Big, new normal

Several years ago, a friend turned me onto Iconoculture, a consumer research company that delivers a savvy, sharply-written newsletter that informs, questions and illuminates.

Today, after a full day of summer camp kids, I returned home, dove into a tall drink and a bag of chips, and discovered I am (frighteningly) not alone in my tendency to binge.

We Are All Fat Now

By Josh Kimball

The economy continues cascading. Unemployment’s ugly, retail sales are rank, the housing market is still homely. But there’s one reliable metric in America; one number that, year over year, keeps right on growing — our waist size. Lost, as our attention focuses on more immediate events, is an unsettling phenomenon that isn’t new, but isn’t going away, either: the fact that we’re still fat.

According to statistics released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of adults in the U.S. were obese in 2008 ( 7.8.09). Not only is that national number higher than in 2007, obesity is holding steady or growing in each and every state of the union.

Five or more years ago, the “globesity” epidemic was on many lips, as experts pondered the effects on our health foremost, but also contemplated what a larger populace would mean to society at large. Beyond healthcare and food, what does a spreading population mean to how we travel, how we work, how we play? Seven years later the conversation has slowed, but our growth hasn’t.

The future, though, holds some tasty nuggets of possibility. Might morphing cultural factors finally cut into our collective growth? Would a long-term shift in our broader consumer culture mean we not only buy less, but eat less, too? Might finally adding to our savings accounts correspond to a greater investment in our health? Our path out of this recession may eventually be tied with our long-term physical health. Or maybe this is just the way things are — the big, new normal.