As we get fatter, products get bigger
More Americans are overweight than ever before, and manufacturers are upsizing products to accommodate our growing girth.
With all due respect, we're a nation of fatties. Thirty-six percent of Americans were obese in 2010 and a new projection says that will balloon to 42% in 2030 if we keep stuffing our faces the way we do.
The percentage of people who are 100 or more pounds overweight is expected to nearly double to 11%.
U.S. businesses are adapting. We're not just talking about companies that specialize in selling seat belt extenders, plus-size coffins, extra-wide toilet seats and "O" cup bras. For some products, a larger size has become the new standard. (Post continues below.)
Here are some of the ways businesses are adjusting:
- Movie theater seats are as much as 26 inches wide, 6 more than the standard size in the 1980s.
- "Big and tall" school furniture is outselling the standard size, CNN reports.
- Manufacturers of child safety seats for cars have upped their weight limits.
- Ambulances can haul more weight. For instance, "Texas ambulance service provider Medstar upgraded most of its fleet of industry standard Ford chassis to accommodate obese patients in March 2011," Everyday Health says.
- Hospitals are installing surgery tables that can support heavier patients, Also, Reuters says, "The University of Alabama at Birmingham's hospital, the nation's fourth largest, has widened doors, replaced wall-mounted toilets with floor models able to hold 250 pounds or more, and bought plus-size wheelchairs (twice the price of regulars) as well as mini-cranes to hoist obese patients out of bed."
- Carmakers are also adjusting. More vehicles have rearview cameras, which help drivers who can't turn around to see when they're backing up. Hondas have wider seats, and the grab handles in Mercedeses are being strengthened to handle more weight, says Motor Trend. Just in case you're interested, Consumer Reports has identified the best vehicles for larger drivers. (It takes an extra 938 million gallons of gasoline a year for cars to haul all the extra weight around, by the way.)
- Seats at newer venues like Yankee Stadium are a couple inches wider.
- Revolving doors are 2 feet wider than they used to be, the Sun Sentinel of Florida says.
- Next year, new Amtrak dining cars will accommodate bigger people, and New Jersey Transit is adding width to its seats. The New York Times adds, "… the Federal Transit Administration has proposed to raise the standard for bus testing to 175 pounds and 1.75 square feet per passenger, from 150 pounds and 1.5 square feet."
- Crash test dummies might get bigger too. That was recommended by a new study that "finds that a moderately obese driver faces a 21% increased risk of death in a severe automobile crash, while the risk of not surviving the crash increases to 56% for 'morbidly obese' drivers," MSN Autos says.
Surely the cost of some of this will be borne by all of us. What's now better understood is how much our unhealthy weight is adding to the nation's health care costs -- an extra $190 billion a year in 2005 dollars, according to a new study. That's slightly more than 20% of the total, "or to put in more understandable terms for Americans, (the cost of) about 62 billion Big Macs that year," Dino Grandoni wrote on The Atlantic.
And, the Harvard School of Public Health says, "Looking ahead, researchers have estimated that by 2030, if obesity trends continue unchecked, obesity-related medical costs alone could rise by $48 (billion) to $66 billion a year in the U.S."
You can bet that more employers will require obese workers (and those who smoke) to pay higher premiums for health insurance. The New York Times explains:
Current regulations allow companies to require workers who fail to meet specific standards to pay up to 20% of their insurance costs. The federal health care law raises that amount to 30% in 2014 and, potentially, to as much as half the cost of a policy.
More from MSN Money:
I was feeling a little disappointed with chosing a healthy lunch today. Then I read this article and felt a lot better about it.
The road in front of my office closed, leaving folks who didn't bring lunch no way to drive to McD's. Then I witnessed something amazing, fat people walking in groups with smiles on their faces to McD's and Taco Hell. It was like they were happy to be out walking. I'd never seen anything like it. It sort of made me wonder what the hell is wrong with people.
1. food is more plentiful and more easily accessible than ever before
2. there are more varieties in the types of foods that we eat than ever before
3. food costs more than ever before
4. there is more pressure to be thin because of advertising, celebrities, etc. than ever before
5. there are more harmful ingredients in our foods than ever before
I think before we all start pointing fingers at people who weigh more and saying that they are "fatties" and making jokes about them, we should probably take a look in the mirror. Just because you are able to eat whatever you want and still stay thin doesn't mean that you are a prime example of a healthy lifestyle. It means that you may be just a hop, skip, and a jump from being obese yourself. EXCEPT you have one thing going for you that other people may not: a fast metabolism. This is not something that you can just order from Amazon and install it in the same day. It's hundreds of years of very fortunate genetics. Now, I'm not saying that genetics is the ONLY thing, just that it tends to be the primary reason why the people mentioned above are able to eat anything and not gain weight. For the rest of us mere mortals, it's a little more difficult. It's easy for EVERYONE to have an opinion about this (myself included): people should be coddled, people should be chastised, whatnot. But let's just be honest: can we really BLAME people for eating more when there is all kinds of advertising suggesting that we do so? Our society is structured in a way that people are likely to become obese for all of the reasons mentioned above. So, until we can maybe turn down the subliminal messages from advertising a notch, I don't think that we should all leap to conclusions that it is ONLY the individual's fault.
As someone who loves a former heavier (in his own opinion) person who later suffered from anorexia, I don't think it's as easy to tell people what is right and what is wrong for every single one of them. I would certainly not want someone to do that to me.
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