I Live in a FAT State!

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) complies data on obesity rates throughout America. Obesity is determined by using height and weight information to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. The following states have the highest percentage of the adult population who are obese with the percent in parentheses. 

The fattest states in America:

  1. Mississippi (32% of adults are obese)
  2. Alabama (30.3%)
  3. Tennessee (30.1%)
  4. Louisiana (29.8%)
  5. West Virginia (29.5%)
  6. Arkansas (28.7%)
  7. South Carolina (28.4%)
  8. Georgia (28.2%)
  9. Oklahoma (28.1%)
  10. Texas (28.1%) MY STATE! 😦

The thinnest states in America:

  1. Colorado (16.9%)
  2. Hawaii (18.2%)
  3. Massachusetts (18.6%)
  4. Rhode Island (19.5%)
  5. Vermont (19.5%)
  6. Connecticut (19.6%)
  7. Montana (19.9%)
  8. Arizona (20.8%)
  9. Utah (20.8%)
  10. Nevada (21.0 %)

Is it surprising that most of the “fat” states are in the South? This TIME article, Why are Southerners So Fat?, might answer that question. Here are the basics: 

  • Weather! The South is really hot and humid and not many people want to exercise when it’s 100+ degrees outside.
1. Tell me what state you live in?
2. Do you agree with the comments in the TIME article about the South?
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64 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t have picked Texas to be a “fat” state at all. It’s surprising. But when you think of it, it’s one of the bigger states meaning it probably has more people though, right? More people = more diverse. 😦

  2. i live in Colorado, and i would definitely say i thought it would be higher up on the “thin” list! i’m not surprised about Texas though…i love my home state, but there are definitely some dire needs for change!

  3. I’m in Oklahoma so Im one state ahead of you 🙂

    I think it has to do with the types of food we like and not many “outdoor” activities are popular and we dont walk anywhere–just drive everywhere.

  4. I thought that Texas was on its way to being thin thin thin!!!

    But I did live in Colorado last year & it is so active in all parts so I understand it being the “thinnest”

    • Yes…Texas is defintely on it’s way from dropping off that list! We have made HUGE improvements over the last few years…but until we drop of that list completely I am not going to be happy! 😦

  5. I live in Arkansas! Definitely Fat State. I have to agree with some of those reasons. I mean, I still get those looks like I have 3 heads when I say I don’t eat meat. Like somehow the absence of meat on a plate makes it a non-meal. The majority of the people in my company are over weight. Very few of my friends regularly exercise. And seriously, sometimes it really is too freaking hot to exercise LOL 😉

  6. I live in Florida (a central, rural area) and I can see where those stats come from- you almost HAVE to drive places, because stores are so far spaced, and once the summer (read: humidity) comes, you sweat just walking outside- gross! I’m not gonna lie, I love biscuits and gravy, too but I believe that if city-dwellers consumed the same breakfast, it wouldn’t be nearly as bad because they are likely to walk miles throughout the day, and we’re lucky just to get a bit of walking in here & there!

  7. I live in Texas. Yes I agree!

  8. I’m from MA, woohoo! 4 of the New England states are on the thinnest list, pretty proud!

    I have no idea if what they say about the South is true, seems nuts that the heat would be an excuse when Neveda and Arizona are in the top 3 thinnest.

    • It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity. It literally drains your body. When the humidity level is above 90%, you stop sweating because the air is saturated with moisture so your internal thermometer shuts off the cooling process. I’ve run, exercised, worked out in many places with high temps, but nothing compares to the humidity. Today was 84* but low relative humidity. I could run all day in that. But in another month, that same 84* with 96% humidity will raise the heat index to 100+ and then add the lack of sweating UNLESS you are super hydrated….it’s actually painful to workout.

  9. I’m in CO and I remember the first time I visited here I was shocked at how fit everyone everywhere seemed. My parents noticed it when they visited too… but now I just notice when I go other places that people are well, bigger. My dad noticed that fewer people smoked too when he was here. I think that the great weather is a factor- it’s easy to convince myself to get out on that run when it’s 70s and no humidity! I can’t really say for the southern states, I’ve never lived in the south.

  10. PS- Isn’t the “thin” list upside down? CO has the lowest %?

  11. I’m from MA and we are definitely a fit state. Unfortunately, I do think that income level has a lot to do with it. Sad, but true.

  12. Yeah, being from the South, I do (sadly) think all of those are valid points. People in the South, unfortunately, eat pretty badly. Our food traditions are usually really unhealthy, and the hot weather makes it easier to blow off exercise.

  13. I’m in Virginia, which I guess is somewhere in between. But I grew up in Mass. and I definitely noticed a difference when I moved south. I think there’s just a huge difference in food types. It’s understandable though. I mean, unhealthy food is cheap. If the South is poorer, it’s no wonder they’re heavier too.

  14. Oh, and that Time reporter obviously didn’t do her homework. New Englanders eating crab cakes? Crab cakes are a Baltimore/mid-Atlantic thing. New England has chowder. Get your stereotypes right. 🙂

  15. Yikes, my state’s fatter than yours!! I’ve lived in the south my whole life and I really don’t think any of those reasons are an excuse to be fat and unhealthy. Where there is a will, there is a way!!

  16. We need to step it up in Texas asap!! 😦

  17. i live in a province 🙂
    But i would trade you Texas for anything…particularly since I am looking for a place to live…need to be out in less than 8 days…and have no where to go…holy crap 😦

  18. I have to say, I’m kind of surprised that NY isn’t in the ‘thin’ list, b/c NYers are CONSTANTLY walking and on the move!

  19. I’m in Oklahoma and I totally agree! Fried foods and too hot to exercise weather do not help a person stay thin!!

  20. Houston, Texas. Totally agree with this! I moved here from up North and can’t believe how inactive people are! Food is a culture here and no one would think to walk somewhere when they could drive! Ahh, sorry for the rantings of an active Northern stuck in Houston.

  21. I live in Oregon. I’m surprised it’s not on the “fittest” list. Portland is the #2 biking city in the USA. Sooo many people are physically active here.

  22. Well, I’m technically in Virginia, but I ALWAYS associate myself with Washington, DC, or at least add a “Northern” before I tell someone I’m from Virginia.
    I’m not very wealthy, at all, but I do live in the wealthiest place in America (my specific county is the second richest in the US, and according to Forbes 6 other of the 25 richest counties, including THE richest county in America, completely surround me…). Northern Virginia is so culturally diverse as well, so if a new health food/trend from some foreign country becomes popular, you can bet it’ll be pretty easy to find here since ethnic stores are in abundance, and it’ll be cheaper, too. Whereas if you just travel the TEENSIEST bit south, it’s a completely different place where they don’t even seem to be exposed to anything new, or any other types of cuisine or ways of life except the grease they grew up on, which is what they can afford. Plus, it’s a lot hotter down there. I’m at the very tip of Virginia and while we have super-hot summers, they’re nothing compared to the summers just half a state away from me, so I think the heat plays a big factor. I usually exercise at my YMCA which is really cheap when it’s hot out… maybe they don’t have affordable gyms, and can’t stand the heat to be outside.
    I think the article makes good points, but nothing really new to me.

  23. Ooooh -I’d want to live in any of those “Thin” states!! Especially Hawaii, Vermont, Colorado…;)…I don’t know about the whole South thing…I think it’s horrible to stereotype – and I know it gets it a lot…- but it’s something that will take time to get over I guess from several generations.

  24. i agree! i live in utah and i swear, everywhere i go, no matter what time of day, there are people out getting their sweat on regardless of the weather conditions. it also helps to have the beautiful mountains in our backyards. i love it!

  25. I live in NY and we aren’t in either one of those categories. I don’t want to judge what the Time magazine article says, but I think that what it says is what people typically think of the south. I don’t really know anyone who lives in the south, so I don’t really know besides what I see on tv.

  26. Oh, hey, I bounce back and forth between 3 and 4, so I must be 3 1/2. How fun!

  27. Im not from the states, so I guess I dont really count.

    I definitely understand not wanting to exercise when its hot out though. During the peak of the summer I usually get pretty lazy. If it werent for my parents pool, I’d probably just sit in front of the fan all day long!

  28. Ohhh love I am in Vancouver, BC and we are a lot more health conscious up here for some reason.

    It is strange for me to see when we travel through the states that there are so many fast food places, vending machines in malls, we just don’t have as much up here. Could be the heat, could be that so many people are working 3 -4 jobs to support their families down there and they don’t have the “time” to eat healthy? LOL, this is a sore subject for me! I want everyone to be happy and healthy! hahah

    XXOO

  29. Holla for #8! LOL Totally kidding, because that is not something to be proud of.

    It does make sense to me that the South is the fattest region. It saddens me and I would love to do something to change that, but it really is common in this area.

  30. EEK! I grew up in TN and now live in KY. I do agree with some of those opinions on why the South usually has the fattest states but don’t necessarily agree with the poverty thing. Who knows, though, it could be spot on.

  31. Ha! I’m surprised Kentucky is not on the list. We are usually toward the top of the “fat” list. I get so frustrated with how unhealthy people are here sometimes. It makes it really hard to live a healthy lifestyle.

  32. I live in a province but travel alot to the USA and I see a big difference just from our two countries. So much more fast food in the US than here. But I can see how those southern states are more “fat” states than the others.

  33. I live in Florida and I can see how the heat can be an excuse for people not to exercise. I do most of my workouts at the gym and when I do run I try to do it late in the afternoon or early in the morning when its a bit cooler. But those who do not have the money to pay for a gym membership, are definitely far less likely to go outside and do any sort of exercise. So I can see how money and weather have an effect on those stats.

    • Totally agree! I don’t think people realize that I am completely serious when I say that it can easily be over 100 degrees by 10:00am!

  34. Arizona, yeah! I live in the mountains, and there are some seriously fit outdoorsy types here. I think people in Phoenix and Tuscon are driven to thinness because it is SO HOT already that they don’t want/need extra insulation! 😀

  35. I live in a fat state too. Georgia.

  36. I live in Massachusetts and am not overly surprised to see it on the “thin” list. BUT – keep things in perspective. There are still a lot of improvements that could be made! I’ve only been to the south a few times, but I will say the cuisine is very different. It’s rich and heavy. I also think a large piece of this is Southern families sitting down to eat together and making meals a social event. Truthfully, many New Englanders are harsh and in a rush and I’d be curious to see if we “sit down and enjoy” our food as much as you. That might make a difference, no?

  37. I’m from Illinois, and I really think the obesity issue is more of a citywide thing than a statewide conflict. The part of Illinois I live in, hardly anyone is overweight, but when you drive 100 miles south, it’s totally different.

  38. Whoop whoop for Colorado!! That is one of the reasons I love this state so much. There are so many people out and about exercising in every season. Sure, the winter sucks for running – so go skiing! Or snow shoeing!

    However, that public transportation system stat is a little weird because there is NO…I mean NO pubic transit system here. Cars rule in CO. I think it’s all about lifestyle.

    Also, my fam is from Texas, and many of them are overweight. From my perspective, they just don’t KNOW about all the yummy healthy food. They grew up with fried chicken and ‘taters, and they haven’t tried anything else. I really think it’s lack of exposure/education.

  39. Oh crap! Way to go texas 😦 I’m not suprised.

    I sort of agree with the reasoning for why the South is fat. I think the driving instead of walking is a major difference between the US in general and a lot of fitter European nations. There is a plethera of fried foods and it can get damn HOT. Gyms have air conditioning, though, so Ithink that’s a bit of a cop out.

  40. I live in RI. It actually surprised me to see that we were among the “thin” states. It all depends on the angle. I work with a disadvantaged population and see that we need to make bigger, positive changes in nutrition education. It’s nice to see that there is another side to the story! Thanks for the info!

  41. I live in Illinois and am glad to not see it on the fattest state list. This was so interesting to see! Glad you posted about it!
    I was surprised to not see California on the thinnest state list. There are so many health fanatics over there. Such a great and interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

  42. I was born in Mississippi, spent 10 years in Tennessee, and now live in Alabama. I’m in the middle of Fat Central.

    I agree that most of those things are factors. I teach in a high poverty school. Cheap food is fat food. It just is. When the heat and humidity settle in for 6 months, people stop moving. Most of my kids can’t afford shoes, much less a gym membership, so that is in no way a cop out. Also, education is lacking. If it’s ok for Grandma to be overweight, then it’s okay for Mom and kids to be overweight.

    Culturally, food is a comfort. Soul food has a deep meaning down here. Sunday dinners are important for families. When people are poor, all they have is their family (genetic family, gang, friends, etc). Families eat. Unfortunately, they eat the wrong things and the wrong portions. Nobody wants to go to Grandma’s for sunday lunch and bring a salad when the table is loaded with their favorites. Eating and laughing together make you feel good when things are not going so good in life. Down here, eating is very much a social activity.

    That being said, after college, I lost access to a gym. I was teaching in the inner city of Memphis. I lived in a horrible neighborhood. I didn’t have a track at school. My weight balooned 70lbs before I knew it. When I moved to Alabama, I started running the FIRST WEEK. I shed 60+ and have kept it off 4 years. It can be done. But I had the economic resources to go to a gym, buy running shoes and fresh food, vitamins, etc. I didn’t have that in Memphis. It makes a difference.

  43. I live in SC. I’m not surprised it’s on the fat list. I know I don’t want to workout outside past the month of May! People here are not open to diet changes either. They do like their Southern food!

  44. Not related, but I just nominated you for an award on my blog. 🙂

  45. I agree that impoverished areas are usually the “fattest..” I’m learning in my food classes that a lot of southern states don’t have any sidewalks/parks or even grocery stores 😦

    I’m from MD, which didn’t make either list!

  46. I’m surprised that Ohio isn’t in the top 10, though I know that cities like mine have tried really hard to get fit.

  47. live in AZ now but lived in CA for 6 yrs prior to here
    and for 4 yrs lived in NC and SC and yes, southerners used to laugh at us when we told them we were going running in the heat, exercise, etc…it’s just not as accpted as a way of life there as it is in other places. sad but true. that was our personal experience, but of course, everyone’s indiv experiences could be differnent.

    coconut oil spray you wanted. Yes, WF. I replied to your comment on my blog but wanted to mention it here. honestly though, i use coconut oil and melt it with just as much success b/c that can goes quick and it’s like a 5.49 can which for me, is a lot $$

  48. I live in North Carolina but have lived in West Virginia and am really bummed I didn’t enjoy the nature more when I was there.

    I definitely agree with the fried foods and weather…..summertime I either work out at 6A or 8P and both are still hot! However the public transportation piece I think is more America in general. I ride the bus to work and sometimes go days without driving my car and love it. I say if you’re able bodied….walk, bike, public transport it to wherever you need to be!

  49. I live in Europe and obesity exists here too. However I think we bike and walk more to places and people have in general more hobbies that involve physical activity. Also I think what you eat is so important and I believe that European cuisine is a littel healtier and the protions are smaller. When I have been to US I have noticed these differences. But no matter where one lives it’s always one’s choise.

  50. I’m in Ohio, and I’m super surprised it didn’t make the ten fattest states. I’m surprised West Virginia is on there! It seems like exercise central, as it’s known for whitewater rafting and other fun outdoorsy activities.

  51. I agree that poverty and income level are huge factors. As for the weather part, not so sure. Colorado can get pretty darn cold (so I hear, never been) and they are the fittest. It’s a very interesting article.

  52. I live in PA, which surprisingly is missing from the fat list, but I think Philadelphia is one of the fattest cities in the US

  53. Reports that I have heard/read over the last few years…were that Houston was the fattest city in America. I believe this fluctuates annually, but they are usually in the top 5. According to statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, 31% of San Antonio residents are obese and 65% are overweight: the worst record in the nation. Austin is very fit and tries to balance out the scales…but with much less population than those other cities it is virtually impossible.

  54. I grew up in Tennessee and North Carlina and later moved to Boston (Seattle and Boise). The high-fat Southern diet is a huge factor, in my opinion, contributing to the “fat” ranking. But there are cultural lifestyle differences which dramatically influence the addition of those extra pounds. Sure, the humidity sucks in the summer in the South, but the weather is so much milder in the winter than in Massachusetts or Colorado. This should be an incentive to get outdoors, right? On a beautiful fall or spring day in Tennessee, you don’t see nearly as many people out running or bike riding b/c it’s not in their cultural make-up to do so. Same goes with all the car driving. I agree that often a person has to drive miles and miles to get to the nearest school or mall in the South, but Southerners can be quick to jump in the car to get somewhere, when a Bostonian wouldn’t think twice about walking the same distance. It’s really hard to explain after having lived in various fat and not-so-fat places, but integrating healthy habits into everyday life is second nature to folks living in the latter.

  55. I’m a born and raised Georgia peach. But I’m in Atlanta – which doesn’t really count since most people here are transplants. I think South GA is known more for being obese, and yes I totally agree with those reasons.

  56. My state is fatter than your state! 🙂

  57. I live in Massachusetts and remember when a very healthy friend of mine came to visit. She was in grad school in South Carolina and kept commenting on how everyone was so much thinner in Boston! Crazy but true!

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