If you tuned into the season premier of the Biggest Loser last night — during which the reality show’s trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels toured the country collecting obese people — you got the message: Americans are drowning in fat.
One Biggest Loser contestant collapsed mere feet from the finish line of a qualifying one-mile race and, reflecting on it, cried in frustration: “Why, body? Why don’t you listen to me when I tell you, ‘Don’t eat that, this is not good for you.’ Why do you do it?” (More on Time.com: Explaining the Gender Gap: Obesity Costs Women a Lot More Than Men)
One-third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. The rate of childhood obesity is at 20% and the rate of adolescent obesity is at 18%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now the international think tank Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has concluded that the U.S. is the heaviest of 33 economically advantaged countries (chosen because long term data were available), including Japan, Australia, England and others. Just below the U.S. on the list: Mexico and Chile.
Obesity is a major public health problem worldwide and is the second leading cause of preventable death after cigarette smoking. In the U.S., obesity costs people thousands of dollars per year in everything from medical bills, grocery bills and lost wages at work. (More on Time.com: Can Catching a Cold Make You Fat?)
As I noted yesterday, obese American women pay a hefty economic cost on account of discrimination in the workplace — they are on the whole paid less than their thinner peers (obese men, incidentally, don’t suffer the same wage discrimination).
And now Thomas Friedman at the New York Times suggests that Americans’ fatness is even affecting this country’s international image: advertisements in China portray Americans as slow and incapable because of “too many hamburgers.”
More on Time.com: