More than 40 percent of Americans expected to be obese by 2030
New research suggests that some 40 percent of Americans will not just be overweight, but actually in the obese category within the next 20 years. That's unless we do something about it and Jen Petersen has ideas. But if that fails, more Americans will be dependent on Keith Davis and his Goliath Coffins in their death.
A new study predicts that 42 percent of American adults will be obese — a category beyond overweight — by the year 2030.
That presents new challenges, but also, opportunity. Jen Petersen, an urban sociologist and Principal of Petersen consulting, worked on the Living Streets Project in Los Angeles, focused on improving public health through city planning.
Petersen's hopeful that we can turn around that trend by making changes to how we grow our roads, highways and public transit systems.
"So long as we keep widening cities, widening streets, widening bus seats, we'll have widening butts to fit in them," Petersen said. "It's the fat man's pants phenomenon. Let them out and the fat man will continue to expand. What I and many urban planners believe is that we need to plan for a very different kind of future. To build different kinds of environmental conditions, around what incubates our bodies, in cities."
We have to re-introduce people to the idea of walking, biking and eating health food, Petersen said.
"There's a lot of reward in that that has nothing to do with how you look or what is your health, but actually how you feel and how you connect with other people," Petersen. "Those are wonderful transitional incentives. Those are ideas and feelings we all share."
Keith Davis is working to accomodate America's bigger, more obese future and the end of their lives. He's the owner and operator of Goliath Coffins, a company that makes caskets for the morbidly obese.
"It's been a business that has been growing every year. Both in size of caskets and in volume," Davis said.
But Davis isn't celebrating the fattening of America. He says he'd much rather Americans lost weight to stay healthy.
"This is not a desirable thing to be happening to the United States or the world. We even ship overseas. Obesity is not sure here, it's everywhere," he said.
Davis has been building oversized caskets since the early 1990s. Until then, casket manufactures would build something special if the existing casket weren't big enough, he said.
Davis' company started when his father decided to retire and start a small business that only built caskets for larger folks. It wasn't envisioned to be a large market in terms of sales. Soon after, though, he realized he had a full-fledged business on his hands.
"From 1990 to 1994, we went from 33 inches wide to 36 inches wide. From '94 up to the present, we went from 36 inches wide up to 52 inches wide," Davis said. "Our widest casket has been 64 inches wide. Our longest casket's been 8-foot-6."
People have known about America's weight problem for decades. Petersen is hopeful, though, that mechanisms in place now will make the difference in turning around America's growing waistlines.
"We have a lot of space here, but we have poorly allocated it for large, scattering of things rather than tight-knit things," she explained. "What we have on our side is a global economy whose privileged position actually increasingly depends on density."
Economically, Petersen said, there are incentives to tighter up America, just as there were once incentives to widen out.
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