a month that my weight loss is now saving me.
Now that I've learned better habits, I'm spending less on food. For one, I don't eat as much, so I don't buy the volumes I did before. Secondly, I eat at home much more than I eat out. It's hard to think about how much money I spent while also being so reckless with my health. You can't keep me away from the Indian and Mexican restaurants near my house, but they've become a weekly treat instead of an everyday outing. I'm spending about $200 per month less on food than I did when I was overweight.

Lastly, and most importantly, getting to a healthy weight has reduced my short- and long-term health care costs to a fraction of what they once were. Weight Watchers teaches that losing 10% of your body weight (whether that's your whole goal or just a jumping off point) reduces your risk for heart disease by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol. You also reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and several kinds of cancer. You're extending your life and increasing your quality of life at the same time.

Better physical fitness means a healthier immune system and healthier joints, which means fewer illnesses and injuries, and fewer visits to the doctor and the pharmacy. These small savings will add up over time, but lowering one's risk for those major health problems is a HUGE money saver. You may even see your health insurance costs go down. I haven't been sick or injured at all since I started taking good care of myself. I spent about $500 less on medical treatment in 2008 than I did in each of the previous four years. Who knows what expensive health problems were in store for me if I hadn't changed my course?

It costs a lot of money to lose weight, and no one's going to hand you a check when you meet your goals, but when you think about the all the ways this investment will pay off over time, you have to know that it's worth it.

My bad habits in my early 20's cost me my self-confidence, my health, and about $10,000. I spent even more money to shed the 50 pounds I gained in two awful years, but I didn't spend it on diets. I spent it on permanently changing my habits, so I'll be able to keep that weight off, and every year that I don't revert to those old bad habits is a year I've saved $5,000. Every year that I keep myself healthy is another year I'm not losing my life savings to medical bills. While the stock market tanked in 2008, I saw my weight loss investment pay off big time.

Have you made a weight loss investment? We'd love to hear how this has paid off for you. Let us know in the comments below.

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