A Weighty Issue

by Richard on August 25, 2005

I came across this startling diatribe in a newspaper restaurant review a few weeks ago.

Having just returned from Las Vegas, I can report - needlessly so in the wake of Super Size Me - that American obesity has scaled such heights that were the King of Tonga to land there today, five minutes after eating Mama Cass as an airline snack, he’d strike concerned medical authorities as borderline anorexic. You have to see it to believe it, and even then the vision of bell-shaped mammoths gliding along on golf buggies, because their legs cannot bear their girth, has the aura of a mescaline-induced nightmare.
(Sunday Telegraph Magazine, 7 August 2005)

I thought about using it before, but didn’t want to be accused (again!) of being anti-American. However, the quote seems especially relevant today as a report from Trust for America’s Health suggests that Americans are getting fatter at an unprecedented rate.

Obesity rates continued to rise last year in every state but one, and government policies and actions to date offer little hope of countering the trend, according to a new report by Trust for America’s Health.

Mississippi ranked as the heaviest state, Colorado as the least heavy, and rates stayed the same in Oregon, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2005. Over 25 percent of adults in 10 states are obese, including in Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, and South Carolina. Seven of those 10 states are in the Southeastern U.S.

Approximately 119 million Americans, or 64.5 percent, of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Estimates of the number of obese American adults rose from 23.7 percent in 2003 to 24.5 percent in 2004.
Read the whole report (1.5MB pdf)

Unfortunately, there is no reason for us Brits to feel smug about this. According to Dr Ian Campbell, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, where the US is leading the UK is not so far behind.

“We have seen this year-on-year rise in obesity in the US that has been mirrored in the UK. We know we are only about seven years behind them.
“In this country, the government is working very hard to try and develop a strategy for obesity but at the moment very little practically is being done.
“It really is time that we got our finger out and started making real changes.
“This is no cosmetic irritation, it is a serious medical problem.”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Ian McKenzie 08.25.05 at 4:37 pm

The problem’s pretty much the same on this side of the 49th parallel.

2

Ivan The Crank 08.25.05 at 5:58 pm

I resemble this whole discussion. I was too skinny in high school, but loved eating McDonalds after football games, then I worked at McDonalds and ate more, then I ate lots of college cafeteria food, then lots of church covered dish dinners, business meals, etc.. Here I am today about 20-25 pounds overweight and actually feeling like I’m “not as big as I could be.”

One of our problems is that many of us were brought up to clean our plates no matter how much food was on them. Now, our portions are larger, supersized or whatever and we still clean our plates. Before my metabolism changed, that was no big deal. But, it’s amazing how a much more sedentary lifestyle combined with bad eating habits can add to one’s girth.

My skinny 6′ 3″ son loves to get on me about my weight and eating habits (which I have been working on improving) while eating a big bowl of ice cream or sloshing down a soft drink or Slurpee. I just simply show him a picture of me at his age or remind him that I was as skinny as him once and what is putting in his mouth will eventually show up around his self-righteous waist.

By the way, I became a parent of a college student today as my son, Chris, has departed for Florida Southern College where he will major in Religion and Philosophy. Having done the same, I tried to get him to think about a practical major but he’d have none of it.

Well, I have to go to lunch! I’ll try to eat lightly and less. I might even make it to the YMCA again very soon.

3

Wood 08.26.05 at 8:35 am

In LA, I didn’t see that many fat people at all.

But then, that’s probably because every waiter, record shop assistant and bookstore clerk was “actually an actor”…

4

Richard 08.26.05 at 9:25 am

Are you saying that fat people can’t act?

Sounds a bit stoutist to me. ;)

5

Wood 08.26.05 at 11:46 am

I’m saying that fat people don’t get acting jobs (except as comic relief).

6

Richard 08.26.05 at 2:15 pm

I knew that!

7

Bek Bud 08.27.05 at 1:05 am

I’m always amazed when I read articles about the rising rate of “fat” Americans, but it really shouldn’t amaze or surprise anyone who goes out in public. There are morbidly obese people everywhere and it’s profoundly sad…

For the past five years I was about fifteen pounds over weight, until recently. During the holidays last year I decided that I needed to learn to separate my emotions from my eating habits. This means that I didn’t eat ice cream when I was sad, and I didn’t browse the pantry when I was bored. I stopped mindlessly snacking, started counting fruits and veggie intake (not carbs!), and took long walks during the week. I lost 20 pounds! Your body responds to a healthy diet and a good amount of activity, I only wish I had stopped snacking on empty foods in cardboard boxes years ago. And I also wish we could burn McDonald’s at the stake because the fast food industry seems to have a stronghold on the hearts and minds of most Americans.

I hope Americans wake up and think about what they are doing to their bodies, to their families, and to their health.

It’s all been said before…

8

Richard 08.27.05 at 8:20 am

It’s all been said before, true.
But Americans keep getting bigger. And Brits.

The message that we should eat less processed food, more fresh stuff and get more exercise has been a fairly constant one for as long as i can remember. But we don’t seem to be taking a great deal of notice..

Of course, there are issues about personal responsibility here. But it is also a public health issue, and government and the food industry have responsibilities too.

9

Ivan the Crank 08.27.05 at 3:54 pm

One of the problems we have is that many of us eat on the run, not run instead of eat. Also, we Americans are so generous with everything that we want the rest of the world to enjoy increasing waistlines as well, so we have exported all our bad eating habits, fast food restaurants and love of loafing.

10

John 08.30.05 at 1:23 am

Related topic: I haven’t been able to finish a meal at a restaurant in years. Why? Because the portions are so freaking huge! I can stuff my gullet and still not have enough room for all of the food that is served.

I feel like a pig being force-fed corn.

Hey! Maybe we are!

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