Plump. Porcine. Portly. Let’s face it, folks: We’re fat. Wander through suburbia’s mega-malls or down any city’s streets (including Main Street in Disney World), and you’ll see wide bottoms waddling all around you (hopefully not your own). This week’s news on that fat front? Apparently, the bulk has gone global. A record one in 10 of the world’s adults is now obese, according to a joint study just published by Imperial College, London and Harvard University.
Researchers surveyed 199 countries and found that overall, body-mass index (a measure of weight relative to height) was highest in the Nauru and Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and lowest in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. But, perhaps not surprisingly, girths are growing most rapidly in the thick of the United States.
Worldwide today, 10% of men and 14% of women are obese – compared to 5% of men and 8% of women in the 1980s. (Guess all that aerobics worked back in the day.) But in the U.S., 32% of men and 35% of women are obese – compared with 15% for both sexes during the decadent decade that brought us “Eat It,” “Da Butt,” and the movie Perfect.
What to do about our growing girths? Health advocates are sounding a super-size alarm. “Being overweight spikes your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boosts your risk of heart disease, diabetes, infertility, osteoarthritis, and some cancers,” warns Dr. John Foreyt of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. Indeed, obesity is now tied with smoking as America’s leading cause of preventable death.
Quicker than Kirstie Alley can inhale take-out lo mein, the U.S. government is scrambling to slash obesity rates in half. The feds recently changed both their dietary guidelines and exercise recommendations to emphasize weight loss. And First Lady Michelle Obama has hopped on board (literally) by jumping rope in public to support the recently ramped-up President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition.
On the other side of the fat-ness fence, body-acceptance advocates are lining up to help picket NBC’s reality hit The Biggest Loser. “Real health doesn’t come from conforming to society’s standards of size and shape,” says Connie Sobczak of The Body Positive, a Berkeley, California nonprofit, which, along with the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, is fighting for the rights of the round.
With more and more Hollywood celebrities gaining and losing serious weight for movie roles, which way will Americans tip our scales?
Pass the controversy. And delve straight into that second helping of fries.