So, we’re fat. Fattest state in the union. Our politicians are fat. Our news anchors are fat. Our family reunions look like an episode of “The Biggest Loser.” And, yes, I’m trying to lose a few pounds myself!
“Fat” has an economic impact. Of all the money we spend on healthcare, nearly 10 percent can be traced back to pure fat. While we are trying to get our budgets lean and mean, maybe we should start by getting ourselves lean and mean. The cost of obesity in Mississippi is about $757 million a year. Medicare picks ups the tab for about a third of that, and Medicaid picks up the tab for another third. These are real tax dollars being “eaten” up by our obesity epidemic.
Childhood obesity is also expanding dramatically. Children who are obese tend to have shorter life spans than their thinner counterparts. Fat kids miss more school and often turn in to fat adults, and the cycle continues. We are in danger of producing a generation of workers with gaps in education due to lost school days, built-in health risks, and fewer productive labor hours.
But we live in Mississippi, land of the best fried chicken and catfish, land of sweltering days that lead us to park under the nearest AC vent, and land of the four-wheeler that’s used to run down to the mailbox. We can’t fix this problem just by yelling, “Put down that chicken leg.”
We need a carrot. OK, so a few real carrots in our diets wouldn’t hurt, but I’m talking about a figurative carrot. Continued education will help with our children, but we need something more substantive to combat fat in adults. $757 million divided among three million residents is about $250 a pop. How about a check for $250 for every 10 pounds you lose and keep off? Every $250 check that shows up in my mailbox will send me to the local shop for a new set of thinner pants. It’s a win-win.
Okay, so I know it’s drastic, but we’re fat!