Jun 19, 2012
During the past five years, my weight has rollercoastered between a fit 185 and an obese 226 pounds. At 200, I am currently just shy of being obese again, but I am earnestly working my way back below 190. I am not after a six pack or a beach body. I just don’t want to be grossly overweight. I also don’t want to end up with Type 2 diabetes or hypertension. And, above all, I don’t want to be part of our embarrassing and costly national trend toward portliness.
As a nation, we are getting fatter and fatter. According to the recent flurry of articles published in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to outlaw the Big Gulp in New York, the percentage of adults who are obese has doubled since 1970. Worse, during that same period, the percentage of morbidly obese adults has tripled, as has the percentage of obese children. In short, one out of three US Americans is obese and it is costing us billions in avoidable healthcare expenses and extra energy use.
I remember the first time I read an article about this worrisome trend. Surprisingly, it was not a health article. It was a report by the airline industry. At the advent of the new millennium, the airlines discovered that the average weight of passengers had increased by 10 lbs., costing them an extra $250 to $300 million in annual fuel costs over the previous decade. This report prompted me to write my first column on our national weight gain problem. It also inspired me to view my personal battle of the bulge in a patriotic context.
Much of our national weight problem can be explained by simple math. Thanks to sugary drinks and oversized portions, we consume 10 to 15% more calories per day on average than we did in 1970. We are also burning fewer calories by being more sedentary -- TV watching is at an all-time high. More calories and less activity equals stored fat. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why waistlines are expanding.
It is time to acknowledge that we are progressively changing from the "Land of the Free" to the "Land of the Fat." We can no longer hide -- literally -- the evidence. A walk through any grocery store or a visit to any buffet provides both the smoking gun and the suspects -- myself included -- necessary to prove the case. There is no denying that we are becoming a fat nation.