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Why are Americans so fat? Blame it on the 'burbs'

I am not a skinny person.  For most of my adult life, I've been roughly the same weight, give or take a few pounds. But I am rarely sick and am free of the problems - high blood pressure and out of control cholesterol - often associated with women and men my age.  

Never, ever do I follow diets shunning trans fats, carbohydrates or espousing high protein or whatever nonsense is currently the fad.

My weight is proportionate to my height and unlike many women, I love my body.

I eat what I want, choosing from all the food groups - including chocolate. Okay, I know chocolate is not a recognized food group, but my point is that all the wonderful, delicious foods we prepare with fresh and whole foods are meant to be enjoyed.

But they are meant to be enjoyed in moderation. It's not food that makes kids and adults fat; however, government continues to approach the problem of obesity as being primarily food-related.

In some states - New York among them - the schools are creating new policies to combat childhood obesity, which generally translates to adult obesity.  Among the strategies employed in New York City, where Board of Education studies indicate a shocking 40% of its students are obese, is the banning of bake sales as fundraisers.  

I wish state boards of education would show the same rigor and attention to their school lunch programs where meals are about what they were when I was a public school student  - not very nutritious with menus relying heavily on processed and refined foods.

Revamping school lunch programs would be costly and painful as progress often is, but paying the price now seems remarkably cheaper than paying the price later in skyrocketing health care costs. Obesity creates the kinds of health problems - from increased risk of heart disease  and diabetes to conditions affecting the joints and muscles - which only add to an already buirdened health care system.

Increasing physical activity in the schools - where many do not have adequate gymnasiums or physical education programs - is essential.  Although there are studies which indicate exercise is not necessarily going to make fat people thinner - for a variety of complicated reasons - exercise combined with conscious, moderate food intake is still the best insurance Americans have against their increasing girth.

Why are Americans so fat?  Studies indicate Americans are consuming only 100 calories more than they did 20 years ago and their fat intake has dropped by 8 percent from 42 to 34 percent. These studies infer that Americans should be healthier and trimmer rather than hugely overweight.

Blame it on the suburbs or car culture. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does, reporting "that years of uncontrolled suburban sprawl built around cars has left us unable to walk anywhere."  

I used to walk roughly and hour to an hour a half each day. This was a distinct part of my daily life as a city dweller. We did not have a car' so  getting about the city and all errands required lot6s of walking.  It was an ingrained part of my life and really my only organized exercise.

Our new community seems to support, in a strictly unscientific observation, the CDC's assertions. One of the first things I noticed about the NC community where my son and I are now living were the large numbers of overweight kids and adults.

No one walks any where.  If a conscious effort is not made to exercise, there is no reason to do more than walk to the car and roll. 

To complicate matters, there are groups like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance who rightly advocate for tolerance on issues of size and weight, but skew the issue by inferring disproportionate height and weight are reasonable and healthy. Obesity is not any more okay than an unnatural desire to be stick thin. 

Are some people incapable of controlling their weight? Absolutely. Americans need only look at their increasingly fat population for concrete evidence. Is it unhealthy? Yes.  Is it a waste of billions of dollars. Yes.

Americans spend more than $35 billion annually on weight loss products and still are losing the battle of the bulge.  There are no simple solutions to this growing problem of girth. For now the best answer is the oldest and the least appealing for most - the discipline to eat less and move more.



Fantastic article! Food is to be enjoyed and bodies are meant to move!

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