'Scale Back' still trying to tip scale

State remains 1 of U.S.'s fattest; new contest set Jan. 8

December 30, 2008
The Huntsville Times

Two years after the state Department of Public Health launched a "Biggest Loser"-style weight loss competition, Alabama continues to rank among the fattest states.

So the agency and the Alabama Hospital Association hope to make an even bigger splash with the 2009 "Scale Back Alabama" contest, which gets under way Jan. 8.

Rosemary Blackmon, a hospital association spokeswoman, said organizers want to see participants shed a total of 500,000 pounds during the 10-week team competition. That's more than double the 200,000 pounds lost in the last "Scale Back."

Blackmon said the competition is slowly making Alabama a slimmer, healthier place. Good habits that started with the contest - people power-walking during their lunch hour, for example - continued for months afterward, she said.

Despite the program's successes, Alabama ranked third in the newest state obesity rankings by the Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Those groups reported in August that nearly one-third of Alabama adults - 30.1 percent of the population - are obese. Not surprisingly, the state struggles mightily with weight-related health problems such as diabetes and hypertension.

Only Mississippi and West Virginia have a higher percentage of obese residents. Tennessee ranked sixth in the report; Georgia was tied for 11th. Colorado is the fittest state with 18.4 percent of adults dangerously overweight.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a person is obese if they have a body-mass index of 30 or above. For a person 5 feet 9 inches tall, obesity starts at 203 pounds.

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