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land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesity(27 posts)

land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesityMJ
May 2, 2002 2:31 AM,3604,708373,00.html

Land of the fat

Obesity kills 300,000 people a year in America and is the nation's number-one health hazard. Nowhere is this more true than in Mississippi, where food is cheap and exercise unheard of. Matthew Engel visits the heaviest state of a country that is in danger of busting the scales.

Thursday May 2, 2002
The Guardian

It is one of those silent, brooding mornings in a small Dixie town: already hot and humid just after breakfast-time. There is hardly anything here: just a shop, a filling station and a building with a sign saying Total Fitness, though judging by the rusty chain holding the padlock, that has been closed for a long time. There is hardly anyone about either, and they all move slowly: partly because of the heat, partly because they cannot do otherwise. The average weight of the population appears to be around 20 stone. The name of the place, without a word of a lie, is Chunky, Mississippi.
The US has what has widely been described as an obesity epidemic. And Mississippi is the sickest state in the country. More than 62% of its population meet the accepted definition of being overweight, and 24% are officially obese. These figures are certain to be understated because the information comes mainly from phone surveys, and people tend to lie about their weight. But they always did lie; and still the rates have almost doubled in a decade.

Obesity is now said to be responsible for 300,000 American deaths every year - that's 100 times the number killed on September 11 - and it eats up 12% of all the US's healthcare costs: $100bn a year. Mortality increases by up to a quarter for the overweight, and can double for the obese, never mind those described as "supermorbidly obese". Last month, the US tax authority formally recognised obesity as a disease, allowing patients to claim for the cost of prescribed weight-loss treatments. This disease causes heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. As a health problem, it now far outstrips drinking and smoking.

Manhattan and San Francisco may be full of joggers and rich young things rushing to see their personal trainers before dawn. But any European who penetrates the very different Bible-bullets-and-Big Mac America that exists outside these sophisticated cities will spot the symptoms at once. Many of the people there no longer walk; they waddle. Most of the time they prefer to sit. In Mississippi, 33% of adults take no exercise at all.

The other half of the equation can be seen in any restaurant. The word "sandwich" conveys something more like a large loaf: Americans believe they are being swindled if they are not served portions that would disgust most Europeans. A middle-aged Englishman, mildly concerned about his paunch, can look around the room and feel like Gulliver in Brobdingnag: a midget amid a race of giants.

It would be fitting if Chunky were the true Fat City: Ground Zero of this catastrophe. But there are plenty of other contenders in Mississippi alone. The problem is known to be acute in the river delta, where mechanisation took away the harsh old jobs in the cotton fields. The Overeaters Anonymous class in Tupelo has a valid claim for the title of America's corpulence capital, as does the office handing out food stamps to welfare claimants in Meridian (next to Sam's Fashion, which sells 58-inch waist trousers).

The clientele on the slot machines in the Starlight Lounge of the casino on the Choctaw reservation in Neshoba County are fairly substantial, though they are outweighed by the customers of the Piggly Wiggly supermarket next door, where the Choctaw shop. There may be nowhere at all to match aisle 10 in Piggly Wiggly's, between the Brown Cow ice-cream ("swirled with thick, rich chocolate syrup") and the giant-sized packs of bacon-and- cheddar fries.

The worst of this will not be in the rich white suburbs. Mississippi is used to coming first -
re: land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesityPaulCL
May 2, 2002 5:25 AM
It is so true and so sad. I just move my office from the 'burbs to a downtown center. On my second day here, I was rushing uptown to sign up at a fitness center (a YWCA!). I was amazed at the sheer number of trully obese people. Scary.

As for the sandwiches, the guy is right. Yesterday, I stopped at a sandwich shop and bought a roast beef - it was easily 5" high. Huge. It was delicious - the whole thing. But, I rode 35 miles yesterday AM. Most downtowners only get their exercise from walking to the bus stop. Sad.

Your point is right: obesity kills more than terrorism ever will. What really bothers me is the young people- in their 20's that are obese. They don't have a chance. Most people don't have the mental (or intestinal?) fortitude to stick with a diet to lose 100 pounds. I couldn't.
re: land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesitynetso
May 2, 2002 5:33 AM
I owned a Health Club for over 20 years, as well as having a Ph.D. in Physiology. I have seen the growth in the number of obese people. It is scary. Very few people exercise, and those that go to a gym attend to socialize rather than exercise. I care about myself and my children, however when you see all this fat around it really bothers me. Are all these people stupid. I did a body composition on a nurse: she smoked, she was 31, weighed 104#, had a bodyfat of 53%. Incredible!
re: land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesityBeaver
May 2, 2002 9:00 AM
That was me in college. I had a 38 inch waist my junior year of college. By the start of my senior year, I had a 36 inch waist and by graduation I was down to a 34...back to what I was my senior year of high school. I lost about 80 lbs total over a couple of years and got down to a 30 inch waist, but have come back up to a 32. If I hadn't stopped running, I would probably still have a 30 inch waist.

But loosing weight was easy for me. I stopped drinking beer and stopped eating bad foods.
re: land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesityBeaver
May 2, 2002 9:05 AM
That was me in college. I had a 38 inch waist my junior year of college. By the start of my senior year, I had a 36 inch waist and by graduation I was down to a 34...back to what I was my senior year of high school. I lost about 80 lbs total over a couple of years and got down to a 30 inch waist, but have come back up to a 32. If I hadn't stopped running, I would probably still have a 30 inch waist.

But loosing weight was easy for me. I stopped drinking beer and stopped eating bad foods..haven't eaten fast food in over 8 years.
voluntary vs. violenceDougSloan
May 2, 2002 5:48 AM
Yes, obesity is bad. But, it is largely self-inflicted, and terrorism is unchosen violence. That's a fairly big difference.

I know that I shouldn't, but honestly I have a pretty bad bias against fat people. I tend to automatically think of them as lazy, undisciplined, and weak. I realize some people have physiological or genetic predisposition to obesity, with some more severe than others, but the bottom line is that I'd think that most fat people could choose to be thinner if they truly wanted to. Isn't that terrible?

Maybe they don't want to, though. Maybe they don't care. Maybe they enjoy eating too much crappy food so much that they are proud of it for all I know. I try really hard not to judge people, but it's difficult.

I think convenient and cheap fast food and junk food is largely to blame. Nonetheless, anyone can choose not to eat it.
agreeDuane Gran
May 2, 2002 6:14 AM
I will also admit that I harbor an opinion about people who are overweight. I consider it offensive and it is just one of those ways in which a person can profane their own body. Sad. I have family members who are overweight, yet my body fat is about 5% because I'm a fitness nut, so I firmly believe it is something that most people can master. They just don't have the will to do it. The most aggrivating thing is when people act like weight management is some mysterious process that they could never handle.

Arrg! This one really gets under my skin. It just goes to show that if you live a lifetime avoiding pain, the very clemency of life will do you in.
voluntary vs. violencenetso
May 2, 2002 7:37 AM
What bothers me is the number of kids (that have no choice) that are obese because they get fed by their fat parents. Also, peer pressure is a factor. They want to be like their friends, eat big macs etc. The exposure is horrendous. Yet most school systems do not have mandatory Physical Education systems (primarily because of money). I also do not like fat people, not because I think they are lazy, but because they choose to be ignorant and fat!
re: voluntary vs. violenceBecky
May 2, 2002 7:56 AM
"I also do not like fat people, not because I think they are lazy, but because they choose to be ignorant and fat!"

That's sort of a harsh opinion (in my opinion, of course) and a generalization to boot. Stereotypes and accusations of ignorance and laziness do nothing to help anyone achieve a goal of weight loss or anything else, for that matter.

My 2 cents...
have to agree with Becky on this one ...bianchi boy
May 5, 2002 7:44 PM
I think many people are genetically predisposed to obesity or being overweight. Others don't put on weight, no matter what they eat or how little they exercise. I've seen it many times. I am not saying this is true for everyone, and there are many people who are overweight simply because they eat too much and don't exercise enough.

Case in point. I was skinny as a rail until I got married, about age 30. Then I started putting on weight, even though I was running, cycling or swimming nearly every day of the week. I went to see a doctor about it because I thought something was wrong with me. He laughed and told me it was just my metabolism slowing down as I got older. I now cycle more than I ever have before, averaging 150 miles a week, and I walk or otherwise work out on my days not riding. My weight rarely budges, about 185 lbs at 5'11" -- overweight by most textbook measures. I watch what I eat, avoid a lot of fats and sugar, but my weight stays the same.

In contrast, my wife never gained any weight regardless of how much she ate until just recently. She had a thyroid problem and started taking medicine for it, and suddenly started gaining weight for the first time in her life. Anyway, I know many fine people who are overweight. Not all of them are lazy and undiscipline. Some of them probably eat less and exercise more than many skinny people. Their bodies are just different.
I have the same bias...but it's based on ignoranceretro
May 2, 2002 10:46 AM
As a recovering former semi-fatty, I have the same bias against fat people. If you check research on the subject, though, there's a lot more to the question than just "if you didn't go to McDonalds every day, you wouldn't be fat." That may be true literally, but it's a very complex physiological and psychological issue. It's way simplistic just to dismiss it as laziness or lack of discipline.
Doesn't stop me from sneering occasionally, but I try to remember it's a BIAS, not an analysis of the facts.
No respectTypeOne
May 2, 2002 8:37 PM
I agree with you Doug S and Duan, and I am also a little ashamed to admit it. We're preaching to the choir on this board. I don't think of all fat people as lazy or weak-willed, but obese people bring up a lot of pent-up anger that I know is wrong.
Here's my situation: I am married to a thin, athletic wife who has obese parents. They are nice and I like them as much as anyone can enjoy inlaws. The are only in their late 50s but are sedentary and eat the worst foods. They piss me off. I have had juvenile-onset "Type 1" diabetes for 26 years, and I am forced to watch my diet, exercise, prick my fingers to test my blood-glucose levels and take daily injections (I estimate at least 26,000 to date) to stay alive and avoid serious health complications. This diabetes is distinct from Type II diabetes, which mostly occurs in older or obese people and accounts for about 90% of diabetics in the U.S.
I am angry that I have been stricken with this deadly disease through no fault of my own. I have to work so damned hard everday to manage it, and there are people like my inlaws who don't try and don't care about their health. I can't convince them to even walk around the block once a day. I sometimes think that if anyone deserved diabetes...
True, I have this immature response that "It's not fair!" and I respond with a deep dislike for fat people who chose to eat their way into their present shape. I'll grow and deal with it and be accepting as time goes on, but for now I have no respect for the obese.
You have my respectPaulCL
May 3, 2002 5:20 AM
My young nephew, now 11, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 18 months ago. He's handling it well - as most children would, but Mom and Dad are still struggling. I am sure he will go through the "It's not fair" period in his teens. I will never claim to know what you go through on a daily basis, but you have my utmost respect.

Your In-laws on the other hand are just like my inlaws. Obese, constantly complaining about their weight, constantly trying new diets and nothing working. They are all now the Atkins - all protein - diet, but of course, no real exercise. My sister in law actually complained her diet wasn't working once as she was eating her second slice of cheesecake. I couldn't hold back and pointed her obvious problem out. I'm now the evil, fitness nut son-in-law. I relish that role. Actually, they are p.o.ed that I can almost eat whatever I want without getting fat. Think about it blimpo: 10 hours a week on a bike, 3 hours per week in the gym. DUH!

Personally, I'm in the "in-law" and mother dog house. Why?? Becuase fitness-nut son-in-law isn't joining daughter and kids for mother's day, instead he's doing a weekend double century. My very fit 68 year old golfing, skiing, working out mother isn't too thrilled either but she understands!

I understand the Bias, I have felt it but............Len J
May 3, 2002 5:18 AM
That was before I met my wife.

I was blessed with great genes. I am 6'0" 150 pounds, couldn't put weight on if you paid me, can eat anything, anytime and still have low blood pressure and low colestrol (sp?). As a result of this, I too shared the oponion that if someone was overweight it was because of some "defect in discipline", that if they wanted to, they could be thin. Boy was I wrong.

My wife is the most disciplined person I have ever met in my life. She works out 1 hour every morning hard, watches everything she eats for fat content, mix of Carbs & protein, sugar etc. Yet she is still what most people would consider slightly overweight, yet she is in excellant health. I have watched her now for 12 years & there is nothing more she can do to reduce her weight (Short of something dysfunctional). Her genetic makeup defines her limits. It has taken her many years to accept this in our "Thinner is better" society. I happen to (objectivly) think she's beautiful but your first impression (and frankly when I met her, mine) might be otherwise. It was a real lesson for me in judging, in projecting my experience with how my body works onto other people.

I realize that all people are not as disciplined as my wife, however I have learned that there are other possibiliies then "If their fat, they must be lazy".

My experience.

Thanks and I absolutely agree.Sintesi at home
May 5, 2002 6:24 PM
I know plenty of people who are a little overweight, active and through no fault of their own, happen to have a predisposition for putting on weight. It's like having a thermostat that regulates body fat (old news) some have it let a little low and some a little high. As hard is it is for you to put on weight it's just as hard for her to lose it. I think as long as you're trying you're winning the war.

Having said that, our society sanctions too many crap foods and crap lifestyles. If we can tax cigarettes and booze we can also "sin" tax Pepsi, McDonalds and Taco John. A validation program through your doctor that makes weight loss or fitness gains tax deductable? Anyone have an idea?
Thanks and I absolutely agree.netso
May 6, 2002 3:35 AM
It appears the "genetic" problem only happens in epidemic quantities in the U.S., Why? Maybe its what we eat-junk!
I must admit...velofelo
May 2, 2002 8:19 AM
that I have thought the same way about overweight people - that they are lazy and don't care about being overweight. However, my brother suffers from gout and is unable to exercise without fear that it'll strike at any time. He's depressed about his condition and would like to change it, but when an attack strikes, sometimes it's all he can do to get out of bed.

On the other hand, he doesn't help himself with his diet. He loves, and I mean LOVES, fast food. When Mickey D's has a 2 Big Macs for $2 special, he's there, almost every day. Obviously, there is a personal decision being made there that contributes to his condition. He knows what he has to do to get healthy, but I think that he thinks that he's so far gone that he could never get to a healthy weight.

I love my brother and accept him for who he is, but I'd like to have him around for a while so he can enjoy his nephews and nieces, when the wifey and I get around to that stage in our lives.
Doesn't diet have a lot to do with Gout?ColnagoFE
May 2, 2002 8:46 AM
I mean fried foods and such are supposed to cause it aren't they? So isn't he shooting himself in the foot by not watching his diet?
Doesn't diet have a lot to do with Gout?velofelo
May 2, 2002 8:54 AM
He does have a diet that he watches pretty closely: no alcohol, no meat drippings (therefore, no gravy on his mashed potatoes, etc), none of certain grains and vegetables, etc. One of his favorite laments is, "I miss bacon more than I do beer!" Still, it comes without warning. It would ruin my confidence if my body suddenly turned against me without any prior signal.
Doesn't diet have a lot to do with Gout?netso
May 2, 2002 10:34 AM
Gout is primarily a diet problem - many of the English aristocracy had Gout because they ate a lot, and poorly!
re: land o' fatjrm
May 2, 2002 10:32 AM
The thing is that consumerism and our culture suggests that more for less is better. Sometimes i have to tell food servers to please decrease my serving of whatever it is im having.

At the same time, irrational imprinting of obesity by comparing oneself to others we see in our everyday life, and saying "at least im not as fat as that" makes obsetiy an exceptable condition. During my lunch, i see over weight folks waddle up to the sandwich stand counter and order their hot pastrami and roast beef sandwichs and are asked by the server would you like to get this and that for $.50 more?

Last weekend i walked to a local supermarket. I had to take notice of the number of fat kid's with fat parents. I mean there where alot. However with issue of fat kids i take the approach that its in the parenting of the kids by adults.

Its because of using the "do as i say, not as i do" parenting approach used by those with lower academic attainment levels. bu the thing is that the kid's want to be so much like there parents because they love them, they then take on the eating, social and learning behavior of there parents. Thus limiting theyre abilities in the process.

In short the fat arent victims, they make the choices they have made. But there choices are formed by societal forces that have the control to disregard, but dont seem to know better.
By the way im statistically overweight 185 @ 5,8. But i choose to make a difference..and i make that difference by choice. i hope i havent offended anyone with my half baked concepts or theories regarding the subject @ hand.
re: land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesityempacher6seat
May 2, 2002 10:42 AM
I live in Victoria, British Columbia. After a nation wide survey, our city was dubbed "the fittest city in Canada". Unfortunately, obtaining that title is about as hard as beating a 4 year old in a boxing match. Around 10% of workers bike to work on a daily basis, which is nice, and the streets and trails and parks are always filled with people playing sports or jogging or something... but the majority of people are fat and lazy. Working in a grocery store I can see this first hand, when people will ask to have 2 or 3 bags of groceries (weighing 15 lbs, tops) delivered to their home because they don't want to walk 2 blocks with them. Walking is an essential form of transportation, NOT strenuous exersize (Unless, of course, it's done over a long distance at a fast pace).

I have noticed the problem even more when I visit the US. McDonalds super sizes are bigger then the super sizes here. You also get around twice the amount of food at most restaurants then you do here. We both eat the same food... I guess people the US just eat more of it, which is why the problem isn't as bad in Canada.

I think a lot of people deserve to have fingers pointed at them for this problem. Parents are a good example. Being too busy is not an excuse to load kids up with "lunchables" crap and fast food all the time. Kids who are brought up on such diets learn to like and become accustom to them, and old habbits die hard. It's much easier to teach a 10 year old to eat healthy then a 30 year old, who's been eating junk food and not exersizing his whole life.

Besides that, I think recognizing Obesity as a disease is a mistake. While in some cases, obesity is caused by medical conditions that the patient has no control over, the majority of the time it's due to people just being lazy and not taking care of them. I do NOT pay taxes to take care of some idiot who was playing video games instead of soccer when he was young. I think medical treatment for obesity should be reserved to those who are fat due to a medical condition, not a lazy life style. The rest can be given a pair of running shoes, a basket ball, the number to a personal trainer or sports club, and motivation to get started.

Shooting hoops, biking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing some street hockey, jogging, swimming... I mean, all it takes is like 20 minutes a day.
But Sports arent ' COOL' anymore.....MrCrud
May 2, 2002 3:38 PM
...just look at the way ppl stare at us bikers after we tell them we went on a century... they simply dont understand why anyone in their right minds would do that!!! I think they dont realize that once you get a certain level of fitness, it gets considerably easier.

Also, people tend to get on diets the wrong ways. You never start by literally cutting back on every single 'bad' food. The body is used to a certain level of intake, and cutting back is very hard. You always start by increasing the quantity of calories consumed in a day, this ramps up the metabolism, and it gets easier to lower the food intake now that the body can do it. Most attempt this backwards, and of course, fail miserably.

I just think it's too bad the 'suits' that decide what's cool and what's not have decided that sports and fitness arent 'cool' anymore...I'm more worried about the fat kids than about the fat baby boomers...

Just my 2 cents

but watching sports is coolDuane Gran
May 2, 2002 7:58 PM
Unfortunately, in American society it is far more acceptable to passively watch sports than to participate in them. Sad.

I've tried to explain this as a problem to people (in a polite manner) and it hasn't made much of an impact. By and large, people think I'm strange for being an athlete post-college. I've also tried to explain to people how participating in sport has a positive biofeedback. I used to eat vegetables and fruits sparingly, but since becoming an athlete I naturally crave healthy food.

As much as I love cycling and think of it as a panacea for lifes problems (I'm kidding here), it might be easier to get someone started on running. It is simpler and you can't really beat the "runners high."
re: land of fat people? - terrorism vs obesityMJ
May 3, 2002 4:23 AM
sorry I missed the rest of that paste... the whole article is pretty good

anyways - I'm constantly amazed at people's approach to food - people who think that they can, through diet alone, suddenly become slim and/or lose weight - it's not rocket science - raise the metabolism - burn more calories - that's not changed too much by what you eat

I don't ride, exercise or jog because I want to lose weight or diet or anything - there's a buzz about being athletic - but having an active lifestyle means you will, in most circumstances, never encounter the need to restrict food or diet

having said that when I'm in the US the portions are actually, physically sickening

I used to be a tour guide in Europe and guided coach loads of US/Canadian and British pax. The US groups were not capable of walking very far - they didn't understand pedestrian zones and why the bus couldn't drop them off there - they didn't appreciate the smaller Euro-portions of food (still larger than I was used to in my day to day at home diet) - they were upset about the inconvenience of walking - they all came with ridiculous (new) hiking/jogging shoes like it was a back country expedition

unfortunately for them I believe the best way to introduce anyone to a new city/environment is to go for a walk - when I'm alone or with friends in a new place the passive intention is to get lost and see where you end up - after two weeks with me on a tour most of the pax seemed to respond favourably to the (much healthier) lifestyle that had been 'inflicted' upon them

living healthy is a choice though it's often impacted by one's environment - it's not all about diet and portions and excercise - but those are the basic ingredients - they all feed off each other :-)
I can only speak for myselfrideslikeagirl
May 7, 2002 7:39 AM
And I strongly urge you to do the same.

I do not understand the need of many "normal" weighted people to discuss, disect and generally put-down the reason that other people are "fat".

I know where my weight problems stem from, and none of you are even close (if you care) to guessing the reason in all your presumptions. And, you know what? It doesn't matter.

For every "fat" person, you will have a different reason for their battle of the bulge. When I see an obese person, I feel sorry for them. Because I can only imagine what hell they are in, or have been in, and will probably continue to be in.

I've been there, done that. Sometimes I am winning the battle, sometimes I'm not. But I'm no longer locked in my hell over it.

But believe me, I never appreciate a skinny person, who's never been in my shoes, supposing they know the cause.
Well said, Thanks. nmLen J
May 7, 2002 3:06 PM