Is Costco Making Us Fat?

Shopping at wholesale stores like Costco is a great way to save money. But is it also contributing to the obesity epidemic? Get-Fit Guy explains how to fight the lure of a 3-pound bag of potato chips.

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

I’ve always been a fan of subscription-style wholesale stores in which you navigate a giant shopping cart through the aisles, buy massive amounts foods and goods at discounted prices, then return home to stock the basement and pantry for often months at a time.

As a boy, I used to accompany my mom to Costco, where she’d often spend $600 - $1,000 on everything from diapers to canned goods to nut butters. Nowadays, I myself still have a membership to Costco, which I make use of at least once every couple of weeks.

But is Costco making us fat? A recent article in The Atlantic asked that very question, pointing out the fact that a recent analysis of all the possible causes of skyrocketing obesity rates reveals two big culprits: wholesalers and restaurants.

The article concludes that access to high amounts of cheap, easy food is the biggest problem.

I personally think there’s more to it than that. Sure – the giant box of Snickers and oversized jar of peanut butter at Costco certainly do make it easier to become obese or overweight, but I also suspect that somewhere hardwired into our genes is the urge to consume food that is stockpiled around us. After all, from an evolutionary and survival standpoint, who knows when we might have access to such as smorgasborg again? That's why that enormous bag of potato chips that was supposed to last you 2 weeks gets mowed down in 2 nights.

So how can you benefit from the discounts Costco offers without compromising your health? First of all, I'm all for making smart economic decisions when it comes to buying certain foods in bulk. But then:

A) Be aware of the fact that you may eat more food than you would if it came in smaller packages.

B) Keep the food somewhat inconveniently “hidden,” such as in your basement or pantry (as opposed to, say, on top of your refrigerator). 

C) Practice self-control.

Yes, C is the hardest.

Lately I’ve been a huge fan of focused meditation for learning self-control. I've been reading a meditation book has a bit of a fitness bent. It’s called Psyche. Read it, train your brain, and then head to Costco with your newfound mind-control powers. That way you’ve got the best of both worlds.

Do you shop at wholesale stores? How has that affected your life and health? Let us know in Comments or at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.

Costco image courtesy of TK Kurikawa/Shutterstock.com.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.