4/04/02 - IRS says certain weight loss programs can be deducted from your taxes

Gaining lots of weight may be taxing to your health, but losing it could mean a lighter tax bill. Getting rid of a little around the middle could help your bottom, line that is.

It's a tax break for weight loss. For the first time ever, the IRS says obesity is a medically accepted disease.

Dr. Lori Moyers says, "Overall, it's going to cost more in the end if we don't prevent it." Prevent what already affects nearly 39 million Americans. The American Obesity Association reports around 100 billion dollars has been spent on treating obesity-related diseases, it's even been called an epidemic.

Dr. Moyers sees about 25 patients a day. She says almost 40 percent of her patients are obese. "It's going to become the next cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, " Dr. Moyers says. "It's something we as physicians are going to be put to the test, and they're going to be guidelines set out that we need to be meeting with our patients. All of this has happened just over the last few years."

Now, obesity is recognized as a disease. That's the reason the IRS has decided to allow taxpayers to deduct expenses for certain weight loss programs. There are a lot of different weight loss programs out there, but the only programs that qualify are those ordered by a doctor to treat obesity or high blood pressure. Dr. Moyers says, "If you lose as little as 10 pounds you can positively affect your blood pressure. If you're diabetic, if you lose weight it will help your blood sugars improve. Exercise and losing weight will also help your cholesterol. We know that just getting healthier is positively going to affect your health."

The IRS still won't cover weight control programs that people do to only make themselves feel or look better, and it won't let you write off diet food.