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Obesity Threatens America in Many Ways

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I enjoyed (sadly) this comment on the epidemic of obesity that has overtaken America. We have mostly lived outside the country for the past 8 or 9 years and each annual or semi-annual visit is shocking in the sheer bulk of the average person on the street. Not only are they monstrously sized (pardon, “supersized”) but the bulk is worn proudly in T shirts and polo shirts that are preceded by bellies, a damsel style that leaves the midriff bare where the midriff is often drifting forward and women in tight pants and revealing dresses that accentuate the plum and beachball figure.

Don’t misunderstand. I will defend to the death the right of Americans to drink, take drugs, eat too much, dress badly, even evidence an amazing lack of charm and courtesy. That is freedom. Worse, my mother was obese during her life even before it became fashionable. It did not help her health and I miss her. I, myself, weigh now more than I should with a serious heart condition. It is hard to get back down to the right Body Mass Index when, like me, exercise is severely limited or, in many cases, when it is merely ignored to leave time for another McPizzaHutKing delight or 48 oz. steak at Ye Olde Steak House.

USA Today had the editorial on the tragic circumstances leading to the sinking of the Ethan Allen tour boat on Lake George where 20 persons drowned in the cold waters on a trip to see the fall colors (which are spectacular along the mountains ringing the long lake). The boat capsized and investigators are not through with the investigation of what will probably be (as in most tragedies) a string of mechanical, legal, and human errors. What they do report is that the boat was allowed to carry 48 passengers and crew “based on a 1960 Coast Guard standard that assumes the average person weighs 140 pounds.”

The tour which originated in Michigan for older people was investigated by the Detroit Free Press which noted from drivers’ license records among other indicators that “…the average passenger weighed at least 174 pounds, 25% more than the old standard.” The FAA, they point out, raised its weight standards after a commuter crash two years ago that was “…blamed on excess weight.” In 2004 a Baltimore ferry capsized killing 5. It was discovered that the 25 riders had an average weight of 168 pounds. That made the boat 700 pounds overweight.

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I am astounded by the size of Americans. Moreover, I notice TV shows and commercials have embraced the new weights by casting “normal” looking actors who are, to my taste, from chunky to obese. That even includes kids and adolescents.

The Coast Guard is ordering a new weight study. The National Center for Health Statistics, we are told, says that 2/3 of adults are overweight or obese. A recent study elsewhere showed that, I think, 80% of men over 60 and 60% of women were overweight. Whatever the statistics it is obvious that we (I, too, have been severely lectured by wife and cardiologist for my extra 20 pounds) are going to see this epidemic affecting the entire society through increased heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases, as well as children who become lazy, sickly, and (perhaps) less intelligent and productive from sedentary lives.

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Take a look at the Surgeon General’s Press Release from 2001 on Overweight and Obesity Threaten U.S. Health Gains. Among other things this “new health challenge” was mentioned and has become pressing:

“Overweight and obesity are among the most pressing new health challenges we face today,” HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. “Our modern environment has allowed these conditions to increase at alarming rates and become a growing health problem for our nation. By confronting these conditions, we have tremendous opportunities to prevent the unnecessary disease and disability they portend for our future.”

Not only that but your water taxi may capsize or your plane crash just from an excess of fat.

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