Americans Got Even Fatter Last Year

The CDC does a phone survey every year where they figure out people’s BMI score based on the height and weight they report. (Try it on yourself here.) This score has all kinds of problems, but on the whole it’s a decent way to measure how fat most people are, with the alarm bells going off above a score of 30, which is considered obese. What the CDC has been doing is figuring out, state by state, what percentage of the people are obese and putting that on a map where cool blue colors are good (lower rate of obesity) and warm red colors are bad. The lighter and bluer they are, the better they are… and the heavier and redder they are, the more obese they are. Here’s what that map looked like in 1990, which was the first year the CDC had data on all but five states:

Obesity rates in 1990


This was 20 years ago. Every state was under 15%, meaning no more than 1 in 7 people were obese. Fast forward ten years to 2000:

Obesity rates in 2000


In just ten years, every state had gotten significantly more obese, and Colorado was the only one left under 15%. About 1 in 5 people were obese at this point. Fast forward another ten years to the latest survey:


Same trend as before: in the first decade, the map went from light and medium blues to heavy blues and beiges. In the second decade, the map went from heavy blues and beiges to oranges and reds. Every single state is now above 20%, and a good deal (mostly in the Deep South) are above 30%. So about 1 in 4 people are now obese, or almost double the rate in just 20 short years. Now that is a milestone! Thank you to all of those involved:

  • Coke and Pepsi, for their delicious empty calories
  • McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, for their delicious, giant, fiber-less meals that could feed five Somalians
  • The Department of Health and Human Services and its low-fat/high-sugar push in the ’80s
  • Various advertisers, for making it all look so good
  • Congress, for its farm subsidies that make bad food ridiculously cheap
  • TV, Internet, cars and all of the other modern conveniences that mean we never have to move, except to eat
  • And most importantly, to people like you and me, whose daily contributions have created a culture of just not caring enough to do anything worthwhile about it

On the bright side, all of the obesity will do wonders for our skyrocketing health costs: over their lifetime, obese people die sooner and therefore cost the system a lot less than healthy, fit people.

From CDC, via NPR


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