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Finances and Your Health

By Dana Yarn, RDLD

Growing up I was always told, "Don't get in debt," but I did not realize how easy it was to create debt. I created my debt in college, the mindset was, "Once I graduate and get a real job IFinances and Health will pay off my debt." If it were only that easy!  Years later I am still paying for my extravagant Spring break trips, shopping sprees, and expensive brunch dates that I charged up in my twenties.  Now in addition to paying off debt, we have our children to feed and care for, a mortgage, car, business loans and other monthly bills to keep up with.  It is no wonder that a recent study in Social Science and Medicine reveals that participants ages 24-32 who have heavy debt report higher rates of stress, depression then those young adults who owe less.  Their overall health is worse due to higher diastolic blood pressure which is a precursor to heart attacks and strokes.  Stress in general is related to weight gain from binge eating and emotional food choices. 

We have grown to be a culture of, "I want it now" whether or not we can afford it.  The total amount of US consumer debt is 11.5 trillion dollars, young adults average almost $6000 more credit card debt then their parents and almost $8000 then their grandparents.  Could it be that we are all trying to keep up with the unattainable wealthy characters on reality television?  Or have we become unhappy as a whole and are looking for happiness in materialistic possessions?  Whatever the reason is we are becoming unhealthy over it and something needs to give.  I would say I personally reached my breaking point when I gave birth to my daughter almost 4 years ago.  I cut back to apart time position with my career making less money and then expenses increased with diapers, doctors' visits, childcare, etc. I was tired of stressing over bills and decided to buckle down and make some major changes or I was going to die of a stroke from stress induced high blood pressure.  I did not want to be the fitness professional and nutritionist who was in poor healthy due to lifestyle choices.  Eliminating stress makes us all better spouses, parents, and friends.

Here are some ways to deal with your finances and improve your health all at once.

Prioritize and Analyze.  First decide what you really want to spend money on and then analyze your spending habits from the previous month(s) and start cutting back on things you really do not need to spend money on.  For us, I was not budging on quality food, I did not want to start buying cheap processed foods to save money, in the long run the cheap food will actually cost money because processed food consumption leads to chronic disease like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, etc.  Instead, we decided to cut back on eating out; coffee shop trips, fast food and take out will add up quickly and are easy ways to increase the food budget.  We started planning out dinners a week ahead of time, my husband brought his lunch to work and we prepped the coffee pot the night before so we had no excuse not to bring coffee from home. This in itself saved over $100 per month. 

Entertain for free.  Quit revolving entertainment around food, instead meet a friend for a walk instead of at a cafe, take the kids to play in fountains at a local park instead of racking up a bill at the movies with tickets and snacks, or go for a family bike ride instead of piling in the car to eat out at a restaurant.  There are so many local things to do for free and they typically involve more activity then eating out so it is a win, win.  Of course you will still need to eat, pick out fun recipes to try at home before or after your new entertainment activities. 

Try to go without cable.  This may be difficult but beneficial for so many reasons.  You will save on the bill every month, but you will also eliminate the subliminal commercials that make you want to buy things.  Excessive television watching has been proven to contribute to obesity and depression.  Use the time that you normally watch television to read, exercise or bond with family and friends.  After the initial shock you will not miss it!  

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