Though many people's wallets may be sliming down in this economy, some people may have noticed their waistline is getting bigger.
Due to the vast sea of dollar and value menues offered at fast food chains around the country, many have found it difficult to be thrifty and in shape at the same time.
People have to stay healthy and that means eating the right things. But, in a world where junk food is cheaper than healthy food, eating right is not always easy to do.
At some fast food chains, like McDonald's, a person can buy a small (or large drink, now), double cheeseburger and a small order of fries for about $3 plus tax. However, a salad combo meal that includes a medium drink and an order of apple wedges costs over $5.
Not only has the economy crunch hit our stomachs but living in a rural area doesn't help the waistline either. According to the Rural Assistance Center, "Rural communities are now experiencing higher rates of obesity and overweight than urban areas. Rural residents tend to eat diets higher in fat and calories, exercise less and watch more television, all of which can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Adding to the challenge, rural communities face barriers to addressing obesity, such as higher poverty levels, less access to settings, foods and services that facilitate physical activity and healthy eating and limited school resources to provide nutrition education and physical education."
According to a 1999 McMurray study, 1,000 rural and 1,000 urban school children in North Carolina were compared. The result said odds were that rural children had a 50 percent higher chance of being obese than their urban counterparts.
Of course, urban areas are very different from rural farmland and Ozark hills. Instead of work being just a few minutes drive, in rural areas people mostly have to drive a good distance, which means spending more money on gas. In urban areas, there are also convenient locations, such as restaurants and grocery stores within walking distance. Sometimes, in rural areas residents have to travel anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour away from their place of work or home to do their grocery shopping or have a night out, and when they do get there, their money is mostly spent on the gas to get to where they are going and back home afterwards.
There are easier ways to lose weight and be healthy in a rural area on a budget rather than starving ourselves into decimation.
MaLinda Coffman, a nutritionist with the University of Arkansas Extension Office in Salem, said, "Walking is the number one recommended exercise. It doesn't cost anything and you can do it anywhere."
She said walking for 30 minutes promotes cardiovascular health, 60 minutes can help with weight management and 90 minutes can help a person lose weight. Coffman also said people can do some research and take advantage of free exercise programs offered in the area. She said there is also a Strong Woman exercise program available at the Salem Senior Citizens Center.
As for eating healthier on a budget, Coffman said portion control and eating more fruits and vegetables are good things to focus on. She said the recommended portion size for an average plate size is one-fourth meat (or 5 to 6 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards), half vegetables and one-fourth carbohydrates, such as bread. Coffman also suggests buying low-cost foods like dried beans and peas and in-season fresh fruits and vegetables. She said when fruits and vegetables are in season, they tend to be cheaper.
Coffman said it might be difficult for the meat lovers of Fulton County to cut back since meat is the most expensive food item on a plate, but meat can be substituted for high-protein foods like kidney beans, chickpeas and peanut butter.
She also said preparing meals at home may be time consuming, but meals prepared at home are healthier and are cheaper to prepare than buying food at a fast food restaurant.