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2017’s Fattest States in America

Posted By Dr. Kelly Schoonaert, Thursday, November 30, 2017
Updated: Friday, December 1, 2017

“Fat” is becoming the new normal in America. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than seven in 10 U.S. adults aged 20 and older are either overweight or obese. Rates are lower for children and adolescents but have risen steadily almost every year. So prevalent has America’s obesity problem grown that the weight-loss industry continues to expand. This year, Americans are expected to spend more than $68 billion just on programs designed to help them shed the extra pounds. The U.S. spends in total nearly $200 billion in annual health care costs related to obesity.

New findings by the Physical Activity Council suggest a need for more aggressive efforts to combat the issue. According to the report, nearly 81.5 million Americans aged 6 and older were completely inactive in 2016. Lack of physical activity is a leading cause of obesity, in addition to genetics, emotional instability and sleeplessness.

But the problem is bigger in some states than in others. To determine where obesity and overweight most dangerously persist, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 19 key metrics. Our data set ranges from share of obese and overweight population to sugary-beverage consumption among adolescents to obesity-related health care costs. Read on for our findings, expert commentary from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.

For a more local perspective on the obesity and overweight problem in the U.S., check out WalletHub’s Fattest Cities report. Also to help spread awareness about diabetes, WalletHub assembled an interesting infographic exploring the impact of the disease as well as what folks are doing to fight back.


Main Findings

Source: WalletHub


Fattest States in America

 Overall Rank
(1 = Fattest)
State   Total Score  ‘Obesity & Overweight Prevalence’ Rank  ‘Health Consequences’ Rank ‘Food & Fitness’ Rank 
1 Mississippi 66.44 1 2 4
2 West Virginia 65.55 4 1 12
3 Tennessee 61.90 2 11 11
4 Arkansas 61.72 5 6 8
5 Louisiana 60.64 3 7 5
6 Kentucky 60.53 7 10 7
7 Alabama 59.07 8 21 6
8 Oklahoma 58.35 6 36 1
9 South Carolina 57.15 10 22 18
10 Indiana 56.60 15 8 16
11 Texas 56.14 9 24 9
12 Iowa 55.74 17 5 15
13 Ohio 55.02 11 25 2
14 Delaware 54.98 12 17 44
15 Kansas 54.80 13 15 10
16 North Carolina 54.73 19 13 22
17 Georgia 54.20 14 16 3
18 Michigan 54.18 18 19 13
19 North Dakota 53.56 16 37 21
20 New Mexico 53.07 28 9 17
21 Alaska 52.55 33 4 28
22 Nebraska 52.20 23 27 31
23 Florida 52.03 20 33 39
24 Maryland 51.41 25 30 34
25 Pennsylvania 51.37 24 38 32
26 Rhode Island 51.14 26 26 45
27 Missouri 51.12 27 39 24
28 Wisconsin 51.03 21 23 29
29 Maine 50.78 29 29 19
30 Arizona 50.60 31 20 25
31 South Dakota 49.98 22 49 20
32 Illinois 49.71 30 31 26
33 Vermont 48.57 49 3 41
33 Wyoming 48.57 37 35 30
35 New York 47.99 38 32 46
36 Idaho 47.89 40 28 43
37 Washington 47.47 42 14 42
38 Virginia 47.39 39 42 37
39 District of Columbia 46.99 41 43 36
40 Minnesota 46.93 34 41 23
41 California 46.86 35 45 49
42 Oregon 46.49 48 12 38
43 New Hampshire 45.90 44 33 48
44 Nevada 45.71 36 51 33
45 New Jersey 45.53 32 44 47
46 Connecticut 44.58 43 46 50
47 Montana 44.57 47 40 35
48 Hawaii 43.94 46 50 27
49 Utah 43.72 51 18 14
50 Massachusetts 43.30 45 48 51
51 Colorado 39.87 50 47 40

Most & Least Obese States

Although this report examines the prevalence of obesity, it also evaluates the levels of inactivity and overweight in each state. However, given the particularly harmful effects of obesity, we constructed a separate table below that focuses just on obesity rates to highlight the states in which the problem is most concerning. Both adults and children were considered for this separate ranking. A rank of No. 1 corresponds with the highest obesity rate.

Source: WalletHub


Ask the Experts

Our collective medical tab of nearly $200 billion is just one of the consequences of a perpetually unhealthy lifestyle that leads to obesity. To shed more light on the issue and find solutions that consumers and local governments can follow, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What are some tips for eating healthy without breaking the bank?
  2. What are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight?
  3. What policies should government pursue to combat obesity and rein in the cost of health care?
  4. What is the impact of obesity on the economy and worker productivity?
  5. Should overweight people pay a higher premium for their health insurance? Do you think they will in the future, based on recent health care proposals?


Dr. Kelly SchoonaertWhat are some tips for eating healthy without breaking the bank?

  • Fresh fruits, although their prices have risen just like everything else’s, are usually available at convenience markets in gas stations, and when you compare their price to that of candy bars, chips, and popcorn, they are usually less costly. Spending a buck on a candy bar as compared to 33 cents on a banana or 50 cents on an apple just takes some getting used to. Once you actually remember how tasty they are, they become worthy of the price.
  • Avoid processed food as much as possible.
  • When forced to go for fast food, really look at the menu. Most times, healthy choices can be found. Don’t just order by the numbers -- ask that food be prepared in the healthiest way possible. There usually is no upcharge for grilled instead of fried, substituting the healthier drink (water) instead of soda.
  • Realize “the bank” isn’t just about money -- the calorie bank is just as important, and if you bust that bank, it may cost you more in the long run, both financially and health-wise.
  • Make more of your healthy dinner to bring to lunch the next day. It is less costly than eating out, and will usually be far healthier than any kind of fast food or restaurant food you can get.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight? 
We want to lose the weight fast, this week, today, forgetting that it perhaps took many years to put on. Weight loss is a process. It will take time to change the habits (usually 4 to 6 weeks to stick to a new habit) that got you the extra weight in the first place. Change one or two small habits at a time. Going from eating what you want to an austerity diet is a recipe for not changing any habits at all. 

What policies should government pursue to combat obesity and reign in the cost of healthcare? 
Stop subsidizing ingredients that make processing food (taking out nutrients while exploding calories) like sugars/glucose/fructose, and high glycemic index foods cost-effective. If we are going to subsidize food stuff, it should be eligible for oversight and we should have a say in how it can be utilized. 

What is the impact of obesity on the economy and worker productivity? 
There are significant direct medical costs associated with obesity and the diseases that emanate from it. Then there are less obvious productivity costs. When workers can’t be at work due to health issues or they can be there, but are not productive because of chronic conditions that limit the scope of their daily activities, it costs both the wage earner and the company. These costs may be covertly passed along to obese workers through lower pay, less advancement and opportunity. 

Should overweight people pay a higher premium for their health insurance? Do you think they will in the future, based off of recent health care proposals? 
I do think people will move towards charging people higher insurance premiums in the future. However, weight is a complex issue, and I think that is a mistake. Supporting good employees in their health pursuits by providing a healthy work culture, through opportunities for active working, healthier options in on-site cafeterias, on-site stress reduction opportunities, financial education on IRAs and other opportunities available to them, family/work balance, and other kinds of wellness initiatives will do more to encourage loyalty, work ethic, and healthy outlooks than penalizing workers with issues. Developing healthy culture and building positive relationships will save money in the long run.


Most Popular Comfort Foods by State

Comfort Foods by State 2017



In order to determine the fattest states in America, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Obesity & Overweight Prevalence, 2) Health Consequences and 3) Food & Fitness.
We evaluated those dimensions using 19 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the fattest state. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we calculated the population size using the square root of the population in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Obesity & Overweight Prevalence – Total Points: 60

  • Share of Overweight Adults: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
  • Share of Obese Adults: Double Weight (~12.00 Points)
  • Share of Overweight Teenagers: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
    Note: “Teenagers” includes the population aged 14 to 18.
  • Share of Obese Teenagers: Double Weight (~12.00 Points)
    Note: “Teenagers” includes the population aged 14 to 18.
  • Share of Overweight Children: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
    Note: “Children” includes the population aged 10 to 17.
  • Share of Obese Children: Double Weight (~12.00 Points)
    Note: “Children” includes the population aged 10 to 17.
  •  Projected Obesity Rate in 2030: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)

Health Consequences – Total Points: 25

  • Share of Adults with High Cholesterol: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Share of Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Share of Adults with Hypertension: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Heart Disease Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Obesity-Related Death Rate: Double Weight (~7.14 Points)
  • Obesity-Related Health Care Costs: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the annual incremental health care costs attributable to obesity per 100,000 adults, as calculated by Gallup, which estimates per-person cost at $1,573.

Food & Fitness – Total Points: 15

  • Share of Adults Eating Less than 1 Serving of Fruits/Vegetables per Day: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Among Adolescents: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Healthy-Food Access: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the percentage of Census Tracts that have at least one healthier food retailer located within the tract or within 0.5 miles of tract boundaries.
  •  Fast-Food Restaurants per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Share of Physically Inactive Adults: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Fitness Centers per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)

Dr. Kelly SchoonaertDr. Kelly Schoonaert is an associate Professor of Health Promotion and Wellness and Certified Intrinsic Coach at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, The Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Trust for America's Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gallup and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
Original Article from WalletHub

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Christina Peterson says...
Posted Saturday, January 6, 2018
The good news is that consumption of sugary beverages has been steadily declining since the '90's, total calorie intake peaked in 2003 and has since declined, and both child and adult obesity rates have actually stopped increasing. Public education and advocacy is working. I'll be happy to see the year when fruit and vegetable consumption starts to increase.
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