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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Junk Food is Eating Away Your Wealth and Health

The food industry generates billions of dollars every year, especially those companies which produce junk foods.  What do I mean by junk food?  I use the term to describe any food that is over processed, loaded with chemicals, and preservatives, while not providing much nutritional value.  I consider such grocery items as pastries, chips, cereals, sugary juices, sodas, energy drinks, to be junk food. Most items that you can find on a fast food menu fall under the category of junk food.  Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of what constitutes junk food.

You might be wondering, “How does junk food relate to my wealth?”   Well, have you ever heard of the Latte Factor®, by David Bach?   It goes something like this:  If you stop (or drastically) reduce your spending on that daily latte, and other similar impulse buys, you will be in a stronger position to save and invest money, as well as get yourself out of debt.  The money that you spend on lattes can be used instead to do other things like, fund your retirement or invest.

I can honestly say that I have spent well over $75,000 over a 15 year period on junk food.  That works out to about $13.70 daily that I spent on garbage foods. And I am being extremely modest as this figure only includes money that I spent on fast food and energy drinks.  Now imagine what I could (and should) have done with $75,000 instead of spending it on fast food.  Had I invested this money in an stock index fund with an average 10% annual return, rather than wasting it, I would have more than doubled the money at the end of 15 years!  That’s the power of compounding. 

Overspending on junk food comes from bad habits, poor programming and ignorance. It is very hard to kick that junk food habit, because it may be a habit deeply ingrained in our subconscious, from childhood.  I remember reading about a study which concluded that children can identify the golden arches of McDonald’s before they know how to spell their name.  So, seeing the imagery of junk food in advertising has subliminally programmed children in Western societies, to crave junk foods and to think that consuming it is somehow cool. 

It does make sense doesn’t it?  Think about how you react when you see commercial advertisements of food on television.  When you see those images of piping hot, aesthetically pleasing foods, your mouth may start to water like Pavlov’s dog.  You may even begin to feel hungry, when you weren’t even thinking about food moments before the ad.  The advertisers know what they are doing.  They use psychology to try and manipulate the subconscious mind and push our hot buttons.

Plus, we sometimes live a very fast lifestyle and desire instant gratification.  We feel often pressured to multi-task and get everything done rapidly.  Instead of taking the time to cook good, natural food, we might develop the habit of running to a fast food joint.  We run to the store or a fast food joint almost in a trance, with very little after thought of what we are doing to our physical and fiscal fitness.

In the short term, junk food is more convenient and appears to be cheaper.  Over the long haul, junk food is not cheaper, because junk food is bad for the human body.  As you know, consuming junk food may increase the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses, like Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, high-blood pressure, etc. Medicines and medical treatments for these illnesses are not cheap at all. In addition, people who require treatments for these ailments, spend hours per year in doctor’s offices or hospitals, receiving their medical treatments.

So, if you are struggling with spending your money on junk food, then it is time for a paradigm shift in this area of your life.  You might think that spending $5 here and there on junk food is not much.  However, by sitting down and running the numbers you will see that it all adds up rather quickly. 

I have a few simple suggestions. If it didn’t come from the Earth, then it is most likely junk food.  That means that you should avoid eating it.  Also, start planning your meals and your shopping trips ahead of time.  This will cut out impulse buys at fast food joints and retail stores.  Prepare your meals at home and pack them.  For people that aren’t very good with cooking, there is an awesome website called www.allrecipes.com, where you will find lots of recipes for tasty, and easy to prepare dishes.

Take the extra money that you would have spent on junk food and pay down your debt or put it in a savings account.  Many online savings accounts offer higher interest payments and they aren’t quite as accessible as traditional banks.  So, that decreases some of the temptation to go and withdraw your savings for foolish spending.


© Copyright 2014 Susan Broadbelt


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