Obesity: Let's Lose Misconceptions

Grim statistics on America's obesity epidemic and Wal-Mart's bold statement supporting healthcare reform were released on the same day. To me, it seemed very ironic.

I applauded Wal-Mart's stance in my blog, but cynically wondered if America's largest retailer might be faulted for the fattening of America.
I imagined huge numbers of large people buying vast quantities of discounted, unhealthy snacks. Could there be a correlation between the states with the highest percentage of obese residents and the number of Wal-Mart stores there? After all, aren't Wal-Mart stores concentrated in the South?
My search for truth eventually led me to an article entitled "Wal-Mart's Weight Effect" in the June 8, 2009 issue of Forbes. I found out that I was dead wrong.

reported that researchers at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro discovered that "greater consumer access to a Wal-Mart store was associated with lower body mass indexes and lower probability of being obese." How could that be? Their data suggests that when people gain purchasing power, they buy healthier food.

Shame on me. I now realize that many of us who don't struggle with weight are part of the obesity problem. Our misconceptions and stereotypes contribute to a lack of understanding of the complex economic, social, cultural and emotional issues that contribute to obesity.

We need to lose our unhealthy misconceptions about obesity before we can hope for a healthier, less-obese America.

—Tom DeSanto

Map: Trust for America's Health, AP

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