The United States of Obesity Felix Wong

More good news for Colorado! Using data maintained by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an organization called CalorieLab has concluded that—once again—the Rocky Mountain State has (by far) the lowest percentage of obese people in the nation with just 16.9% of its citizens being classified as ticking time-bombs of lard. Hooray!

Well, I suppose that is the good news. The bad news is that every single state in the union are suffering from ever-expanding girths except for Nevada, which posted a trivial 0.1% drop in the three-year obesity average versus last year’s numbers. Furthermore, it is probable that even us Coloradoans look a little, um, wide compared to those in, say, France or Vietnam. Or virtually any other country in the world for that matter, except for maybe Canada, the U.K., and Germany…

Then again, things could be worse. For example, look at Mississippi, which won the title of “most obese state in the nation” for the second year in a row. In fact, if you live in the Magnolia state, there is greater than a two-in-three chance that you are FAT! Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn would feel extremely out of place there nowadays…

I have to admit that how we Americans are continually getting fatter and fatter is a great mystery to me. In this age of the Information Superhighway, with literally entire bookcases at Barnes and Noble devoted to diet and healthy living, is there any human being in this country that can claim that he does not know that being obese (usually technically defined as having a body fat index of over 30 but is more easily identifiable as having a big blubber-belly or blubber-butt) poses all sorts of health risks and is, in general, not aesthetically attractive? Or that soft drinks, french fries, and anything with trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, or white flour are not good for the body and very often lead to weight issues? That fresh vegetables and fruits are largely preferable to potato chips and candy? That a moderate amount of exercise is largely beneficial for health and staving off excess pounds?

Many people have tried to claim “it’s all McDonald’s/Burger King/Jack in the Box/Taco Bell’s fault.” It may surprise you, then, that I completely disagree. For one thing none of those fast food companies have ever forced people to eat there. Secondly, all of them offer food that—in addition to being quick and inexpensive—is actually quite healthy. For example, McDonald’s has 99-cent side salads, tasty premium salads, fruit-and-walnut salads, and chicken sandwiches on whole-wheat buns. A patron can ask for low-cal vinaigrette salad dressings and request them to hold off on the mayo in the sandwiches. Water (non-bottled) water there—like every restaurant in the U.S.—is free!

Others try to claim that grocery stores are full of processed foods like chips and TV dinners. True, but guess what, those people don’t need to buy them. In fact the easiest way to ensure that one does not consume “junk food” is to not to buy junk food that gets stashed away in the pantry, refrigerator, or office drawers. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it!

In the future I will try to write an article containing brief, common-sense, practical tips on how to eat healthy without spending a lot of time cooking (by which I mean more than seven minutes) or having to rob your kids’ piggy banks to do so. Stay tuned…

Click here for the original CalorieLab study.

One Year Later

August 10, 2007 Fri: According to CalorieLab’s latest survey, Colorado is still the leanest state. Hooray! Unfortunately, it—like every other state in the United States spare one—is getting fatter. What is the lone state that is not? It is my former home state of California. Before you get excited, however, its percentage of obese people did not go down, it merely stayed the same.

In the future I will try to write an article containing brief, common-sense, practical tips on how to eat healthy without spending a lot of time cooking (by which I mean more than seven minutes) or having to rob your kids’ piggy banks to do so. Stay tuned…

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