Fort Wayne – Like the caloric value of the Boston cream doughnut some of us love – maybe a little too much – the health numbers for Hoosiers are not good.
Nearly a third of Indiana adults are obese.
More than 65 percent of Hoosier adults are overweight and more than a quarter say they barely ever get any physical activity.
In fact, Indiana is the eighth most obese state in the nation.
That’s according to an annual report released this month by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Titled “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2013,” the report breaks down obesity rates in states, regions of the country, genders and age groups.
Despite Indiana’s poor showing in the report – Indiana is one of 13 states where more than 30 percent of adults are obese – there is a bit of a silver lining to be gleaned from it, according to some health experts.
We’re obese and we’ve been obese, but at least we’re slowing the upward trend.
“The encouraging news is that the rates, overall, are starting to slow or plateau,” said Marcie Memmer, director of the Indiana State Department of Health’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.
“That’s good. That’s usually what you hope to see before you start seeing decreases,” she said.
Indiana has almost always ranked high in obesity compared with other states, according to data on the report’s website, www.fasinfat.org.
In 1995, Indiana was the second most obese state in the nation.
But then, the nation was skinnier as a whole: only 18.3 percent of Indiana adults were considered obese.
Since that time, obesity rates rose steadily for the next decade.
According to the new report, there has been evidence that the rate of increase had been slowing since 2005.
The new report shows obesity rates remained level in every state except Arkansas, the third most obese state in the country.
“While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust For America’s Health.
One of those prevention efforts was the launching three years ago of Indiana’s Comprehensive Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan.
The program, which is designed to continue through 2020, has a goal of increasing the percentage of Hoosier adults at a healthy weight and to reduce obesity to 25 percent.
Memmer said it’s early, but there are parts of the plan that signal success.
“There are more municipalities throughout the state that are transforming transportation, such as adding more bikeways and making it easier to walk,” she said.
“Including Fort Wayne,” she added, referring to relatively recent additions of bike paths and bike lanes on city streets.
Memmer said there’s been an increase in farmers markets throughout the state, allowing people to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
That is one thing that Hoosiers, and local residents, really need to focus on, according to Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan.
“It’s very simple,” she said. “You can do two quick things: exercise and consume fruits and vegetables.”
When McMahan read the report, she immediately compared Indiana with Colorado, which was ranked as the least obese state.
There, where 20.5 percent of adults are considered obese, people were active and ate their fruits and veggies, according to the report.
Colorado was the third most active state in the nation – with only 17 percent of people claiming they didn’t exercise at all – and ranked 15th in vegetable and fruit consumption.
Comparatively, Indiana ranked 10th in physical inactivity and 12th when it comes to eating less than a single serving of fruits and vegetables a day.
“We don’t have many excuses here,” McMahan said of such behavior. “We have a tremendous YMCA. We have a good trail system, and there are other health clubs as well.
“We do have good bones to make this effort, to really combat this issue.”
Still, for many adults at least, a 21st-century lifestyle has made being more active somewhat difficult.
Jobs get in the way. Taking care of kids gets in the way. Time – there isn’t enough of that.
“We’ve created environments with little activity and put ourselves in a sedentary lifestyle,” Memmer said. “There have been a lot of changes we’ve created in the last 20 years that don’t support us being active.”
But, with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the YMCA is trying to reach children and teach them better health habits through a new initiative called Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities.
Memmer is the chairwoman of a 12-member statewide committee to direct the initiative, which is designed to create safe walking routes to school, increase physical education in schools and improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
So, maybe instead of reaching for that Boston cream doughnut, we Hoosiers might someday be reaching for an apple or tomato instead.
And maybe our numbers in the various health reports won’t be so out of shape.