Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The New "Normal"?

My friend Katie posted the link to this article on her Facebook page and I had to share it.

I don't care if this hurts feelings either. It's not meant to - but the point has been made a million times over. We, as Americans, have to change our focus.... OFF of food as a remedy and on to something healthful. I hope that this article says something about the world we live in where "Bigger is Better" has come to bite us in the butt!

As a nurse, yes I'm thankful for some of these larger size adaptions to help keep everyone safer. Larger blood pressure cuffs are nice, but I'm doubting the accuracy of your BP if your already significantly overweight and fluid overloaded. But don't get me started on how difficult it is for ME to take care of you as a patient!!  (and it KILLS me when I can't take care of you the way I want and need to!! Your butt and back are just as important for me to care for as your mouth, face and joints!)

Overweight is the new normal

Products adapt to accommodate the super-sized generation

Americans are living large. Extra large. As in XXXXL large. As in baby-powdered-thighs large. As in wheezing, heaving, bust-the-car-suspension large.

Overweight has become the new normal, and society is straining to accommodate our ever-expanding waistlines. We plant plush bottoms on wider seats in theaters and toilet stalls, drape ourselves in plus-sized clothing, even go to our eternal rest in broader coffins.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and a third, some 72 million people, are considered obese. From 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children, with 17 percent, or 9 million children over 6, classified as obese.

The average American is 23 pounds heavier than the ideal body weight. Experts blame the usual bugaboos: lack of exercise and side-splitting food consumption.

"There's definitely a new norm," said Dr. Robert Kushner, clinical director of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity at Northwestern University in Illinois. "It's a norm that, 'My entire family and my community is overweight, and that's what I am.' "

Businesses, eyes on the bottom line, are adapting to the physical requirements of the heftier among us.

Revolving doors, for example, have widened from 10 feet to 12 feet in recent years. Scales, which seldom went over 300 pounds, now go up to 400 or 500 pounds.

Here are a few other areas in which the super-sized generation is changing our culture.

Feeding frenzy

Food portions, ever bigger, continue to grow to meet yawning appetites. New York nutritionist Lisa R. Young estimates fast-food servings are two to five times what they were in the 1950s. When it debuted 40 years ago, the Big Mac was but a wee patty of 3-ounce meat. Today, fast-food chains serve up 12-ounce burgers loaded with 1,000 calories.

When it first opened, a McDonald's soda was 7 ounces. Now a small soft drink is 16 ounces, and convenience stores pitch a 64-ounce bucket of soda — a full half-gallon. The result: In the 1970s, an American gulped down an average of 27 gallons of soda a year. Today that figure is 44 gallons.

And sweets? Cookies today, Young says, are 700 percent larger than USDA standards. A brownie recipe from the 1960s called for 30 servings. The same recipe today calls for 16.

Garbing the girth

Clothing outlets have expanded plus-sized inventories. Bulky clothes are available for children as young as 3, and Target and Forever 21 offer plus-sized fashions for teens. Quadruple-extra-large shirts are on the rack for men with 60-inch waists.

"Vanity sizing," in which manufacturers adjust apparel size downward so it's more palatable for women, is spreading. A size 4 today was, 20 years ago, a size 8. Some 62 percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger.

But full-size fashion has its price: Plus-sized clothing, which uses more material, costs 10 to 15 percent more than regular apparel.

High-volume cargo

Federal officials have increased the average passenger weight for buses and commercial boats, from 150 pounds to 175 pounds for bus passengers and from 160 pounds to 185 pounds for boat passengers. Buses must be stronger and bigger to handle folks of amplitude, and boats must trim their passenger lists.

Government regulations for car seat belts, set in the 1960s, require them to fit a 215-pound man with a hip circumference of 47 inches. In 2003, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that more than 38 million people, or 19 percent of Americans, were too large for their seat belts. To accommodate heftier drivers, some car manufacturers include seat belts that are 18 to 20 inches longer, or offer seat belt extenders.
Most airlines, where economy-class seat widths range from 17 to 18 inches, make portly passengers buy an extra seat if they can't sit with both armrests down, or can't fasten their seat belts.

Ample seating
Many theme-park rides are featuring larger seats, with sample seats situated so heavier riders can test their capacity. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure near Orlando recently added larger seats to its Forbidden Journey ride.

Also in Orlando, a new downtown arena has installed seats 19 to 24 inches wide, as compared to the 18-inch spread in an older facility. The New York City Center is replacing seats of 17-to-20-inch width with 19 to 22 inches.

The Olive Garden is among restaurants that now provide sturdier, armless chairs for pudgy diners. Movie theater seats have broadened along with their patrons' bottoms. In the 1980s they were around 20 inches wide. Now many movie chains have seats as large as 26 inches wide. More buttered popcorn, anyone?

Hefty health care

Hospitals, committed to treating folks of all sizes, have adjusted to a porkier population with larger, reinforced beds, walkers, examining tables and special lifts to move overweight patients. New magnetic-resonance-imaging machines hold patients of up to 500 pounds. Surgical instruments are extra long to reach into deeper body cavities. Even blood pressure cuffs are larger, to fit around chubby arms.

Wheelchairs, too, are wider. The average wheelchair was designed to hold people of 200 to 300 pounds, but new ones are capable of bearing the approximately 4 million Americans who are heavier than the old weight standard.

Toilets can handle bigger bottoms. Manufacturer Big John is marketing a toilet that is 19 inches wide and 2 inches taller than the average 14-inch-wide seat. They have a weight capacity of 1,200 pounds.

Some manufacturers are shipping 54-inch-wide coffins, broader than the standard 24 inch, which can hold 700 pounds.

Not enough

But such adjustments don't go far enough, said Peggy Howell, public relations director for the Oakland, Calif.-based National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, an advocacy group with "fattitude."

"We are, of course, always happy to see when a company tries to make a product that will accommodate people of size," she said. "But we don't feel that this is giving us a place at the table."

Attitudes, not products, need to change, Howell said. "Stopping the discrimination and the bias and the prejudice would make life a lot better for fat people."


The closing statement caught my eye (hence the blue highlighting).... I'm not convinced that "stopping the discrimination/bias/prejudice" would make life that much better for "fat people". "Fat people" (and even some skinny people!) need to stop making excuses for the reasons they're overweight and likely (i won't say all, but I'd like someone to introduce me to a TRULY happy fat person!) unhappy/miserable.

Being overweight is not a born to way of life. I firmly believe we shouldn't treat it as such.

1 comment:

  1. Once upon a time I was briefly involved with NAAFA because it offered a social outlet for "fat people" to get involved in activities and not worry about their size. Also, there is a subset of the population that prefer larger women and men. Long story short, friendships within the local chapter soured and I ultimately disagreed with some of the philosophies of the organization. However, it does serve an important and crucial purpose. Bias against fat people is the last acceptable discrimination and everyday across this country men & women of size lose jobs, lose promotion opportunities and gain shame & humiliation simply because they are overweight. Its wrong and it should be illegal. It is in some states, thanks to NAAFA's efforts, but not all of them. One might say, "Well, it's their fault they're fat! They should go on a diet!" And that may be all well and good, but there are a myriad of reasons for that person's weight gain and no one needs to know it, because it really is none of their business. Its kind of like blaming the victim for being raped. Also, in that moment there is absolutely nothing that person can do about their weight. Its not like the person doesn't know they're fat. And we all know there is no magic pill that will melt the fat away. So judging or harassing an overweight person about their weight really serves no purpose except to embarrass them. So NAAFA's take is just "leave us alone, we'll leave you alone;" in public anyway--we all know you'll give us a what-for in private, Red ;-)