The United States of Obesity

Discussion
Aug 24, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Don Imus, the cantankerous and turkey-necked host of the popular syndicated radio program (simulcast on MSNBC), Imus In The Morning, has been known over the years for remarking on the weight of guests and people in the news with observations that they are “a fat bastard” or with a recommendation that they spend more time at the salad bar.

Turns out Mr. Imus, who operates the nonprofit Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer in Ribera, New Mexico (see “Introduction to the Imus Ranch“) along with his wife, vegetarian cookbook author and actress Deidre Imus, might be right. Many Americans should reconsider what they’re eating or at least how much of it they’re swallowing down.

A new study released yesterday by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2005, says that American consumers are overweight and becoming more so. Every state with the exception Oregon saw its number of overweight adults go up. Oregon’s figure was unchanged at 21 percent.

According to a press release from the group, “Approximately 119 million Americans, or 64.5 percent, of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Estimates of the number of obese American adults rose from 23.7 percent in 2003 to 24.5 percent in 2004.”

“Obesity is a gateway to heart disease, diabetes and a host of other diseases,” said Parris Glendening, former two-term Governor of Maryland, president of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute, and co-author of the report in a released statement.

“There is much more that can be done to help people make healthy choices about nutrition and exercise. For instance, decisions about where we build new houses and highways or schools and sidewalks can mean the difference between giving people more or less opportunity to participate in physical activity,” he said.

Moderator’s Comment: In the last year, have you seen evidence of manufacturers and retailers taking more of a lead in reshaping America’s dietary and
exercise habits? Are there companies that serve as a model as an employer or marketing/sales organization for a new approach to better health?

George Anderson – Moderator

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5 Comments on "The United States of Obesity"


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Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 6 months ago
Nothing seems as gratifying as much as a Fat Chat among nutritional experts or as satisfying for people who don’t intend to change their habits. So we again take on this subject on RetailWire. Like a lot of people, the nation’s weight problem is settling below its waistline. About 22.7% of American adults were obese in the 2002-04 period, up slightly from 22% for 2001-2003, according to the advocacy group Trust for America’s Health in spite of all the nutritional publicity and menu changes. In this morning’s paper, it listed the ten states with the most obese people. Mississippi led with 28.1% as its citizens, [who presumably] eat lots of fatty foods cooked in oil and in heavy sauces and gravies. Alabama, West Virginia and Louisiana were next. While eight states were under 20%, all were rising. Only Oregon held steady at 21%. It would seem that it’s easier to find a burger and fries, or tacos and burritos, than apples and asparagus – and they usually taste better. While CPGs and retailers like McD’s… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
In the early 1960’s, when NOBODY was training, JFK suggested that Americans go out and hike for 50 miles. This handsome charismatic leader, with excellent press coverage, sowed the seed for the running habits seen all over the world 40+ years later. What charismatic leader today has taken up the cause of healthy living? Nothing stops athletic stores from holding races and exercise classes in their parking lots. Nothing stops athletic apparel retailers (even department stores!) from doing the same thing. Nothing stops shopping malls from holding group exercises in the mornings and evenings (before and after stores close). Nothing stops restaurants from posting the nutritional info on the menus. Nothing stops grocers from totaling up the calories, vitamins, and fat on every register tape. Nothing stops grocers from forming an alliance with Weight Watchers or a similar organizations, and sponsoring group grocery shopping (“Tuesday night is WW night…”). Last I heard, only one state banned soda machines from its public schools. And which publicly-held retailers have dropped tobacco products completely?
Kelly Ruschman
Guest
Kelly Ruschman
15 years 6 months ago
I think Dole Foods has done a good job in raising the bar in healthy eating/lifestyle education through their nutrition institute. Of course, it is much easier to take the lead in this area when your products are inherently healthy as opposed to a company like Kraft that markets products like Oreos that contribute considerable sums to the bottom line, but are never going to be healthy. They are not going to walk away from these products, but they recognize the potential for lawsuits if they don’t make some changes. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, earlier this year they became the first among its industry peers to stop advertising its most indulgent fare to kids. I expect all food manufacturers to take similar action. At the end of the day, Americans are not going to change their behavior just because they know it is the right thing to do or because indulgent products are no longer advertised. They may, however, be motivated to change through disincentives such as obese employees having to pay much… Read more »
Greg Coghill
Guest
Greg Coghill
15 years 6 months ago

I have seen little evidence of manufacturers and retailers taking a lead in reshaping America’s dietary and exercise habits. Rather, I have seen evidence of quick fixes, such as pills and larger clothes.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 6 months ago

One positive trend is that more lifestyle centers and revitalized downtown shopping areas that require more walking are popping up. Manufacturers and restaurateurs have actually done a lot, removing fat, calories, and transfat. But, the bottom line is people have to do it for themselves. No one can exercise for you.

There is the opportunity for retailers and suppliers – get out there and sponsor a road race, walk, swim, bike ride, triathlon, whatever. Every time I run (slowly) a road race, there are tons of sponsor logos plastered on the t-shirts. But, most of them are small companies. If some big retailers and suppliers got behind some of these, they could really be compelling, mainstream events.

Regarding leaders who promote physical activity, whatever else one says about George Bush, we all know he exercises, perhaps too much, and he’s on TV all the time riding his bike, and, before his knees went bad, running.

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