Since I haven’t written anything for a long time and the only comments I get are spam, I’m going to disallow posting of pingbacks and comments for a while. I’ll reinstate them as soon as I have time to convert to a different comment system.
Meowzer had an interesting post today about how fat Americans are vs. what people say about how fat Europeans are. My comment is still in moderation, but here is what I wrote:
Hmmm….as an American expat living in Norway, I can vouch for the fact that Americans are way fatter than Norwegians…both statistically and anecdotally. When I get off the plane in the US after having been in Norway for a while, I’m always flabbergasted, so to speak, about how fat Americans are. You just don’t see fat people in Norway. I’m 5′10″, size 24-26, and it’s incredibly rare that I see anyone my size. There are many people who have a bit of extra padding on them, people who would register as “overweight” statistically, but that few would consider actually fat.
My personal experience is corroborated by the statistics. Norway has excellent online access to national statistics, and I was able to look up the most recent statistics about weight very easily (SSB’s statistics about lifestyle habits). Also check out Salon’s article about “Healthcare, American style”. Norway has 10% “obese” people, whereas the US has over a third percentage-wise (44% of Norwegians have a BMI above 25, about two-thirds percentage-wise for Americans). The US has about equal numbers of “obese” and “overweight” people, whereas Norway has over three times as many “overweight” people as “obese” people. “Obese” people, IMO, are the people who are visibly fat, whereas “overweight” people look mostly normal, to my eyes. This is what accounts for people’s (correct) perception that Americans are fatter (than Norwegians, at least!).
It seems to me that you’re beating a straw man in most of the first paragraph of your post. I’ve never heard anyone claim that there are no fat Europeans, or that all Europeans are extreme health nuts (smoking and boozing it up are a lot worse here, I’m pretty sure). Making this straw man argument, particularly when statistics and people’s perceptions tell them otherwise, is dangerous because it makes us look less credible, and thus more likely to be dismissed when we want to debunk statistics about how fat affects health.
I react strongly to arguments that Americans aren’t fatter (or aren’t less fit) than people in European countries because it so totally is at odds with my experience of living in Norway (and statistics). I do feel like a freak here, and it’s not surprising given how few people living here are as fat as I am. And I’m guessing there are fewer fat people living in the city, where I live, than in the boonies. And don’t even get me started on the fitness and health of Americans vs. Norwegians…