with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Fat Americans and Fat Immigrants

New research has just been released announcing the fact that not only are Americans fatter than most of the other populations in the world, immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least 15 years are fatter than those left behind in their home countries.

On average, most men were 11 pounds heavier and women were nine pounds heavier than those in their homeland. The reasons given were few. Mostly, the weight increase is due to the lack of exercise. The lessor reason is the combination of exposure to foods not part of their old diet and exposure to foods not part of their old diet. Yes, I repeated myself.

It seems that for many, the foods consumed here that are not on the diet back home are fatter. Stuffed with fat making products. And the food is different. For example, Mexicans grew up eating tortillas made with corn back home, but in the states, these are more difficult to find and tortillas made with flour are easy to find.

The second part of the justification on exposure to different foods is the exposure to new and different foods. People just want to try all the new foods and are tempted by the diversity, consuming more, and consuming more unhealthy foods. So people are not only eating fattening foods, they are lured by all the temptations.

Combined with the fact that 40% of calories consumed by Americans come from snacking. Goodness. There are still a lot of places in the world where people barely get a meal a day and Americans get almost half of their calories from snack food. Wow.

Also, US children have increased their weight over the past 10 years by 45% and have increased their chance of diabetes tremendously.

Brent and I are still overwhelmed by the FAT in Americans. During our five years in Israel, I lost almost a whole person in weight and Brent gained a thick waist. I was walking and exercising all day and changing my diet to eat healthy, wholesome food. Brent increased his junk food consumption, becoming a cookie fanatic, and exercised hardly at all. The people we met as we worked or explored were all thin, in some cases paper thin. By the end of the 5 years, we were seeing more fat people, especially fat young people, clearly associated with the huge growth in fast food throughout the country, especially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Visiting the US, we were repeatedly stunned by the obesity here.

Now that we are back living here, even if only for six weeks, we are shocked by the obesity here. Over and over again we find people in Lowes, Home Depot, WalMart, Michaels, grocery stores and shopping malls who are not only obese, people younger than me are so fat they can’t hold their bodies up for any period of time so they are moving around in carts throughout the stores. More large stores in the states are buying such electronic carts for their customers. Originally, these were intended to accommodate the aging Americans, but more and more young, obese people are using them. Aging Americans, many of them health aware and raised in an America where over consumption of food wasn’t the norm, are healthier than their grandchildren. So sad.

I saw one woman, clearly at least 15 years younger than me, slowly moving through the store in one of these electric carts, her four chins shuttering as she turned her head slowly to peer down the aisles in search of something to buy. I’d never seen anyone with four chins. She was in shorts, even though the temperature shouldn’t accommodate such fashions, and I could see three chins around her ankles. I didn’t know ankles could have chins, either.

I know there are diseases that bloat and cause obesity. A very good friend of ours has a daughter born with Proter Willie Disease, an error in chromosomes at birth which turns off the “I’m full” button, causing hunger that hangs around permanently, often resulting in stealing food and hoarding in order to constantly feed the chronic hunger. After years battling her massive obesity, taking a huge toll on her heart and lungs, she is finally in a very intensive live-in program that constantly monitors her food and she has lost over 200 pounds last I heard. But the loss can’t fix her problem. There is not surgery for genes. She has had to learn how to do this, controlling herself, her will power, and her overwhelming need for food, replacing it with activity and things she enjoys doing to fill the emptiness inside.

I always thought that if Tracy could do that, anyone could lose weight. She is such an incredible example to me and so many. We’re not born with the need to feed. We control everything that goes into our mouths and we can control how we live our lives to increase our exercise. The steps we can take are simple. We can park our cars further from the shopping mall or WalMart so we walk further. Take an extra lap around the inside of the mall or huge store before starting your purchases. If the store, library, post office, or any other destination is less than a mile away, walk it. It should only take about 20 minutes, if that long. Everyone in the United States lives on a “block”, whether it is a country block or city block, it is still a block. Twice a day, take a walk around the block. When you get better at it, make it two blocks. And so on. Instead of watching the news on television, get a portable radio or Walkman and put it on NPR (National Public Radio) and walk while you catch up on the news.

I’m not an exercise guru, though I’m working on broadening my exercise regime to include yoga and pilates, but I am shocked at the fat in America. Honestly shocked. And having lived overseas for five years, I can tell you that the rest of the world is totally grossed out when they see Americans. Brent remembers standing in the airplane hanger at work when a group of men approached from the parking lot. He’d only been in Israel for a few months but could spot the Americans among the group in an instance. He told me that they were all “round”. Round faces, round bodies, round bellies, round legs, and a round way of walking, moving from side to side instead of staying straight up and moving from the hips down. Over time, even if he couldn’t make out the body outline of the approaching person, the walk, or waddle, would tell him that this was an American.

We export a lot to the rest of the world, and fat is high on the agenda of our exports. McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, all fat-oriented stores assault the international world.

But when it comes to touring Americans, trust me when I say that from image alone, foreigners find you offensive with your obesity. They judge Americans as lazy, lacking will power, consumptive, wasteful, and boring. The “boring” comes from another problem – lack of education. Yes, another report was announced today that says Americans are once again towards the bottom of the pile when it comes to education around the world. Singapore was on the top across all of the educational tests, as were most of the Asian and European countries. I’ll have more on that later.
Mobile, Alabama

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