But obesity is also associated with higher rates of disability, which often leads to lost wages and earlier-than-normal retirements.
Obese workers had a 76% increase in risk for short-term disability compared with a normal-weight employee, the researchers found. (The risk rose 26% for overweight workers compared with their normal-weight colleagues.) Obese employees were more likely to suffer from long-term disabilities and to retire early. Early retirement results in lost wages and lower retirement benefits for most workers.
And then there's the loss of life. Being overweight can shave a few months off your life. Being obese can shave off years. A morbidly obese male's life expectancy is five years less than that of a normal-weight man, while a morbidly obese woman loses four years, on average.
Yet another study (.pdf file), by Ohio State University researcher Jay Zagorsky, found that obesity cramps your wealth, as well. Zagorsky found every one-unit increase in a young person's BMI (from 30 to 31, for example) was associated with an 8% reduction in net worth.
But these, really, are just statistics. Anyone who has suffered from compulsive eating knows that the addiction to food can be far more powerful than any consequences that result. Hinch sees it in the weight-loss surgery support group she still attends, when people who have had the same procedure as she did continue to overeat. Doing so stretches out the pouchlike stomach the surgeons created, and the overeaters gain back weight they'd lost.
Hinch takes those as cautionary tales and focuses on the many positives of her massive weight loss: her new physical freedom, higher energy levels, lower blood pressure and the fact that she's no longer the target of stares or rude comments. The first time she walked through a department store and realized no one was staring was a revelation.
The daily vigilance her weight loss requires is, she says, a small price to pay for the new life she's been given. She's now a bit of an evangelist for weight-loss surgery.
"My only regret," Hinch said, "is that I didn't know about it earlier."
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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