Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99
News Opinion Op-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 © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • David Horsey photo gallery
    David Horsey photo gallery

    Cartoons and essays by David Horsey of the L.A. Times

  • Supergirl Power
    Supergirl Power

    About a year ago, I walked into Gotham Comics in Westminster with the intention of restarting my comic book collection after letting it lie dormant since the comic book boom of the early 1990s. Upon entering the store I was immediately confused.

  • Calls for a constitutional convention are reckless
    Calls for a constitutional convention are reckless

    There's a right way and a wrong way to amend the United States Constitution, and far too many current state legislators are trying to do it the wrong way: by attempting to call our first constitutional convention since 1787.

  • Hogan's Maryland: open for big business
    Hogan's Maryland: open for big business

    Driving home to Baltimore from a meeting with a potential new customer one cold February afternoon, my wife and I chuckled when we crossed the state border. In addition to "Maryland Welcomes You," our state's "Enjoy Your Visit!" sign on Route 15 now read, "We're Open for Business," followed...

  • Teaching Baltimore to dance
    Teaching Baltimore to dance

    Baltimore is a city of the arts. Walk through any neighborhood and it's not uncommon to notice a musician with a guitar strapped to his or her back or a paintbrush peeking from a bag slung over an artist's shoulder. If that neighborhood happens to be Mt. Vernon, those telltale signs of artistry...

  • Why China is passing us by
    Why China is passing us by

    On the surface, it is the best of times in Washington and the worst of times in Beijing. The U.S. capital is a pristine monument to world power; Beijing is cloaked in industrial pollution and dust storms from failed agriculture programs to the west.

  • Fairly assessing risk and recidivism
    Fairly assessing risk and recidivism

    The use of big data to track and analyze human behavior has crept into perhaps the most consequential and sensitive of contexts in society — criminal sentencing.

  • A new process of decision making in Washington
    A new process of decision making in Washington

    A team can't win without a game plan.

Comments
Loading