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Published:August 18th, 2009 20:53 EST
Obesity: Blame it on Cars

Obesity: Blame it on Cars

By Geoff Dean

Americans are fat. Or, at least, Hoosiers are. This a patently false overgeneralization, a blanket statement with no bed to cover, and I stand by it. Individual Americans may not be obese, of course, and many are trim, fit, and suitably slender. To lump all Americans together and disparage them as one is unfair, unacceptable, and perhaps, "un-American". Sue me.

 I live in Tokyo, a jumble of narrow streets and crowded trains and other impediments to the bulbous. Extreme obesity is not really an option in a society that miniaturizes everything. That said, in Japan, I am on the plump side.

 When I arrive at the Indianapolis International Airport (a couple of flights to Canada earns the excessive name), I immediately suffer weight lag to go with my jet lag. I have become suddenly, remarkably thin. Who knew that air travel was a form of dieting?

 Is it the difference in diet between the two countries? Surely, this plays a role. For instance, McDonald`s sizes in America pick up where they leave off in Japan. A large soda in Japan is a couple of sips in the states. A large order of fries in the states would seem like weightlifting to the average Japanese "heavy user". The lack of vegetables, the rivers of oil and fat, the chronic sweetening of things that need none, breakfast cereals posing as food, canned everything, instant everything...The list goes on and on so I won`t.

 That said, I felt it must be more than this so I did the maximum of research that my extreme laziness would allow. I came up with a conclusion based on hearsay, faulty logic, personal anecdotal evidence, and circumstantial, at best, evidence.

 For those inquiring minds who might care to know, I blame it on cars. Japanese people have cars, of course, and most Americans have Japanese cars, too, it seems. But in Tokyo, cars are just one option. If it`s very near, walk. If it`s a little further, ride a bicycle. If it`s further still, take a train, a bus, a subway, a ferry, and/or a plane in any number of combinations. In the rare case when public transportation is not convenient or requires too many transfers, feel free to use a car.

 In Indianapolis, you can go to the corner drugstore, the restaurant on the other side of town, or the next state by car. Or, you can stay home. There are, in theory, bus lines and bike lanes and Amtrak. Most of the Indianapolisians whom I interviewed, that is to say, my mother, sister, and two friends from church had heard the rumors of their existence. Still, Amtrak remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery and bus stops, if they do exist, must be in some parallel universe.

 My point, obviously enough, is that cars keep people from walking, bike riding, and other forms of exercise, right? Wrong! Cars keep us indoors, protected from the heat of summer, the spring rains, and the severe winter blizzards. Cars make us lose our connection with the world outside. I am convinced that this is what makes us fat. You may wonder what proof I have for this sweeping conclusion. Yes, you may. Indeed, you may. As I suggested earlier, suing me remains an option.