COLUMN: Overeating has consequences

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

The bad news, according to a recent report, is that Missourians are getting fatter.

Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are reporting that Missouri moved up a notch from 13th to 12th on the list of fattest states. I usually don't discuss weight issues because I'm a small person, I don't eat much and I don't want to make people mad. But you know, folks, it's not really about body size — it's about health, and that's something we all have to worry about.

Look at it like this: It's just another way that we are setting a bad example for children. Short of government interference (and we know how everyone feels about that) I don't see restaurants and grocery stores joining in an effort to help solve the problem.

I go out to eat, maybe once or twice a week. The first thing I notice is the size of the plates. I admit, I haven't bought new dinnerware in years, but my plates look a lot smaller to me. This seems to be particularly true at all-you-can-eat buffets. The amount of food you can get on those plates, I think, would feed at least two people in a Third World country.

In any case, health experts tell us that we are paying for overeating. It is a leading cause of several chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Even underweight people are affected by rising health care costs that include high insurance premiums and higher taxes for Medicare and Medicaid.

Personally, I think this business of overeating is connected to our ever-increasing need to be pacified by entertainment.

Eating is another way of satisfying our hunger to be made happy by something or someone outside of ourselves. We keep searching for ways to fill the empty spaces in our lives. Watching television, talking on cell phones, interacting within social networks, playing with iPads and having several sexual partners are some of the ways in which we entertain ourselves. I suspect that eating is on that list, when all else fails. I'm not sure individuals enjoy the food as much as they do the activity.

I can appreciate the frustrations of people in the health care professions. Because they know  that the only way this issue is going away is that every person makes a decision about his or her health.

Food addiction is no different than any other addiction: All those people who don't understand why people smoke, drink or use drugs will understand the challenge if they decide to restrain themselves at the table.

The dieting industry has all kinds of methods to curb appetites, and different plans work for different people. But it all begins with a personal decision and that, of course, is the hard part.

In many cases, people have grown up eating fast foods. They have never had the opportunity to enjoy nutritious meals. Here again, health authorities, like those in the teaching profession, have to realize that as long as there are no rules and regulations requiring parents to meet certain standards in raising children, you can only hope for the best. Otherwise, we all just have to wait until science discovers some new drug that will help children govern their appetites.

On the other hand, those adults and parents who are willing to take the responsibility of adopting new health habits (and there are many of them) can find all kinds of information about food and nutrition. Books and magazines abound on the subject. Some people are forming health clubs to share information and encourage daily walking as a good way of exercising.

And one thing's for sure: We can all depend on restaurants and grocery stores falling into line, once they realize that society is serious about this. Those in the process of caring and feeding our country's future leaders need to take steps to ensure their health and well-being.

Today is a good day to start.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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bid zill July 13, 2010 | 12:45 a.m.
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