It's easy to engage in so-called fat-shaming when looking at the latest obesity rates for Minnesota and other states.
Shaming, however, has never caused anyone to lose weight. All of us who have struggled with an expanding waistline know that the pounds will come off only when we make our own commitment to getting healthy.
With that in mind, it's time for all of us in Minnesota to individually take charge of our weight and health. The alternative is a future of rising rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a host of other not-very-pleasant conditions — not to mention the cost of treating these illnesses.
The figures released last week by the Centers for Disease Control bump Minnesota's obesity rate, as measured by the Body Mass Index, up to 30.1 percent, compared with 28.4 percent just a year earlier.
That puts the state roughly in the middle of the pack. Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest obesity rates, at 39.5 percent. By comparison, Hawaii, Colorado and the District of Columbia, have obesity rates of less than 25 percent. In general, lower rates of obesity are found in the West and Northeast, while the Midwest and South have higher rates of obesity.
Jan Malcolm, Minnesota health commissioner, cited lack of activity and too much sugar in our diets as the culprits.
That matches up with what studies and experts have said for years. Americans in general are being served (and eating) bigger portions of food, don't get enough activity, and spend more time at work, which frequently leads to unhealthy eating habits.
How does all of this compare with our cultural cousins in Europe?
Believe it or not, only one country in Europe — Turkey — has an obesity rate (32.1 percent) higher than Minnesota. Some other figures: Sweden 20.6, France 21.6, Germany 23.1, Italy 19.9, United Kingdom 27.8.
Why the lower rates? Europeans tend to be more active, walking to train and subway stations for the commute to work, riding bicycles (the obesity rate in bike-happy Netherlands is 20.4). They also work fewer hours, meaning they have time to prepare healthy meals, and they tend to have public health care systems that focus on education and prevention.
These are lifestyles that are not, sorry to say, available to most Americans.
But we can recommit to take an early morning or after-supper stroll, drink one less serving of soda each day, watch our portion sizes, and make time to plan healthy alternatives to fast food.
These changes, though, have to come from within. Shaming our fellow citizens by throwing BMI numbers at them won't cause anyone to lose a single pound.