The Fattest and Skinniest States in the Nation

Americans are getting fatter, but a handful of communities have low obesity rates. Find out where your state ranks.

If it feels like we’re all getting fatter, it’s because it’s true, at least according to one study.

A new report from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows that the obesity rate nationwide is at its highest point since Gallup and Healthways started the index in 2008.

The “Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being 2014 Obesity Rankings” report found that the national obesity rate was 27.7 percent last year, up from 27.1 percent in 2013. The index’s low point was 25.5 percent in 2008.

In the report, people are characterized as “obese” if they have a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher.

BMI takes both height and weight into account. It is often used by health professionals to judge whether a person is considered medically obese, overweight, healthy or underweight.

According to the Gallup-Healthways index, the most obese states are:

  1. Mississippi (for the second consecutive year and the third time since 2008)
  2. West Virginia
  3. Louisiana
  4. Arkansas
  5. Oklahoma

The most obese communities are:

  1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  2. Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania
  3. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Arkansas
  4. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  5. Dayton, Ohio

The skinniest states are:

  • Hawaii (for the third time since 2008)
  • Colorado
  • Montana
  • California
  • Massachusetts

The skinniest communities are:

  1. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  3. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  4. Provo-Orem, Utah
  5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

As we reported earlier this month, obesity is not only a public-health problem, but also a financial concern. (Check out “You’ll Be Stunned by the Projected Cost of Obesity.”)

A recent study by the private nonprofit Brookings Institution found that if all 12.7 million obese children in the country remain obese as adults, it could cost society more than $1.1 trillion over the course of their lifetimes — about $92,235 more per person than for a person of normal weight.

Ross A. Hammond, a senior fellow and director of the Center on Social Dynamics and Policy at Brookings, states:

The obesity epidemic is an extremely pressing issue for the United States and, by the way, for many other countries around the world …

It’s also a problem that is challenging from a policy perspective because the causes of obesity are quite complex.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines BMI classifications as follows:

  • Obese: BMI of 30 or higher
  • Overweight: 25 to 29.9
  • Healthy: 18.5 to 24.9
  • Underweight: 18.4 or lower

The CDC has an online BMI calculator that can tell you where you rate.

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Stacy Johnson

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