Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / October 11, 2000

So…here’s an interesting tidbit that you can consume with your morningcoffee and pastry.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there is yet another scourge out there that is presently causing problems with the health of Americans.

It’s always something, isn’t it? I generally ignore, or at least disregard, most Chicken Little-types when they go about chirping that the sky is falling, but when I heard about this latest lurking health hazard I had to sort of agree.

Because I can see it. And if you look around, so can you. America is getting fatter. And not by a little. By a bunch. According to the CDC, adult obesity has increased by 60 percent since 1991.

OK, so what does that mean? Obesity, at least by CDC standards, is defined as being about 30 pounds overweight. Wow. That means that since 1991, wehave increased substantially in mass. The average American male now weighsabout 190 pounds, and the average female about 151 pounds.

Let’s face it folks, there are some chunky monkeys out there these days.

So, what happened? I mean, isn’t there a gym on every corner now? Doesn’t everyone from Billy Banks to your grandmother have some sort of exercise video designed to slim, strengthen, or shape your body? Isn’t there exercise equipment advertised on television that is guaranteed to make us all look like Suzanne Somers, or like that guy who brags about being 42 and in the best shape of his life? Yep. It’s all there. But we have to use it for it to do us any good. The gyms and workout centers do a landmark business, usually in January.

They fill up with all sorts of folks with good intentions and a New Year’s resolution to live up to. At the gym I go to you can’t move – for the first twomonths of the year – without running into a red-faced, sweaty, chunky monkey who is doing his very best to live up to the promises he made himself. This problem gradually subsides as the year wears on, and by thistime of the year you can practically hear an echo in the place when you talk to the regulars you see there all the time. And the gyms themselves don’tcare. You signed a contract. They’ll send you a bill each month whether yougo or not.

It’s the same type of thing with the videos. We buy them, do our littleworkout thing a couple of times, then they join Old Yeller and Jurassic Park on our video shelf. In fact, we’re much more likely to watch Old Yeller againway, way before we watch Jane Fonda bouncing around in her tights again. Goto any flea market, by the way, and see how many exercise videos there are in the used video rack.

And as far as all that wonderful, magical exercise equipment we buy when watching late night info-mercials, well, most of it makes a great coat rack. Ishould know. I have some sort of weird device on my back porch that seemedlike a good idea when I bought it. Now it’s just a conversation piece duringbarbecues in my back yard.

So back to the question. What happened? Why do we suddenly need all thisstuff to keep from becoming fat? Ooops. Can I say “fat”? Or is it politicallyincorrect to do so these days? I noticed in the article I read about the CDC’s findings that never, not once, was the word “fat” used. Oh, well. I’ll say it.We, as a nation, are getting FAT. FAT FAT FAT. So there. And why? Just take a look at the food we eat. America is in a period of prosperity likewe’ve never experienced before. We eat out more than ever, and some ofthe stuff we feed ourselves – and our kids – is really disgusting when you think about it. Especially the stuff that is euphemistically called “fast food.”I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It isn’t fast nowadays because theslack-jawed gumby behind the register cannot do two things at once. And itisn’t really even food. It’s semi-nutritionless gobs of fat and calories. And westuff it in our faces like there’s no tomorrow. And worse, they even havesomething called supersizing. Or at least, one of the fast food places calls itthat, the rest have their own names for conning you into buying huge portions of artery-clogging, fat-producing stuff for just a few cents more.

School cafeterias serve pizza for lunch. ‘Nuff said about that.We here in South Louisiana love our food, so this problem is nothing new here. We eat, and we eat the best food in the world. That’s why this part ofthe country has the highest obesity rate of all the states. Did you know thata single 9-ounce portion of bread pudding takes one hour and 56 minutes to walk off? Well, anyway, if you’ll excuse me, the couch beckons. It’s Sunday. Footballday. And I just heard the doorbell. Must be the pizza.

LEE DRESSELHAUS writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur.

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