Yes, this page has often decried the rise in obesity — particularly in children — that affects state residents of both genders, all races and all ages.
But the cover story of last Sunday's Insight section in The Star cast a wholly different light on why Alabamians of various shapes and sizes should care about the waistline of their next-door neighbor, and of themselves.
The story, "Weight of the state: What Alabama's obesity rate says about its economy and its future," used statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census and health officials to detail the bottom-line reality for a state blessed with many things beautiful and appealing.
Obese states often are poor states.
Obese states often have low median household incomes.
And obese states often have lower earning and spending potentials than do states with reduced rates of obesity.
For Alabama — the nation's second-fattest state, trailing only Mississippi — those economic factors represent critical public-health problems that neither state government nor advocacy groups for the poor can refuse to acknowledge.
In recent years, efforts to preach healthy eating habits and the need to combat obesity-related health problems in Alabama have been sporadic, and have seen similar successes.
The Scale Back Alabama program, with the backing of the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Hospital Association, has gained a few state-wide headlines. It's a worthy endeavor. Efforts on local levels throughout the state, particularly at hospitals with wellness programs developed around the need to teach healthy eating and exercise habits, have helped some Alabamians.
Nevertheless, statistics and studies now prove the correlation between obesity and earning potential for many, though not all, obese Alabamians. Being overweight isn't merely an issue of one's health. Unfortunately, it can also affect a person's — and a family's — fiscal bottom line in the form of job-hiring discrimination and lost wages due to time off the job because of health issues.
Southerners bemoan any gloating from svelte states such as Colorado; we don't want to hear about their trim, taut tummies. Alabama and its Southern brethren face a tough-enough battle thanks to their cultural tendency to love all things greasy and fried, though that's hardly the only culprit for Southern obesity.
There is no easy, quick-fix solution. Government, in D.C. or on Goat Hill, can't legislate people into shape. Willpower and want-to count for something.
Alabamians who struggle with their weight have been given yet another reason to embrace healthier lifestyles and eating habits. If you don't do it for your waistline, do it for your bank account. Both are important these days.