The weight of our obesity could sink the Freddy-Sue bridge

On Monday morning of this week, Excelus sent out a press release detailing the new numbers revealed in a report on obesity in New York. The numbers are unflattering to say the least. They show that just over 34% of Finger Lakes residents are overweight, and that a whopping 26.4% of us are actually obese. We’re not the worst offenders in this category – that distinction is saved for the Utica/Rome/North Country region, the tubby little fuckers.

But this report got me thinking about the problem of obesity as an ecological problem. Because fat is stored energy. And ultimately, it is energy that drives life forward.

Energy is doused upon the Earth by the sun in the form of sunlight. Only a tiny fraction of that energy – less than 1% – actually gets photosynthesized by plants into biologically-useful energy. Of the fractions of that energy that are trapped, for a short time it gets used by life for life’s own devices. Eventually, all energy escapes the Earth in the form of heat energy. But obesity represents a kind of energy blockage – it’s not being used, it’s not escaping the Earth. It’s just sitting there in lumps of flesh here, while elsewhere in the world, there is not enough to go around.

Just how much extra weight is trapped in the Finger Lakes region, then? Let’s break down the numbers, a bit.

The Pudgetown Beacon

Within the region marked as the Finger Lakes region, we have six counties: Monroe, Wayne, Livingston, Ontario, Yates and Seneca. All tolled, we have a population of around 1 million people and change. If 26.4% of us are obese, that means about 280k people are obese.

Now, obesity is a question of Body Mass Index, which is a comparison of your height and weight. Whether or not you are “big boned,” or particularly muscular, above a certain threshold, the only explanation for your enormous weight is your enormous ass. It’s just that simple.

With that in mind, the highest weight that is considered “normal,” healthy weight is 144lbs for a woman, 174 for a man. This is based on average heights for each sex. The lowest weight that the NIH considers “obese” would be 175 for women, 209 for men. In other words, the difference between the highest healthy weight and the lowest obese weight is about 31lbs for women and 34 pounds for men.

Put all that together, and you realize that the minimum amount of extra fat present in the Finger Lakes region is about 9.25 million pounds, or 4610 tons. That’s not the total weight of all Finger Lakes residents. It’s just the extra fat, and only a minimum measurement. You can bet the real number is much higher.

For comparison’s sake, the Freddie-Sue Bridge was constructed of about 5,200 tons of steel. At minimum, our pudgy asses (because I absolutely do qualify as obese by the NIH standard) could sink the Freddie-Sue into the Genesee.