Increasing need for ‘double wides’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2013

We were at a hospital in a larger city this week for Honey to have a sophisticated test which frankly, I’d never heard of before it was ordered for him. The hospital is a top-notch facility with excellent customer service.

And a whole lot of double-wides.

Yes, it is an expanding medical campus, but I’m not talking about the kind of double-wides people live in. I’m talking about chairs.

As we moved from one waiting area to another, I was struck by the number. At first glance, they appeared to literally be double-seaters. But they weren’t quite big enough for two people who didn’t know each other to sit together comfortably. And that’s when it struck me that these were spacious chairs for spacious people.

It is actually clever, I suppose, given the correlation between obesity and disease.

The Center for Disease Control lists the potential health consequences resulting from obesity as coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, stroke, liver and gall bladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteo-arthritis, and infertility and other gynecological problems.

The CDC estimates that, in 2008 dollars, the annual cost of treating obesity-related diseases was $147 billion.

While there are plenty of people who aren’t obese who have these illnesses, there is clear proof that a large majority of cases of these illnesses are caused by obesity.

Seating is an issue not just in hospitals, but in airplanes as well, a friend reminded me yesterday. Airlines are considering charging larger passengers more, but are hesitating in fear of a discrimination suit.

The Washington Times wrote about the subject last weekend, calculating that, based on data that shows the average weight of an American has increased 24 pounds since 1960, body costs airlines an extra 176.4 million gallons of fuel, or about $538 million each year.

A representative of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity who was interviewed said she believes weight should be a protected category, like race or gender.

“Some people can diet, exercise, do everything right and still have a tough time losing and keeping weight off,” the spokeswoman said.

True. But most of us battle weight problems because we put the wrong things into our bodies, and because we lead sedentary lifestyles.

I am sympathetic. Like most women my age, I can look at something yummy and gain weight. But I have learned that it is worth the effort it takes to resist.

As obesity rates increase among Americans, this will no doubt become more of a public policy issue not just for airplanes, but also for insurers. It will be interesting to watch the debate unfold.

Pass the carrot sticks, please.