Why the Size of Your Waist Is Linked to the Size of Your Wallet

The obesity epidemic now apparent in most developed countries has churned up more questions than answers. What’s causing it? Who’s at risk? What can we do to fight back? New research has found a curious link between family income and propensity for obesity, showing that there’s a lot more at work than poor choices in the drive-through line.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed behavioral data from 863 low-income parents. All of the families were participants in Greenlight, an obesity-prevention trial taking place at four medical centers: UNC, New York University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Miami.

The study was meant to explore links between race, ethnicity and obesity, but it turned out that income (86 of parents in the sample were on Medicaid) was a much stronger common bond between participants.

Among all of the parents, ”obesogenic” behaviors [actions thought to be related to later obesity] were highly prevalent. “Exclusive formula-feeding was more than twice as common (45 percent) as exclusive breastfeeding (19 percent). Twelve percent had already introduced solid food, 43 percent put infants to bed with bottles, 23 percent propped bottles instead of holding the bottle by hand (which can result in overfeeding), 20 percent always fed when the infant cried, and 38 percent always tried to get their children to finish their milk. In addition, 90 percent of the infants were exposed to television and 50 percent actively watched TV (meaning parents put their children in front of the television in order to watch).”

This link between poverty and obesity isn’t necessarily an intuitive one (stereotypes might lead us to assume poor people have access to less food, reducing the opportunity for obesity), yet it’s one that’s been observed before. The infographic below illuminates some of the reasons why.

Poor = likely to be less educated. Between 1986 and 2002, adults in the lowest income and education groups had consistently higher BMI (body mass index) than adults in the highest income and education groups. Making good choices about food means knowing the difference between nutrient dense food and nutrient poor food. When it comes to diet, what you don’t know does hurt you.

Poor = likely to live in a food desert. Poverty-dense areas often lack quality, fresh food, a phenomenon that has come to be known as a “food desert.” In rural and inner-city areas, it’s common for grocery stores to be limited or even non-existent. In their place are convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. As a result, 43 percent of households living below the poverty line are uncertain of having or unable to acquire sufficient food.

Poor = less likely to have access to exercise facilities or outdoor time. Poor areas are often unsafe, preventing people from being active outside. Poor areas also typically contain fewer parks and athletic facilities, so even those who are motivated to give up their sedentary lifestyle find it difficult to do so.

Poverty and Obesity
Infographic Source: Healthcare-Administration-Degree.net

Image via Thinkstock



I think if this were true,American and Australian politicians would all be skinny! The are NOT!! am afraid that they are mostly overweight and look extremely unhealthy! I don't hink their purses are too light!!! I am afraid that there are some loopholes in this theory put forward here, but I DO agree that fast food often IS cheaper than good food! I am afraid this article is possibly a little too 'one size fits all!'

DaZen M.
Bald Eagle S3 years ago

This is not science. I have seen many articles lately that claim it is science. It is all a lie. Out of context and limited condition situations. Once saw a book where the author said dogs don't love.

I would like to say that this does not matter, but unconscious consumption of words and ideas actually channel the movement of people. When you see headlines even if you do not read the article, it implants itself in your head and may at one point alter your action.

Simple rule. If you instinct says it is wrong. It is.

Christine Stewart
Christine S3 years ago

I agree that poor people may have poor nutrition due to food deserts or poor nutrition education- but when someone eats several burgers/ fries/ sodas at one sitting- that's just too damn much food!

Susan B.
Susan B3 years ago

Yep. The size of my waist is related to the size of my wallet. It's the cost of the prescriptions that help my cancer and brain damage. I tend to be just a little underweight because of that. Get real.

Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago

Eating healthy looks more expensive than it is, but requires some information...

Joy Mcronald
Joy M3 years ago

Thank you..

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B3 years ago


Sue H.
Sue H3 years ago

Grim... and another good reason to teach comprehensive nutrition grades k-12.

DaZen M.
Bald Eagle S3 years ago

Sorry did not realize that the company that funded it was most likely an insurance company who also owns stock in chip and pretzel companies and have large stock ownership exercise equipment and drug companies. Get them flopping back and forth in the minds and bodies by the lies which can be created moving them back and forth. Keep the slaves down with lies and mind control. Great article.

DaZen M.
Bald Eagle S3 years ago

Beth you look like a nice girl, but to post massive amounts of things just because you can and without quality is foolish. Just because you can does not mean you should.

The reality is that China before the advent of the attack of western culture less than 20 years ago had zero percent overweight children. As they got money and of course the drug pushing corporations who sell everything from fast food to energy drinks it rose very quickly to 9%. That is unheard of and yet it happened in relatively speaking very short period of time with a huge population of billions. This was the direct influence of western culture. Technology and the removal of large amounts of land are also at fault when analyzing this situation. Children don't have a place to play and discover the world. The removal of this magic directly correlates to a drone lifestyle and will add to obesity. Please remove this article and post. You have posted good things before. This one is off the wall. Common sense. I can destroy these points in a thousand ways. All most literally a thousand ways.

Do not try to correlate these two it is a false trend. I can create a million false trends and make you believe any of them.

The truth in history is the aristocracy was usually shown as fat. In other countries wealth was a sign of being overweight. This idea has existed for huge part of human history and rides as a complete contradiction to the study.

The corporations..... FIND OUT WHO FUN