ONTD Political

TIME: "Why are Southerners so fat?"

1:15 pm - 07/09/2009
TIME Magazine cuts to the chase...

Thursday, Jul. 09, 2009

Why Are Southerners So Fat?
By Claire Suddath

People from Mississippi are fat. With an adult obesity rate of 33%, Mississippi has gobbled its way to the "chubbiest state" crown for the fifth year in a row, according to a new joint report by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee aren't far behind, with obesity rates over 30%.

In fact, eight of the 10 fattest states are in the South.

The region famous for its biscuits, barbecue and pecan pies has been struggling with its weight for years — but then again, so has the rest of the country. Wisconsin loves cheese, New Yorkers scarf pizza, and New Englanders have been known to enjoy a crab cake or two. So why is the South so portly?

For one thing, it's poor. Mississippi is not only the fattest state in the nation, but also the poorest, with 21% of its residents living below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Alabama and West Virginia, the second and third fattest states, are tied for fifth poorest. With a poverty rate of 14%, the South is easily the most impoverished region in the country.

"When you're poor, you tend to eat more calorie-dense foods because they're cheaper than fruits and vegetables," explains Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America. Poor neighborhoods also have fewer grocery stores, even in the rural South. A 2004 study by the University of South Carolina found that most food-shopping options in rural areas fall into the convenience-store category because grocery stores are located too far away.

But although poverty puts people at risk for obesity, it doesn't determine their fate. A number of impoverished states — including Montana, Texas and New Mexico — have relatively low levels of obesity. There must be something else. (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)

Maybe it's the culture. Southerners definitely enjoy their fried chicken (not to mention fried steak, fried onions, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and fried corn bread).

Even when their food isn't fried, they like to smother it in gravy. But while nutritionists frequently blame Southerners' large guts on their regional food choices, the accusation is a little unfair. Just as Californians don't actually live on wheat grass and tofu, Southerners don't really sit around eating fried chicken every day. "I've not come across anything that says the diet in the Southeast is worse than the rest of the country," says David Bassett, co-director of the University of Tennessee's Obesity Research Center. "We're definitely in what I like to call the 'Stroke Belt,' " he says, referring to Southeastern states' high percentage of heart disease and hypertension, "but I think that has more to do with Southerners' lack of physical activity rather than the food." (Read "A Brief History of Barbecue.")

Bassett isn't just talking about neglected gym memberships and people who sit on the couch all day. Physical activity can be something as simple as walking to the bus stop. That's another problem, by the way: the South doesn't have many bus stops. Public transportation is paltry, and for most people, the best way to get around is by car. "You don't really think of riding the train as exercise, but at least you have to walk a few blocks to get to the stop," says Bassett. States like Mississippi and Tennessee also have a surprising lack of sidewalks, discouraging even the most eager pedestrians. Many roads are narrower than those in the North — where streets have wider shoulders to accommodate winter snow — and people who want to bike or jog find themselves uncomfortably close to traffic.

But who wants to exercise when it's 100 degrees outside? The South is really hot and humid. Nobody in Mississippi goes running in the summer — at least, nobody sane. Bassett points out that Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity rate (18.9%), is relatively affluent and has a temperate climate and plenty of trails that lend themselves to outdoor activities. (See a special report on the science of appetite.)

So there you have it. Southerners have little access to healthy food and limited means with which to purchase it. It's hard for them to exercise outdoors, and even when they do have the opportunity, it's so hot, they don't want to. To combat this affliction, some Southern states have adopted programs to fight rising obesity. In 2003, Arkansas passed a school body mass index–screening program that assesses weight and sends the results home to parents. Tennessee encourages its schools to buy fresh ingredients from local growers. And in 2007, Mississippi adopted nutritional standards for school lunches. Most of these programs are relatively new, so it will be a few years before experts can determine their efficacy. "I think there's reason for optimism," says Barrett. "But it's likely that the Southeast will lag behind the rest of the country for some time to come."

* Find this article at:
* http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1909406,00.html

Article @ TIME Magazine site


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evilgmbethy 9th-Jul-2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
lol@you posting food porn once again.
syndicalist 9th-Jul-2009 06:43 pm (UTC)
amenehkay 9th-Jul-2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
The heat IS the reason I don't work out sometimes :[
o gawwd
ateenwriter 9th-Jul-2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
ikr? It's like fucking breathing water.
The humidity is a bitch.
reticent_lass 9th-Jul-2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
This article leaves me craving something loaded with calories and smothered in cheese.
syndicalist 9th-Jul-2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
Look at the two kinds of cheeses that in that stuffed crust pizza's crust!!! It looks delicious!
azure_rhymes 9th-Jul-2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
THAT and you guys have sweet tea which NOBODY SERVES AROUND HERE ;__;. Everywhere I go, I get unsweetened iced tea and I have to put sugar in it. :( New England is weird with food.
evilgmbethy 9th-Jul-2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Hahah. My ex was from the deep south and when I moved him to south florida with me he was all appalled that when he ordered iced tea that it wasn't already sweet. He took a sip and was like WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS TEA??
muddle 9th-Jul-2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
Well I've got a lady boner now... goddamn you.
thebigbadbutch 9th-Jul-2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
As a total fatass I would like to say on behalf of all fatasses God Damn that food looks good.
southern_heaven 9th-Jul-2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
I pretty much want to inhale that brownie a la mode.
peebs1701 9th-Jul-2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
To combat this affliction, some Southern states have adopted programs to fight rising obesity. In 2003, Arkansas passed a school body mass index–screening program that assesses weight and sends the results home to parents. Tennessee encourages its schools to buy fresh ingredients from local growers. And in 2007, Mississippi adopted nutritional standards for school lunches.

So the problem is that people are poor and nothing is set up to allow people to exercise even if they want to and the solution is...to tell people they're fat and eat crap. Yeah, that'll work.
leloucia 9th-Jul-2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
mte :/
automat 9th-Jul-2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
That fudge sundae looks like heaven.
velmaxcore 10th-Jul-2009 01:22 am (UTC)
Especially in my menstrual state. ^_^
germli 9th-Jul-2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
I would eat every single item in those pics except the pickle. Ewww.

But who wants to exercise when it's 100 degrees outside? The South is really hot and humid.
I don't even bother running in the early morning or late night anymore. Too hot for that mess. I'd rather just go on my treadmill or the gym. Not that I've done either lately D:. Many people cannot afford to purchase the equipment or pay for a gym membership, though.
door 9th-Jul-2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
So true. It's impossible to exercise when I can drink the air outside, it's so humid. Ugh.
teacup_werewolf 9th-Jul-2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
Now I am fucking hungry
frontyardninja 9th-Jul-2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
PICKLES goddamn.
evilgmbethy 9th-Jul-2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
pickles are god's blessed food, trufax
boyracer1211 9th-Jul-2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
I almost gagged at that site. D:
thebigbadbutch 9th-Jul-2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Me neither. I keep trying to but those pictures are so distracting.
snowe 9th-Jul-2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Also, the South just has better cooks. The food in the Midwest was NASTY. :(
evilgmbethy 9th-Jul-2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
Midwestern food is notoriously bland. Lots of flavorless casseroles.
jabflute 9th-Jul-2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
Same here. Yuck.
iluvhistory 9th-Jul-2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
"impoverished states...Texas..[has] relatively low levels of obesity"
I hope people listen to this because I have heard so many times that Texas is the fattest state in the union. I mean, I can totally understand people in Texas being fat, our food is friggin delicious and I personally am a fatty.
iluvhistory 9th-Jul-2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
ahh that quote is in such bad format, just ignore it. ;-;
soadchik 9th-Jul-2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
I'm from MS.. but I'm not fat. :(

But I do agree that there are a lot of obese people in my state..... But we also have some pretty damn good food here! There isnt much to do in Jackson, MS.. but we have some really top notch restaurants....

But who wants to exercise when it's 100 degrees outside? The South is really hot and humid.

THIS. I play roller derby.. and we practice in an armory with no a/c (and used to practice outside)... I can attest that exercise in the summer heat and humidity is absolute hell.. if I wasnt absolutely obsessed with the sport.. I'd be inside enjoying some a/c... :P

Nice food porn.. your missing the basket of fried pickles tho!
snowe 9th-Jul-2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
I used to ride horses in MS during the summer, and I almost had heatstroke at several shows.

My boyfriend just started his residency in Birmingham, AL, and the residents from India said that our summers were much worse than theirs, and that the humidity just about knocked them over when they got off the plane. :(
chimbleysweep 9th-Jul-2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
I want grilled salmon on a shingle.

Am I too native of the Pacific Northwest for this post? Oh hale.
evilgmbethy 9th-Jul-2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
nnnngh, seafood. I want grilled scallops.

yeah, sup from Oregon, lol.
antisaints 9th-Jul-2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
It's sad that all of this is true D: /lives in Tennessee
antisaints 9th-Jul-2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
and all of those cake things look really good
i've been on a diet so long I can't remember what cake tastes like
or pizza
sunoftheskye 9th-Jul-2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
I'm starving right now but those pictures make me want to throw up
evilgmbethy 9th-Jul-2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
oh and I lived in Alabama for a year and when I went to my sister-in-law's family's place for Thanksgiving they did it properly southern-like and deep fried their turkey.

That shit was delicious holy shit.
boyracer1211 9th-Jul-2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
My family deep fries our turkey with a ham overtop of it! IT IS TASTY, GODDAMN.
jaded110 9th-Jul-2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
Fuck TIME, I like fried food. >:(

And I live in the North, so their argument is invalid.
izgrejala 9th-Jul-2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Big ups to us in the North who like fired food! *high fives*
misatojaganshi 9th-Jul-2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
I haven't eaten lunch omg the food pics :9~ i need to eat something and then come back and read this article
highflyer8 9th-Jul-2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
Good Lord this isn't rocket science. We really needed an article written about this?
brewsternorth 9th-Jul-2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
This is the silly season as far as TIME's concerned. Their previous issue had a (US, don't know about international versions) cover story... about adultery. Wat.
ateenwriter 9th-Jul-2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
I may get fat when I get older and my metabolism slows but for now I'm frying EVERYTHING and chugging Sweet Tea EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE~!
lone_concertina 9th-Jul-2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
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