Do Real People Care About Obesity Rates Anymore?

Photo Courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at
Photo Courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at

We live in a different world now than 50 years ago – in some ways that’s good, and in some ways it is not. In one of my podcasts (of which I haven’t done many)  I was talking about being obese back in the 1990s, I said into the microphone, “I was in the minority among people I knew, because the obesity rates were not as high as they are now.”

After I finished the recording, I thought back to that statement and realized it really was true.

It got me curious, so I spent some time researching statistics and found this information from the CDC.

CDC Obesity Graphics

That’s a tremendous shift in the number of people who are obese and when you add in the people who are overweight, more than two-thirds of Americans struggle with their weight. I see it everywhere I go. At baseball games, in the mall, at church, in stores, among my friends – everywhere.

The rise in obesity rates has made people who are an average weight be in the minority.

If 66 percent of people are either obese or overweight, there are only 34 percent of people who are at a healthy weight.

Children are also affected by obesity. I see the physical realities when I’m in a school and see kids who don’t fit easily into the small desks. I see it when I’m at the mall and parents are complaining to the sales clerk that there aren’t clothes big enough for their 10 year old child who needs an adult plus size. And I see it when I’m at the grocery store and a mom is passing out Little Debbie snack cakes and orange soda to her children who are all markedly overweight.

For adults, the physical realities of obesity manifest themselves into the need for bigger seats at theaters (Reuters news article here), longer car seat belts, more substantial operating tables, larger furniture, and of course bigger clothes. I’ve known friends who had to forgo medical tests or undergo alternative medical procedures because they couldn’t fit into the testing apparatus or the anesthesiologist could not place the epidural line successfully because of their weight.

Of course, both children and adults who are obese are at an increased risk for health problems.

I often wonder if the high rate of obesity/overweight makes us grow accustomed to seeing people who are overweight and we no longer think that it really matters whether most of Americans are overweight because “everyone” is.

In some ways, I think it desensitizes us to the large number of overweight people in our social groups. This desensitization can lead to a bit of an apathy when it comes to weight problems. I have met people who say, “Well, my aunt/friend/brother has been overweight their whole life and they are fine. I’m not going to mess with losing weight. It’s too much work and for what?”

After all, if most of our friends are overweight, then one incentive, peer pressure, to get to a healthy weight is gone. I feel as though that fact affects the obesity rates to a degree. I have had people tell me to just eat whatever I want when we are at a restaurant together because “Who cares anymore” if you gain a few pounds?

It’s that kind of attitude that is detrimental to the fight against obesity.

Who cares anymore?

The government and doctors care and spend money and time encouraging Americans to exercise and eat in moderation. And there are other people who care (of course), but the message doesn’t seem to be making a big difference in the number of people who struggle with their weight.

The rising rates of obesity really may make some people say “Who cares?” and they just keep on eating huge hamburgers, downing sodas, and remaining sedentary. And that’s a real shame.

What do you think? Does the rise in obesity rates cause some people to just accept their weight and give up trying to get to a healthy weight? Diane

5 thoughts on “Do Real People Care About Obesity Rates Anymore?

  1. Nancy B. Kennedy says:

    I think you’re absolutely right, that a person’s environment — and peers — can influence weight accepance. I live in an area where people are active and the majority of people are fit or trying to be. (They also have enough money to pursue whatever activity they choose, but that’s another matter.) I don’t consider it pressure, but if the norm is healthy living, you tend to internalize that goal. It certainly encouraged me to lose 30 pounds and drop three dress sizes. But when I travel to the northern state in which I was born and raised, it’s a different story. Maybe it’s the cold weather and the need for sweaters and coats most of the year that makes people blase about their weight. Or the fact that outdoor activity is almost impossible, as something cold and wet is falling from the sky 90 percent of the time! Or, maybe it’s that your friends are all heavy so it’s okay for you to be. Or that the recipes you carry down through the generations are fat and sugar laden. Whatever the case, I do notice a difference and it makes me more committed to weight maintenance. I was recently at a celebration of a church’s 50th anniversary, and I noticed that the remaining original adult members, all in their 80s and 90s, were of a healthy weight. Obesity must certainly affect your health, quality of life and longevity, no matter how hard you try to ignore the facts. It is a shame, because losing that extra weight lifts not only a burden from your body, but from your mind. I wish people could experience the freedom for just one day, so they would gain the motivation to make it happen!

    • Martha G says:

      I love that comment about experiencing the freedom! That’s what I was trying to get at in my post.
      As someone in the NE, it is a challenge to get outside in the winter, but not impossible. I probably get out to walk every day no matter what (exception is ICE). Bundle up and get moving works.

      • Nancy B. Kennedy says:

        Martha… I’m so glad you found what worked for you! Congratulations! Isn’t it incredible what losing and maintaining weight loss does for your frame of mind?!? When I lost my weight, I thought I was just changing the shape of my body, but I was really changing the state of my mind.

  2. Martha G says:

    Excellent points and I do think too many just shrug their shoulders and say “well so many people are fat, why not me?” Sadly too many believe that losing weight is hard and a deprivation. I learned that it doesn’t have to be – over 14 months I lost 50 lbs with gradual changes in my eating and just walking. The changes I made are ones I live with now knowing that for my health I had to and wanted to start eating healthy most of the time.
    A heart attack after the 50 lb weight loss got me to lose another 30 which I’ve kept off over 2 years.
    The way I live now is 180% better than the way I was living:
    Feel great with lots of energy
    Can get up off the floor with no problem
    Fit comfortably in seats and the airplane seat belt it loose
    Wear skinny jean and look good in them
    No more GERD
    Sleep great
    Love the food I eat and pretty much eat everything although some things in moderation
    Love to exercise – it just feels good and is a mood booster

    The list goes on and I wish that I’d figured this out sooner, but I didn’t. Good news is I did figure it out and wish overweight and obese people knew what they were missing.

  3. Katie Cross says:

    What’s interesting to me is that the whole “fat acceptance” movement has really taken off, and we’re seeing tit more in Hollywood, which arguably used to see like the most anti-obese place ever. Not that I think obesity is a great thing to be *proud* of so to speak (speaking as someone who is, and has been, medically defined as overweight all my life), but that acceptance of who we are, in the moment, is okay.

    I also think that people do care about obesity rates, especially since shows like The Biggest Loser came onto the scene.

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