Weighing in on Nevada’s increasing obesity problem

Weight a minute: In 20 years, will half of us look like this?
Canadian Press

Nevada got a sobering fact this month: We’re fat, and getting fatter every day. According to projections from both the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, our state’s obesity level is 25 percent of the population, and if nothing changes by 2030, that level will reach 50 percent. Given that federal officials forecast a national obesity level of 42 percent by 2030, Nevada is already ahead of the curve.

How we got to this ridiculous level, both physically and statistically, is beside the point. The real question is, what can we do to stop it? In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the unpopular step of banning the sale of beverages larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters and food carts. He’s claimed all along that the ban, which takes effect in 2013, is more an educational tool to raise awareness than an actual method of reducing obesity.

You might assume that Nevada’s obesity numbers are inflated by the Strip. But that’s not necessarily the case. The figures being used by the anti-obesity groups come from statewide telephone interviews—

of Nevada residents—conducted through the years by the Centers for Disease Control. Also, the definition of an “obese” person might surprise you: Basically, according to the Body Mass Index, a 5-foot-10-inch-tall man weighing 210 pounds is considered “obese.” A lot of Americans fall under the slightly less severe “overweight” classification, even though they might consider themselves completely healthy.

Nevada does indeed have its share of “morbidly obese,” but our government officials know they have to be cautious with any food or drink bans in Nevada, especially on the Strip. County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whose agency has jurisdiction over the tourist mecca, says, “I can’t imagine us ever doing [what Bloomberg did].” While he’s a big proponent of anti-obesity campaigns, “It’s a big disconnect to say we’re concerned about obesity, and then you’ve got all-day passes to all-you-can-eat buffets. When people come here to vacation, they don’t look at the Strip as a place to start a diet.”

Sisolak says the solution has to be shared at every level of society, from government sponsoring more trails valleywide to communities supporting after-school sports programs. And, as Sisolak reminds, individuals need to take responsibility, too. “Raising awareness is always a good thing, but you need something at both ends.”

Here’s an end we’d like to see: a Fattest Cities list that doesn’t include Las Vegas. To start, how about we all eat one salad this week—and skip the soda?

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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