The Real Reason Why People Who Shop at Costco Are Fat

It’s sad, but it’s the honest truth — there’s a definite link between Costco and obesity. Even the healthier food options that you can buy at the popular warehouse store, the chances of battling with weight increase by shopping there. How can this be?

We gathered info to find the real reasons stores like Costco are making shoppers put on the pounds.

Is buying in bulk to blame?

Shopper pushes cart through Costco

When you buy more, you may save money, but are you impacting your weight? | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

To an extent, buying food in bulk does add to weight gain. As one CNN report explains, buying in bulk from superstores is tempting because it seems like you’re saving money. Truth be told, this practice results in shoppers buying more and then eating more. Since most of the food from stores like Costco is processed and packaged, that means buying bulk leads to eating more calorie-packed foods.

Next: But it’s not just about what goes into your shopping cart.

Are the samples making things worse?

Costco samples

One of people’s favorite parts about a visit to Costco. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Food samples at superstores like Costco are very deceiving. Many shoppers don’t realize how many calories some of those nibbles contain. Plus, casually eating while you shop means you aren’t really paying attention to eating, therefore your brain doesn’t register that you’re filling up your stomach. This habit, called “distracted eating,” can have a huge impact on weight gain and the risk of obesity.

Next: But that’s not all …

Is the food court the biggest culprit?

Look at that beautiful hot dog deal |

Could this be the real problem? | The Cheat Sheet

It may not be the biggest reason that stores like Costco are connected to weight gain. But it doesn’t help either. After walking around and snacking on samples, the smell of pizza and soft pretzels at the food court draws shoppers in and they eat more. Since superstore food courts don’t typically serve the healthiest fair, shoppers end up eating a calorie-packed meal because it was conveniently served before they walk out the door.

Next: Something to consider …

Is this the real reason Costco makes shoppers gain weight?

Costco Wholesale warehouse

You might like the prices, but your body will suffer. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Courtemanche’s research reveals that one of the biggest reasons that stores like Costco and Walmart are connected to weight gain is because packaged food has become more readily accessible — and is typically much cheaper. “Walmart super-centers undercut their competitors by 10 to 30 percent,” he explains. The temptation of a cheap item means buying more of. (Which we already discussed leads to eating more and gaining weight.)

Next: Alas, not all hope is lost.

Is there a solution?

woman holding a bag of fruit

Could calorie counts solve this problem? | Choreograph/iStock/Getty Images

Courtemanche’s research notes that buying food at the local grocery store can actually help to decrease the likelihood of becoming obese. There is also the suggestion of more restaurants and food courts using this kind of information to tailor menus and show calorie counts, or to even start taxing unhealthy foods instead of the foods that are good for us.

Next: Here’s how serious the problem is. 

The growing rate of obesity


Americans continue to grow in size. | Nastco/iStock/Getty Images

In 2015, The Atlantic gathered information and charted the instances of obesity in the United States. They found that in 1990 there was no state in the U.S. with an obesity rate over 15%. By 2010, however, no state had less than a 20% obesity rate.

Next: So now, you’re probably asking yourself …

How did this happen?


Could Walmart be just as much to blame as Costco? | Niloo138/iStock/Getty images

The Atlantic points to a study conducted by Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of economics at Georgia State University. Along with a few other researchers, Courtemanche found that the rise in obesity correlated with the rise of super warehouse stores such as Costco. The growth of superstores such as Walmart getting food sections in their stores also contribute to obesity, the study suggests.

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