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The Fat of the Land

Lordy, we're fat.

The annual state-of-our-waistlines report issued last week by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation mapped out the nation's obesity situation, state by state.

It's not a pretty picture. Only in one state, Colorado, are fewer than 1 in 5 adults obese. In 31 states, more than 1 in 4 adults are obese. In no state had the obesity rate decreased since last year.

A quick look at the local numbers: While Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. ranked 25th, 28th and 45th, respectively, in adult obesity (with Maryland at 26 percent, Virginia at 25.4 percent, and D.C. at 22.3 percent), the rates among kids were eye-opening. Washington, D.C. came in 9th in the nation for having 35.4 percent of its kids overweight or obese. Virginia was 23rd, with 31 percent, and Maryland was 36th, with 28.8 percent.

While much of the reporting about the new survey has focused on the fact that the baby-boom generation is mighty plump and likely to further burden the already hard-pressed public health system, I'm even more concerned about the overweight and obesity rates among kids ages 10 to 17, which have tripled since 1980.

As I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, being overweight or even obese doesn't necessarily shorten one's life. But there's no doubt that, either merely by virtue of being fat or because of circumstances that contribute to overweight such as poor diet and low level of physical activity, overweight people tend toward chronic conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer.

If even greater percentages of kids than of adults are overweight, what does that mean for the future?

Recent poll results: To the question "Do you think overweight people deserve sympathy?," 51 percent of 1,061 respondents said yes, while 43 percent said no. Here's today's poll:

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 6, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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America is a political entity, not a person, and thus, it cannot be obese or have an obesity problem.

Individual people are obese. If they're children, the problem with their obesity rests primarily with their parents, not the White House, Congress, television networks, pediatricians, or schools.

Let me repeat: the PARENTS of obese children are the ones who have to solve the problem of childhood obesity. The fact that childhood obesity keeps on increasing indicates that trying the solve this problem via means other than parents is not working.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 6, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I really believe the culprit is eating out and bringing home takeout food. Portions are immense (I'll bet the salads run around 350-400 calories), the food is calorie dense to make up for the mass produced ingredients, and the ingredients are tilted towards the artificial.

The rise in obesity coincided pretty exactly with the increase in meals consumed at restaurants.

The solution is eating at home, taking lunch to work, etc. I would not be surprised if the economic downturn results in some backtracking of obesity trends.

Posted by: Thrush | July 6, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

If a virus was causing this dramatic rise in premature deaths due to diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer, then our public health officials would demand -- and get -- extreme measures to contain the outbreak. Schools would be shut down, the national guard would be called out, and everybody´s daily routine would be altered to contain the spread of the disease.

But it´s not a virus that´s causing all this disease and misery. It´s a perfect storm of government corn subsidies, the food industry´s concerns for profits over public health, and the general public´s profound ignorance of basic nutrition facts.

Should government not respond to this public health disaster just because it is man-made and not a random natural event?

Posted by: DupontJay | July 6, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

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