We’re losing the battle of the bulge

There’s good news and bad news in America’s fight against obesity.

The good news is over the past year obesity rates held steady in all but six states, while childhood obesity rates stabilized nationwide. The bad news is, the good news pretty much ends there. Even worse news for Tennessee, ours was one of the six states with an increased obesity rate.

The bright spots were enough to prompt a name change for the obesity report issued by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Formerly known as “F as in Fat,” this year’s report was simply titled: “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.”

But while Mississippi and West Virginia claim the dubious honor of being the heaviest states and the first to surpass the 35 percent obesity threshold (their adult obesity rates average 35.1 percent), Tennessee, at 33.7 percent, joins Kentucky and Arkansas to round out – no pun intended – the top five fattest states in the country.

In addition to being disproportionately higher in the South, obesity rates are higher among lower-income Americans, and among African American and Latino communities than Caucasians. Note these troubling statistics from the report:

  • Adult obesity rates for African Americans are at or above 40 percent in 11 states, 35 percent in 29 states and 30 percent in 41 states.
  • Rates of adult obesity among Latinos exceeded 35 percent in five states and 30 percent in 23 states.
  • Among Caucasians, adult obesity rates topped 30 percent in 10 states.
  • Adults ages 45 to 64 have the highest obesity rates of any age group – topping 35 percent in 17 states and 30 percent in 41 states.
  • More than 33 percent of adults ages 18 and older who earn less than $15,000 per year are obese, compared with 25.4 percent who earn at least $50,000 per year.
  • More than 6 percent of adults are severely obese (more than 100 pounds over their ideal body weight); the number of severely obese adults has quadrupled in the past 30 years.

Unfortunately, there’s even more bad news. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that, even if fewer Americans are adding pounds, we’re still adding inches to our waistlines.

2014-11 GIA Blog Post image - how to measure your waist (2)

Where you carry extra weight can be an important factor in how much that weight affects your health. Women whose waist size is more than 35 inches and men with a waist size greater than 40 inches are at higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The CDC study shows 43 percent of men and 64 percent of women are in that danger zone.

The report didn’t look into reasons for the added girth to American’s waistlines, but some researchers have suggested the problem is linked to high sugar diets, sleep deprivation and stress.

Wondering whether your waist circumference puts you in the danger zone? To get an accurate measurement, stand up, breathe out and place a tape measure snugly around your bare abdomen, just above the top of your hip bones (usually at the level of your belly button). If your measurement puts you in the danger zone (greater than 35 for women and greater than 40 inches for men), talk to your physician about ways to address your waistline.