I attended the state fair not long ago, and my fellow fair-goers opened my eyes. It's a self-selecting group, those who attend the fair. Minorities are vastly underrepresented, as are people from big cities. The small-town and rural poor were there in force.
And they were fat. As someone who went on her first diet at age twelve (what would I give to weigh 121 again?) and has struggled with her weight all her adult life, I empathize. Knowing what you ought to eat and how much doesn't come built-in, and not everyone knows what a reasonable portion size looks like. Eating healthy foods can be hard do to if you don't grow them, can them, or shop where they're always available--if you can afford them.
Still, I saw teenage boys who had no necks or ankles, whose shoes were not tied because that would cut into their fat legs and blobby feet, who wore gigantic T-shirts with the shoulder seams nearly at their elbows in order to encompass their girth. I saw their sisters, usually somewhat thinner, sporting a thick roll of flesh sticking out four or five inches between the waistbands of their skinny jeans and bras that did not fit.
I saw their parents everywhere. Men with bellies the size of expedition backpacks which sat on their laps when they seated themselves. Women whose breasts rested on bellies which reached their knees. Some were ambulatory, although their discomfort was evident. Many used canes. Quite a few had rented scooters at the fair for $55 a day.
More than once, obese people on scooters lined up to purchase food that was overtly bad for them--deep fried Oreos; fried mushrooms, zucchini, or pickles; french fries; fried blooming onion.
My own search for a healthy snack or meal was fruitless. The best I could identify was half a chicken, skin on, served with a white-bread roll and butter plus salt potatoes swimming in butter-flavored oil.
I don't quite believe many of those people who were so heavy it impeded their ability to enjoy the fair indulge in a fried-food fest only once a year. Food that's bad for us is cheap, readily available, and sometimes tasty. The size of so very many suggests making terrible choices about what to eat and how much is the norm for a significant portion of the people of this state.
This is their right. I do not intend to shame them. But my eyes are open. We are not a state of people who are big, or heavy, or carrying some extra weight. We are a state of people who are so fat our lives are limited both in terms of activities we can do and how long those lives are.
What are we going to do about it? For starters, I'd like to see the state fair have a great many selections of foods that are genuinely healthy choices. I'd like to see grocers and growers in the state present displays on preparing healthy meals. I'd like to see vendors selling apples, frozen bananas on a stick, fruit salad cups, and smoothies with little additional sugar. I'd like to see a broad selection of healthy foods vying for fair-goers' attention alongside the everything-fried offerings. And most of all, I'd like to see more people making food decisions which will serve them well during a long and healthy life.