CommunityPam's House Blend

7 out of 10 men are fat

ATLANTA – More American children are getting fat, with more than one-third now overweight. More of their dads are getting heavy, too. But the percentage of women who are overweight seems to have peaked, leading some experts to wonder if the U.S. obesity epidemic may soon be leveling off.

The findings come from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collects data on a sample of about 5,000 people each year. The researchers clustered years together, presenting calculations for 1999-2000, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.

The survey is considered the gold standard for obesity data — it’s done through in-person examinations that include actual height and weight measurements.

That beats telephone surveys, in which men tend to overstate their height and heavy people underestimate weight, throwing off obesity calculations, said Cynthia Ogden, the study’s lead author.

And it sure beats the hell out of the method of collecting height and weight information from people’s driver’s licenses, which had shown year after year that only 15% of men and 0.0001% of women were overweight. 😉

The study found the percentage of men who are overweight rose to 71 percent in 2003-2004, from 67 percent in 1999-2000. The obese percentage rose to 31 percent, from 27.5 percent.

For women, both the overweight and obese percentages held steady, at about 62 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

As one of those obese men, let me offer an opinion.

I’m 6’0″ tall and (today) weigh 280 lbs. Accoding to the BMI calculator at the CDC, my BMI is 38. Over 30 is considered obese. Now, I don’t feel obese, and people that see me wouldn’t say I’m obese (overweight? sure.)

A few years ago, I went on an intense weight loss and exercise program. I was at the gym an hour a day six days a week. I consumed only 1800 calories over six meals eaten at three-hour intervals. I munched down ephedra pills, protein shakes, creatine, and all sorts of supplements.

After six months, I had whittled my then 270 lb. body down to 215 lbs. I looked awesome. I actually fit back into my early-20s leather rock’n’roll pants. I was buying “L” shirts instead of “XL”. Hot chicks (and a few guys) couldn’t help but throw themselves at my studly form. Hell, I couldn’t stop throwing myself at my studly form (then again, weight’s never stopped me from doing that).

roofing.jpgAt that point my BMI was 29.2. That’s the top end of the government’s “overweight” category, just 0.8 shy of “obese”. Ah, to be overweight again.

For fun, I plugged in numbers to find out where I’d have to be to fit the government’s definition of “normal” (BMI < 25.0) Turns out I'd have to lose another 35 lbs. from that skinny picture above in order to be "normal". I'd have to weigh 180 lbs., which I think I weighed in 9th grade when I was 5'8".

My point is that while BMIs and categories of “overweight” and “obese” may be interesting statistical markers, they tell nothing about the relative health of people. At every physical I go to, my doctors rave about my strong heart, good blood pressure, moderate cholesterol levels, and overall good health.

In addition, there is no way that one height and weight calculator fits all people. As you can see, I’m a pretty “thick” guy. I have broad shoulders and a barrel chest. I have muscular legs and a big head. I am just naturally going to weigh more than “normal”, even at my peak with exercise and diet.

That said, we all make choices, and there is no doubt that the choices America makes are leading to a nation of fatties. This is where the government likes to use these BMI stats to tell us all to change our lifestyle and eat less and exercise more. Websites like spring up to tell us how we can make permanent changes with “small steps” like walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther away at the mall so you have to walk the parking lot. We have to eat more nutritious foods in smaller portions more often throughout the day.

And I’m fine with that. I walk to work (ten minutes) every day. I take the stairs at work, many times a day as I’m running around fixing PCs. I go to the gym at least three times a week, which is treadmill running for twenty minutes, weights for twenty minutes, and core training for twenty minutes. I am avoiding the fast food and eating smaller portions. After taking all these small steps, starting in January, I’ve gained six pounds. Still, I’m okay with it, because as long as I’m healthy and married, I really don’t care much what I weigh.

Where I have the problem is with the government telling us all what we should do while steadfastly refusing to do anything on its end to reduce obesity. The government sticks by its agribusiness and food industry big donors and quashes any regulation or reformation that might change the health of the nation for the better. For example:

Efforts to get nutritional labeling on fast food wrappers were always opposed by the government; it wasn’t until Supersize Me and public outcry about it that McDonald’s finally relented and put nutritional info on its wrappers. No other fast food giant is following suit.

Physical education is being phased out or underfunded in the world of Bush’s No Child Left Behind, as are healthy school lunches. Meanwhile, no government entity tries to intervene to provide improved facilities or materiel for schoolkids, instead opting to let Coca-Cola advertise on the basketball backboards and using profits from Coke vending machines to provide much needed services.

As more people slip deeper into poverty, they lose that health care coverage (if they had any) that provides physicals and nutritional counseling for kids. Also, parents are forced to buy the big bulk carb-laden staples like Mac & Cheese instead of more expensive fresh produce. Besides, if you only get to shop for food once per month and you have a tiny refrigerator in your rental apartment, do you really want to fill up the crisper with lettuce, broccoli, and apples that will go bad before you get a chance to serve them?

Finally, high fructose corn syrup. Look on the labels of your food; it’s everywhere. It’s mostly a bone thrown to the agribusiness industry to insure a profitable market for corn. Most of its use is unneccessary. Or look at the various subsidies the government pays to prop up industries like the beef industry. McDonald’s 99-cent value meal owes its existence to beef subsidies; otherwise a simple McDonald’s hamburger would cost $9.95.

So yes, we men are getting fatter, and yes, I believe in personal responsibility. Nobody puts that fork in my face but me. However, if the government is serious about reducing American obesity on a grand scale, it is going to take more than imploring the citizenry to take “small steps”.

[Cross-posted at Radical Writ with a Frosty and a Biggie Size order of fries…]

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