by Carrie Adams, Spartan Blog Editor and Finance Professor

Tomorrow is Monday!  As always, Monday is the day that most people say that “the diet starts.”  Well, it’s Monday, so how is your diet going?  Let’s do some math and see how your fast food lunch is costing you… in burpees AND in your pocket book.

While counting calories is only one factor of health and nutrition – the numbers certainly don’t lie and are an easy way to demonstrate how your time AND money is affected.  You’ve heard the adage, you can’t out train a bad diet, and it’s absolutely true. You can’t.  You also “pay” for your calories in more than one way.

The calorie burn is easy math. tells us that vigorous calisthenics such as pushups, sit-ups and burpees can burn 563 calories an hour for a 155 lb. person, 472 for someone weighing 130 lbs. and 645 for someone at 180 lbs. That’s a great number (enough to burn off a six inch meatball sub from Subway in most cases, but how many of you are doing an hour of burpees a day?

Anyone who did CrossFit Open 12.1 last year, (seven minutes of burpees) knows that seven minutes is a rough stretch.   I can’t imagine another 53 minutes!

Let’s look at an example of calories per dollar.  A large fry at McDonald’s weighs in at 500 calories alone and that’s before you’ve even put ketchup on your Big Mac (another 540 calories by the way).  In dollars, that $2.19 you paid for the fries, just bought you 228 calories per dollar.    Add your Big Mac and you just spent 370 calories per dollar on your lunch that you are telling yourself you earned at the gym.  Cheap lunch on the wallet maybe, but at what long term cost?   

Fast food is cheap, but it depends on how you do the math…  You don’t “earn” the fries in the gym and you shouldn’t reward yourself with garbage, even if the garbage is cheap.  Saying, “I worked out hard today, I earned a fast food value meal,” is like saying, “I worked out hard today, I am now going to assault my body with garbage and toxins.” That doesn’t make any sense and it doesn’t do your body any good.  It may save you a few dollars to load up on tacos, pizza, and burgers but in the end you’ll pay for it and not just in hours of burpees logged at the gym.

The reality is, eating healthy will cost you more in the pocketbook… but compared to what it will cost you in your health and well-being, it should be perceived as an investment, not just an expense.  According to a New York Times article, Adam Drewnowski, director of the center for public health nutrition at the University of Washington conducted a study about price of food. Based on his findings, a 2,000-calorie diet would cost just $3.52 a day if it consisted of junk food, compared with $36.32 a day for a diet of low-energy dense foods. However, most people eat a mix of foods. The average American spends about $7 a day on food, although low-income people spend about $4, says Dr. Drewnowski.

But it’s easier to overeat junk food, Dr. Drewnowski adds, both because it tastes good and because eaters often must consume a greater volume in order to feel satisfied.  The money saved today on food may be needed later if it leads to expensive healthcare costs associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.  That doesn’t sound like much of a cost savings to me. published an article citing that an unhealthy diet is a major contributor to long-term disease. A 2007, Milken Institute study entitled “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease” reported that seven chronic diseases—cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental illness—cost the nation $1.3 trillion annually, including $277 billion for treatment and nearly $1.1 trillion in lost productivity. This sum equates to $361 per month per American for 2007 for just those seven diseases. Doesn’t sound like a bargain to me.

Where is the “value” in your value meal?


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