The Gathering Storm


Some sobering, if predictable, news on obesity:

Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today, more than two out of three states, 38 total, have obesity rates over 25 percent, and just one has a rate lower than 20 percent. Since 1995, when data was available for every state, obesity rates have doubled in seven states and increased by at least 90 percent in 10 others. Obesity rates have grown fastest in Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee, and slowest in Washington, D.C., Colorado, and Connecticut. 

"Today, the state with the lowest obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995," said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. "There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last twenty years, and we can't afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending."

And from the homefront, in all but eight states, more than 30 percent of African-Americans are obese. 

For obvious personal reasons, I feel this one. I think most weight-loss advice beyond (eat less, move more, eat more veggies, and track calories) is pretty worthless. We're all so very different. Some people need to drop pasta. Some (me) can't live without it. Vegetarian works for some. Caveman for others. But the one insight I've garnered is a deep belief that when we talk about obesity we're talking about something more. We're talking lifestyle, work patterns, and methods of consumption. 

I'm not sure what you say to someone trapped in a car for hours, in a high stress job, with kids, bills to pay and parents getting old. At the end of the day, that person has used nearly all their strong moral principle in the hope of not reaching for pistol and ball. And salt and sugar is such an apparently inexpensive break from the madness. The challenge, it seems to me, is discovering how to live healthy in a world of cheap beef. It actually makes me wonder if, in other eras, people suffered bad health outcomes as their methods of consumption changed.

I'm almost done with my own voyage and all I can say is that those of you out there who are in the hunt, not to look like Jennifer Aniston or Ryan Gosling, but to see grand-kids, to be able to walk more than ten city blocks, is keep at it. Slow and easy. 

I lost, on average, only ten pounds a year--not even a pound a month. Sometimes I barely lost. Sometimes I barely gained. And sometimes--very often--nothing moved. But all the way I told myself, This too shall fall before me.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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