Because I’m fat, I’m fat, come on.
You know I’m fat, I’m fat, you know it.
You know I’m fat, I’m fat, come on, you know.
Don’t you call me pudgy, portly or stout
Just now tell me once again who’s fat.
— Weird Al Yankovic’s “Fat”, a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Bad”
We’ll start with the good news first: Compared to our other Four-State neighbors, Kansas is the least obese of the four.
Whereas Kansas has an obesity rate of 29.6 percent (tied for 13th in the nation with Ohio), our overweight friends to the east, Missouri, are even worse, at 30.3 percent (12th). Both Missouri and Kansas are a bit better than Arkansas, which tips the scales with 30.9 percent of their residents being categorized as obese, good (bad?) for seventh place.
But none of these states compares to the Sooner State, who it seems would sooner eat a double cheeseburger than a salad, coming in sixth in the nation with a 31.1 percent obesity rate. And they’re not even in the top five, which contains Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Alabama and Michigan.
While we joke about our Four State neighbors and we include the Weird Al lyrics, it’s not a laughing matter when one keeps their eye on Kansas. This state is 13th in the nation in obesity. Thirteenth!
According to this same projection, by the Trust for America’s Health, Kansas could have a 62.1 percent obesity rate by 2030 if nothing is changed.
That’s not a joke. Being obese creates so many other problems, too. Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, obesity-related cancer.... these are all problems that result from obesity.
For all the money and effort spent on cancer and heart disease, think how much more could be prevented if we just spent time and money and energy on obesity?
Maybe these arguments (as important as they are) aren’t convincing enough. So let’s make a different appeal. Rather than arguing about the effect on one’s waist sizes, let’s make a different argument: the pocketbook, or at least the size of government.
According to this same study, if Kansans lowered their Body mass index by 5 percent over the next 18 years, the state could save 7.7 percent in health care costs. Over 18 years, that adds up to $6 billion in savings across the state. That’s not a typo, that’s billion.
Kansaswatchdog.org notes that in 2009, the state Medicare and Medicaid programs spent $385 million on obesity-related conditions.
If the political leaders from both sides want to talk about cutting the size of government and trimming the fat from the budget, then maybe the first place they should look is trimming the actual fat. Let’s fight the evils of beer bellies and love handles first, and that will end up saving the state the money it seeks to cut elsewhere from education, from social services, from those that need the help.
Page 2 of 2 - If we want to save our government from growing in size, let’s start with our own waistlines. If we want the state budget not to be sagging under the weight of a bloated budget, let’s start with keeping our own pants from sagging under the weight of a bloated belly. If we want to have a healthy economy and a healthy budget with the ability to do anything, let’s give the same freedom to our own bodies and our own budgets, which can easily become consumed by health care costs.
Tell us once again who’s fat: We are.
For the Morning Sun