Weight Wars: The Midwest Spread
I’ve made dozens of trips to the nation’s vast center, from Texas to Kansas, from Missouri to Wisconsin, and with each visit it seems with each passing year, the center of our nation is slipping deeper into an obesity crisis.
I notice more and more people who are well beyond heavy, and are now morbidly obese.
I worry for these individuals and for the future health of our nation. This is a disaster movie running in slow motion.
I saw a twentysomething woman in a Chicago hotel whose body was conservatively three times the size of mine. That places her at about 450 pounds. God love her, she was working a reception, and just as pleasant as you could possibly imagine. I have to tell you at that size I’d have a hard time get up off the couch and drawing a breath, no less being the life of the party.
At a busy lunch place on Adams inside Chicago’s famous downtown business area known simply as The Loop, I saw two men who when sitting had stomachs that extended almost to their knees.
Two days earlier, at a Red Lobster in Indiana, fifty percent of the lunch crowd had been supersized. There were men and woman who blew past 280 pounds several years earlier, and had just kept going. In some places I felt that the cast of Pixar’s WallE had returned to Earth and to the 21st Century from a future where obesity was as common to humans as a head cold.
It’s not that you don’t see heavy people on the East and West coasts. Of course you do. What’s different is the extent to which you see obesity in the country’s midsection. In Dayton, Ohio and Houston, Texas, fifty pounds overweight won’t get you a second look. That’s just “healthy big.”
In Indianapolis a thirty-five year-old woman told me of taking her two young daughters to a Labor Day parade and noticing that over half of a local high school’s cheerleaders were “bulging out of their uniforms.”
In the age of George W. Bush when Americans are urged to “shop” when our nation was under attack rather than plant a “victory garden,” there is no call to get serious about our level of fitness. John Kennedy created the “President’s Council on Fitness,” and urged all schools to adapt vigorous standards for physical fitness. Kennedy challenged Americans to take “fifty-mile” nature hikes. Bush is satisfied if we each take a leisurely stroll through our local shopping mall.
I say this not for the sake of taking a swipe at Bush (although heaven knows I enjoy that) but rather to say that we are in the midst of a national health crises and leadership is desperately needed. If you’re too cold-hearted to think of the dire health consequences that many of these poor people will suffer in the not too distant future, give some thought to the catastrophic consequences this obesity epidemic will bring to our health care system.
Four hundred pound people are ticking time bombs. It’s terribly sad to think that Bin Laden’s desire to kill Americans pales in comparison to our own ability to kill ourselves.
Money Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com
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