MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- You know a bulging waistline is a health risk, and now some researchers say there's a direct link between unemployment and obesity.
Dr. Rebecca Krukowski is an assistant professor of preventative medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
"If you have a lower income level, then you're more likely to be overweight, and recently a lot of the jobs that have been lost tend to be lower income jobs."
Krukowski says when people lose a job, their health isn't usually the first thing they worry about.
Memphian Amal Black agreed, saying, "Mentally, you're thinking about, where am I going to eat? Where am I going to get my next dollar bill from?"
Mississippi has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and also ranks number two when it comes to obesity. Tennessee and Arkansas also rank high in both.
But the weight issue is touchy. The Tennessee Department of Labor didn't want to comment on this story, saying it doesn't ask about weight.
Stepping on the scale is a very personal issue. It's hard to talk about weight, yet there are no laws that protect overweight people from discrimination in the workplace. A study at Yale University found 25 percent of obese women said they experienced on-the-job discrimination.
Researchers also discovered extremely overweight applicants are less likely to be hired and often earn less. That's part of the workplace stigma attached to obesity, a stigma the Church Health Center is trying to remove.
"We make it affordable for anybody to come and walk along the track," Lisa Carson, who is with the Church Health Center, said.
Walking can do wonders for weight loss. A one-time payment of $5 gets anyone lifetime access to the walking track at the Church Health Center in Midtown. Its mission is to teach people, regardless of their incomes or employment status, to care about their health.
"When you don't have a job, other things can spiral kind of out of control," Carson said. "Maybe you don't feel as good about yourself. Maybe you don't have the funds and means even for transportation to get to a facility."
The Church Health Center aims to remove the barriers to access to gyms and nutritional information. They hope to get the public in shape now for whatever the future holds.