In today’s economy, most people are keeping a close eye on the bottom line and trying to save money by any means possible.

As national retailers and restaurants will attest, people aren’t going shopping and eating out as often as they did before the economic crisis hit. Eating out less could lead to more savings than many people realize. By making fewer trips to fast food restaurants – and other dining establishments where there is a temptation to overindulge – overweight people can shed unwanted pounds, improve their health and reduce medical expenses.

According to a joint study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Research Triangle Institute, the United States is spending as much as $147 billion each year for obesity-related health care. By comparison, the American Cancer Society estimates that all cancers combined cost our health care system $93 billion a year.

The study also reported that, in 2006, obese people spent $1,429 (42%) more for medical care than people in the normal weight range. The numbers are no doubt higher today than those reported in 2006.

Eric Finkelstein, director of RTI’s Public Health Economics Program and the study’s lead author, says that medical costs attributable to obesity are almost entirely a result of costs generated from treating the diseases that obesity promotes.

Comorbidities – conditions either caused or exacerbated by obesity – include diabetes, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. Bariatric surgery can resolve or greatly improve these conditions. In addition, recent research suggests morbidly obese patients who undergo weight-loss surgery greatly reduce their risk of certain types of cancer.

If you are carrying extra pounds, I encourage you to make a commitment to lose the weight. The loss of excess fat can mean gains for your personal health, quality of life and bank account.