National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Using the eyeball test alone, we can assume a lot of Americans are fat and happy. They have no great burning desire to lose weight. We in this group have been enabled by Golden Corral buffets, Super Big Gulps, upsized burger and fry combos and giant Butterfingers.

This contention about the aimless majority goes against the seasonal impression that nearly all Americans are pinching their gut, pushing the cookie plate away and vowing to get in shape, lose weight, etc.

New Year’s resolutions! This is the time, isn’t it? Yet the fact is too many of us have fairly low expectations for change, having profoundly disappointed ourselves countless times in the past. Because of this self-knowledge, we may not even indulge a fleeting introspective thought about needed reforms for the New Year. Previously vowed iron-fisted discipline in finances, charity, fitness, relationships, all have come a cropper.

Being a regular at a local health club, I know the months of January and February bring dozens of new members, all vying to use the treadmill at morning, noon and night.

This burst of enthusiasm won’t last until pass Valentine’s Day for most of them.

Others will plop down $1,200 for 24 sessions with a personal trainer who will look over their shoulder and lead them through lunges, overhead presses and crunches in the interest of getting their client in shape for the “after” for a poster-sized testimonial.

Their considerable investment, one assumes, will keep them engaged for at least 24 training sessions.

Is the problem that we make ambitious resolutions and we fall woefully short? Or is that we make resolutions that are just too tough to meet?

Speaking of Americans and the obesity, I see that some pundits are saying the problem is contrived, a simple myth to make money.

In an opinion piece headlined “Our absurd fear of fat” published in The New York Times,  Paul Campos said “there is no reason to believe that the trivial variations in mortality risk observed across an enormous weight range actually have anything to do with weight or that intentional weight gain or loss would affect that risk in a predictable way.”

I’m okay, you’re okay. Let’s hit the Golden Corral buffet, what do you say?

Maybe I have a little too much Puritan in me still, but I think we need to expect more of ourselves and our fellow Americans. There is no way we should be content with the current state of affairs.

The hard-to- hear truth is that the Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys say about 69% of adults are overweight or obese, with more than 78 million adult Americans considered obese. Diabetes is an increasing problem in children and adults.

Our friends at the Produce for Better Health Foundation recently issued a news release about “easy to keep New Year’s resolutions resulting in a healthier you.”


From the release:

“You do it. Your best friend does it. And your co-workers do it many times over. What is the it? The annual ritual of making, and then typically later, breaking New Year’s resolutions. Every year many of us resolve to be healthier and be more physically active for an improved self. We visualize in our minds before and after pictures of ourselves as motivation to make the resolutions, but studies show that after six months less than half (46%) of the resolution makers are still sticking to them.”


“Less than half” sounds generous to me. Instead of difficult to keep resolutions (exercise, cut out sweets, count calories), the PBH release offers suggestions such as #1: “Eat one more fruit or vegetable each day than you currently are eating as an easy way to increase your consumption of fruit and vegetables.”

Other suggestions include “trying a new fruit or vegetable each month” or simply “eating more fruit and vegetables.”

Research by PBH suggests that Americans don’t want to be “guilted” into eating better.

“We don’t want (consumers) to feel guilt: we want them to feel good about doing the right thing,” Elizabeth Pivonka of PBH recently told me.

This path of least resistance may make sense in terms of engaging consumers, but will it get them to change? We don’t want consumers to give in to contentment, the malady of not wanting to change the diets of their families simply because of lack of energy, inertia or indifference.

Let’s not make pre-made excuses for Americans before they have a proper chance to fail. Like a personal trainer or a stern doctor, the industry should also use tough love to cause Americans to know the clock is ticking on their health. They are indeed fat but perhaps not as happy as they deserve.