United States of Fatties

It’s harsh but true: Americans keep getting fatter and there seems no end in sight. According to new government data published last week, nearly 40 percent of Americans are now obese…that is, fatter than fat. Nearly 8 percent of Americans are categorized as “severely obese,” meaning their body mass indexes are 40 percent over ideal weight. A BMI over 40 percent is categorized as “morbidly obese” with death on the not-so-distant horizon (choose your funeral options while you can).

The newly published data is nothing new – we know we are a nation of fatties, and we know the health risks and diseases these extra pounds produce. What’s scary about this new study is that nothing seems to be working to slim our jiggly waistlines. The fact that we know – and are educated about America’s obesity epidemic – is not enough to change our eating habits. We know we should not eat fast food, yet fast food sales increased 23 percent from 2012 to 2017. We know we should not eat processed packaged food, yet sales rose 9 percent during this time period. What the hell is going on? Health education is not working. Or it’s no competition to the purveyors of sugary processed products.

The fast food and processed food companies spend billions to sell the idea that Americans need to exercise more, but data proves diet – not exercise – is the key to weight management and health. Simply put: we need to stop eating crap. Unfortunately, unhealthy foods cost less and are more readily available, especially for poorer Americans. Adam Drewnowsk, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, says, “People eat what they can afford.” If the food companies are unwilling to sacrifice profit margins for our health, then government needs to step in with regulations (just like it did with the tobacco industry).

Obesity is political. Instead of regulating these processed food giants, however, the Trump administration has proposed new rules that help food companies profit further off our health. Instead of adding new warnings on unhealthy packaged foods high in sugar, for example, Trump proposes removing labels that could potentially harm sales. The food industry will not willingly change without reason to do so. They pretend they are the solution to America’s obesity problem, instead of the cause. The study published last week further proves this: as profit margins increase, so do our waistlines.

Dr. H.