It’s been a long time since I could really be thought of as skinny. I’ve recently put a fair amount of effort into losing about 15 pounds (the end of beer-drinking season, a/k/a Euro 2008, helped a lot), and I’ve managed to come down from "overweight" to "normal weight" on the BMI scale – albeit near the upper end of "normal weight". Still, in order to be "obese" on the BMI scale, I’d need to put on an extra 60 pounds from where I am now. That’s a lot of Hefeweizen.
Which helps, for me, to put this map into perspective. Only one of the 50 states in the union has fewer than one in five obese people; the fattest state, Mississippi, has almost one in three. Overall, more than a quarter of Americans are obese, which makes the USA the fattest nation in the world.
The irony is that with food prices rising, this problem is only likely to get worse, rather than better. As a rule, healthy food is expensive; junk food is cheap.
But although Americans are addicted to beef, they’re also addicted to oil, and they’re managing to cut back on that as the price rises. Might they start moving away from beef, too, if its price goes up enough? For their sake, and the sake of the planet, I hope they do.
If they want an alternative, I’ve recently become a huge proponent of sardines. They’re delicious; they’re pretty cheap; they’re ecologically friendly and in no danger of being over-fished; they don’t eat corn; they have lots of of protein and no carbohydrates; and, of course, they have all those omega-3 fatty acids as well. There’s even a sardine diet!
The problem is that sardines can be hard to find, in the US, certainly in their fresh form. And there does seem to be a general cultural aversion, in the US, to "fishy fish". Which is a great pity, because once you’ve acquired the taste, it’s easy to end up preferring a plate of grilled sardines to the average American steak.