In the land of the obese, the slightly chubby is king. And that’s us!
According to a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, only nine states are now slimmer than New York. It’s not that we have become the picture of fitness, it’s more that our obesity rate has risen less than that of most other states. But we’ll take it.
By contrast, Mississippi is the nation’s fattest state for the seventh year in a row, with over a third of its population qualifying as obese. The state also has achieved the daily double of having the nation’s lowest literacy rate (as well as leading the U.S. in shooting deaths due to lax gun laws), and is now contemplating changing its state motto from “by valor and arms” to “the big fat idiot state.”
But as reported here before, Mississippi (as well as every other state in the union) proudly leads us in one area: the “Freedom Index.” Yes, they have less taxes, less restrictive gun laws, and obviously less nutrition programs than we do. New York City was the first to post calories on restaurant menu boards and ban trans fat in foods. While I have argued here about the Mayor sometimes going too far (such as using taxpayer money to put up ads telling us not to eat soup), I think banning smoking and taking the lead in alerting us to calorie counts is the right thing to do.
Those who believe the government shouldn’t take such steps are the same types who used to complain about setting speed limits. But almost all now recognize that speeding doesn’t just jeopardize drivers’ lives but those of others. And just as smokers’ right to light up in public places violates our right to breath clean air, the obese aren’t just putting extra strain on their hearts but on our health care system as well.
Not only are we New Yorkers more aware of what we put in our bodies than most, but are also more physically active. As opposed to the effete stereotype many have of us, we are actually in better shape than most Americans. We are not a car culture like 99% of the U.S. I live about 20 blocks from Lincoln Center, and recent out of town visitors wanted to see it. When I suggested we walk, I thought they would both have a coronary. Walk 20 blocks?? I had to be kidding!
But the average New Yorker walks about 50 blocks a day plus up and down subway steps without a second thought. Whenever you see an obese person walking the streets of New York, the odds are high that he or she isn’t from around here.
We don’t really want a “Nanny State”. But we don’t want ourselves and our families to be “free” to die prematurely due to ignorance, either. Because we are well aware that in Mississippi, Alabama, and 38 other states with gun-toting, biscuits and gravy eating locals, freedom’s just another word for 50 pounds to lose.