First Fat, Now Unhealthy

If there ever was any question that Virginians need to act more aggressively to improve public health, there shouldn’t be any longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released new data showing that the incidence of diabetes has increased dramatically in all states between 1995 and 2010. Diabetes among adults in Virginia now stands at 8.3%.

That’s right around the national average. I suppose we can console ourselves that our diabetes rate is the lowest of all the states south of the Mason-Dixon line, but that’s a pretty low standard. It’s like taking finding solace in the fact we have less malnutrition than Ethiopia or Somalia.

There are broad differences in the incidence of diabetes within Virginia. The lowest rate at 7.5% is Arlington County. At the high end, the rate in Petersburg is 13.5%. Broadly speaking, the healthiest regions are Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. The southeastern quadrant of Virginia is a disaster zone. To view the CDC’s interactive atlas, click here.

There is a direct correlation between diabetes and obesity, as the interactive atlas makes abundantly clear. And there’s a direct connection between what people eat, and how much exercise they get, and obesity. Regular readers of Bacon’s Rebellion know our philosophy for tackling this problem: (1) building more walkable/bikable communities, (2) eating more locally grown food, and (3) cleaning up our streams, river and Bay as part of a broader push to improve recreational opportunities.


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29 responses to “First Fat, Now Unhealthy”

  1. Diabetes is not only prevalent but it is an example of what happens to people who do not have health insurance and as a result do not visit the doctor.

    A standard blood test given by most doctors one every year or two detects high glucose levels which usually triggers another test known as a HBAC1 test which basically determines how long your glucose levels have been elevated (above 100).

    If you go to the doctor regularly and this test is given and catches your high levels – there are treatments to lower it. It depends on the person but exercise, cutting out fats and carbs, taking some cheap drugs like Metformin, etc.. and it is brought under control and once under control your life expectancy is still pretty good.

    When you don’t go to the doctor on a regular basis and this test is not done.. you find out about your diabetes AFTER your organs, eyes and cardio-vascular system has been ravaged.’re still alive for a few more years but the cost of care for you has skyrocketed and if you have no insurance, then the costs of your treatment are born by other taxpayers and insurance subscribers.

    See we think.. that giving others medical care is wrong and we won’t do it – but the problem is – we do – do it – but we only do it – after their organs and cardio-vascular systems are corrupted and their last years of life consume hundreds of thousands of dollars of health care – courtesy of you and I.

    The question is – if you are a fiscal conservative – how would you deal with this?

    Don’t say we’ll get rid of EMTALA and MedicAid. That might bring comfort to you but it’s not the reality.

    so what, in reality, should be done about it?

    gold stars for good answers!

  2. I know a fella that is in his 70’s and his belly and legs looks like a 20 year old.

    Every single day of his life, he spends about 2 hours at the local “Y” and rides his bike. I went bike riding with him one weekend and almost died trying to keep up with his “casual” pace.

    How many people are actually willing to spend 2 hours a day exercising?

    no.. don’t give me all the excuses of “modern living”. The bottom line is that people CHOOSE to NOT do that level of exercise and at the same time – most – simply eat too much of the wrong thing – not just once or twice a week or for a rare treat but on a regular basis.

    why you go out into the world – pay attention to the people.

    We are a country of irresponsible people. I say this in light of countries like Japan or Scandinavia where people take responsibilities to life – to living – much more seriously.

    This extends to our health care system where some of us proclaim – almost proudly – that we are more “unhealthy” than other countries and that’s why our health care costs twice as much.

    think about that idea….. today.

    1. Larry, with all that talk of individual responsibility, you almost sound like a conservative!

      1. Oh let me tell you…. I’m a pragmatic person and our big problem these days from politics to health to health insurance is we fail to look at ourselves and we fail to do with the realities.

      2. reed fawell Avatar
        reed fawell

        Larry is a conservative in process, just doesn’t know it yet.

  3. Breckinridge Avatar

    “Regular readers of Bacon’s Rebellion know our philosophy for tackling this problem: (1) building more walkable/bikable communities, (2) eating more locally grown food, and (3) cleaning up our streams, river and Bay as part of a broader push to improve recreational opportunities.”

    WTF? Really? You look at that data and your conclusion is clean up the rivers and build bike trails? HAHAHAHAHA. My favorite booth at the local farmer’s market is the Mennonite bakery. Plenty of local calories in their breakfast rolls.

    How about risk pricing of health insurance just like the risk pricing that is already practiced for life insurance and auto insurance? How about throwing a few parents in jail for letting their kids weigh 180 at age 10? America: Land of the Giants. A huge proportion of young people can’t even qualify for the military because of their weight — if we ever needed a 13 million person military again, like in 1945, we couldn’t do it.

    1. I totally agree with the idea of risk pricing health insurance by rewarding people for achieving and maintaining basic fitness standards (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, body-weight index, etc.) Why should people who discipline themselves to eat right and exercise subsidize people who can’t get off their butts?

      Do you think we could sneak this past the weeping nellies who fret that it would discriminate against the poor (who are disproportionately overweight and unhealthy)?

    2. re: risk pricing of health insurance

      you guys should check out the “exchanges” for ObamaCare.

      go to and go through the menus that ask questions about whether you smoke or not or have a pre-existing condition, etc.

  4. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    Bacon – Can’t you get your map right? Hawaii is obese. Alaska, poor malnourished thing, is half Oregon’s size.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Very good, Reed!

  5. Breckinridge Avatar

    Which comes first? Which will be worse? Boomergeddon or Blutogeddon?

    More ideas, half kidding (but only half):

    Create a fitness SOL. The schools now don’t care about anything that is not an SOL.

    Stop providing school bus service within 2 miles of the school. Spend the money instead on safety patrols so the super-paranoid parents will let their little darlings actually walk or ride bikes to school. When I last lived in suburbia the parents would DRIVE their kids 200 yards to the corner bus stop, and sit their with the engines idling so the heat would stay on.

    Create an electromagnetic field that blocks TV, cable, XBox, any kind of electronic diversion until after dark, so the chubby little couch potatoes have to go outside and play.

    Get the soda and candy machines out of the schools. Make them cut class and walk to the 7-Eleven, or stop on our WALK HOME, like we did when I was in school.

    And I still think that there comes a point when a child is so fat, so out of shape that the parents should be charged with neglect or even abuse.

    This is all premised on the notion that these habits are formed in the early years.

    1. “When I last lived in suburbia the parents would DRIVE their kids 200 yards to the corner bus stop, and sit their with the engines idling so the heat would stay on. ”

      This happens in my neighborhood, too. Unbelievable.

  6. re: ” Create a fitness SOL. The schools now don’t care about anything that is not an SOL.”

    I do not think this is the schools job. We keep putting more and more responsibility on teachers to do what parents should be doing.

    if you as a parent are FAT it is YOUR responsibility that your kid is eating like you – not some poor teacher trying to give him the education he’ll need to get a job when he grows up.

    everyone blames others here instead of taking personal responsibility.

    Kids should show up at school and say ” my Dad/Mom does NOT want me eating food that is not good for me” INSTEAD of people saying.. “my kid is fat because teachers don’t exercise him”.

    WTF!!!!!! when do we start taking responsibility here?

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    I don’t buy LarryG’s argument. All I ever read is how our kids are getting fatter. Larry sees this as parental neglect. However, I also see the “helicopter parents” taking their kids from place to place all day and night long. Brekinridge and Bacon both note that parents will drive their children a short distance to the bus stop so they won’t have to stand “in the cold”. I see this all the time.

    None of this is parental neglect. It’s some kind of weird over-compensation for God knows what. Today’s parents spend one heck of a lot more time on their kids then parents spent when I was growing up. And, apparently, the kids are much more likely to be obese. I guess the parents are much more likely to be obese too.

    I think there is something more profound than “parents don’t care”.

    For example, maybe I am getting old and groggy but I can’t remember ever getting a delivered pizza when I was growing up. If you wanted a pizza you had to get up, go out, buy the pizza and bring it back. Now, you can’t watch 30 minutes on TV with seeing several ads for delivered pizza.

    There were no triple hamburgers. Nobody would have known what you meant and you would have been the object of great ridicule for ordering such a thing if it did exist.

    There were also virtually no gyms. There was no exercise equipment. At 17, I had earned enough money in a summer job to be able to buy a weightlifting set. Since I belonged to a weightlifting club this was a big deal. I had to call the York barbell company and find out that a guy in Kensington, MD sold York equipment from his basement. I drove there and bought about $125 worth of weights and accouterments in cash.

    Now, there is a gym on every other street corner. All manner of exercise equipment is sold in all manner of retail stores, there are personal trainers, exercise videos, iPhone apps that track workouts and even sensors that fit in your shoe and tell you how far you have run.

    In the early 1970s people didn’t even jog.

    And yet we are fatter than ever.

    Odd. This whole thing is very odd.

  8. re: “it’s ain’t the parents fault”

    re: it sure as hell is not the teacher fault.

    nothing odd here DJ.

    “helicopter parents” = irresponsible parents.

    You _ARE_ RESPONSIBLE” for your kids – no, if, ands, or buts.

    you can try to blame others … “modern life”, “society”. etc but
    at the end of the day if you have kids and are unwilling to raise them to be personally responsible for their own selves – what have you really accomplished other than having kids?

    blaming teachers makes my head explode.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Just curious – how many kids do you have Larry? You seem to be an expert in parenting so I thought I’d ask.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      Also, from your comments, I assume you are one of those rail thin guys in superb physical condition. I mean, if you are responsible for your kids then you must certainly be responsible for yourself – right?

  9. DJRippert Avatar

    Time to fire people who are overweight?

    A widespread program like this would certainly catalyze Bacon’s desired bike trail infrastructure.

  10. DJ – I have no kids – not because we did not want them – but because it just didn’t work out but I am intimately familiar with family, friends and teachers and I do know the game.

    I am NOT in rail thin condition but I DO take personal responsibility for my current condition – I will not blame it on others and I would not blame any child’s obese condition on others either. I walk a lot…. try to keep relatively fit but I will readily admit that I have more weight than I should and yes.. it is solely my fault – not the folks who make Fritos or Big Macs or whatever.

    We’ve become a “blame others” society when much of the problem is us. We are not responsible. We are instead, irresponsible. I know intimately a teacher. We talk every single day about what is expected of her especially when it comes to kids who are at-risk, not on grade level and she will be held accountable if that kid does not get back to grade level. The parents complain about homework and why their kids are being “pushed” to learn.

    there is not an extra minute in the day – she literally has to have her class at lunch at exact 11:22 or else even in Johnny has to go to the bathroom or Maggie has just thrown up.

    this is how bad it has gotten.

    this women spends 2-3 hours almost every evening – AFTER she gets home a 6:30 – to grade homework and to fret about some of her kids not making it.

    and we have people saying that we need exercise SOLs….

    come on folks… where is the personal responsibility here?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Larry – I agree with the point about personal responsibility. However, when I hear that “obesity has become an epidemic” in America I have to wonder …. what happened to cause Americans to suddenly abandon personal responsibility?

      I think the problem is deeper than just saying, “people have abandoned personal responsibility”.

      It’s not just an American issue. Apparently, the French are getting fatter too –

      So, everyone in the world is eschewing personal responsibility?

      Doesn’t that seem odd to you? In the last 30 years the entire world has given up on personal responsibility?

      1. reed fawell Avatar
        reed fawell

        Yes, it is odd.

        I recall that before the advent of Jim Fixx (running) and health awareness generally (via exercise, good food versus smoking) and the advent of some miracle medicines), a lot of folks died much earlier than they die today. Died from heart attack, smoking, lack of exercise, and the like.

        By its likely that the real cause of death back then, unlike today, was peoples lack of awareness. Had they been aware, one suspects a far higher percentage, rich or poor or in between, would have had the discipline and sense of responsibility to themselves and others (family, relatives, friends, church, peer, whatever) to change their ways. But not now.

        Now, large segments of our population, despite all their advantages, seem to be gliding down a path of inaction that leads invariable to emotional, physical and mental dissolution, ending in self induced collapse .

        Why, Don asks – why amid all they know? Why, amid all the means available to them to easily reverse that slide. And it’s happening on all fronts. A click brings anyone a endless stream of facts, information, art, culture. Yet few are willing to click and concentrate long enough to learn.

        Yet those who click and concentrate gain so much from all the abundance so easily accessed today, health-wise, money-wise, learning-wise. Thus the ever widening divide among the few and the many in our society.

        Somehow an ever growing yet oddly invisible system is enabling this slow collapse of whole segments of our society.

  11. Almost every society is getting fatter — even Third World societies. There are two broad reasons. First, food is more abundant and less expensive. (So much for the Club for Rome thesis that the globe would be afflicted by mass starvation now.) Secondly, energy and mechanical labor is substituting for human labor. People are exercising less. It’s a simple as that.

    How do we turn things around? People do need take responsibility for themselves and family members. In those echelons of society where personal responsibility is a strongly held ethic, I think you’ll find that people *do* take better care of their health. In those echelons that look to “someone else” to take care of their health, you’ll find more obesity and diabetes. That, at least, is my working hypothesis.

  12. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    Only individuals can save themselves and a society from slow collapse.

    Dis-empower the individual, whether by abrupt force or slow inducement, and then society loses its vigor, cohesion, and purpose. Of late we seem to be working overtime to constantly refine the means of achieving this sad end.

  13. No.. I can guarantee you that some people are not getting fatter. Scandinavians and Japanese tend not bloat near as much.

    It IS personal responsibility because while it’s true the food we eat is tastier and more fattening and we do less physical labor, we still have a responsibility to take care of our bodies if for no other reason other than we want to live and enjoy life longer and spend the last few years of our life in bad circumstances.

    I am not talking about the morbidly obese who do have a serious health condition. But the vast majority of us are not in that category.

    I am a Type II diabetic. I KNOW WHY. it’s my issue and I had a big role in it. You have to face the truth… not blame others.

    It’s one thing to make excuses – for yourself – the next step is much worse..blame others. they are both steps away from personal responsibility and now I’ll step down off my blather soapbox.

  14. re: the facts

    we console ourselves with the idea that the rest of the world is fat also but that’s simply not the truth.

    it’s a flimsy excuse instead. We should be world LEADERs in GOOD things NOT FAT!

    more than that – we should seek the truth rather than seek excuses or blame others.

  15. Breckinridge Avatar

    I do not agree that there is no role for the schools to play in this, and that the schools share no blame for the situation we are in. Parents are the most important teachers, but not the only teachers. As far back as the Greeks the mind-body connection was recognized and nurtured, and the absence of exercise in the schools — organized or disorganized — is part of the problem. I even faced a phys ed requirement my freshman and sophmore years in college. I doubt that is the case now.

  16. teachers cannot “undo” the bad habits that a child learns from their parents when it comes to eating.

    the problem is not exercise. in order to lose weight through exercise, you’d have to spend about 2 hours a day doing it.

    there is no way to do that in schools .

    you’re blaming teachers for not performing something that is virtually impossible to do.

    I DO believe that teachers should inform children about health – to include healthy eating and exercise habits but there is no way they can turn schools into de-facto fat/exercise spas.

    Do you REALLY want MORE taxpayer money to be spent on this?

    If you want your child to exercise and eat right – then that is primarily your responsibility. The public schools primary responsibility is education – the kind of education that provides that child with the capabilities needed to grow up and get a job and become a taxpayer.

    If we REALLY DO want schools to provide MORE TIME for exercise – (as opposed to trading it for reading or math) – then it is not going to be free and it will require your child to stay even longer at school – because right now – the schools are using every minute to provide basic education – reading, writing and arithmetic – AND it’s such a challenge that testing shows that more needs to be done.

  17. I’ve actually asked this question of teachers in K-3 and their answer is that time is so tight right now that they don’t even have enough time for academic subjects like social studies much less Art or Music.

    If you want to keep the start/finish times the same – it becomes a game of what do you replace/trade for exercise and how much time.

    If you advocated an hour – major harm would be done to the rest of the academic curricula.

    Even then – it’s not enough exercise to mitigate how much some are eating. One hour of vigorous exercise will knock down about 500 calories. If you are eating a 1000 calories more than you should – exercise is not going to fix the issue – and that’s the primary problem with most who are obese. They simply eat too much and exercise alone is not enough to knock down the weight.

    With kids – we’re talking about training for life – and if the family itself is overweight and overeats there is not a whole hell of a lot a teacher can do if the child goes home to eat at the same table as Mom and Dad every night.

    It’s totally unrealistic to think that exercise at school can fix this – even if they made hard choices of what other academics to sacrifice to provide it.

    sometimes I think – as society – we want – and we don’t care if it is physically (or fiscally) impossible… we just want.

  18. A local school has an exercise running program for kids:

    my understanding is that it is after school and the teacher is volunteering their time and the program is GROWING.

    I also neglected to mention that in our area – we are overrun with soccer fields and other playing fields that kids and parents flock to after school. The key here is the parents have to be willing participants.

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