A big helping of bad news

Kansas in the Top 10 of obese states?

By The Mercury

Which is worse: That the obesity rate among Kansans will more than double between 2011 and 2030 — from 30 percent last year to 62 percent of us in 18 years — or that Kansas could be the seventh fattest state in the country?

That’s only a little like asking people to choose between shoe leather and tree bark for dessert.

The projections stem from research by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and are based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest projections are worse than government projections;  that is, these expect us to be even more obese in 2030 than the government does. Then again, the difference is akin to the difference between having French fries or having cheesy French fries.

One thing Kansans — and our fellow Americans — half of whom are projected to be not just overweight but downright obese — can do is ignore the findings. Or just deny them. This report is almost depressing enough to call for a giant bag of Ruffles and a Mountain Dew so big it’s illegal in New York City.

But if we ignore these findings — as we’ve ignored just about every other obesity story or projection that has come along (Will they never stop?) — the next one might be even more insulting. Who wants that? Who wants to be told not just that they’re fat but that they’re getting fatter?

We Kansans don’t like to think of ourselves as fat, though some of us are. We think of ourselves as an aware and active bunch who enjoy being outside — except perhaps in the winter when it’s cold and the summer when it’s hot. We don’t mind, however, thinking of Southerners as fat, and, as it turns out, with good reason. Were it not for Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, Kansas would be in the top three states projected to be the most obese in 2030.

Being in the Obesity Top 10 isn’t something we ought to strive for. Or the Top 25, for that matter. Maybe all we need is a little motivation to help us eat a little less and a little smarter and get some exercise. Vanity can play a part in this. We know we’d look better if we lost a little weight. If it’s money that matters most, it’s worth remembering that obesity and the many afflictions that accompany it — diabetes and heart disease, for example — are expensive as well as deadly. That’s money we could spend on something fun. We’d also find it easier to put our socks on, tie our shoes and walk up stairs. And, of course, we would feel better — a lot better than we do after gobbling up a bag of Ruffles and sucking down a two-fisted Mountain Dew.

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