Chicken eating contest? Roll Tide roll!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quick, load up the pick-up truck with Mama’s best fried chicken, mashed potatoes and macaroni and run for the border — the Alabama border, that is.

Turns out our neighbors to the east are just a meal or two of great Mississippi grub away from claiming a new national title. And this is one trophy we’ll gladly let them take.

The nation’s obesity rankings came out last week, and the only good news for Mississippians is that Alabama is gaining on us, fast.

Our (mostly) crimson friends led the country in one important category — highest increase in the number of obese baby boomers.

Thirty-nine percent of the state’s baby boomers are obese, a 16.3 percent growth rate over the number of obese boomers in last year’s study.

In Alabama 31.2 percent of adults are obese.

Swapping the No. 50 slot in all the national “best of” lists and the No. 1 spot in all the “worst of” lists is a regular sport for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Residents of our area have become accustomed to the jokes and ready for ridicule.

But obesity — whether in Alabama or Mississippi — is no laughing matter.

Sure, what you eat is your business, and no one likes hearing that they are fat.

But Mississippi, Alabama and our entire nation need to make some tough decisions if we want to continue to prosper like we have for decades.

It’s not the statistics about obese baby boomers that are the scariest; it’s the math about their grandchildren that should have us all worried.

Mississippi also has the highest rate of obese children — 44.4 percent.

Grandma’s chicken, daddy’s fast food runs and a lifestyle of “eat what you want” will shorten and worsen life for our children.

And though adults have the right to eat if the want to, our children aren’t qualified to be decision-makers just yet.

Our young people are developing habits though, and nearly any adult can vouch for how difficult such eating habits can be to break.

Government regulation of school lunches, fast food menus and the like will only go so far. Federal programs to put fruit in the schools and encourage physical activity won’t lead us to a nation of skinny children.

This problem, just like all others, starts at home.

Parents who set an example of overindulgence in food will probably have chubby children. Chubby children often grow into chubby adults. And soon national health care costs are more enormous than they already are.

What can you do to move Mississippi from No. 1 to No. 50 on the obesity charts?

Skip the Oreos on the supermarket aisle? Trade in movie night for moonlight kickball?

It’s difficult, yes, but we all need to remember that our children are watching, learning and putting on pounds.

Driving the fried chicken we love so much to the border isn’t a bad idea, but maybe our motivation shouldn’t be to fatten our neighbors but to whittle at our own waists.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.