By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Extreme eating, at home and abroad


From "Extreme Pig Outs"

Last night I started clicking and arrived at “Extreme Pig Outs,” on the Travel Channel. The premise: “America’s the fattest country in the world! And we didn’t get that way from eating broccoli.”

I wasn’t exactly hooked, but it didn’t seem that there was anything else on. (I wish I’d caught up with Kevin earlier: he’d found a program on the History Channel about the Mayflower.)

Anyway, an hour of watching folks make themselves sick at demented eating contests carried us through to the news. But though the statement that we’re the fattest people in the world seems right, is it true?

Apparently not. According to GlobalPost, the United States is only the third-fattest, based on data compiled by the World Health Organization.

Coming in at number one, believe it or not, is American Samoa, which is not an independent country, but which is apparently sufficiently non-American to get us off the hook. Fully 99.3 percent have body-mass indexes of 30 or more.

Following American Samoa is the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, which I confess I’d never heard of. Then comes the United States, with 66.7 percent breaking the tragic 30 barrier.

Some of the countries on the list are surprising. Egypt? Bosnia? Israel? Who knew? But there are specific explanations for each.

For instance, the reporter, Laurie Cunningham, writes that well-educated Jewish women in Israel are among the thinnest in the world; the obesity problem exists mainly among poorly educated Arab women. That, of course, reflects weight disparities based on income and education in the U.S. as well.

We in Media Nation are trying to avoid becoming statistics, though it may be hard. After a Thanksgiving dinner with my 95-year-old uncle yesterday, we’re going to do it all over again today. Turkey coma awaits.

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  1. BillH

    What a pity that the Travel Channel, which started out with interesting, sometimes educational programs on far away places, has devolved into a National Enquirer-like repository of bug-eaters, weird foodies, and “fattest this-or-that” episodes. Too bad.

  2. O'R1on

    According to slightly dated CDC stats, Red States register 14/15 for highest percentage of obesity.
    They also have the distinction of the ten highest divorce rates and 15 highest death-buy-gunshot rates. (Nat.Cen.for Health Stats)!

  3. Newshound

    Pilgrims and Puritans drank a lot of very dark beer and ate heavily salted food – the salt used for preservative. If they didn’t have weight problems they often had health problems.

    However, first born to have descendants, daughter of Priscilla and John Alden, lived into her 90s.

  4. That double burger and fries doesn’t even look very appetizing.

  5. Newshound

    Esther – agree!

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Esther — you’re right. That burger does look pretty disgusting. Believe me, it looked worse watching some moron trying to scarf it down.

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