South Dakota faces it: Eat less, move more
December 3, 2012
by Jon Walker
Losers are the winners as South Dakotans struggle with their weight.
Almost two-thirds of state residents carry too many pounds, and almost half in that group are obese.
The numbers put South Dakota in the middle of a national epidemic where the struggles can be lonely and personal.
“I was dying,” said Tom DeVries, a retired phone company worker who needed a heart emergency to face his weight problem.
“I was afraid to succeed,” said Amy Costa, a bus dispatcher in Sioux Falls who wanted to lose 100 pounds. “I knew if I started and couldn’t continue, people would be disappointed in me,” she said. She did try, about 100 times in 10 years, and failed every time but the last.
Some turn weight issues into a contest.
“We’re just friends trying to see less of each other,” said John Mogen, 63, a retired music teacher.
He’s in a group of 20 men who start a 10-week competition every January to see who can lose most. Mogen, 6-foot-5, is a past winner for dropping from 282 to 246. He’s back up to 255 now, priming for a repeat, with December here and Christmas eating and New Year’s resolutions just ahead.
Obesity has been a glacier advancing pound by pound since the 1960s. Television, fast food, free soda refills, elevator rides, NFL Sundays and the appeal of chocolate — the curse comes with many scapegoats while creating a mind game of images, comparisons and ultimate unhappiness.
“I have never met one woman who’s said ‘I’m completely satisfied with my body,’ ” said Jane Grieme, 29, a personal trainer at Tryon gym. “People are making the wrong comparisons, and that messes with your brain.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 28.1 percent of South Dakotans are obese, based on self-reporting in surveys. They are part of the overweight 64.5 percent, according to the Kaiser Foundation.
The figures derive from the BMI scale, a body mass index comparing weight to height. The BMI is not universally admired, because it can penalize trim people with lean muscle. The crisis might be exaggerated. On the other hand, if people understate their weight in surveys, as officials suspect, the problem might be worse.
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