Fat but not so happy: Southern counties lead U.S. obesity rates

I wish we could put health-oriented programs like Girls on the Run at every school.

I wish we could put health-oriented programs like Girls on the Run at every school.

Interesting story in the AJC today on the counties in the U.S. with the greatest obesity problems. It will be no surprise to anyone who has ever attended a county fair in rural areas to learn that the South tops the list.

The story states:

ATLANTA — The first county-by-county survey of obesity reflects past studies that show the rate of obesity is highest in the Southeast and Appalachia. High rates of obesity and diabetes were reported in more than 80 percent of counties in the Appalachian region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The same problem was seen in about 75 percent of counties in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

I know that schools are called upon to solve all of society’s problems, but I think obesity is becoming such a large problem – excuse the unintended pun – that it can’t be ignored.

I think schools ought to partner with recreation and active living programs to launch elementary school running programs and fitness camps. My 10-year-old daughter attends a terrific track program after school called Girls on the Run, which takes place at a local public school but charges a fee. I would love to see programs like that for all kids based at every school.

Again, I don’t think we should ask school staffs to embrace this challenge but we certainly ought to use school facilities. I know there are costs, but it will be considerably less expensive to prevent childhood obesity than to pay the associated health bills later.

There is a link between obesity and lack of education, which is likely why the South and Appalachia always lead the lists. Educated people stay in better shape.

Perhaps, as we improve our schools we’ll see healthier lifestyles.

60 comments Add your comment

oldtimer

November 23rd, 2009
11:27 am

Begin by shutting down drink and snack machines in schools.

what's best for kids???

November 23rd, 2009
11:46 am

Begin by having recess for more than 15 mintues a day in all schools~even middle, I think.

Echo

November 23rd, 2009
11:51 am

Will never happen…those vending machines put a LOT of $$$ in the “principals fund” and kids aren’t tested on recess or PE. Schools (administration and board office actually) have 2 main concerns; MONEY & TEST SCORES.

FloJo

November 23rd, 2009
11:51 am

The damage has been done. The youth were doomed the moment the schools systems pushed physical fitness and physical education down the list of importance. School lunch programs are a joke. I once questioned the cafeteria staff and management at my niece’s school about healthier food choices, his response was “The kids won’t eat that, they want burgers, fries, pizza and soda”. “It would be bad for my business if I stocked food that I couldn’t sell wouldn’t it”?

slimgoodbody

November 23rd, 2009
11:59 am

Kids will likely want to eat what they eat at home. Parents need to provide better food choices at home as well. But I Agree with you Flojo. The importance of physical fitness and physical education is gone. In my day, (I’m 37), even if we at junk at home, we could always count on PE, sports and physical activities at school to burn it off. Atari was the best thing, but hardly enough to keep us in the house all day easting and not getting physical activity. It was almost like we were wired back them to get out of the house, head to the park, basketball court, swimming pool. Don’t see that anymore.

Reality

November 23rd, 2009
12:04 pm

We need to look at eating as fuel replinishment and not an event. How much fuel do we really need? Excess fuel becomes FAT especially if one leads a sedentary lifestyle.

V for Vendetta

November 23rd, 2009
12:09 pm

I keep hearing about the obesity “epidemic,” but I couldn’t care less. Like anything else, including education, good habits are first modeled by parents. However, parents no longer seemed concerned with the health of their children. They allow them to sit inside all day and play video games, watch TV, and surf the net. Very rarely do they push them out the door to play–even more rarely do they sign them up for some type of organized sports. If you want to label something an “epidemic,” that’s where I would start. But no one wants to look at the cause, they all want to look at the effect.

The effect, of course, is FAT. It doesn’t take a scientist to understand that you will gain weight if you intake more calories than you burn. We’re not talking critical thinking here.

I couldn’t care less for people who are overweight (remember when we used to just call them that?) because they eat too much. I have an idea: Stop eating! Try working out for a change; you’d be shocked at how good it makes you feel.

I’m all for putting a little playtime back into school, but keep food the way it is. I like eating what I want–always have–but I work out like a madman to EARN it. Yes, that’s right, I said EARN it. I eat what I want because I work it off, and I bust my butt to do so. But most people want to look a certain way without sacrificing the blood, sweat, and tears to do it. Please.

This is precisely why we DON’T need universal health care. I don’t want my tax dollars going to someone who couldn’t keep the spoon out of his mouth.

Roekest

November 23rd, 2009
12:15 pm

@ V for Vendetta

Is it lonely up there on that pedestal of yours?

dd

November 23rd, 2009
12:19 pm

PUT PE BACK IN SCHOOL.

V for Vendetta

November 23rd, 2009
12:38 pm

Roekest,

The fact that you think I believe I’m on a pedestal because I exercise and eat right strikes at the heart of the obesity “epidemic.”

RJ

November 23rd, 2009
12:47 pm

Good eating and exercise habits should start at home, however the reality is that it often doesn’t. I see teenaged girls getting bigger and bigger. They munch on chips, cookies and crackers all day long. It’s a serious problem. I doubt that all schools will address this issue as long as NCLB is in effect. You will have schools in middle to upper middle income areas create programs for their kids. Kids in lower income areas will continue to solely focus on test scores.

Let’s hope some form of universal healthcare is passed. Obesity is only one health problem in our country. Let’s look at the bigger picture.

Sarge

November 23rd, 2009
1:02 pm

JOHN F. KENNEDY COUNCIL ON YOUTH PHYSICAL FITNESS

To: Ga Ed Elites

Do the research. It worked just fine back in the Dark Ages.

Batgirl

November 23rd, 2009
1:16 pm

V,

I, too, exercise like a fiend, but I can’t and don’t eat what I want when I want it. No matter how hard I work, I am stuck at a certain point, and it’s not because I don’t have it to lose. I am obese (however, there is a lot of muscle under the fat). So, this belief that all one has to do is get the spoon out of one’s mouth and get up off the couch is more than a little condescending and misguided. Now, having said that, I do want to see more emphasis put back on PE and recess, so that fewer kids end up looking like me. However, you would not believe the numbers of middle schoolers who simply refuse to participate in PE.

As for school meals, I have seen some improvements over the past few years. Our kids rarely get cookies, cakes, etc. for dessert. Dessert is now fruit. Breads are now whole wheat, milk is either skim or 1% and portion sizes are not enough to fill up those skinny, active, growing boys with great metabolisms. Students do not have access to soda or vending machines, although we do sell plain water to them.

We used to do it!

November 23rd, 2009
2:04 pm

I have an idea, why dont we stop the non stop testing that accomplishes nothing and have mandatory Physical Education programs (daily). PE used to be the best part of the day because you knew at one point every day you got to play. Excercise is healthy for the mind also. Now it takes a back seat. I also agree with the above when it comes to soda machines. Our lunches only included milk and sometimes “milk shakes”. Water is available too at little to no cost.

Northern Visitor

November 23rd, 2009
2:08 pm

Just packing up to leave from the atl cesspool after conducting business and I have to TOTALLY agree with this article. People down here vs. my home state of Connecticut are just plain fat, lazy, and sloppy looking. I don’t even want to address the “educational” gap.

ARY (Another Rude Yankee)

November 23rd, 2009
2:20 pm

Northern Visitor,

You sound like someone who can brighten an entire room–by leaving it. I’ll bet you won’t see an attractive woman until you return to the South.

Also, Northern visitor–let’s keep it that way (visitor). The thing that scares me the most in life is a Yankee with a moving van.

Tell “intelligent” Chris Dodd to enjoy his remaining months in the Senate.

abc

November 23rd, 2009
2:21 pm

Exercise doesn’t lose weight, diet does. They become obese due to diet, both eating too much, and eating food that is processed junk. They have poor cardio health and muscle tone due to being sedentary. There’s a difference.

I read the other day that a good amount of obese people are just fine with their obesity, it doesn’t bother them, and they don’t consider it a problem. They’re often a pain to be around, though — on the plane or train, in restaurants, waddling down the hall at a snail’s pace and one can’t even get around them due to the amount of space they take up. Ah, but, grace and compassion, grace and compassion… it must be awful to be so darn fat… only to discover that there’s a good chance that for the fatty, it’s not such a problem at all. They like it!

atlshirt.com

November 23rd, 2009
2:36 pm

I can not wait for a fat person to sue someone for discrimination… at this point in time, I sort of wish I was that fat guy who gets charged extra because of his size.. I would sue, and live a fat happy lifestyle.. you can not discriminate against someone’s skin color, but I geuss it is pollitically correct to discriminate against someone for thier belly size… lots of fat black women should be very scared !!!

notapig

November 23rd, 2009
2:50 pm

Kids are addicted to the screen: TV, computer, and cell phone. Lock them outside until dark and keep them active. Regardless of your athletic ability, everyone should be walking, running, swimming or doing something to get their heart rate up. I think the obesity ‘epidemic’ has to do the radical change in food in the past 50 years(processed) and that our activities are all sedentary now, especially jobs. I am going back to the farm. I recommend FOOD INC to give you an idea of what and how we eat these days.♥ your sharecropper

lmno

November 23rd, 2009
2:58 pm

I dont think this is necessarily a kid’s problem. i see lots of fat adults too.

wow

November 23rd, 2009
3:13 pm

I moved overseas to work several years ago, and on returning to visit I was flabberagasted at the sizes of the portions that were served to me in restaurants. I’m sure they were that big when I left but I guess I didn’t notice.
While there is a lot that miss about the US, including Atlanta, one thing I do like where I live is that the Coke is made with real sugar. At least I understand what sugar is as opposed to that sweetener they use in the US.

Bone

November 23rd, 2009
3:15 pm

Batgirl,
Bet I can place you on a bread and water diet, and you’ll lose weight. You have to stop putting more in so it will come off…only logical.

We have to get kids in better shape…we have to get kids better education…we have to get kids better teeth…..when does it end? Moderation is the key to all of this. Don’t worry if you kid doesn’t make the cover of US or People magazine. Just watch what they eat and give them some common sense.

Basically talk with them about it and then get off your lazy tails with them!!

ScienceTeacher671

November 23rd, 2009
3:23 pm

I’m guessing a lot of these kids are overweight before they ever start school, which isn’t the school’s fault.

I agree that kids need PE, recess, and other exercise and “blow off steam” time during the day, but I also know that when we were children, there were no video games, there was no children’s programming except early in the morning and on Saturday mornings, and our parents wouldn’t have let us sit around watching TV all afternoon anyway. We had to stay outside and play until dinnertime, and maybe some of the time after dinner. We didn’t sit around inside unless perhaps it was raining or dark.

abc

November 23rd, 2009
3:26 pm

Bread and water is not such a great idea. All the diet fads aren’t such a great idea, either. Just eat whole and natural foods, a balance of different stuff, and keep the calories at 2000 per day. If you don’t start losing weight within a week or two, cut daily calories to 1600-1800. Certainly you’ll start losing weight then. Those calorie counts are absolutely certain to result in weight loss. While exercising won’t do diddly squat in losing weight, it won’t hurt to put in at least 30 minutes of strenuous cardio every day, along with some other gym activities.

Eat less, go to the gym, stick to it. You will lose weight the old fashioned way.

PeteyNice

November 23rd, 2009
3:30 pm

Am I the only one amused that the article directly above this on ajc.com right now is for a free dessert?

NeverFat

November 23rd, 2009
3:35 pm

@ V for Vendetta – You rock!
@ abc – You rock too!
V hit the nail on the head “good habits are first modeled by parents”. Most parents don’t encourage physical activity for their children, I guess it’s safer to have kids within reach nowadays. How many parents are teaching their children about the foods they eat? Learning about nutritious foods is often overlooked in today’s family. My mother made exercise a part of her daily routine. I grew up thinking mothers worked out. Although it’s been more than 30 years, I can still remember as a young child, my dad doing pushups with me counting while sitting on his back. He played sports and had healthy habits. Both my parents made exercise, healthy eating, and plenty of rest what the whole family enjoyed. And I thank them for that. My siblings and I enjoy the benefits of such good upbringing. Healthy choices should be taught at home and school at any early age. Those lessons will more likely be carried throughout life.

Maureen Downey

November 23rd, 2009
3:42 pm

Petey, After your comment, I went to Rana Cash’s Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog. She does begin her item on the free desserts with this caution: “Before you read this, I must ask: Do you have an exercise plan? If not, move on to the next item.”
Maureen
(Of course, I have a plan. But what Rana needs to ask is, “Do you have a plan that you’re actually following?”

oldtimer

November 23rd, 2009
4:37 pm

Kids do need recess, Mine used to play much harder at recess than organized PE with a teacher. Middle Schoolers are another matter. They (Many-not all) go out of their way to avoid anything active. As a parent, I provided good meals for my children and made them go outside after school for a while even if they had homework. They also participated in sports, dancing etc. As a teacher I saw lunchrooms cook nice healthy food the kids supplemented with a bag of chips and a soft drink brought from home. Many of these in my last school were on free lunch. They do not play outside as parents work and they must stay inside.
Another problem I am beginning to see is the drop in Art, Music, and Drama programs. These enrich lives and increase intellegence. These programs can also reinforce the standard curriculum.
We do need to remember that the whole child needs to be educated for a better life.

Philosopher

November 23rd, 2009
6:13 pm

My kid is healthy, fit and a eats a healthy diet (health care provider, here)…I pack her lunch every day.. BUT…almost all recess in elementary school was withheld because some kid wouldn’t behave, it was too cold, too hot,etc, etc, etc. And now in middle school, she doesn’t get out of the building AT ALL except on PE days and she doesn’t even have PE every quarter. On top of that, she has homework till 9 or 10 p.m. everyday and lots on weekends. She LOVES to play ouside…we love to play soccer and shoot hoops and ride bikes and look for creatures…but school is killing us. Heads up- DO NOT start the Oh, what a whiner thing…I’m just stating facts!

V for Vendetta

November 23rd, 2009
8:15 pm

NeverFat,

My four-year-old rides on my back in the same way. She likes to get down on all fours and do push ups with me, too. It’s pretty cute.

high school teacher

November 23rd, 2009
9:39 pm

Maureen, you wrote in your article, “Educated people stay in better shape.” Educated people also probably have better paying jobs and can afford to buy healthier food. With the recession (they tell us it’s getting better but I’m not buying it), more families are relying on cans of Ravioli and other types of processed food that contain fillers that are bad for you. Bad food is much cheaper than healthy food.

Echo

November 23rd, 2009
10:16 pm

“more families are relying on cans of Ravioli and other types of processed food that contain fillers that are bad for you. Bad food is much cheaper than healthy food.”

You can grow your own food though…that’s even healthier!

Philosopher

November 23rd, 2009
10:27 pm

Echo- Yes- that’s right…if you have a place to do so… I have seen some great patio gardens for those who don’t have much room….but protein is still a problem…any ideas?

irisheyes

November 23rd, 2009
10:32 pm

“You can grow your own food though…that’s even healthier!”

Living in an apartment? Plus, lots of parents are working two jobs to make ends meet. I’m not disagreeing with you, but it’s just not a viable option for lots of people.

I agree about PE and recess. I know my students work much better on days when they’ve had a chance to get outside and run around. Plus, since I don’t have any windows in my room, it’s a great pick me up for me to see the sunshine. Makes everyone’s moods better.

I wish more groups would utilize the schools for after – school programs of any type, whether running clubs or something else.

MCMM

November 23rd, 2009
10:52 pm

Obesity is a complex issue that doesn’t just involve diet and exercise, but cultural factors, socioeconomic factors, etc. I believe we can encourage healthy living in school, but the problem won’t be solved solely by getting rid of pizza on the menu or extending recess.

I’m disappointed in some of the posts on this blog. Somehow, the discussion moved from discussing how to help children stay healthy to making fun of “fatties waddling down the hall”.

Not one person who has posted is perfect – we all have faults. Since when did it become ok to speak cruelly of others because of their weight (no matter how or why they got that way)? What kind of example are you setting for your children or students by speaking of others so negatively?

free market educator

November 23rd, 2009
11:31 pm

Wow!. This documents that Jay Rockefeller’s socialized healthcare programs in West Virginia are FAILURES! And this guy is pushing the same snake oil on the rest of us via the Senate healthcare reform bill. Instead of spending your quarters buying Ding Dongs, Ho Ho’s and Twinkies, send them to whatever candidate runs against him. Let’s remove the saturated fat from the Senate and House!
http://rockefeller.senate.gov/issues/health/index.cfm
Here’s some inspiration:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/sy-336010675/weird_al_yankovic_fat_official_music_video/
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/sy-336010670/weird_al_yankovic_eat_it_official_music_video/

free market educator

November 23rd, 2009
11:56 pm

I think it would be a fascinating study to overlay what batches of immunization shots went to the children in these areas. Surely the batches are numbered. Then compare them with batches sent to the areas with the lowest occurrence of obesity and diabetes. Do the same with a study of autism. Are all batches created equal? Who checks this?

free market educator

November 23rd, 2009
11:57 pm

Wow!. This documents that Jay Rockefeller’s socialized healthcare programs in West Virginia are FAILURES! And this guy is pushing the same snake oil on the rest of us via the Senate healthcare reform bill. Instead of spending your quarters buying Ding Dongs, Ho Ho’s and Twinkies, send them to whatever candidate runs against him. Let’s remove the saturated fat from the Senate and House!
http://rockefeller.senate.gov/issues/health/index.cfm

free market educator

November 24th, 2009
2:40 am

Here’s the real health threat to our kids…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBc_O8Y4Gms

[...] mom and Atlanta Journal Constitution  blogger Maureen Downey wishes that “we could put health-oriented programs like Girls on the Run at every school.” Her blog and comment is based on CDC’s new (and heavily-published) county-by-county obesity [...]

JOHN ODD OWL

November 24th, 2009
3:33 am

The Republicans are partly responsible for all the fat people in America. They have been defunding and dismantling the public school system and other educational institutions since the gloomy days of Reaganism in the 80’s The schools were forced to eliminate physical ed., dance and music classes. The Children are denied adequate exercise. A majority of American Children grow up in single parent homes. In most two parent homes, both parents work. The Children very seldom get a home cooked meal. Their main diet is junk food. A unhealthy junk food diet will produce obesity. Republicanism is the problem.

Scott Dawson

November 24th, 2009
10:19 am

I think healthy eating starts at home, and is not the school’s problem alone. Parents need to become better educated about what constitutes a healthy lunch, and in turn educate their children. To learn more about what’s healthy, and to find out nutritionally what’s in your lunchbox, see http://www.lunchtaker.com.

Sarge

November 24th, 2009
10:26 am

Too much BS; not enough action…anyone for a game of racketball? The answer, good people, is painfully simple. Stop debating the direction of the Earth’s rotation, the painfully obvious, and take control of your kids, yourselves, and the future of the global joke we have become.

Philosopher

November 24th, 2009
11:13 am

Ah, Sarge…if it were only as simplisitic as you make it sound. If I had the resources, I would homeschool or send my child to private school. However, I ,and so many others, do not have those options…so, until I do, pray tell me where in the hours between 0630 when we get up and get ready for school, and 2200 when she finally finishes homework and drops into bed, can we fit in that racketball game?

Philosopher

November 24th, 2009
11:24 am

Ah, Sarge…if it were only as simple as you imply. If I had the resources, I would homeschool, or charter school, or send my child to private school. But I, like most others, do not have those as viable options. So until, I do, pray tell me when between the hours of 0630 when she gets up and ready for school, and 2200 when she finally finishes homework and drops into bed, can we fit in that lovely game of racketball?

Echo

November 24th, 2009
11:50 am

Re: growing own food, research hydroponics & aquaponics. I don’t live in an apartment but I do work about 70 hours a week and still manage to maintain a “garden”. As far as protein, I got chickens in my backyard. I wouldn’t recommend chickens for those that live in an apartment, but peanut butter and many other foods contain plenty of protein and at a pretty reasonable cost. Where there is a will there is a way.

Having said all that, most kids are fat because they don’t do anything that requires any significant energy output. They eat garbage ALL day long. Many kids show up to my class with jumbo bags of hot cheetos and munch the ENTIRE time! If you offered fruit to them, most of these kids would look at you like you had a third eye growing out of your forehead.

Philosopher

November 24th, 2009
12:08 pm

Echo- I know what you mean- I drive 2 of my child’s friends to school in the morning. They are puzzled that I won’t let her go out the door without a healthy breakfast every morning and look at me like I have 2 heads when I tell them that Cheetos and candy bars do not qualify as breakfast!

Sarge

November 24th, 2009
11:30 pm

Philo, you’ll find time…if you want to. It can be racketball, a walk/run through the neighborhood, or whatever gets you and the younguns on your feet and out the door.

Back in the Dark Ages, I to did the 60-70 hr work week routine. Several of my partners-in-crime and I would, during lunch, disappear into office closets, shed the 3-piece circus suits and emerge for a mass run throughout the campus and surrounding neighborhoods. Two hours later, back in the circus suites and doing the “office romp” proved to be a bit of a “stickey whicket” until, one day, the new VP of Marketing joined us in the daily sweat fest. A week later, we had our locker room/shower facilities towed on campus on a flat bed.

Things usually seem to work that way…

Philosopher

November 25th, 2009
9:32 am

Sqarge, I’m not talking about me, here…my life is much more flexible. I’m talking abour a middle school kid, in school all day with no physical activity (no one lets her go run during lunch, I assure you), and with 4-6 hours of homework a night. If the teachers would look at the workload they put on the kids, maybe it could be different…but it seems the right hand is handing out projects and homewrork as fast as the left, never looking at what it takes for the kid to get it done. It’s no wonder some parents don’t seem to care that their kid’s homework isn’t all done.

Philosopher

November 25th, 2009
1:55 pm

Sorry, Sarge, for the typo!