We are a plus-size nation, and we’re getting heavier all the time.
The annual report on The State of Obesity by the Trust for America’s Health found that “Obesity rates have been rising for decades across states, ages, sexes and racial/ethnic groups, with continued increases during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
(The Trust defines obesity as “an individual’s body fat and body fat distribution exceed the level considered healthy.” For adults, body-mass index (BMI) is used as a proxy for body fat. For example, an adult with a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese. For children, BMI is expressed as a percentile of their peer group. For example, a child in the 95th percentile or greater is considered obese.)
According to the Trust, four in ten adults are considered obese, and that is a 37 percent increase over the last two decades. Ten years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 35 percent. Now, 19 states fall into that category.
Children are also getting heavier. One in five children is obese. That is an increase of 42 percent over the last two decades.
The Trust reports that being overweight contributes to many physical and mental conditions, higher health care costs and loss of productivity. Individuals who are overweight are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, depression, illness from Covid-19 and other maladies.
Unfortunately, West Virginia is at the top of the Trust’s state-by-state obesity list. Forty-one percent of our state’s adults are classified as obese, and three-fourths fall into the categories of obese or simply overweight. Kentucky is right behind us, followed by Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
The least obese states are Hawaii at 25 percent, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey.
According to the Trust, there are several reasons for our weight problem. One is food and nutrition insecurity. That is when households do not have access to enough food and/or the kind of food that provides high nutritional quality. This condition is more common in poorer rural states like West Virginia.
Another reason is a lack of physical activity. The Trust found that one in three West Virginia adults are physically inactive. That is one of the highest rates in the nation. Individuals in Colorado were the most active.
We are free to live our lives as we choose, and that includes eating what we want and sitting on the porch instead of working in the garden or going to the playground.
Also, many have limited access to healthy food options, and shoppers quickly learn that less nutritious meals are cheaper and more convenient.
None of this is about fat shaming; it is a simple, but disturbing, recognition of one of the ongoing challenges in West Virginia that has a direct impact on our well-being.