How Obese Is Your State?

If you live in the Midwest or South, prepare yourself for bad news.

us obesity prevalence 2011 2014
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In saddening yet unsurprising news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its state obesity map for 2014, and it's not pretty.

Without labels, the maps between 2011 and 2014 look like the progression of an infectious disease that spreads out from the South, slowly affecting more and more neighboring states — which actually isn't that far from reality. While it's not contagious, obesity has become one of the biggest public health issues in the United States, and the CDC's obesity data for 2014 make that painfully clear:

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  • Obese adults make up at least 20 percent of the population in every state. That means even the "skinniest" state — Colorado — has 21 percent of adults with obesity.
  • 3 states — Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia — have the largest obese populations, with 35 percent or more of adults with obesity.
  • But don't look down on the South yet, because the Midwest has the highest percentage of adults with obesity (30.7 percent), then the South (30.6 percent), the Northeast (27.3 percent) and the West (25.7 percent).
  • Non-Hispanic blacks had the highest prevalence of obesity at 38 percent, followed by Hispanics (31 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (27 percent).

Obesity, State by State

So how does your state measure up? Here are the percentages of obese adults in each U.S. state and territory, ranked highest to lowest:

  1. Arkansas - 35.9%
  2. West Virginia - 35.7%
  3. Mississippi - 35.5%
  4. Louisiana - 34.9%
  5. Alabama - 33.5%
  6. Oklahoma - 33%
  7. Indiana - 32.7%
  8. Ohio - 32.6%
  9. North Dakota - 32.2%
  10. South Carolina - 32.1%
  11. Texas - 31.9%
  12. Kentucky - 31.6%
  13. Kansas - 31.3%
  14. Tennessee - 31.2%
  15. Wisconsin - 31.2%
  16. Iowa - 30.9%
  17. Delaware - 30.7%
  18. Michigan - 30.7%
  19. Georgia - 30.5%
  20. Missouri - 30.2%
  21. Nebraska - 30.2%
  22. Pennsylvania - 30.2%
  23. South Dakota - 29.8%
  24. Alaska - 29.7%
  25. North Carolina - 29.7%
  26. Maryland - 29.6%
  27. Wyoming - 29.5%
  28. Illinois - 29.3%
  29. Arizona - 28.9%
  30. Idaho - 28.9%
  31. Virginia - 28.5%
  32. New Mexico - 28.4%
  33. Puerto Rico - 28.3%
  34. Maine - 28.2%
  35. Guam - 28%
  36. Oregon - 27.9%
  37. Nevada - 27.7%
  38. Minnesota - 27.6%
  39. New Hampshire - 27.4%
  40. Washington - 27.3%
  41. New York - 27%
  42. Rhode Island - 27%
  43. New Jersey - 26.9%
  44. Montana - 26.4%
  45. Connecticut - 26.3%
  46. Florida - 26.2%
  47. Utah - 25.7%
  48. Vermont - 24.8%
  49. California - 24.7%
  50. Massachusetts - 23.3%
  51. Hawaii - 22.1%
  52. District of Columbia - 21.7%
  53. Colorado - 21.3%

Keep in Mind

The maps are based on Body Mass Index (BMI), with obese being defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. It's worth noting that there are some limitations when it comes to BMI: While it's a fairly reliable way to screen for obesity and overweight, the BMI does not take into account that there are many different body types and ways that fat can be distributed. Measuring your waist circumference is another good way to identify body fatness. That said, if you want to calculate your own BMI, check out the CDC's BMI calculator.

Follow Sarah McNaughton on Twitter.

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