“I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me, she’s too fat, much too fat, she’s too fat for me.”
Only a guy named Fats Domino could have gotten away with that song. Turns out we’re all too fat. Obesity is an epidemic.
If you’re reaching for a second doughnut while reading this column, shame on you!
It was probably inevitable, given the sad state of our weight. A 200-pound 8-year-old third-grader was taken from his Ohio family recently and placed in foster care because county social workers considered his mother’s inability to reduce his weight to be medical neglect.
Medical neglect. Think about that term when you’re standing in line ordering your youngster a Big Mac with fries and a milk shake. Oops, sorry, that’s my order.
We should probably look in the mirror on this one. David Hartley, director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center, reported in these pages on Nov. 16 that 28 percent of Maine children are obese.
Thirty-two percent of rural children are obese, as are 40 percent of children living in low-income families. If you are a poor child and living in rural Maine, your chance of being obese is a shocking 50 percent!
This despite the fact that Hartley found rural low-income families are smart shoppers and supplement their diets by gardening, hunting and buying from local farmers. But he also found that kids model their parents when it comes to food. We have met the enemy. He is us.
Hartley also tagged lack of physical activity, fast food, snacks and school lunch menus to explain why rural poor kids are so overweight.
Yup, he said school lunch programs. You perhaps have been following the dust up in Congress about new school lunch requirements. When is a potato the wrong thing, and when is it good for our kids? Only our members of Congress know for sure!
I’ve eaten a lot of meals in the congressional dining room in the nation’s Capitol, and I don’t remember any diet plates. But that hasn’t stopped our esteemed members of Congress from trying to push their diet plans down the throats of our children.
Here’s one thing of which I am certain. Our founding fathers never intended for the United States Congress to determine what any of us eat.
Keith Edwards reported in these pages on Oct. 11 that obesity in the United States results in $147 billion in medical expenses annually and increases individual medical costs by $2,800 per person.
That’s a lot of Big Macs.
Edwards noted that Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, says that 63 percent of Mainers are obese, generally defined as 30 percent of more overweight.
Yet Maine leads the nation in some of the remedies, including improving access to healthy foods for our children. We get good grades from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for our law that limits TV and video viewing at childcare facilities and for some of the steps taken at public schools, including limiting access to less-healthy food in vending machines.
Of course, there are no limits on the unhealthy snacks and lunches parents send to school with their kids, and once the kids get home, Katie, bar the refrigerator door!
Collectively, we’ve taken steps to post nutritional information provided by restaurants and food markets, but few of us pay any attention. Fortunately, I am married to a nutritionist, so I get constant — yes constant — reminders about how much fat I’m consuming.
Walking four miles a day, as often as possible, helped me trim off some of the bulging middle, and leading a fairly vigorous life (hunting, working on the woodpile, volleyball, etc.) has kept me from being labeled obese, but I know it wouldn’t take much to push me up there based on my eating habits.
And taking on the Travelin Maine(rs) assignment for this newspaper, and eating at Maine’s finest restaurants all over the state, hasn’t done the midsection much good.
So please don’t think this column is a holier-than-thou piece. Nor should you look here for the answers. Because you already know what needs to be done.
It’s the will power to do it that most of us lack, even as we balloon up, sentence our kids to a life of ill health, and drive medical and health insurance costs sky high.
“We’re too fat, much to fat, soooo too fat for ME.”
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or georgesmithmaine @gmail.com. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.