Friday, March 24, 2006

George Mindling Column 03-24-2006- Weighty Issue

Weighty Issue for Charlotte County Folks

According to an article in the February issue of Florida Trend by Amy Keller, we are fatter than our neighbors on either side in Lee and Sarasota Counties.

Not being sure of the significance of that information, I started digging through the article to see if that was an indicator of potential economic growth or newly discovered political trends. Apparently, between 21.9 and 25.5 percent of the adults in Charlotte County are qualified as obese. Obesity is measured by the Body Mass Index, or BMI. A BMI over 30 is obese.

BMI is measured by multiplying your height in inches by your height in inches, then dividing the result into your weight in pounds. Multiply that number by 703 to get the BMI. There’s a web page at the Center for Disease control that will do the math for you. Just key in your weight and height and hit “calculate.” The page is at:

Now I know how to find my BMI, but I’m not sure what significance that plays in the statewide numbers game. Surprise! The article in Florida Trend states “ the counties in Florida with the highest percentages of obese people tend to be rural and poor…” The same headline states, “but more than half of all Floridians are either overweight or obese.” An accompanying chart shows neighboring DeSoto County as up one level from Charlotte, at an average of 25.6 to 30.2 percent obesity, with nearby Hardee County in the worst range, 30.3 to a whopping 38.9 percent obese population!

Does that mean that Sarasota and Lee counties, with a 15.2 to 21.8 percent obesity ranking is more urban or wealthier than Charlotte or her neighbors? The article lets the reader reach their own conclusions, but Keller states, “the thinner, wealthier counties are also better educated. In the seven counties with the highest BMI’s, only 10 percent of resident’s, on average, held bachelors degrees.”

According to, the percentage of Charlotte residents with a bachelor or higher is 17.6, below the state average of 22.3 percent. Sarasota on the other hand is over 27 percent with at least a bachelor degree. Do better-educated people eat smarter? Well, maybe, but I think there may be more.

Buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken tend to be standard southern cooking, and the rural counties mentioned are bound to traditional family cooking more than the highly fluid coastal communities that are more geared to the social set than the tractor seat. Thanks to progress, today’s farm work takes less physical work than just a generation ago. The food stays the same, the calorie burn rate has gone by the wayside and the result is obesity.

How does that mesh with education numbers? Most rural farming communities don’t have the higher percentage of college graduates simply because the traditional farm doesn’t require a four year degree in liberal arts or philosophy to birth a calf.

George Mindling

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