DR. HOOK- Rough ride: Obesity prompts culture shifts

Mickey Mouse– has he become obese? Minnie Mouse too? According to the New York Times, Disneyland is fixing up the "It's a Small World" ride to accommodate obese riders. 

Hmm, ironic it's a small world. The ride was built in 1963, and back then people weren't as heavy as we are now. In fact, when I was doing my fellowship to study obesity in Americans, I could find no data on obesity before WWII. But since the atomic bombs fell on Japan, weight has exploded in this country.

Now according to Disneyland, the Small World repairs have nothing to do with obese riders. (So I guess the stuck boats were a symptom of Small World constipation.) I know airplanes are requiring lighter luggage– which makes it difficult to pack enough shoes, ahem! I've seen personnel on small commuter planes ask some heavier passengers to wait for the next ride because the plane would be too heavy.

Yet Hollywood's focus is that people are too skinny– which is a real concern among many starving stars. If they'd just leave Tinseltown, they'd notice that 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. And look at all the "ex-stars" who seem to balloon faster than home mortgage rates. (By the way, did you see the extremely buxom Elizabeth Taylor howl like a wolf when asked if she would ever marry again? That is so sad. Worse than femme fatale Norma Desmond.)

Mathematically, if you plot the trend of overweight/obesity in American, 100 percent of us will be obese by the end of this century. Food for thought. I don't see any change in this trend in my own practice. People are working longer hours, making less money (unless they're in the oil business or can charge people more for driving costs), and trying to be involved parents. I know if I had kids, I would drop dead from sleep deprivation. I already work 60-80 hours a week, work out 5-6 times a week (figure skating, biking, the gym), and of course watch my favorite TV shows (I'm Gen-X, forgive me). So when I ask my patients to fit in some time to exercise, they often have to do it 5am. 

Also gaining weight is easy. Losing weight is not. People are eating more. I know a couple who did Nutri-system, and they cried for over a week when they saw how "small" the portions were. The problem is, though, the portions were normal. They were just used to eating 1,000 too many calories per serving. Hey, I love food too– which is why I don't go to a certain restaurant where you can eat unlimited French fries (why are potatoes so gosh darned tasty?).

From the medical research I've read on high fructose corn syrup, which is in practically everything that's sweetened (and non-diet), insulin resistance is on the rise with obesity. I'm amazed how many people don't realize how many calories they're drinking– not eating, but drinking. 

Is there going to be a recovery program for these problem drinkers? Giving up 300 calories a day from these drinks can help a person lose 10 pounds in a year– but most people don't give it up. So their waists expand. I had a 40-year-old teacher with a 40-inch waist, and I joked with him that he was like a tree– growing an inch per year. (I'm lucky he didn't give me an F.)

If we're smart, we'll buy stock in every single-dingle diabetes product. (I hope I don't get arrested like Martha Stewart for insider trading for saying this.) Since 40-50 percent of American children born after the year 2000 are predicted to develop diabetes from obesity, I would say it is a sweet investment. Not.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.