Ah, California — the land of yoga, Pilates and Muscle Beach.
Of all the stereotypes applied to the Golden State — we're turning into Mexico, we're all socialist pot smokers, the state will either fall into the sea or burn to the ground — the one that says we're all slim, body-conscious narcissists might be the one that's the least accurate.
A UCLA Center for Health Policy Research report released this week concludes that nearly half of Californians (almost 46 percent) are overweight or obese.
That's a lot of tofu, people.
Not only are many of the Californians around you size XXL, but they're growing. And they're way past the age of consent. UCLA found that 24.8 percent of adults, one in four of us, are obese, compared to 19.3 percent, or one in five of us, more than a decade ago.
Maybe we took inspiration from our post-9/11 anger and started bulking up at the gym? Nope.
The study's authors based their definitions of “overweight” and “obese” on national body mass index standards. “Adults with a body mass index of 25 or greater are considered overweight; those with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese,” the school said in a statement.
About 16 percent of Californians ages 12 to 17 were overweight; 17 percent were obese, UCLA researchers found. Thirty-two percent were either overweight or obese.
Nearly 18 million Californians, adults and adolescents, are overweight or obese, according to the findings.
In Los Angeles about one in four adults (24.7 percent) is obese, the report says. That's not, by far, the worst figure for California. Farm country dominated the list of the five most-obese counties for adults:
Imperial (41.7 percent), Tehama/Glenn/Colusa (38.2 percent), Tulare (38.0 percent), Kings (36.6 percent) and Solano (35.9 percent), according to UCLA.
Those are the places that provide the United States with much of its fruits and vegetables, most often harvested by Mexican immigrants. Susan Babey, a senior research scientist and co-author of the study:
… The counties with the highest obesity rates tend to be rural. We associate the countryside with fresh fruits and vegetables, but these may be the places where it’s hardest to access a healthy diet.
The ethnic groups with the highest rates of adult obesity?
Pacific Islanders (37.1 percent), Native Americans (36.2 percent), African-Americans (36.1 percent) and Latinos (32.6 percent), the report says.
Asian-Americans had the lowest rate, 7 percent, but even members of that traditionally skinny group are expanding. That figure grew 5.3 percent during the 10-year span examined, UCLA said. White folks had a rate of 21.9 percent.
The lowest adult-obesity rates were found in: San Francisco, 11.3 percent; San Luis Obispo, 12.6 percent; Marin, 13.9 percent; San Mateo, 16.6 percent; and Yolo, 17.9 percent.
UCLA says those who avoided soda, ate fresh fruits and vegetables and walked for “leisure” were less likely to be obese.
And, as you can tell by the county-by-county data, wealth correlates to having a thin (and healthy) physique. Fresh produce costs money (right, Whole Foods?), and even living near a park that's considered to be safe has an effect on obesity, UCLA says.
The researchers found that those who live in households that have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line increased from 24.4 percent to 30.5 percent in a decade.
Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment:
Low-income communities lack resources such as parks, grocery stores, health clubs and even, in many instances, sidewalks, of which wealthier communities have an abundance. It’s the lack of equity between low-income communities and their wealthier counterparts that is helping to drive the disparities in obesity rates in California and across the nation, and this report confirms that.
The rich get richer and the poor get bigger.