Could Getting Fatter Make Us Poorer?

The similarities between finances & body composition


The similarities between the management of finances and body composition are stark. Obesity rates and credit card debts are at all-time highs, whilst management and education has progressed very little in recent times. In some cases, you can add to the mix practitioners using predatory tactics and enthusiastic amateurs lacking the required knowledge, experience and skill set to deliver desired outcomes...

But it's not all doom and gloom. The similarities allow successful strategies to be shared. Sometimes the comparison energy balance to your bank account and seeing how the same principles work is exactly what is required to get started.


1. Net Balance


Your finances are the sum of the money in and money out.

Your physique is the sum of energy in (food and beverages) and energy out (metabolism and physical activity).

The management and practical application of both are complex and require individualised assessment to achieve specific goals. However, the underlying principle is the same between both.


Income - Expenditure = Balance (surplus or deficit)


Energy Intake

If we want to control energy intake, we manipulate nutrition and beverages. We generally try to eat less carbohydrate/sugar/fat but no matter what is selected to be reduced, the overall aim is to consume less energy during a set time frame (day/week/month).

We need a certain amount of energy each day to sustain normal function. This somewhat complicates energy balance, because we cannot eat no food (to minimise expenditure) because we would be unable to function and eventually die(t). Therefore, a certain amount is required for daily function and operation.

The same goes for finances - you need to pay rent, buy food and fuel your car, to maintain normal function.

However, this can lead to temptations and challenge management of energy intake. It becomes easy to over-consume, because consumption is required in the first place.

Consider this: what would you find easier - to open a pack of chocolate and have one piece, or to simply not open it at all?

For many people - not opening at all, because as soon as you get a taste, you want to eat the whole thing (and it is right there!).

We need to accept that management of intake is the key, as avoidance is not an option. Once this is achieved


Energy Expenditure

Energy expenditure is made up of four component listed below. Exercise (EAT) is subject to greatest manipulation to increase energy expenditure. However, it only contributes to ~20% of total energy expenditure, although this varies between individuals and activity. 


BMR + TEF + NEAT + EAT = Energy Expenditure


  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR) - energy required for baseline function. What you would required to lie in bed all day without moving or eating.
  • Thermic effect of food (TEF) - energy required to breakdown, process and absorb food.
  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) - energy used for movement (blinking, typing, etc)
  • Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) - physical activity

You Cannot Save Yourself Rich!

As the saying goes, you cannot just restrict spending (the equivalent of cutting food intake) to create wealth. At some stage, you need to increase income (energy expenditure) to make life easier and create larger differential (surplus for financial gain; energy deficit for weight loss. 

Physical activity can also develop specific goals such as increased fitness and work capacity, as well as increasing strength and muscle mass. This is the key to developing a physique that incorporates muscle mass and low body fat. 


2. The Compounding Curse


Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it. 
Albert Einstein


My wealth comes from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest.
Warren Buffett - world's second richest man

Compound interest: when it's working for you, it is magic. When it works against you, it can ruin you. 

A $5000 credit card @ 18% p.a paid off at at the minimum repayments will incur $12,000 interest over it's lifetime. A horrible cost of finance for you, but a great return on investment for your lender.

The same compounding principles applies to body composition and the maladaptions of increased adiposity. As fat tissue increases, movement becomes harder. All of a sudden the 5km walk you used to do now has an extra 5kg which becomes a force multiplier to every step you take.

On top of this, what commonly happens is that you took a break from the 5km walk and that is why the weight was gained to begin with. Therefore, instead of you walk now being the same +5kg of weight, you are beginning from a lower fitness base and with more weight. That will not be easy.

Physiological responses to food and exercise also see mal-adaptions with increased adiposity. Insulin resistance and diabetes are well-documented issues with carbohydrate intake related to obesity, but have you heard about leptin?

Leptin is a hormone made by adipose cells that helps inhibit hunger. It works by signally the brain and gut that food is no longer required. As fat tissue is gained, there is more tissue to create leptin. This leads to increased circulation of leptin, but the number of receptor sites stay the same, which leads to a decreased sensitivity of leptin.

The receptors end up reducing uptake, despite the fact more leptin is floating around!

The outcome is that these signals do not get through and hunger is less inhibited than it should be.

This compound effect of additional weight making weight loss even harder is cruel. However, it goes both ways. When energy balance is managed and weight is lost, normal function is regained and the progress becomes easier.

This ties in to our motto - progression is motivation - because the progress positively feeds back and promotes future gains!

Poor Management & Lack of Education

The fact that overweight and obesity rates (63% adult population) and credit card debts (average debt of $3321 per card) are at all time highs suggests that management of both has a lot to be desired.

But why are we so bad - do we not know what to do or do we not have the motivation to do it?

Management is important, and there is no doubt that we often take short-term gratification over longer-term outcomes. It is very easy to buy those shoes because you can put them on credit and likewise or eat that donut because it is not much in the scheme of things. These all add up.

A lack of education does not help. Sure, we hear the basics of financial management in school - interest calculation, . But many people don't know how a mortgage works, how deductions impact your tax return, and other important calculations.

Regarding body composition, we learn the basics such as that fruit and vegetables are important. Whilst they are important, there are many cases where eating more fruit is the exact opposite of what people need to do, because decreasing energy intake is the goal.

Running is also seen as the go-to exercise when weight loss is the goal. However, excess weight combined with a lack of fitness and poor mechanics can often mean running a poor option to start a weight loss journey. 

The outcome of this has been the development of industries that often end up worse off.  Sometimes this the result of predatory tactics, but just as frequently it is from enthusiastic amateurs with good intentions but lacking the knowledge, experience and skill sets to deliver a desired outcome.

You don't need a qualification to call yourself a Financial Advisor and you can all yourself a Personal Trainer tomorrow, if you would like to.

Of course there are plenty of qualified, ethical and value-based practitioners in both fields, but like any industry, the bottom 



There are numerous parallels between the management of weight and finance. The reality is that many people are managing one/both poorly and getting caught in the curse of compounding loss.


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