Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
NewsOpinionOp-Eds

The mystery of American obesity

Here is the so-called mystery: Americans are exercising more, but the national obesity rate keeps rising. How can that be?

The answer is pretty obvious. As my personal trainer (the only person standing between me and a gut hanging over my belt) has told me many times, "It's all math -- the number of calories burned and the number of calories consumed."

According to data just published in the online journal Population Health Metrics, during the last 10 years, Americans have gotten more active in two-thirds of the nation's counties. They have also gotten fatter.

To take California as an example, the percentage of women in the state who get sufficient weekly exercise rose over the decade from 50.7 percent to 59.2 percent. For California men, the positive change was from 59.4 percent to 61.3 percent. Yet, at the same time, obesity rates rose in every California county.

Here's the math. A person can walk an extra mile every day. In a week, that will burn up 900 extra calories. If that person has just one meal consisting of a Big Mac, fries and a coke, he or she will consume 920 calories. One lunch negates all the extra miles.

The reality is, a person can exercise for hours every day, but calories are not easy to burn. What's easy is consuming them. It's not just visiting much-maligned McDonald's that can get a person in trouble, it's our entire processed food industry. Widespread obesity is a problem unique to our current era and will not disappear until we can shift away from convenient processed and packaged food and get closer to the way our grandparents and great grandparents ate.

Walking, running, lifting weights, riding bikes, swimming; all forms of exercise are good for your health. But eating a leaner diet is the only way to drop the pounds. It's a simple truth that is tough to accept -- take it from me, the guy who detoured to get a couple of Winchell's donuts this morning on my way to the newsroom.

Please, don't tell my trainer.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Baltimore mayor: Immigrant executive actions will help city
    Baltimore mayor: Immigrant executive actions will help city

    Last week, President Barack Obama outlined his plan to protect millions of immigrants from deportation — a monumental first step in addressing our nation's broken immigration system. His executive action will be felt most strongly in cities across America, cities like Baltimore.

  • Don't fall for tobacco industry e-cigarette smokescreen
    Don't fall for tobacco industry e-cigarette smokescreen

    No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck. Which is why, with all that is still unknown about the dangers of e-cigarette use, we must put public health first and prohibit the use of these unregulated products in all workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos....

  • It's time to kill the lame duck session
    It's time to kill the lame duck session

    The current lame duck session of Congress, which ends on Jan. 3 and includes senators and representatives defeated on Nov. 4, began with the same old partisanship that characterized the last few years in Washington, as the Senate rejected the Keystone XL pipeline construction bill by a single...

  • Protecting and serving U.S. immigrants
    Protecting and serving U.S. immigrants

    The most interesting question about President Barack Obama's action on immigration is not its legality. Presidents from Eisenhower forward, Republicans and Democrats alike, have used their executive authority to legalize immigrants in large and small measures, and their actions roused little...

  • Obamacare is a 'varsity stinker'
    Obamacare is a 'varsity stinker'

    OK, I can't help myself. Over the past three years, I have written at least a dozen columns critical of Obamacare (a.k.a. The "Affordable Care Act") in this space and devoted an entire chapter to the topic in my book "America: Hope for Change."

  • Closing the achievement gap would bolster U.S. economy
    Closing the achievement gap would bolster U.S. economy

    As an American, I am proud that our country leads the world in innovation and job creation. I am also aware that our success is leveraged on decisions we made more than a half century ago to invest in high-quality public education for all our children.

Comments
Loading