Photo by Vacacion
In the past two weeks, I’ve done an America-centric lesson in about eight classes. Each time, I opened the lesson with a mind map on the board; I wrote ‘USA’ in huge letters, and asked my students what came to mind.
“Fat people!” was the first shout-out every. single. time.
And McDonald’s was the second.
Even today, when I did a lesson about Great Britain, two different classes thought of “fat people.” By the end of today, I was sick of hearing the word “fat” on my students’ tongues.
Alright, cool. Americans (and Brits, apparently) are fat. The thing is, I could look out into the class and see the same shapes and sizes that I would in any, random, American class… I do have to admit, however, that Austria does have more fit youngsters, even if they do smoke and drink more often and freely than their American counterparts.
These experiences got me thinking… Does America really have that many more fat people than the rest of the world? Sure, we constantly hear about the rising rate of obesity and incidence of Type II diabetes in America, but for my English as a Second Language students to blurt this out as the first thing they think about the USA? Come on. What about Obama? Freedom? New York City? The War on Terror? Angelina Jolie? … No? Alright.
So, naturally, I turned to Google.
First of all: obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. BMI is calculated by dividing one’s weight by the square of one’s height.
After a bit of tricky Googling, I came across this article, Obesity: in Statistics, from BBC. The tagline blares: “People are getting fatter almost everywhere in the world.” …not just in the United States. The article goes on to call obesity a modern problem, naming fast food to sedentary jobs as the sneaky culprits. After numerous, fancy charts, I found what I was looking for: a list of the top countries with adult obesity problems. And guess what? The United States is not #1, but rather, #5 with 32.2%. Nauru claims the top spot with a 78.5% adult obesity rate and the United Kingdom rounds out the top 10 with 24.2%.
But, that wasn’t all that I found. This Daily Telegraph article betrays Australian women as having the fastest growing obesity rate, warning that they are “close to matching America’s obesity level.”
Additionally, the LA Times reports that Mexico, once a hungry country, is now battling an ever-increasing childhood obesity rate “behind only the United States for highest in the world.”
Apparently, obesity is not just America’s problem — fat people exist everywhere, even in exotic, beachy locales. From these three articles, it seems that while the United States does not have the highest obesity rates in the world, it is a useful scale of measurement for the rest of the world’s obesity. Furthermore, I can’t blame my students for thinking that all Americans are fat. Afterall, 3 in 10 Americans are, in fact, obese. Meanwhile, Wikipedia claims that Austria had an obesity rate of only 11% in 2000.
Thanks again, Google, for answering my pressing questions.
What do you think? — Are all Americans fat? What’s your view of America + obesity? Do the stats surprise you?
Until next time…