Only one word describes most Americans: FAT! |

Only one word describes most Americans: FAT!

“Another quarter-pounder,” Dan said, gesturing to the woman at the breakfast buffet. She was disgustingly fat, probably twice her ideal weight, and she was loading her plate to the brim. We had taken to guessing weights amongst our fellow Americans, and “quarter-pounder” meant 250 pounds.However, she was not alone in this dining room. Other than one man who looked strong but carried a 20-pound potbelly, the rest of the 30 or so diners were obese. The two men at the table next to us prayed before digging into their biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon and sausage. They were a father and his adult son, and despite being only about 5 feet 6 inches tall, they each had to weigh close to 400 pounds.Last month my friend Dan and I went to Texas to do a little horse-trading. We got to see a lot of Middle America on this trip, and I’ve got to tell you, it was not a pretty sight. We saw more morbidly obese people than one would have thought humanly possible.It’s very interesting to me that our society has evolved to the point where food is so abundant and cheap that a majority of our citizenry is terribly overweight. If you look at pictures of American soldiers in past wars – the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, even Vietnam – their faces were lean and gaunt, hollow-cheeked, their frames skinny and lank. They were the average Americans of the day, representing a cross-section of the population.Today, however, according to Army statistics, only 20 percent of Americans in the prime recruiting ages of 17-24 even qualify for induction into the military, and one of the major reasons is obesity. Thirty percent of Americans are considered obese – not simply overweight, but really fat. The average American man weighed 166 pounds in 1960, and was 5 feet 8 inches tall. The average American man was 5 feet 9 inches and 191 pounds in 2002. Women averaged 5 feet 3 inches and 140 pounds in 1960, and 5 feet 4 inches and 165 pounds in 2002. I’ll bet the results for 2006 would be even fatter than that.Dan works really hard at staying trim. He’s 59 years old, 5 feet 11 inches, and weighs about 165. Time after time on this road trip, Dan sent orders back to the kitchen. Chicken came fried and not grilled, salads came loaded with cheese and bacon bits, baked potatoes came with a bucket of butter dripping off them. It became tedious after a time, while some waitress stared at Dan, not comprehending how someone could order the salad or a plate of Mexican food without a load of cheese on it, then her surprised reaction when he’d send the plate back to the kitchen. One time I watched Dan order an egg-white omelet for breakfast, and the waitress looked at Dan like he had three purple heads with three sets of antennae.I know, I know, all you skinny fitness fanatics in Aspen are busy with your uphill snowshoe races, hiking up Smuggler, riding your bikes up to Ashcroft, and counting your maximum heart rates and grams of protein that you eat on a daily basis. You’re wondering why I’m picking on fat people. They’re an easy target, right?Those Americans who are lean and fit are becoming such a rarity that is it separating our society into two groups: an elite healthy few and the fat remainder. I’m picking on fat people because, next to our oil addiction, it’s probably the biggest crisis facing America. Health-care costs are spiraling out of control, and if you’ve gone shopping for health insurance lately, it’s shocking how much it costs. Health-care costs accounted for 16 percent of our gross domestic product in 2005, and it’s projected to be 20 percent in the very near future.Hospital infrastructure is extremely expensive. If you look at all the systems in a typical hospital room, it’s very pricey stuff. Imagine having to retrofit your hospital to accommodate a regular clientele of 500-pounders, keeping in mind that you need to anticipate the occasional 800-pounder. One woman in St. Louis was embarrassed that she sat on the examining table and flipped it over. It’s not surprising, given the fact that she weighed 745 pounds. Doctors find that their 4-plus-inch needles can’t penetrate the fat to properly give injections. Doorways must be widened to 48 and 52 inches. However, this isn’t just an occasional patient. Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis checked and rechecked their data and established that, yes, fully one-third of their patients consistently weighed more than 350 pounds, and often half of their patients weighed that much, with quite a few tipping the scales at more than 500 pounds.The “fat” diseases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer are running amok, and, of course, we’re all paying for it with higher insurance premiums and government entitlements. But here’s what really bugs me: We’re in a horrific state of denial. In this time of extreme political correctness, you don’t dare mention to someone that he or she is fat. Last summer I was presented with a real conundrum when a woman called up to book a horseback ride for herself and her friends. We ask for heights and weights of our riders so we can make sure our saddles fit them comfortably. Their measurements were 5 feet 2 inches, 230 pounds; 5 feet 4 inches, 250 pounds; 5 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds; 5 feet 6 inches, 270 pounds; and 5 feet 5 inches, 225 pounds. I stammered, knowing that none of our saddles had seats that big and stirrups that short, not to mention the fact that it’s plain flat dangerous for someone that overweight to ride a horse.Reasons for the bloating of America are many and various, from a proliferation of fast-food restaurants to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, but really and truly, no one is stuffing the food and drink into a fat person’s face. It is a complete and total lack of willpower, and ultimately it will kill us.Gary Hubbell is 5 feet 10.5 inches and 168 pounds. He and his wife, Doris, are wilderness outfitters offering horseback rides, fly-fishing trips, and big-game hunts at OutWest Guides in Marble, Colo.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User