Golden girth: More than half of adults in California are overweight
April 6, 2005
Remember the time when every soda was 12 ounces and one hand could hold most cheeseburgers? Those days are gone. The results of a new study prove it.
More than half of all adults in the state are considered overweight, with statistics showing a 109 percent increase in overweight Californians between 1991 and 2001, according to a study released by the California Department of Health Services.
Nearly 53 percent of Californians over 25 years old are overweight, and more than 17 percent are extremely overweight, or obese, the study found.
The study also reported that a decade of overeating and sitting in front of the television has given California “one of the fastest rates of increase in adult obesity of any state in the nation.”
State health officials said California slipped from the sixth most-fit state nationally in 1991 to 27th in 2001, and represented the third-fastest growing state for obesity behind New Mexico and Georgia.
“El Dorado County is in same boat, especially with kids now becoming extremely obese, and generally speaking nationwide kids are becoming prone to type 2 diabetes which most often occurs in middle-aged people,” said Tabby Goldenberg, public health nurse at South Lake Tahoe for the El Dorado County Public Health Department.
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To fight the overweight trend, Goldenberg said nurses at the health department do what they can to teach parents and their children how to eat healthier.
“We do a lot of counseling on healthy lifestyles – just getting out and walking, and cutting down on snacking,” Goldenberg said. “Getting kids out of the house instead of letting them playing video games most of the day.”
Despite the findings of the study, it is probably true that Tahoe residents are in better shape than other people in the state because many who live at the lake hike, bike and participate in other outdoor recreation.
“In the five months I’ve been here, it seems to me we’ve seen an influx of people with an attitude and awareness about staying healthy and getting fit,” said Joe Pettit, who has owned the Sierra Athletic Club, off Venice Drive in the Tahoe Keys, since late last year.
Shelley Giannotta, director of child nutrition at Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said there have been changes in what food is available for school lunch on the California side of the lake.
“At the high school, the food department no longer sells any candy or doughnuts at the satellite snack areas. Instead we offer items such as yogurt and bagels,” Giannotta said. “And the cafeteria staff is currently working on recipes that will include specialty sandwiches, wraps and salads to be offered daily. We intend to emphasize that these items as ‘heart smart’ choices.”
Across the state, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even while trying to tame California’s budget deficits, has proposed a new $6 million “obesity initiative,” said Susan Foerster, chief of the California Department of Health Services cancer prevention and nutrition section. That includes money to help local groups generate more interest in healthy food and boost statewide public relations efforts highlighting healthier food.
Foerster said health officials are also talking with fast-food chains about helping to increase consumer demand for healthier food and marketing it more aggressively to children.
Fast-food chains said consumer demand will lead them to change their offerings, Foerster said. But by charging the same amount for healthy food as they do for fat-laden meals, they create a disincentive to buy the healthier food, she said.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.