Have you noticed that women’s sizes in catalogs now go up to 6X? Twenty years ago, you were lucky to find clothing in size 1X. January is when we look in the mirror and resolve to be smaller by the end of the year. It’s when all the weight-loss resolutions kick in.

Let’s see what we can do about saving money and minimizing the cost of your own weight-loss resolution.

Tax deductions for medical expenses

Can I deduct the cost of the food in my weight-loss program?
In a word? No. The IRS says you must eat anyway. Regular food, or even special food (no lactose, gluten-free, etc.), is still food. The same thing applies to special water and any other designer delights folks dream up. However, there may be certain foods or beverages that are prescribed specifically to treat a medical condition and that are not just for general nutrition. Those costs would be deductible.

What about the cost of a weight-loss program?
When a doctor prescribes weight loss for a medical condition (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, etc.), the answer is yes! In 2002, the IRS published a Revenue Ruling that specifically addressed this issue.

What else can I deduct in relation to my weight loss?
As long as the costs are for treating or curing your medical condition, you can use any of the following as medical expenses:

  • Medical check-ups and blood tests.
  • Diet books and diet cookbooks.
  • Videos and exercise books.
  • Exercise equipment.
  • Prescription medications (but not over-the-counter medications, herbs or vitamins).
  • Personal trainers.
  • Gyms or exercises classes.
  • Therapy.
  • Hypnosis.
  • Surgery—but beware. Some surgeries only provide temporary benefits or have unpleasant, long-term side effects. In fact, the FDA has been strenuously targeting misleading advertisers of Lap-Band and other gastric surgery centers.
  • Caregivers if they must help you with your weight-loss program.
  • Special tools, canes, or auxiliary equipment.
  • Installation of a whirlpool or special modifications to your home to assist your workout if you are so ill you cannot go to a public place. (If this increases the value of the property, the cost must be reduced by the increase in value.)
  • Special weight-loss clinics, spas, treatment centers, or live-in programs.
  • Travel expenses to out-of-town programs.
  • Mileage to all weight-loss-related activities.

These are the things you cannot deduct:

  • Any of the above, if it is simply for general health and/or beauty purposes.
  • Cosmetic surgery to get your face or skin tightened up after losing weight.

If your fitness regimen doesn’t qualify for a tax deduction, there are low-tech, simple things you can do to lose weight that cost absolutely nothing, including:

  • Taking a walk.
  • Playing on the swings in the park.
  • Playing volleyball—or just tossing a ball around in front of the house.
  • Doing jumping jacks in your own bedroom.
  • Cleaning the house—think how many calories you can burn by scrubbing out the shower or toilets.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve gotten so efficient that I barely burn any calories anymore, sitting at my computer all day. It’s time for me to start moving! How about you?

Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com , where your tax questions are answered. Eva is the author of several books and ebooks, including the new edition of Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses you might enjoy at http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama.