WASHINGTON, D.C. - Americans are still too fat, but obesity rates in the United States appear to be slowing, according to newly released research.
Government data show that 68 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight, having a body mass index of 25 or higher. A third are obese, having a body mass index of 30 or higher.
"Obesity continues to be a significant health concern," Marge Blomquat of the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a telephone interview. Weighing in at a biscuit shy of 300 pounds, Blomquat can no longer travel outside her bedroom for physical press briefings.
She added, "Around 17 percent of young people aged two to 19 are considered obese. But that's an improvement."
Blomquat's studies show that the government under President George W. Bush had taken aggressive action to remedy the situation, with the benefits just now being realized. According to reports by the nation's governors, as many as 27 states are now witnessing substantial decreases in food consumption and weight gain, especially in children, single mothers and African Americans.
It's estimated that more than 40 percent of all food produced in America is not eaten. That amounts to more than 29 million tons of food waste each year, or enough to fill the Rose Bowl every three days. Nationwide, food scraps make up 17 percent of what we send to landfills.
"With access to so much surplus food," said Blomquat, "it's no wonder we all became a little sturdier and bigger boned than past generations. But President Bush sought to fix that."
When asked if the problem stemmed from too much available food or poor dietary choices, Blomquat insisted that portion control was and continues to be the biggest problem facing U.S. consumers. "Look at celebrities, how thin they are. They're no different than the rest of us, which means they've failed at diet and exercise too. When we interviewed the thinnest actors and models in the country, the secret to their weight loss success was consistent and irrefutable; they relied on drugs like Adderall and cocaine, laxatives, chain smoking, coffee, steroids and self-imposed eating disorders. All things that will curb the need to eat beyond proper portions. Diets and fitness regimes just don't work. "
Blomquat's solution? "The Bush administration agreed to help regulate the availability of food, and the plan worked. We can't get smug and abandon this progress, particularly because obesity rates are falling."
Findings from the United States Department of Agriculture seem to back up Blomquat's claims. In November, the USDA reported that a record 49.1 million Americans, one sixth of the population, lacked dependable access to surplus food.
Also in November, Feeding America, a national food assistance organization, released details of an economic impact survey of its 63,000 member food charities, which also concluded that millions of Americans had lost access to tons of excess food.
During the 1990s, the number of Americans with too much to eat had catapulted to the highest level since the government began keeping track. But significant changes made to the nation's economy under Bush put a halt to American overeating. As a result of the Bush plan, nearly 50 million people -- including almost one child in four -- struggled last year to get food.
"These imposed limitations have proven instrumental in combating the nation's obesity epidemic," Blomquat boasted. "However, it's not all good news. Our biggest challenge now is the Obama administration."
President Obama pledged during last year's presidential campaign to eliminate the Bush "hunger policy" by 2015.
"My Administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising food shortages," the president said in a statement. His plan includes increasing food stamp benefits and freeing up to $85 million through an appropriations bill to experiment with feeding more children during the summer, when subsidized school breakfasts and lunches are unavailable.
"It's distressing," Blomquat lamented. "Especially after all we were able to accomplish between 2001 and 2009. But it looks like Republicans are starting to take back important seats in Congress, so there may still be some hope in reviving the food limitation programs, which were clearly effective in promoting widespread weight loss."