The juxtaposition of two recent news stories could not have been more telling.
South Carolina ranks eighth among states in obesity. Nearly 31 percent of South Carolina adults are obese; 66 percent are overweight, according to a report released July 7 by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Twenty-two-year-old Bree Boyce, the new Miss South Carolina, lost 110 pounds on her way to winning the crown July 2. Boyce's weight had reached 230 pounds before she turned her life around.
How did she do it? Most of us know the answer; we just don't want to admit it.
Eat healthy foods. Exercise daily. Hard work.
"There is no secret," Boyce said. "If there is one thing that is the secret, it's hard work."
As with most health issues, it's not as simple as that for everyone. But for many of us, it is. And when two-thirds of us are overweight, we need to get to work.
The upward trend in obesity in this country is downright depressing. Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, points out that the 43 states now have higher obesity rates than the state that ranked highest in 2000.
Just 15 years ago in South Carolina, 16.6 percent of adults were obese and 51.4 percent were overweight. We've nearly doubled our obesity rate.
Other recent news stories tell us more. A University of South Carolina professor will spend the next year researching why so many more of us are obese. Steven Blair's question: Is obesity driven more by overeating or by inactivity? The (Columbia) State newspaper reports he's looking for 400 overweight but relatively healthy men and women between the ages of 21 and 35 to take part in the study.
Blair's theory is that the problem is the activity part of the equation. It takes less energy on our part to accomplish all sorts of daily tasks: cooking, cleaning, getting from one place to the next. We're not down on the farm anymore.
Supersized, sugary drinks and fat-laden fast food aren't the problem, he says, but our inactive lives.
Blair might be right that our sedentary ways, not our dietary ways, are the root cause of our obesity epidemic. The $2.5 million study is being funded by Coca-Cola, a purveyor of sugary drinks and snacks. Blair insists the company won't have any input on the study, and it will be reviewed by scientific peers. Of course, if the study were funded by Nike, one could have the same suspicions about the outcome.
We're also now debating in this country whether extremely obese children should be moved to foster care to save their lives. And we're debating whether you can be fat and fit at the same time. Some say yes. Others say that defies logic.
There are as many reasons for being overweight as there are people who are overweight.
But Bree Boyce has the answer that for many of us will make the difference: Eat fewer calories; exercise more. It's the food we eat and our level of activity.