A full plate of fat: The state’s obesity crisis has many causes
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 11, 2012 | 3232 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The reason for Alabama’s statewide health epidemic isn’t a rise in childhood obesity, or our passion for Southern cuisine, or our preference for driving instead of walking to work.

It’s because Alabama doesn’t have enough skinny people.

Follow that?

Probably not. It’s confusing, if not blatantly misleading. Yet, that exemplifies the severity of the state’s problem with obesity. It is multi-faced. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy. It means different things to different people.

To skinny folks, it may mean nothing. But to Alabama — and its future — it means the world.

Last Sunday, The Star kicked off its coverage of Alabama’s obesity crisis with “Our Big Problem,” a 2,500-word, encyclopedic examination of why the state is fat, the root causes of our obesity, and where we stand in our search for a permanent fix.

All of those side items, and more, deserve our attention. Yet, the starting point for this conversation should not be our waistlines. We must focused on our outlook.

We ask: How much is Alabama’s ambivalence toward healthier living hurting the state? More to the point, if Alabama’s suffering today from a catastrophic epidemic — crazy-high rates of childhood obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes — where will it be in another generation?

We’d rather not answer that; not now, that is. Instead, we’d rather focus on the state’s future should it invest the time, energy and resources necessary to remake Alabama into a healthier, slimmer, more sustainable version of its current form.

Today, what we have is a state with too many residents whose lives are mangled by obesity and its associated traits. Imagine, however, a Southern state where that didn’t happen. A Southern state that bucked the trend. A Southern state that didn’t roll its eyes when told that decades of fried chicken, sugary drinks, butter-soaked biscuits and sedentary lifestyles are killers.

That’s what Alabama should become.

The tough part is deciding what to do; where do you start? When we began this conversation, we admitted — quickly — that this problem has not quick-repair kit. Cutting back on fried foods alone isn’t going to miraculously turn Alabama into a Southern version of Colorado.

To better ourselves, we have to define the problem. And this problem is a like a family tree for a voluminous 19th-century clan: there are vines and branches going every which way, each leading to another part of the issue that needs addressing.

Alabama can’t dream small. Sorry for the pun, but in this case, big is better. Alabama needs a wholesale lifestyle change, a fundamental alteration in how it eats, how it exercises, how it teaches children the dangers of unhealthy diets, and how we value our own health. Those decisions affect not only our bodies, but our earning potentials, our medical costs and our insurance rates.

It isn’t merely willpower or the good-old concept of “want-to.” Alabamians must decide: how much do we value healthy lives? How much do we want our children’s children to live in a vigorous, more health-conscious state?
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