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Survey: America's Getting Fatter (But There's Good News!)

By , SparkPeople Blogger
DailySpark readers, we have an emergency on our hands. It's time to Spread the Spark, stat!

This year's state-by-state obesity statistics are in, and the news isn't good.
Here are some of the highlights of the report, published by the research group Trust for America's Health:

  • Adult obesity rates increased in 23 states and did not decrease in a single state in the past year

  • The percentage of obese or overweight children is at or above 30 percent in 30 states.

  • Mississippi had the highest rate of adult obesity at 32.5 percent, making it the fifth year in a row that the state topped the list.

  • Four states now have rates above 30 percent, including Mississippi, Alabama (31.2 percent), West Virginia (31.1 percent), and Tennessee (30.2 percent).

  • Eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of obese adults and the highest rates of obese and overweight children are in the South.

  • Colorado continued to have the lowest percentage of obese adults at 18.9 percent.

  • Adult obesity rates now exceed 25 percent in 31 states and exceed 20 percent in 49 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight.

  • In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent.

  • In 1980, the national average for adult obesity was 15 percent.

  • Sixteen states experienced an increase for the second year in a row, and 11 states experienced an increase for the third straight year.

  • Mississippi also had the highest rate of obese and overweight children (ages 10 to 17) at 44.4 percent.

  • Minnesota and Utah had the lowest rate at 23.1 percent.

  • Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980.

The report says that the economic downtown could worsen the obesity epidemic. Food prices are expected to keep rising as social services and food pantries are increasingly stretched thin. The recession is expected to lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress--all of which are linked to obesity.

Still, there was a bright side:
  • Nineteen states now have nutritional standards for school lunches, breakfasts and snacks that are stricter than current USDA requirements. Five years ago, only four states had legislation requiring stricter standards.

  • Twenty-seven states have nutritional standards for competitive foods sold a la carte, in vending machines, in school stores or in school bake sales. Five years ago, only six states had nutritional standards for competitive foods.

  • Twenty states have passed requirements for body mass index (BMI) screenings of children and adolescents or have passed legislation requiring other forms of weight-related assessments in schools. Five years ago, only four states had passed screening requirements.

  • A recent analysis commissioned by TFAH found that the Baby Boomer generation has a higher rate of obesity compared with previous generations. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, obesity-related costs to Medicare and Medicaid are likely to grow significantly because of the large number of people in this population and its high rate of obesity. And, as Baby Boomers become Medicare-eligible, the percentage of obese adults age 65 and older could increase significantly. Estimates of the increase in percentage of obese adults range from 5.2 percent in New York to 16.3 percent in Alabama.

Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of the group that published the survey, spoke to USA Today:
"If we want kids to eat healthier food, we have to invest the money for school nutrition programs so that school lunches are healthier," he said. "If we want people to be more physically active, then there have to be safe places to be active. That's not just a class issue. We've designed suburban communities where there are no sidewalks for anybody to go out and take a walk."

It's not just a question of having the right resources. It's about taking advantage of them, as you do everyday, and making the most out of what you have.

Many of us write on the Message Boards and in Teams that we face challenges every day of our healthy journeys. Someone brought in doughnuts and you're tempted to ditch your oatmeal. You don't have time to work out today. Money is tight so you have to quit the gym.

But you don't give up. You don't complain.

You ask for help, you seek suggestions, and you take advice from other members.

And you succeed.

This report wasn't good news, no doubt about it. While we (as a nation) need to try harder, remember that in our little corner of the world (SparkPeople), we're succeeding, we're bucking the trend, and we're winning the battle against obesity, one SparkPoint and one pound at a time!

So let's go out there and Spread the Spark!

How do you think we should address the obesity epidemic?

How did your state fare? Is your state one of the "best" or one of the "worst"?

Do you live in one of those communities without sidewalks?

How do you think we, as SparkPeople members, can combat the obesity epidemic?

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I'd like to disagree with some of the comments on school lunches getting better--at least in our area, they are still terrible. Tony's pizza (cardboard with sauce and rubbery bits on it), chicken nuggets, Skyline chili, hot dogs, french toast dippers (with fake maple syrup full of sugar) are some of my son's school lunch offerings. Of course there is always the excuse that they offer healthier options, but what kid, when surrounded by his peers eating the crap, is going to choose salad at age 6 or 7? And what I really don't understand is how they teach the kids about healthy eating in class, but then serve this kind of food--it's confusing to me so I can see why a young child wouldn't understand. And for those of you complaining about government regulation--doesn't the government subsidize a lot of the processed food that goes into our schools which is what makes it so cheap to serve? Isn't that a form of "government regulation" that is already happening--they are contributing to the problem, so shouldn't they help to fix it? Report
I'm in favor of incentives rather than regulation - maintaining a healthy weight/losing to get to a healthy weight should get you reductions in your health insurance premium, for example - actuarially based, as healthy weight people have fewer health expenses. However, I'm sure this would immediately be seen as penalizing people who are overweight. But really - why should my premiums be higher to subsidize someone who is not taking care of themselves and will rack up major medical costs for conditions that could be controlled?

It's a touchy subject. My health insurance offers a voluntary program where you get cash back for practicing healthy behaviors. Believe me, I get every dollar back I can.

My husband and I both struggle with our weight issues, which is why we want to learn how to live healthier and teach our kids better ways. It's hard breaking old habits learned from when we were kids. We do enroll our kids in sports - a must in our house - which is something that was not a prority when I was a kid. I think it all starts at home and is then enforced thru school. So change will only work when home and school teach and motivate today's children healthier ways. Temptations unfortunately will always exist no matter how much regulation is enforced. Report
Great discussion of a painful reality. Food is everywhere for us today. We don't have to raise it in our gardens (although there is a bit of rebirth here in some places), don't have to catch it in some way, we just need to drive up to the store and put your dollars down. Taste has been studied and companies figure out the "sweet spot" (right amount of salt/sugar) that makes the majority of us swoon over their products. The easiest to afford food products tend to be the least healthy. So many people have given up cooking because it's so easy to skip that effort (you have to plan ahead to have ingredients on hand) and go to a fast food restaurant. Yes, we've created a world of hurt for ourselves. I'm surrounded by friends (both sexes) who have tried various diets depriving themselves of protein, or carbs, or fats. The determined lose some weight, but no one seems to keep it off. That's why I'm so excited about SparkPeople! So much information at hand, a wealth of tools to assist as we try to get back on track with healthy eating, a community of support. And then the reward? The pounds begin to come off, the energy returns, and no one is hungry most of the time. I've turned on 4 people to SP so far and everyone is getting strong results and has expressed to me "I can do this, this works and I feel great." Awesome. Come on America. Let's get healthy one person at a time. It's the only way. Report
Michigan was 25 to less than 30%. Apalling! This obesity no-no has to go-go. Modern conveniences makes it so people don't even have to get up anymore...gotten too smart for our own good.

SP could make a HUGE (pun intended) impact on this. Spreading the Spark may, one day, help reduce those percentages (along with the people).

What is Colorado doing right??????? Must be a lot of recreational opportunities in that state?

Wow what scary statistics! Report
The presence or absence of sidewalks does not enter into the discussion. Everyone can find a safe place to walk indoors or out. Ignorance can be cured by education. Report
This study doesn't surprise me at all. Just stop at any fast food place to see the bad choices people are making for themselves and their children. Even at these places there are ways to eat healthier(although not as healthy as at home), forego the super-size of everything! Eating out doesn't have to be unhealthy. There's always the option of taking home some of your meal to eat at another time. This is something that I do most of the time.

I would like to give a thumbs-up to Tracey. You are right on about the cost of the meals in your example. Very nice to see that! I have been teaching my children that since they were small. Report
I'm really appalled by the statistics in this article. Where did we as Americans go so wrong on this?? I think the advent of Video games and home computers don't help much in this area. We can read and discuss all we want to but when push comes to shove, it's each persons own responsiblity to determine what goes in their mouth and how they become active.

I work in a regional hospital for a larger health system. This year they implemented the "Healthy options Policy" for meetings and employee events. We no longer can serve pop at meetings and have it paid for by the company (I pretty much stopped drinking pop years ago and only have it occassionally). If we serve only one thing at the meeting it HAS to be the healthy option. There is a policy that dictates what we can and cannot serve which I think is good. I started picking healthier options for my meetings months before this took affect.

As a healthcare facility we need to be a leader in our communities and we have not been. This year we are co-sponsoring the 10K, 2mile and 1 mile fun run at our annual summer festival days. We need to lead by example. I still struggle with things it's not easy but then life was never meant to be easy. I could keep on going but I think I will stop. I may need to blog on this hits close to home for me. Report
I agree that obesity is a national problem. However, I don't believe the Federal or state government should pass laws or set standards with penalties for not fitting into the standard. Physically we are all different. My son is 6 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds. He looks like he weighs 250. His BMI does not fit his age or height and yet when he tried to drop 20 pounds to meet and arbitrary standard, it was very difficult. He has huge, dense bones. He had to have titanium rods inserted into both tibia's after an accident. They had to use the largest rods available, those for the femur. There is no way he will ever fit into any government mandated standard. Should he be penalized because other people choose to overeat and not exercise? Our weight and physical fitness should be left up to the individual. I have no problem with educating the public but those who choose not to follow sound advise pay their own penalty.
Where the government is paying for a program, they can set all of the standards and rules they want. Report
Is measuring kid's BMI in school really going to help? I am thinking that for those who are overweight, it is just one more embarrassment and for those who are at risk for an eating disorder it could be one more thing that would push them into it. Report
I live in Massachusetts, the second "best" state in the country (second to Colorado) as far as obesity rate is concerned. I have four children, two of whom are overweight by 10-20 pounds; the other two are not overweight at all. The two who are overweight are teenage girls, and they both struggle to keep their weight down. The oldest is prone to visits to Dunkin' Donuts for what her stepfather calls "dessert coffee." We talk to our kids all the time about eating healthy, but it wasn't until we did something about our own habits and weight that the kids began to sit up and take notice. We do a lot more family activities now (biking, hiking, etc.), and the kids love it. We also are proud that our son is active in soccer year-round. All of our girls were in sports (soccer, dance, and kung-fu), but now they prefer more social activities like participating in school plays, Girl Scouts, Chorus, and the like. My oldest girl did join the Cirrus Club at school this year, which is a hiking/camping club. She really enjoyed it. They even hiked and camped in the snow! Our second oldest girl likes to bike to her girlfriends' houses, and then they all get together on their bikes and bike around town. The thing I would like to do most in our town is to get a committee going to install sidewalks. That is what I miss most, especially since there are more cars on the road now than in the early 70s, when I was a kid. Three of our four kids go to overnight summer camp, too, and they do swimming, hiking, canoeing, soccer, BMX biking, and lots of other activities. They are gone for four weeks this summer. While this is expensive and not for everyone, we like that they are outside all day and enjoying the summer. If they were home, we'd be hard-pressed to get them away from their computers, the TV, and the Wii every day! So this is a good experience for them all. Report
I have made it though by using my bikes to ride on the few bike paths that we have. Plus I am not far from good country roads to bike on too. Report
Personal responsibility is a loosing idea.. I wish it would not be. Insurance should not have to pay for our mistakes and there for making all those who make good choices have to pay higher premiums. Personal Choices thats all I have to say. Report
Amen to that, TWYLA053!!!

There are so many reasons why America and it's children are getting fat, but the reasons are individual. When I was growing up I couldn't walk home, because I'd have to cross dangerous traffic and run the risk of being kidnapped by some sexual predator on my walk home. I drive to my school, because it so far away. There aren't any bike paths in my town, and the one we did have was shut down after a few joggers were brutally murdered. I don't blame parents for not wanting their kids to walk home. We don't live in that kind of world anymore.

I think we're beginning to see healthy options enter into the mainstream. With things like Wii Fit, Biggest Loser, articles about the dangers of being overweight, the push on kids programs on Nick and Disney, the idea of being healthy is becoming part of the people's lives. Unfortunately, we've got a "lost generation" that has missed out on the movement. For those of us who are older, we are getting the idea a little late but better late than never and for younger people healthy choices are becoming part of their everyday lives. For those between, it's still a challenge. Report
I thought Wall-E was very thought-provoking satire.

I don't think we can change anyone else, directly, but we can vote with our dollars, buying healthier foods and passing by the bad fast foods. We can push for sidewalks and bike paths in our communities. We can become interested in the lunches and health and PE classes our kids' schools are offering. We can offer to walk with a friend. There are lots of things we can do, mostly by living the healthy lifestyle. Report
I live in a very walk- and bike- friendly community, one who is in fact working to convert more roads through town with designated walk/biking lanes. However, I am afraid that they will become the avenues for the multitudes of Hovarounds that are popping up everywhere!

I see people everyday who have given up hope, plain and simple, of ever losing the weight. Diets are too painful, they can't stick with them, and they are in no shape to do ANY kind of exercise... I really fear that we are becoming the society shown in the movie Wall-E, where every citizen has their own personal hovercraft, and entire meals can be slurped in a matter of seconds, all the while personal interaction has disappeared. It scares me, but I see it happening.

Ann Report
Someone made the comment that health insurance should have to pay for weight loss surgery. Five of my friends had lap band surgery the same week three years ago. Four of them are as big or bigger than they were before the surgery. If people are not serious about taking off the weight - no quick fix is going to help. And if I have learned anything from it's that it's not the restaurant that makes me fat - it was my decision to choose a restaurant with no good choices or bad choices at the restaurants I chose. And each of us chooses which foods we buy at the grocery store. That bag of Lay's did not grow in my garden... Report
Everyone needs to eat smart, exercise and teach our children and grandchildren proper eating and healthy lifestyles. Get away from the video games and get outside. Report
We need to all exercise more and lower our carb intake levels which are too high. Report
I rememeber the 50's & sixties and not a lot of thin people I lived in Ca and we were very activie but many were over weight and didn't judge weight so violently as we do now.

Now everyone points a finger and judges. I have been working at weight loss even though I have already lost a large amount 108 lbs I still have 208 to go to my first goal.

I endure the giggles & finger pointing and nasty remarks every once in a while. I do not respond. If I did it would lower me to their level.

I simply think in my mind my problem is weight and it is loosable. These poor folks had a personality problem that is never change.

Please do not think that national obesity is something we should do anything about in terms of government control - I am sick to death of this Big Brother mentality. The only help we should give is by our good example - "This works for me, perhaps it will work for you." Health, diet, and fitness are individual decisions. The presence or absence of sidewalks does not enter into the discussion. Everyone can find a safe place to walk indoors or out. Ignorance can be cured by education. Telling people what they must do is asking for a fight. Showing them the advantages of making healthful choices is a much better approach. Report
I'm a bit on the busy-ish side (working out!) but I'll take a moment to comment on my state's excellent health! Rock on Connecticut with the 3rd lowest adult obesity rate and the 7th lowest for children! We may have high sales tax and high cost of living, but we're healthy, and in the long run, that's what matters :D Report
Jibbie49, I think you're being a bit unfair to the Dove ads and our "fat" culture in general. The Dove ads have been around for a few years now, and I still have friends at my college who have never seen or heard of one of these ads. Believe me, I have NEVER heard of anyone brag about their muffintops. EVER! Have you ever been in a room with 40 college freshmen and sophomore girls? Almost all claim to HATE their bodies, even when they are stick thin.

Some of my friends have muffintops, and even when they have high self-esteem, they certainly don't try to flaunt them. If they wear a bathing suit or shorts, yes, their bigger parts will show, but that isn't bragging, it's a matter of not caring what other people think. And those same people with high self-esteem still want to lose weight and be healthy. I think that even when a person loves their body for what it is, they will still want changes in weight, fitness, or health so that they can keep on appreciating their body for as long as possible.

Being thin is something that is ideal for almost every woman in this country, that much has not changed since the 1950s. But our world changed, and so did our lifestyle. That's why "all" of you were thin back then (I highly doubt it - American Bandstand like any other TV program would have only chosen the prettiest and thinnest people to be shown on camera). Although our current lifestyle encourages "fat," it's not because the American people want to be overweight/obese; it's because the food companies want money and they figured out the best way to do it. Report
As long as advertisers flaunt FAT as being "great" like it is with the DOVE commercials, then it will continue. When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's we were all thin and yet, we ate 3 meals a day at home at the table. Just look on YouTube at clips of AMERICAN BANDSTAND and see how we were ALL thin. Today, being fat is flaunted and having a Muffin Top hanging over pants is something they brag about. As long as you have that attitude, you will not change anything. Report
I am slightly saddened (but not surprised) to find PA in the middle of the list. Although my area is fairly walker-friendly, not all areas are.Exercise isn't as popular as beer drinking in most areas of my city! But all we can do is try to inform as many people as possible, and try to spread the spark throughout the country. Report
Here in Australia we are right up there with Americans as far as the waist line goes. The advent of the motor car didn't do health a lot of good. Parents are frightened to let their children walk to school, and indeed for some students their schools are so far away from home it is impossible for them to walk. Many parents do not have the time to walk their children to school so it is a real dilemma to fit exercise in and many children are all too happy to sit in front of their game boys or television or DVD player with parents happy that they are in a safe place.
Another aspect is that sweetness meant easy calories for our forebears and it was not easy for them to find sweetness or easy calories. Today our supermarket shelves groan with high calorie food and sweet treats and our desire for sweetness has carried through from ancient times. Education is the only thing that helps to show that we do not need to succumb to the emotional tie to such foods but oh how hard that is.
I don't believe rules will help a lot. Cigarette campaigns that educate people on the outcomes of smoking have had a huge effect on turning the way people view smoking from a sophisticated action to one of dirtiness and ill health with some of the most awful ways of dying possible. It will be a lot harder to do this with food but we have to find some way of showing people the outcomes of eating to ill health. Report
Question? How was this survey conducted? I don't remember being asked. Was it a random sampling - who made up the groups? Just curious. .
I am glad to see CA is doing fairly well for adults but I worry about our children. Economics plays an important factor in growing numbers of childhood obesity. When money is short, it is spent on foods which will fill one up. Unfortunately these foods are high in fat and high fructose. Easier to feed a child a happy meal...hey they are cheap. Another problem is children are not able to exercise as much as they should. This is particularly true in inner city environment. In dangerous areas, parents do not allow their children to go and play because of fear of "drive bys" or lack of playground facilities. So they are relegated to sitting in front of the TV or playing video games. WIC (Women, Infant, Children) has tried gallantly to focus many of their educational programs to educate parents on how to exercise either indoors or out on very little money along with nutrition education. The greatest percentage of obesity is occurring in the inner city areas. CA continues to strive to reduce those number. We apparently are not very successful.
The stats tell it all. We have gotten fatter, because of the garbage being added to food. Corn and soy are in everything. As these additives have been found in almost everything we eat, it's almost impossible to avoid them. And, as the years have gone by (since the 1980's), we have gotten fatter and fatter. Coincidence? I think not.

This is far worse than anything and is a self-inflicted epidemic. The government subsidizes these crops, which is why junk food is cheaper. When I was a teen, it cost more to purchase soda than it does today. The human body cannot digest all these additives (natural or not). The two main crops grown where I live are, you guessed it, corn and soy.

One of the best books on this subject is "The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" by Sandor Katz. It is an eye-opener. Report
Look, stressful finances have little to do with making poor food choices. There are plenty of healthy food choices for people on a budget. We have been "trained" by Corporate America via zillions of advertising dollars channeled through many media sources to salivate over chocolate decadent doo-hickeys which promote ill health. Should media and corporations choose to we could be similarly salivating over broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts!

I have ranted a bit here and there in my blogs about this: Corporate America is looking to cash in as much as possible in as many ways as possible. Whether to our detriment or not matters naught.

We need to:

1) educate as many as possible, SPREAD THE SPARK far and wide:
2) vote with our $$$ and stop buying harmful foods with empty calories. Corporate America is listening and following our healthier trends. Kentucky GRILLED Chicken didn't happen by coincidence! Smart consumers are informing Corporate America that they aren't interested in buying harmful foods! We want HEALTHFUL consequences to our spending!

3) Push our politicians, who are there to SERVE US CITIZENS, to put our tax dollars at work creating healthier communities where walking, biking, skating and otherwise being more active is not only EASY and FREE, but a FUN, JOYOUS time! Check out Jim Sallis' research on "walkable communities":

Praise lawmakers for any steps which have been taken in this direction and keep PUSHING FOR MORE! Here is a site where you can do just that! /

How "walkable" is YOUR community?

Attend city council meetings, write letters, keep the pressure on!

WE here at SparkPeople have found answers to the obesity epidemic. But we owe it to our communities to Spread the Spark and pass along the enthusiasm and pizzazz of living healthy and well lifestyles!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Tough SparkTeams Report
I agree there is no simple answer but I do believe health insurance should pay for weight loss surgery or at the very leat some sort of weight managment .If we had some help getting prevenative medicine the problem might not be so wide sread,forgive the punn.getting insurance companies to cover this would save a lot of money in the long run it would cut down on heart disease diabetes sleep apnea just to name a few. Report
Having read through the comments, it's obvious that there is no single - or simple - answer to this problem. Yes, parents have to be more vigilant of what their kids eat, but that's only a small part of it. Those same parents need to set an example - not be 'do as I say, not what I do.' If the parents eat healthy, the kids will do the same.
But even that is not as simple as it seems. These kids have friends who may - or may not - be eathing healthy, and there are also TV ads peddling junk food that are aimed specifically at our children.
But, there are also angles not often mentioned. Self-confidence and self-esteem are biggies. Depression is another one.
In my lifetime, I was 138 pounds at age 12, and, I was 150 at age 18 (after almost reaching 200). I was 240 at 30, then 195 at 32. I was almost 300 at 40, 225 at 42. And, I was 330 at 58 and now, 190 at 61. I'm still losing - my goal is 150. This time, it's staying off! This time, I got it right! Other challenges for me are that I'm hearing-impaired (I have about 35% hearing in one ear) and I am bi-polar. That's a lot of 'stuff' on one person's plate.
Looking back over my life, my self-confidence and self-esteem were inversely proportional to my weight - the higher my weight, the lower my confidence and self-esteem. At 330, I was very nearly non-functional. I was heavily medicated for bi-polar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and hypo-thyroidism.
Children, especially, suffer from a lack of self-confidence and have low self-esteem when they are teased about their weight. Food becomes their best friend, their shield, their whole world. The child then lives to eat. Obesity is just the next step, along with depression and other ailments.
Unless, and until, our collective attitudes about food changes (eat to live, rather than live to est), we will never conquer obesity. This will require not only changes in the kinds of foods available to children (and adults) but changes in other areas as well.
How adults treat children, at the emotional level, needs to change. Children are not possessions, but individuals - parents are not owners, just temporary guardians. Love can not have conditions (good grades, etc.) - it must be unconditional. A child needs to know the parents are there, no matter what!
One commenter noted that Mississippi, a poor state, has the highest obesity rate. Good point. Think back . . . how many rich, famous, successful, highly-paid people do you know who are obese? How many entertainers are obess? Very few!
With the economy the way it is, and families having to skimp wherever they can, a rise in obesity will surely follow. Years ago, a friend of mine was on welfare for a short time. Meals consisted of macaroni and 'mystery meat.' Healthy? Not exactly. Filling? You betcha! What kinds of foods are being provided to those who, due to the economy, can not provide for themselves right now? Fresh fruits and vegetables? No! Lean cuts of meat? No! It's pasta, 'mystery meat,' cheese, canned goods, etc. Don't expect obesity rates to decline any time soon.
So, what can we do? Natalie813 (comment #22 above) is right on the money!!!
Our sphere of influence extends, in this instance, to just our immediate families. Education - for ourselves and for our children (and grandchildren) - will go a long way. Take what we're learning here, on Sparks People, and elsewhere, and apply it to our own world. Explain general health to the children in terms they can understand, and put the food on the table that is good for them. Don't even have any 'junk food' in the house. Simply changing the available food won't do the trick since once the child leaves the house, it's junk food city. Children need to understand WHY we're doing this. Make the changes gradually. To go from fried everything to raw everything overnight just won't work. Start with desserts. Instead of ice cream, cake, brownies or cookies, have healthy desserts. Find recipes here or online ( has thousands of recipes of all kinds) and make great-tasting and healthy desserts. Then, start on meals. It's not as easy as popping something in the microwave or eating out, but there's a certain feeling inside when you know your family is eating better . . .
Video games are a big part of the problem. Time limits need to be set for time on the TV and/or computer. Children, especially, need to be children; to play with other children, and to be physically active. No amount of education or dietary changes will ever replace simple childs play. With the fear of the sun and/or the criminal element running rampant, parents today are sometimes reluctant to let their children go outside and play. So, get together with other parents on the block so that the group of children can be monitored by someone at all times (not a bad idea regardless of other factors). Encourage children to get into team sports (and get over the idea that team sports are dangerous - walking across the street is more dangerous in most instances).
There is much we can do within our sphere of influence, and it's entirely possible that the sphere could end up being bigger than we think it is. If our children become more active, eat better and start to slim down, they will feel better about themselves and that will spill over into their friendships, and those parents may start to see the light, too.
A journey of a thousand miles requires that first step. We can do this! If Sparks People as a whole took on the national problem of obesity, we could make a difference. It's for the greater good, after all!

I teach elementary school in NC. My school cafeteria has quit offering so many junk food options. But as much as I enjoy eating fruits and vegetables, I don't go near our cafeteria's fruit/veg options. If kids are going to learn to eat healthier, they need to be offered healthy options that actually taste good! I see the students put these items on their trays, and that's where they still are when the trays get dumped in the trash. Report
Cali was 11th lowest- sweet! Don't like the 28th lowest for kids, though.
Interesting report. Report
For the most part, I think my kids eat pretty healthy and all three are in the low end of their healthy weight range. However, I have two of the three in-laws who aren't. But my grandkids are the ones I worry about the most. For instance, one time, when my oldest granddaughter was about 5 she stayed overnight with us. I asked her what she wanted for breakfast, her reply was "Sugar" That scares me. Report
Just was reading thru comments. I walk to & from work everyday, no matter what the weather, it's only a mile one way. Half the way there isn't a sidewalk, but a small deer trail. Now that my son is away @ college, I don't buy processed foods. I buy "health foods" ie. fruit, vegetables, soy milk, tofu & my food bill is half of what it was buying junk, especially when I go to the Farmer's Market. So, I think that it is an excuse that fresh/healthy foods are more costly. Alot of the states with the high rate of obesity have farms & fresh produce. I think that people just are in the habit of eatting junk & driving every where. Report
Go Colorado! I swear it's the sunshine, believe it or not, colorado has more days with sunshine than any other state, true fact, look it up. Also, I think the fact that we have more outdoor activities. I would like to see us follow New York with a law making restaurants add the calorie count to menus, that was helpful when I was in New York Report
I am originally from NYC where you just didn't see any obesity when I left in 1978. Sadly, there is an increase in obesity there too now.

I currently live in the # 1 Fattest State in the Union, Mississippi. YeeHaa! And yes, I was obese in Mar 2008!

I like to think SparkPeople is changing Mississippi one obese person at a time. Report
In this case change has to come from the top down. Parents who become more aware and vested in living healthier lives will pass these practices on to their children. Report
I grew up in RI, moved to FL, moved to CA, and now live in TN - one of the worst states. I can honestly say there is a difference in how people perceive you in the various states. Even as a child, I remember being self-conscious of my weight. I wasn't huge, but I was wearing a size 12 or 14 in high school, while the other girls were wearing size 6 or 8. While in FL and CA, I was definitely aware of my weight, and of others perception of me because of my weight. Since I've moved to TN, I'm no longer the biggest person I know. There are kids in my daughter's high school that are bigger than me. That's not a good thing! Since I've started on SP I'm much more aware of what I eat, how much I eat, how and when I move, etc. It's help me as well as the rest of my family. Report
I live in TN one of the worst faring states. I knew this before I read the article. Southern cooking is typically not the healthiest. My town has few sidewalks to use to walk on. I have made it though by using my bikes to ride on the few bike paths that we have. Plus I am not far from good country roads to bike on too. Report
My state's somewhere in the middle. I was struck by the fact that the fattest states are also the poorest states. I think, to effectively combat obesity, we're going to have to make healthy food more affordable and easier to obtain. Community gardens, neighborhood cooperative buying, whatever it takes. Report
I agree, it all starts at home. My children are in their 20s now. One is thin, the other is overweight (not obese). The heavier one was always at the upper end of an acceptable weight, and my pediatrician encouraged me to try to get her to lose weight as she got older. I never did. I wanted to accept her for who she was (and I still do). Turns out, though, that I was not doing her a great favor. I should have encouraged her to lose weight. Not for her looks but for her health.

If I ever have grandchildren (which I expect will happen in about 10 years), I will not overload them with food, especially sweets and fast food. I will have to find other ways to spoil them.

There is an extremely good book on this subject: Fat Land by Greg Critser. I recommend it (take it out of the library if you can). Having read it, this article does not surprise me. Report
Illinois is ranked 27 for adults which means we are less obese then half the other states but, sadly, we are number 10 for children. We are failing with our young ones.

I'm not sure what the solution is but I do know that pining our hopes on school lunch programs isn't productive. As a teacher I watch the high school students leave the cafeteria line and drop their milk, apples, vegetables directly in the trash before even getting to their tables. After school they head out to the fast food places. And their always seems to be some organization (school related or not) selling candy bars for fund raising. Then who knows what their diet is at home. So healthy changes like baked fries rather then deep fried and more balanced menus may help some - but the problem is bigger than just school lunches. And PE classes are so full that it seems students often do more standing around and waiting their turns than they do exercising. And of course if they "forget" their uniforms or can't afford one - they don't get to participate at all.

One inexpensive thing that may be helpful is to have labeling be more accurate. Some way to show what foods are truly healthy. Low fat may still be high sugar or high salt. Sugar free may still be high fat. It is all very confusing for people who don't know how to read labels. Maybe require some type of health scale on packages kinda like they grade eggs and meat.

Thank goodness for SP and all the support and education we get here. We need to spread the spark!!! Report
We live in a great country, but some of our greatest things are also working against us. European towns were built with the idea of defense...everyone lived within a small area and farmed outside the walls of the town. This centralization meant that people lived close together and towns were walkable. People also had to walk long distances to reach their fields....instant exercise. When the settlers arrived in America, they allotted large plots for themselves and lived in the middle of their plots....decentralization. Most people got to other settlements by horse or wagon...instant sitting. And we have been sitting ever since. Most towns seem to have been constructed without sidewalks. Those are saved for larger cities. In order to be suburban, sidewalks are looked down on esthetically. Now when we so desperately need them, they would be cost prohibitive to install. I am fortunate to live in Connecticut. We are on the low end of the obesity scale here and fresh produce is pretty easy to come by. We have large grocery chains, but also homeowned as farm markets. My fridge is always full of fruits and vegetables. We have sidewalks only on Main Street, but there are trails, side roads and lots of fitness clubs. One was recently completed especially for kids. I can't comment on school lunches as my kids are grown and my grandkids take their own lunches, but I have heard that they have improved in the last few years. I think we are doing pretty well. Just one last comment. I read that some towns and citites are now spending the money on bariatric ambulances to carry people over 350 pounds. That is a sad commentary on the whole obesity situation. Report
I think the regional thing is very telling. I was at my slimmest when I lived in Seattle. I moved to Chicago about 5 years ago, and have been packing it on ever since. I notice a distinct difference in the way people eat here. My boyfriend and I had a discussion about "regional foods" the other day, and he was talking about this thing called a "combo sandwich" that is very Chicago, and involves Italian beef and Italian sausage... on one sandwich. I'd never heard of such a thing, and he, living in Chicago all his life, acted like I was nuts. Before I moved here, I'd never heard of deep-fried ravioli, and I'd never had a slice of deep dish pizza. I dropped my vegetarianism here because I found it more difficult to eat that way. And even though I walked just as much here as I did in Seattle, perhaps more because I got rid of my car when I moved here, it's just not as much work because it's so flat. Also, it's more difficult to be outside here, because the winters are extreme, and the summers are hot and muggy. That one year that I lived in Seattle, I lost probably 40 pounds, and I didn't even try.

Just an observation. For someone who's moved from an area that is obviously fairly health-conscious to one that just isn't, it's kind of difficult realizing that you have to work for something that before just happened without having to even think about it. I think weather, terrain, and regional food has a lot to do with it.

That said, I don't want to criminalize the combo sandwich. I've never had one, but still... I don't want everything to be like Applebees or Chilis wherever you go... Where's the fun in that? It robs the character from a place. Report
I happen to be a dietitian AND work for the Child and Adult Care Food Program - which is the same program that creates and serves breakfast, snacks, and lunches for schools as well as day cares. Which is kind of like being one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse when people get into the politics of the food program. If you're upset about the kids getting donuts and whole milk as part of their breakfast, keep in mind that there are bigger issues. Such as parents and teachers who demand (yes, DEMAND) that these foods be on the menu. While I agree some of the nutrition standards could be improved a bit, there are bigger problems. The reimbursement rates are so low that schools often cannot survive without selling a la carte items. But having worked for a few government programs, such as WIC and CACFP, I would say the biggest problem is that the parents have no clue what healthy eating is. I have seen babies being rolled into my office in a stroller with soda in their bottles. When I asked parents what the kids ate for breakfast, they answer chips, soda, and skittles. Kids always drive up to the clinic being fed junk food crackers, cookies and candy in the car (my dad would just DIE if we ever messed up his car like that). I don't think many of the parents know how to boil water much less cook a meal. I had a little boy in school who brought a BAG of marshmallows for his snack. I have gone and done nutritition education in schools where children had never tasted a carrot. A CARROT, folks!! And then there's the other half: parents who complain when a tortilla chip appears on the menu. Well, folks, tortilla chips have appeared several times on my Sparkpeople meal plan and it hasn't killed me yet. We Sparkpeople just don't eat them every day!! One problem is that some food programs are guided by the expert hand of a dietitian. Others are run by the school district. My suggestion? Make it a requirement that all food programs be reviewed by a dietitian. But I could just be biased...:) Report
I am Canadian but I suspect that there is not much difference between us when it come to losing weight. I am not sure the obese epidemic has very much to do with rules and regulations. I was over weight because of what I chose for myself. I decided to change and have been slim and trim now for almost 6 years. My friend on the other hand told me just the other day...'I am just to old.' She isn't even 50 yet. 'it's easier just to keep doing like I am doing.'. No government regulations will help her become UN-obese. It's a choice. Choose wisely. Report
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