Over the past week or so, various news organizations and bloggers have been writing about the idea that if we all just went on a diet, we would be improving the economy. Sound crazy? Well, in some ways, it makes sense.
I think it’s fairly obvious that if you cook at home rather than eating out, you will be saving money. And while that doesn’t guarantee that you will be eating healthier, it’s a distinct possibility. But that’s not a huge economic boost.
One thing that I didn’t consider was the differences in processed foods versus unprocessed foods. It takes significantly more energy (and thus money) to make those Cheetoes and ship them to you than it does to pick an orange and ship that to your local grocery. Both delicious foods that are orange in color. One is not only better for your body, but also better for the economy.
Eating locally will also save on energy costs, as you will not be eating foods that were shipped across the country or around the world. I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which discusses one family’s efforts to grow their own food and eat locally for a year. It was an absolutely fascinating read, though it also shows just how difficult it would be to eat locally year round. I love fresh fruit. While I am trying to stockpile certain fruits when they’re on sale (I think I have about 6 pounds of frozen grapes in the freezer right now), that doesn’t work for all fruit. I think I would miss fruit in the winter.
I suppose there is also a link between weight loss and lower energy costs in terms of moving people. I’m not sure that you personally would see a difference in your car’s gas consumption if you lost 10 pounds, but I would think that if an entire busload of people lost 10 pounds each, there might be a measurable difference. Maybe it would be minute. But multiply that by hundreds of people and see what happens.
If you take the “dieting” idea to the general idea of weight loss, which means including more physical fitness, there are many ways that energy consumption could be reduced. Go to a “pick your own” farm and spend a few hours harvesting berries or apples. Burn some calories and bring home some local produce. Walk instead of driving. I wore my heart rate monitor this weekend while walking to and from my kickball game, and was amazed at the number of calories I burned (though I walk and metro not because of the calorie burn or because of the fuel savings but because I hate driving and parking in D.C.).
I’m not sure that everyone going on a diet is the way to help our economy. But I do think that we can all improve our way of life, and also improve our personal financial situation by trying to eat fewer processed foods, eat locally, and walk or bike whenever possible.
That’s my plan, anyway.