Obesity in America: The fattest state, poverty and education, and how to make a change

It’s not a good sign when your country makes an annual obesity map, but it’s even worse when your state keeps making it into the top ten on that map.

Mississippi has taken 1st place for being the fattest state for the past five years. (And don’t any of you Alabamians go getting cocky about beating your neighbor. You consistently take a close 2nd.)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mississippi also placed 49/50 on the Best Educated index statistics, and came in last place when ranked by median, annual household income.

I’m not out to beat up on Mississippi. I have family there, so this is very concerning to me. They just happen to be ranked such that they became my example for pointing out the strong correlation between lack of education, poverty, and obesity.

Lack of education and low-income are in fact really good excuses for being obese. They are, truly, huge obstacles to overcome – unlike most of the excuses I hear all the time.

In poorer states, it is more likely that all the adults in a household will have to work to make ends meet, and that doesn’t leave much time to devote to cooking healthy meals or exercising.

The more you know about fitness, nutrition, and health in general, the easier it is to make wise choices and implement good practices into your life. The more money you make, the more you’re able to afford fresh, organic, unprocessed food and a gym membership.

People talk about obesity being hereditary, and there is a grain of truth to that, but it’s not all genetics. Good health requires adherence to a certain lifestyle. Every new generation learns from previous generations, and families don’t tend to show drastic advancements or improvements in education, health or income from one to the next. If you’ve never experienced a lifestyle that includes good nutrition and an exercise plan, you don’t know how to live that kind of lifestyle.

There are so many diet and exercise myths out there for people to fall victim to, and you’re less likely to see through them if your education and upbringing didn’t teach you the basics.

It’s not politically correct to say it, but people who appear fit and healthy are also more likely to land better, higher-paying jobs. Say what you want, but appearance makes a big difference in how we are perceived.

How can you stop the cycle? In Mississippi, former pro footballer, Paul Lacoste, is trying to tackle it with a 12-week fitness program. He’s even encouraged politicians to get in on the action in hopes that they will feel moved to make change an easier option for all the people of Mississippi. Already, the positive effects of stress reduction seem to be helping the parties get along better.

My favorite quote is from Democratic State Rep. Steve Holland:

“We feel good, I’m even loving Republicans right now,” said Holland. “When you get together at 5 a.m. to work out with other lawmakers, it has this phenomenal way of permeating over at the 8 a.m. meeting and bringing both sides together…”

You don’t have to be a politician, or even be part of a program or a gym to make a difference. Going for a walk, run, hike, bicycle ride, etc. can help you bond as a family, reduce your waistline, and improve your bottom line.

Obesity is expensive. The larger you are, the more you need of everything (food, clothes, prescriptions, overall healthcare). A healthier family costs less to maintain.

As Lacoste is already proving, it only takes one person and a little initiative to make a pretty big change. You could be the person that breaks the pattern for future generations of your family.

I want to make a difference, too. I’m not going to knock my mom’s home state around and not offer help to people who want to make a difference.

If you have any questions in regards to health and fitness, and they fall within my scope of practice as a personal trainer, I will gladly answer them. Comment on this article with your question, and I promise I will reply.

We may show up on a map as being categorized by state, but we are all in this together as Americans, and I’m tired of being the fat country.

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