The Obesity Crisis Is Not a Future Problem

How much longer do we have to wait before we do something about it? Until two-thirds of our kids are swollen piggy tubbies?


To escape the soggy heat of Washington, I recently fled to the Pacific Northwest, to hike through the groves of Olympic and Redwood National Parks, and along the trails of the Columbia River gorge.

I return with this observation: Americans are fat. Really, really fat. Thigh-chafing fat. Bovine and porcine fat. Great greasy rolls of sweaty pink blubber rippling as we waddle fat.

I carry a few extra pounds. I know the worth of a good french fry; how hard it is to lose weight, and what it is like to wince when I step on the scale at the doctor’s office. (“Wait a minute, let me take my watch off and empty the change from my pockets…”) I feel for, and exempt from this critique, any poor soul who has genuine metabolic issues.

But c’mon, America. We all saw the movie Wall-E, with its blobby humans who moved around on jet chairs drinking super-sized soft drinks? That is not our future. It is our present. It is here. It’s us. And there is no excuse for it, you fat, fat fatties.

I sat, aghast, in the breakfast room of a Super 8 motel in Fort Bragg, Calif., as one warthog piled his plate with six deep-fried sugar-encrusted donuts and retreated to his room. He was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts, and each porky calf was as big as a Christmas ham. Then in came a mother-daughter combo who, together, must have weighed a quarter ton. They wanted to know where the donuts were, and would not be still until the poor (thin) immigrant in charge of the breakfast bar had refilled the serving trays with lardy confections, and their second and third chins were covered with chocolate and powdered sugar.

Michelle Obama has been trying to raise awareness about childhood obesity--how one in three kids in this country is overweight or obese, and one in three will end up with diabetes at some point in their lives. We pay $150 billion in fat-related costs each year. How much longer do we have to wait before we do something about it? Until two-thirds of our kids are swollen piggy tubbies?

In a Port Angeles, Wash., restaurant I watched, stunned, as a parade of Americans, each the size of an adult water buffalo, plodded up to the salad-and-bread bar, sprinkled a few leaves of lettuce on “salad plates” the size of platters, and then built a tottering pyramid of potato, shrimp and macaroni salads, croutons and greasy salad dressings. They mooed in distress when the waiters failed to keep them supplied with servings of “honey toast.”

Here’s the good news: the trails in the national parks are relatively devoid of hikers. The park service has apparently done the research, and determined that sloths don’t much like walking. So each park has at least one tame little mini-trail to a waterfall or some other scenic vista--a flat paved loop of a few hundred yards, with a huge parking lot at the trailhead--so we can get our wilderness “experience” and the requisite digital photographs without sweating any more than in a day at the mall. There is where you find the herds, shuffling along, dreaming of their next trip to the Dairy Queen.

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