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Happy Thanksgiving! Watch America get fatter by state over 25 years


The shift from blue to yellow to orange to red—and from lighter to darker—shows how Americans have become increasingly obese over the years. (Credit: CDC)

Thanksgiving is not a holiday characterized by restraint. The prep time is long, the food abundant, the fights passionate, and the next-day shopping insane. And, of course, there’s the eating. Overeating is practically a part of the holiday.

That wouldn’t be cause for concern if eating to excess were limited to one late-November day a year. But it’s not—and it’s no secret that the nation’s eating and exercise habits have been getting a lot worse over the decades, as vividly displayed in the animation above. Waistlines have been slower to expand in some states than in others, but there is no state where fewer than one in five people is obese as measured by a body mass index greater than 30.

In 2012, Colorado had the lowest obesity rate of any state at 20.5 percent of the population qualifying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Louisiana had the highest rate, at 34.7 percent. Obesity was highest in the Midwest, where the regional rate was 29.5 percent. The South was close behind at 29.4 percent. Some 25.3 percent of the Northeast was obese last year, with the West right behind with 25.1 percent obesity. In 2000, there wasn’t a single state with an obesity rate above 30 percent. By 2012, there were 13.

High obesity is about more than looks, of course. Those extra pounds can shave years off one’s life and high rates are associated with increased risk of numerous preventable health issues. And obesity, as with nearly all societal ills, has a disproportionate effect across genders and races.

All told, more than one in three Americans is obese, a fact that as of five years ago was estimated to cost $147 billion annually in medical costs. Rates are highest for non-Hispanic blacks (49 percent), followed by Mexican Americans (40 percent) and all Hispanics (39 percent).

While high incomes were correlated with higher obesity among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, the opposite trend holds for women.

State Prevalence (percent)
Alabama 33.0
Alaska 25.7
Arizona 26.0
Arkansas 34.5
California 25.0
Colorado 20.5
Connecticut 25.6
Delaware 26.9
District of Columbia 21.9
Florida 25.2
Georgia 29.1
Hawaii 23.6
Idaho 26.8
Illinois 28.1
Indiana 31.4
Iowa 30.4
Kansas 29.9
Kentucky 31.3
Louisiana 34.7
Maine 28.4
Maryland 27.6
Massachusetts 22.9
Michigan 31.1
Minnesota 25.7
Mississippi 34.6
Missouri 29.6
Montana 24.3
Nebraska 28.6
Nevada 26.2
New Hampshire 27.3
New Jersey 24.6
New Mexico 27.1
New York 23.6
North Carolina 29.6
North Dakota 29.7
Ohio 30.1
Oklahoma 32.2
Oregon 27.3
Pennsylvania 29.1
Rhode Island 25.7
South Carolina 31.6
South Dakota 28.1
Tennessee 31.1
Texas 29.2
Utah 24.3
Vermont 23.7
Virginia 27.4
Washington 26.8
West Virginia 33.8
Wisconsin 29.7
Wyoming 24.6

RELATED: 12 exercises you can do at work

Mary had a little … turkey? How ‘Lamb’ author (and Abraham Lincoln) created modern Thanksgiving

GALLERY: 11 ways to eat better, live longer

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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