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Not sure what to make of all that data

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POSTED: September 25, 2012 8:00 p.m.

Today we can find data that is broken down into subatomic particles on almost every issue imaginable. In that regard, there are all sorts of data available on obesity. And I’ve just learned that rural people tend to be more obese than urban people.

But when I read such data, I generally have more questions than answers. For instance, how does one define rural these days? I know how to define obesity. It’s about having to make more than one trip in getting from Point A to Point B. Or hugging one’s self and singing, “We Are The World.” In other words, I get the picture.

However, given that we have housing subdivisions spilling all out into the countryside, how does one define rural anymore? What I mean is: We have people living on lots with cotton growing right up to their driveways who wouldn’t know a turn plow from a cultivator. They commute into town to work but come home to the pastoral setting. Are they rural folks or are they city folks once removed?

My guess is, whoever did this study perceives rural people as still hanging their wash on the clothesline and thinking the initials PTL means “praise the lard.”

This obesity study came out of the University of Kansas where the term “rural” probably has a little different connotation than here in South Georgia. I’ve never been to Kansas. But I saw it once. I was on the 30th floor of a building in Oklahoma City. I’m told that in Kansas if you say you’re going to walk down to the crossroads, then you had better pack a lunch.

Then comes a question of why rural people would be more obese. My first thought is that with new innovations rural people became less physically active, but the culture of three big meals a day was still embraced. I have personal experience along those lines. I told a friend of mine about this finding, and he may have summed it up more succinctly. “We’re just closer to the hog,” he said.

The scientists said that the culture of rich foods prepared at home was a relevant factor in their conclusion. Well what about those people in big cities who eat a lot of unhealthy, fat-laden fast foods? And again, where is the line between rural and urban?

If I gave it a lot of deep thought — during a meal, of course — I could probably come up with other elements to consider. For instance, the old Southern saying “bless his heart” is matched only by, “y’all better eat up now.”

I’m assuming that most of this research was based on the demographics in Kansas. And I wonder if the same results would hold for Georgia.

I’ve seen lots of fat people in Atlanta. I’m willing to bet they were not all rural people just there for a Brave’s game. Not only that, but when you do a survey that involves obesity, just how honest do you expect the answers to be? It’s been said that one’s ideal weight is what he put on his driver’s license.

Also, on an episode of Dr. Oz, he asked a participant on stage what was his waist size? The man said he was a 38. Dr. Oz chuckled and told him that because that was where his pants were hanging did not make that location his waist. He was actually a 44.

Of course this data probably has its greatest effect in just making us conscious that we should be more concerned about our health. And I doubt seriously that when it was released a bunch of city folk breathed a sigh of relief.

By the way, September is “Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.” And for those who might interpret data too literally, it doesn’t mean that these kids don’t have the same problem during the other 11 months. Again, it’s just about calling attention to a problem that needs addressing. That said, I’m wondering why we don’t have a “National Indebtedness Month?”

Dwain Walden is the editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer. 

 

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