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America’s Obesity Problem Today and Tomorrow

Obesity has long been a problem in the US, but in 1998 the numbers jumped dramatically and have been rising ever since. It's hard to look back and see us as all so different less than 20 years ago. Where did these crazy numbers come from?

To make you feel slightly better, it's important to realize that in 1998 the government redefined what it meant to be obese by lowering the standard BMI (body mass index). Now the requirement for obesity is a BMI over 30, while 27 and 28 used to be acceptable for men and women respectively. With that change, 29 million people went from being average to overweight. Not the greatest feeling for those people, but scientific advances in nutrition have guided and changed definitions before. Remember when eggs were bad and Jamba Juice was a healthy meal? So despite the definition of overweight becoming more inclusive, the bulk of the obesity numbers fall upon our daily choices.

According to the 2012 Gallup-Healthway Study, the following States have the highest percentages of obesity today:

  1. West Virginia: 33.5%
  2. Mississippi: 32.2%
  3. Arkansas: 31.4%
  4. Louisiana: 30.9%
  5. Alabama: 30.4%

It almost seems like the South is holding up back. But before you pass judgement on the statewide statistics, take a look at these:

Top 5 Obese Metro Areas

  1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas: 38.8%
  2. Birmingham, New York: 37.6%
  3. Huntington-Ashland, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio: 36%
  4. Rockford, Illinois: 35.5%
  5. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas: 33.8%

Check out this map for a more comprehensive look at 2012.

Obesity in america

In a study by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a estimation of obesity's growth by 2030 was established.

Projected Obesity Statistics by 2030

Fattest States in America

Why is this happening?

Well, other than the reduction of BMI acceptable levels, and a possible change of that standard in the future from 30 to 25, our current lifestyles really aren't helping. Of course there are genetic factors that some struggle with more with than others, but in all honesty, there are some key factors that separate us from nations that don't have the epidemic type problem that we do with weight.

Junk. According to, junk food has risen to meet the same reward centered reaction we expect from sex, alcohol or drugs. Seeing easy, grease caked, quick food as a motivator or positive reward in any way, creates a pathway to addictive issues. Temptation is a strong pull, and it has become ingrained in our thought process that this type of food is a satiating experience.

Environment. The environment you put yourself in has a huge impact on your metabolic health. If you live with someone who doesn't care, it's more likely harder for you to keep up a personal health crusade. It becomes more exhausting and stressful when you have to battle yourself over the microwave burrito you would have never brought home in the first place. If your friends or family have obesity problems, or just poor diet and exercise habits, your standards slowly drop to an unhealthy level.

Technology. Technology is not a bad thing, it's actually pretty awesome, it's what we chose to do with it in our lives that becomes harmful. Sedentary lifestyles can easily be fallen into, considering the access we have to so much information while sitting at our computers or in front of the TV. Communicating with family and friends, no longer requires leaving the house or even standing, if you can teach the dog to get beer from the fridge for you. Cars, busses, any type of transport really, are lifesavers some days, but on others, getting outside and walking 6 blocks to the store isn't something that should be a hassle.

Respect. Respecting ourselves and our bodies seems to be something often put on the bottom of the priority list. At the expense of ourselves, we will skip meals, chose the quick but mediocre solution, and stress about anything and everything in our path. We not only lack respect for ourselves, but for the food we consume and the culture we cultivate. We skip breakfast and rush through lunch to get to a meeting or finish our work load. Taking a bit of time to both mentally rest and indulge  in the ritual of enjoying a well prepared meal, can actually improve your efficiency, stress level and metabolism. Studies show that family dinners actually reduce obesity risks.

We live in a scheduled world where minor changes to our lives are disruptive, and can become more difficult and stressful than they initially sound. Stopping for lunch sounds simple, but what about the work that must get done today? Changing your environment, especially when it comes to living situations and friends, is near impossible without incredible will power. Changing how our minds have been conditioned towards junk food and sugars is a huge task. Look at the statistics again, and think of the future health of yourself and those around you. No one ever said it's going to be easy, but it is more than evidently necessary to not put changing off any longer.

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