DENISON, TX - Think about what it would be like to have 20 extra pounds of fat on your body. That's what CIGNA asked its employees and the public Tuesday through their obesity and health awareness campaign that travels from city to city.
It’s a hands-on tour, brought to different locations throughout the region on a Mobile Learning Lab. The rather compact display goes into detail about the many causes of obesity, and even has a 20 pound “fat jacket” to let visitors experience what it would be like to carry around that extra weight.
"It feels almost like doubling my weight, I mean it really does, it feels like being pregnant like you're carrying extra weight around that you really don't need,” said Patti Segerstrom, a CIGNA Healthcare employee.
And CIGNA Vice President Kellie Metzdorf said the obesity problem is growing, especially in the south. The “CalorieLab United States of Obesity Fattest States Ranking 2010” placed Oklahoma as the 6th fattest state, and Texas close behind ranked at number 13.
"With the rising costs of health care, health care is truly an epidemic in the country. Today about 64% of Americans are obese or overweight, that's projected to grow to 86% by the year 2030,” said Metzdorf.
And as a health care provider in Denison, CIGNA has taken a special interest in raising awareness obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. The “fat jacket” provides a very visual part of the equation; but the display also goes into other factors such as the culture, economic class, region and race.
"It's really enlightening, it's like you come in and you can really see the stats so you get to find out more about the people you talk to, especially you get to see like the neighborhoods it breaks down the regions,” said Segerstrom.
Poor healthy choices can often stem from a person’s location in their community. Or it can come down to the fact that fast, cheap food is easier and more economical than healthy, fresh foods.
"I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that depending on where you live you may not have as much access to healthy food. Where it may be much less economical,” said Metzdorf.
The growing obesity epidemic is also very costly in the healthcare industry. CIGNA said they encounter many people who have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and childhood asthma.
But the display also offers a way for visitors to take action. One way is portion control and general rules for how much you should be eating in one sitting. Here are some examples:
-Pasta should equal about the size of one light bulb.
-Cheese should be about the size of your thumb.
-Meats should be the size of a deck of cards.
-A medium baked potato should equal the size of a computer mouse.
-Cereal, fruits and vegetables should be the size of a baseball.
-Butter should be no more than the size of a poker chip.
And when dividing up your dinner plate: One half should be fruits and vegetables, with a quarter of grains and starches and the other quarter is meat.