Federal health officials announced today that 38 percent of American adults are now obese, an update to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is released every two years (Sadly, this number is an average. For adults aged 40 to 59, the obesity rate is 40 percent.) That's compared to a 32 percent rate of obesity from the 2005 report. Key is that “obesity” does not mean carrying an extra 10 or 15 pounds. Health officials define it as a body mass index (BMI) of greater than or equal to 30. So, a man who's 5'10” is obese if he weighs 209 or more pounds. And this isn't the year's first evidence that we're growing ever larger. This summer, a report found that American men today are 29 pounds heavier than their 1960s counterparts.
The reaction to many of the numbers in the paragraph above can only be summed up as “really?!" Particularly after a decade of health initiatives that have decreased our collective consumption of trans fats and regular soda. But as incredulous as we may be, a quick look at the typical grocery store explains a lot: diet sodas with sweeteners that may be as bad as the sugars in the real thing . Gluten-free pretzels, cookies, and desserts that are are calorie-dense and sugar-packed as their gluten-included equivalents. Products with added nutrients — protein pancake mixes, chia-packed crackers, and vitamin-enhanced waters — that are essentially junk food.
It's probably true that Americans are growing more obese because they're eating too much. But our bigger-picture problem may be what it is we're eating.