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The Obesity Epidemic

It is a sign of the times that one of the most talked-about reality-TV shows of the season centers on a woman who desires to lose weight.  Lots of weight.  The show’s star, Ruby Gettinger, now tips the scales at around 500 pounds, having once climbed to 700.  She has adult-onset diabetes, thyroid problems, and an enlarged heart.  But Miss Gettinger aims to weigh a mere 145 pounds by the time Ruby wraps; she has already lost 100 pounds through a combination of diet and exercise—and therapy, since 700-pound or even 400-pound people are rarely happy.  She lives in Georgia—which is telling, because the South, for various reasons, is the epicenter of obese America.  Just as tellingly, when she hits her ideal weight, she will likely go to Los Angeles.

Miss Gettinger is not alone.  Though, admittedly, not many people weigh as much as she does, fully a quarter of all Americans are clinically obese.  In no state are fewer than 15 percent of residents badly overweight.  In 30 states, the figure is 25 percent.  In Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, 30 percent of adults have a body mass index of 30 or greater, that index being a measure of weight against height, so that a 150-pound person five-and-a-half feet tall would have a BMI of about 24, considered normal—with 30 considered obese.

Now, the causes of obesity are complex.  Some of it has to do with the dumb luck...

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