In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wisconsin was consistently ranked in the top tier of states with a high obesity rate. Efforts to help improve that ranking over the last 20 years have paid off, although Doctor Pat Remington, Associate Dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, says it’s mainly because Wisconsin held the line while obesity rates in other other states got worse.
The United Health Foundation recently ranked Wisconsin 15th in the nation for the population of obese residents. The label is used to describe those with a Body Mass Index above 30. Remington says obesity rates in the Badger State have actually doubled, up to about 30 percent of the state’s population now. He says Wisconsin only saw an improvement in its ranking because other states “more than doubled” their own rates during the same time frame, another sign of an epidemic across the country.
Obesity effects everybody, with men, women, and even young children now seeing their average body weight increase. It’s a major cause of disease as well, with links to higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, and even aliments like arthritis.
Remington puts a great deal of blame on how readily available food has become, with places like gas stations and even retail stores offering food for sale. “Gas stations 30 years ago didn’t have food, now you can have a meal at a gas station while you’re filling your car…in hardware stores, you can go to Home Depot and have a hotdog on your way out.”
Remington says the key to battling the epidemic is getting people to make more “healthy choices” in the course of their daily lives. He says “the message should not be extreme dieting and extreme exercising. It should just be adding a little more activity in your daily living and just cutting a few calories out of your diet. It’s amazing…what can happen when people just make these modest changes.”