And We Wonder Why We Are Getting Fatter

The headlines in recent days paint a very bleak picture:

USA is fattest of 33 countries (USA Today)

Obesity epidemic ranges on (Washington Post)

Unhealthy eating and inactivity are  leading causes of death in the US
(US Department of  Health & Human Services)

Leon's getting larger.

According to health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, U.S. obesity rates have increased in the past 10 years even though the government set a goal of reducing obesity rates to 15% of the population by 2010. Fail.

Obesity rates inched up 1.1% between 2007 and 2009, according to a new report released by the CDC. In just the past two years, 2.4 million people have joined the ranks of the obese. About 72.5 million U.S. adults are now obese, the report found. That’s 26.7% of the population, compared to 25.6% in 2007.

“The prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity remains disturbingly high among adults in the United States, and our trend analysis shows that both may still be increasing among men,” the CDC researchers said.

To top it all off, Americans now have the dubious distinction of being the fattest nation among 33 advanced nations. Fail.

And some people scratch their heads and wonder why this is happening. There are several possible answers but, in my humble opinion, there is one very simple one: we eat too much (and much of what we eat is junk) and we don’t exercise. Check out this video from ABC News. It’s only 2-1/2 minutes long but says so much about what/how much we eat in this country and demonstrates how easy it is, if you’re not engaged in maintaining your well being, to go completely overboard when it comes to calories and fat. You can actually see and hear the immediate physical results of eating this disastrous “meal”. Seeing the fat content in the reporter’s blood sample is amazing and scary at the same time.

What Exactly Does a 6,190 Calorie Lunch Do to Your Body?

And this is just lunch! What happens when you eat breakfast and dinner? While this story aired in 2009, things haven’t improved much at many chain restaurants. The most recent assault on our health: fried lasagna from the Olive Garden, described as Parmesan-breaded lasagna pieces, fried and served over Alfredo sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce. This heart-attack-waiting-to-happen includes 1,030 calories and 63 grams of fat (that’s 97% of your recommended daily intake), not to mention 121 grams (105%) of saturated fat and 150 milligrams (67%) of sodium. And this is just an appetizer!

Olive Garden does have a couple of less life-threatening items on the menu, but why are they offering food that should only be found at a state fair? Is this responsible behavior? Who thinks up these concoctions? Is there a group of sadistic chefs out there who are trying to kill us with inhumanely large portion sizes, fried in fat and soaked in salt with almost zero nutritional value? It seems like a very poorly thought out business plan—if you kill your customers, how do you expect to stay in business? Perhaps menus should come with warnings like cigarette packages do: This product is known to cause diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Or maybe there should be a rule: if you create a meal-time monstrosity, you must create a nutritious meal to keep the balance.

Restaurants say they are giving customers what they want. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who wants to die early from heart disease, diabetes or any other obesity-related disorders. How about caring enough about customers to help them lead healthy lives. You can leave the Alfredo sauce and chocolate chip cookies on the menu, just post the nutritional info and keep the portion sizes reasonable. And for those of us who don’t want to see fat floating in our blood, give us a nice piece of fish, chicken or lean meat prepared with delicious herbs and spices—not fried in fat and drowned in sodium.

It’s time we start taking accountability for what we put in our bodies. It’s so simple. Watch your portion sizes, count your calories, read nutritional labels, and get some exercise. And let your favorite restaurants know that you want healthier food in healthier portions. Your dollars matter—exercise your voice and your wallet, too.

Officials at the CDC are now developing targets for reducing obesity by 2020. Let’s hope we get a passing grade the next time.

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December 2022