Lifestyle changes can help your body, mind, and bank account

2021-11-27 14:48:39
Lifestyle changes can help your body, mind, and bank account

Motivating people to eat healthier and exercise more is challenging. Almost everyone knows that eating less junk food and spending less time sitting has been shown to increase one's odds of living a longer and healthier life.

Yet having this evidence-based knowledge often isn't inspiring enough to boost people's motivation to make lifestyle changes.

For example, a 2018 study found that 80 percent of Americans don't get enough exercise for optimal health based on recommended physical activity guidelines.

As a public health advocate, until now, I've missed the opportunity to encourage people to make lifestyle changes by discussing personal finances and the cost savings associated with healthier living.

However, a new case study series on "Lifestyle Medicine and Economics" opened my eyes to the possibility that saving money on healthcare costs might be a strong motivator for those who are otherwise resistant to making healthy lifestyle changes.

The findings of this American College of Lifestyle Medicine case study series were recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

For this paper, first author Kara Livingston and colleagues examined how intensive, therapeutic lifestyle intervention change (ITLC) can reverse disease and reduce healthcare costs based on four individual case studies.

Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Food Costs and Medical Expenses

As one example, "Case #3" was an overweight pre-diabetes male in his 50s with high blood pressure, low potassium, sleep apnea, edema, fatty liver, and arthritis.

After being hospitalized for severe abdominal pain in October 2016, he realized that he was dissatisfied with his constant need for medical care and unhealthy eating habits.

He committed to making a major lifestyle change by eliminating meat and eating a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. Not only did he save money on groceries by eating a WFPB diet, but he also reduced his comorbidity and medical bills.

In three months, the man lost 80 pounds, lowered his blood pressure, eliminated hypokalemia, and wasn't edematous. After radically changing his dietary habits, he no longer had sleep apnea, nor was he pre-diabetic.

"[Case 3] reports that his grocery bill is half of what it used to be and notes that eating beans, rice, and produce, particularly from local farms and grocers, is less expensive than his previous diet that incorporated foods, such as meats and cheeses," the authors explain.

"Specifically, he currently spends about USD 350–400/month on groceries, in comparison to the USD 700/month that he previously spent. In addition, his overall spending has decreased because he eats out very rarely."

Psychology Today

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