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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Superpower supersizes

Americans are getting fatter at a rate never seen before.

According to the Trust for America's Health Foundation, the obesity rate for adults rose in 48 of America's states last year. This is from a high rate in Mississippi (29.5%) to a low in Colorado (16.4%). I have a 3 comments to make...

1. Wow! That is a lot of intense eating and a lot of not moving around much.

2. What is this all about? Yes, the food and entertainment industries are amazing at getting more and more junk into our eyes, our faces, our mouths, our tummies and well... beyond. But what's the flaw here - is it a way to seek contentment, an addiction, a habit, a misguided emotional need? What do you think?

3. Our screwed up body-image deal. Okay obesity is unhealthy - it leads to limited mobility, a range of chronic illnesses and shortened life. Don't even go to health costs. Not good, although it is a free choice. On the other hand, what's wrong with not being svelte, trim, buff, hot, etc? For goodness sake, a little extra weight is simply an indication that I'm aging, not starving and at the top of the evolutionary ladder (eating wise).

I keep a little roll around the waist simply to flaunt it. My kids get sick of my rant, but the last thing I want is advertise a body that says "deprivation, hard-work, no bad choices, fitness-nut." (See GOOD ENOUGH IS GOOD ENOUGH in post below.) I might just add another 10 pounds as I enjoy fine dark red wines, lovely single malts, gooey French cheeses and locally made (Little Miss Gelato) coffee ice cream.

I have weight I'd like to shed, for sure, but I know what you mean about the obsessive quality of health maniacs. If your body the the lynchpin of your existence, maybe you need a wider circle of interest.

That said, I have a friend from Louisiana, and she was showing me pictures from their hometown parade. It was absolutely incredible! About 50% of the population was hugely, hugely obese, at least three times the size of the folks in your picture, and some so large it would seem they wouldn't be able to move from a to b without a dolly. Molly was telling me that the average age of death is much lower there than in the nation "at large".
I do most of my consulting work in the public health field and I know that obesity is a significant issue. In fact, I worked with a woman from Mississippi who used to start her talks with, "I'm from Mississippi - the fattest state in the fattest country in the world."

That said, my question stands: what is driving this 'growth'? And I feel that body image fanatacism is not of much help.

Your down to earth view of a good life and of real human connections feel like part of the solution to me.
I think the disdain for physical labour is a big part of the problem. We've been programmed to think that a sedentary, indoor job is more respectable than working with your hands. Somehow it's undignified and uneducated to get dirty and sweat.
Great point! Not to mention how many machines do the work for us now - including our walking to and fro...
Maggie at Myth and Culture is working on a doctoral thesis on this very subject. She asks: Why is being fat so bad? And this dissertation is my response as I looked at origins of fat bias is inherent in the formation of Western culture, in the very writings of Plato and Aristotle.

Quite interesting.

Being ashamed of being fat has a lot to do with me remaining heavy. I've recently begun to not worry so much about it and lo' and behold, I'm finally losing weight!

Interesting point about our attitudes toward outdoor work. Very true!
Maggie's post is really interesting. Deconstructs some of what I am questioning. I have read a fair bit lately on the issue of naming obesity an 'epidemic' or 'disease' (happening in public health and public policy sectors worldwide). Some voices are saying that this only stigmatizes heavy people (especially children) more and simply creates a focus on the wrong thing.

Maybe the focus needs to be on what is a good life and how should we treat each other?
African-Americans tend to have obesity issues much greater than the white population. This is part of the reason the Deep South of the US has so many fat people. Also the heat and humidity, plus fried foods rule the Confederacy.

Fried Catfish is um um good.
The roll around the middle is what we in Illinois call a love handle. Handles are good but, one the size of another you is just too much to handle.

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