COLUMN: Waistline or bottom line – take your pick

In a time where people are encouraged to live healthier lives, it's become increasingly difficult due to the cost.

You can be rich, or you can be thin, but you can’t be both.

If I’ve learned nothing else over the course of the last three months, as I attempt to eat healthier and get in better physical shape, it’s that. Healthy-eating advocates – and magazine covers, too – like to trumpet the fact that anyone can be healthier with just a few simple tweaks to one’s life.

And that may be true – as long as at least one of those little lifestyle adjustments is a promotion to a job with a six-figure salary, because a fattened chequing account goes a long way to a slimmed-down waist.

I exaggerate, of course, but a quick trip down the grocery aisle confirms my claim isn’t that far-fetched. I mean, have you seen the price of fruit these days? If you want your daily serving of veggies, it’s cheaper to get extra peppers on your pizza.

Or better yet, just swing by the deli counter and pick up a couple two-for-one fried chickens.

Boom, dinner is served. And cheaply.

Sure beats forking out dollar after dollar for a laundry list of fresh, ingredients to make something healthy from scratch, right?

Well, probably not. And I speak here from experience.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was a bachelor with limited culinary skills and a limited budget. For a few years, I subsisted on a diet of pizza, perogies, and basically anything that could be easily shoveled from a freezer bag, into the oven, and then into my mouth.

I didn’t have much money, but I never went broke eating that way, either, even if I did have to shell out a few bucks for bigger pants every six months. Just the cost of doing business.

Really, for me, the situation extends either further back.

When I was in high school, nobody worried about having healthier options for lunch.

And had our school swapped out pop for water and juice in the vending machine – as many school districts have done since – we would’ve staged a walkout (or, likely, a sit-in).

To us, a healthy choice was choosing to pass on putting gravy on your cafeteria fries.

And in the interest of full-disclosure, we did have the option of bottled water in the pop machine, but it cost a quarter more than the can of Coke. Which one do you think we picked?

It’s no wonder so many young people these days are obese. Why pay that extra few cents when the easier – and let’s face it, usually more delicious – option is cheaper.

Now though, things are different. Schools have smartened up, and young people themselves are more aware that doughnuts with fruit filling don’t really fall into multiple food groups.

And I’m smarter too, having, since February, ditched all my old favourites in exchange for healthier fare – vegetables, lean meats, brown rice, quinoa, all that stuff.

I have accepted – if not yet totally embraced – the fact that the money I spend to eat better is worth it in the long run.

Truth be told, I am actually enjoying it. Yes, it’s tough to pass up the drive-thru line – and the limited-time offer to buy five burgers for five bucks – but I know it’s worth it.

I feel better, don’t get nearly as winded playing softball as I once did, and I can walk up a flight of stairs without risk of a stroke. And like I had to years ago during my fast-food heyday, I did have to dig deep for a few new pairs of pants – but smaller ones.

So far, I’ve lost 25 pounds.

My wallet’s never been lighter.

Nick Greenizan is the sports reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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