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The Few The Proud The Thin

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In a report released last fall by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the United States is the fattest of 33 countries. Mexico and New Zealand are next runners up with India and Indonesia the thinnest.

Luckily the report didn't break US obesity down state by state or we'd have further shame.

Seventy percent of Americans are now overweight says the report, a number which will balloon into 75 percent by 2020, pun intended.

And ten years after that? By 2030, 86 percent of Americans could be overweight says an article in the journal Obesity.

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Food researchers indict the couch and mouse lifestyle with its ubiquitous commercials for high cal foods for expanding haunches, especially in kids. After all, it's been decades since moms locked kids outside with a bottle of water and the instructions "don't come back until dinner." Nor did kids have cells. One grandmother says she took the grandkids to the seashore only to find they wouldn't leave the motel room because of their countervailing electronic relationships.

But the demise of the family dinner is also a factor says the Star-Tribune. Structured, please-pass-the peas family meals - anybody remember? - gave a sense of safety and security to children at the same time they modeled normal eating. When someone's dinner date is the TV, they often scarf and scarf the wrong food because they lose track or no one is watching.

In fact, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that substance abuse itself is lower in families that eat together three times a week, food being many people's preferred substance.

Of course there are other reasons for the national glut.

Food deserts (not "desserts," though related) make it hard for people to stay thin. A 2010 study by the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University found 9th graders whose schools are close to fast food restaurants are fatter. And The New York Times found that both adults and children who ride public transit are thinner. Walk a lot but not to Wendy's seems to be the message.

Size inflation also contributes to obesity - and its denial. Women's size fives are now size zeros and stretchy leggings always "fit." And how about hip hop looks that aren't supposed to fit anyway?

There are also more food "ops" today with snacks available in banks, bookstores, body shops and hospitals and of course many smokers are eating more as they try to quit cigarettes.

At least they get to be indoors.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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