By Paula Moore
Southwest Airlines is putting the squeeze on wide bodies. No, not big planes:
The airline made headlines recently when it announced that it will begin
enforcing a 22-year-old policy requiring portly passengers to pay extra if
cannot squeeze into one seat.
This is no small problem. The growing girth of the American population–61
percent of American adults are now overweight, and 26 percent are obese–is
prompting many industries to rethink policies and retool products. To
our ever-burgeoning bellies, clothing companies are now pushing pants with
elastic waistbands, stadiums and cinemas are installing wider seats and some
airlines are placing tray tables higher on new planes.
All of this could be avoided if Americans would just eat their vegetables.
Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is waning–on any given day, half
all Americans don't eat even one serving of fruit–but we continue to gorge
ourselves on meat. The average American eats more than 200 pounds of meat and
fish each year. Collectively we gobble up 82 billion pounds of animal flesh
This mountain of meat is making us fat. And it's harming animals, too.
Studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of
Nutrition and the British Medical Journal have found that vegetarians are much
less likely to be overweight than meat-eaters. Vegetarian diets are typically
percent lower in fat than meat-based diets and vegetarians tend to weigh 10
percent less than their carnivorous counterparts–without having to count
Even if you pass up the pork for so-called "skinny meats," like fish and
don't be surprised if you pack on the pounds. You can strip the skin off of
chicken, toss out the dark meat, use a nonfat cooking method, and it still
contains 23 percent fat and as much cholesterol as beef. Other supposedly
"healthy" animal foods are just as bad. One glass of whole milk, for example,
the artery-clogging fat of five strips of bacon. By the time she's 50, the
average woman will consume from dairy foods the same amount of cholesterol
contained in 1 million slices of bacon.
No wonder the American Dietetic Association says "vegetarians, especially
often have weights that are closer to desirable weights than do
Living large doesn't just mean learning to love plus-size pants: You could be
eating your way to an early grave. Fat is one of the top causes of preventable
deaths, second only to smoking. Obesity contributes to everything from heart
disease, diabetes and depression to arthritis, infertility and some types of
People who gain even 15 to 20 pounds double their risk of developing diabetes.
Obese men are 21 percent more likely to die of prostate cancer, 130 percent
likely to develop gallstones and 330 percent more likely to develop stomach
cancer. According to the surgeon general, 300,000 Americans die from
weight-related illnesses every year.
Bigger bottoms also adversely affect our bottom line: Obesity costs the
$118 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity. A study by
Rand Corporation found that fat takes a heavier toll on our wallets than
smoking or drinking.
Unless you want to end up looking like the Goodyear blimp, losing your health
wealth along the way, you'd better start making some changes. Ditch the doomed
diets (studies show that they don't work long-term, anyway, especially if you
return to your normal eating habits after you've shed a few pounds) and try
one proven method of "girth control": vegetarianism. You'll take the weight
off–and keep it off–and save animals, too. It's eating for life.
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