Watch out: Half of Washington residents could be obese

Sep 18, 2012

Washington state is not immune from America’s obesity epidemic. A new study looking at where the trends are headed on weight-gain shows half the population headed for obesity by the year 2030. 

Currently, 26.5% of Washington residents are already considered obese. That’s a step beyond overweight, using the standard measurement of body-mass-index (BMI). 

If you walk across the state 20 years in the future, “half the people you cross will be obese,” says Albert Lang with the group Trust for America’s Health, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to report on obesity.

That’s based on trends of the past decade continuing (and there is a debate among researchers about whether obesity trends may have hit a plateau).

The authors of this report analyzed health data collected by federal agencies, and they see Washington state as pretty typical – currently ranking 33rd most obese among the states. By 2030, they predict Washington will rank 28th.

Lang says the problem leads back to diet and lifestyles:

“People are just not walking, (they’re) driving more, and they’re eating and drinking way more calories, and a lot of them don’t have nutritional value whatsoever,” he says, acknowledging it's hard to keep track of what you eat -- even for experts. “I barely know what the calories I'm putting in my body are.”

People need better information about food, according to the report, in order to lose weight. And they need other help, such as safer routes for walking and more parks.

Why does Washington have a higher percentage of obese people than states like California or Colorado? There’s no clear answer to that.