The Last Lean Americans

Colorado’s obesity rates are the lowest in the country—but are we really as healthy as we think? Plus: We surveyed 400 Coloradans about their everyday health habits to see how—and why—our state has stayed on the good side of skinny.

October 2010


How do you view your current weight?
I’m pretty happy with it: 29 percent
I could stand to lose five pounds (but who couldn’t?): 47 percent
I’m always fighting to keep the same 20 pounds at bay: 11 percent
I’m overweight and need to do something about it: 11 percent
I’m overweight but I’m OK with myself: 2 percent

**5280 Readers’ Survey: 25 percent say they worry about their weight all the time.

How do you maintain your (healthy) weight?
I work out religiously so I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want: 9 percent
I monitor what I eat and don’t really work out that consistently: 15 percent
I try to find a happy balance between food intake and regular exercise: 69 percent
I have never found my “healthy” weight, much less maintained it: 7 percent

How often do you see your general practitioner (MD)?
Annually: 53 percent
Every few years: 12 percent
Only when I’m sick: 22 percent
I don’t remember the last time I went: 4 percent
Don’t have one: 9 percent

Do you smoke?
Yes: 7 percent
No: 85 percent
Every once in a while: 8 percent

**Fast Fact: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.6 percent of adults in the United States smoked in 2008. It has long been thought that quitting smoking can lead to weight gain, but recent studies have shown that this weight gain (about four to 10 pounds) is typically only short term.

About how much water do you drink every day?
1 gallon: 53 percent
16 ounces: 39 percent
8 ounces: 5 percent
Almost none: 3 percent

How much alcohol do you drink?
A few drinks a day: 8 percent
A few drinks a week: 39 percent
A few drinks a month: 31 percent
I don’t drink: 22 percent

**5280 Readers’ Survey: 33 percent would choose to make a run to McDonald’s when they’re hungover rather than go for a cobweb-clearing jog.

How many times per week do you have sex?
5 to 7: 4 percent
4 to 6: 10 percent
1 to 3: 37 percent
Once or twice a month: 18 percent
I don’t remember the last time I had sex: 14 percent
I prefer not to say: 17 percent

**Fast Fact: Depending on your weight and the, um, vigorousness of your activities, you can burn quite a few calories in the sack. A 135-pound person can expect to burn anywhere from 61 to 124 calories during 40 minutes of sex, while a person weighing 185 pounds can burn from 89 to 170 calories during the same amount of time.

How would you characterize your sleeping habits?
I sleep like a baby every night: 21 percent
I get enough to get by just fine: 39 percent
I wish I slept much better than I do: 28 percent
I definitely don’t get enough sleep: 10 percent
I take sleep medication at night just to function during the day: 2 percent

**The Top Doctor Says: The way we sleep affects our daily lives. And if you’re overweight—or obese—and snore, your sleep may be hampered by sleep apnea. This condition occurs when the back of the throat is overcrowded, often by excess fatty tissue in people who are overweight. “Sleep apnea isn’t just snoring,” says Dr. Richard O’Brien, a sleep medicine physician in Denver. “Sleep apnea means that you are experiencing sometimes 200 or more partial stoppages of breathing throughout the night.” Those stoppages briefly make your body wake itself up, with resulting blood pressure spikes. Even if you don’t remember it, you’ve been awakened many, many times. “It results in a lousy quality of sleep,” the doctor says, “which can lead to bad behaviors during the day—like reaching for a candy bar for a sugar rush—that can worsen a weight issue that’s already causing problems.”

How would you describe your average stress level?
Extremely high: 4 percent
High: 28 percent
About average: 49 percent
Low: 17 percent
Non-existent: 2 percent

Do you consider your kids to be at a healthy weight?
Yes: 42 percent
No: 5 percent
Honestly, I’m not really sure: 1 percent
I don’t have kids: 52 percent

**5280 Readers’ Survey: 21 percent say they don’t ever worry about their kids’ weights.

**State of the State: Of our respondents who have children (48 percent), 87.5 percent say they consider their kids to be at a healthy weight. However, the Colorado Health Foundation reports that 14.2 percent of Colorado’s kids are obese.

Walk... With A Doc

A new community outreach program allows you to talk with a physician outside the doctor’s office.

Dr. Andrew Freeman says he sees the effects of obesity in his National Jewish Health–based cardiology practice every day. “The complications of obesity are ever-present,” he says. “But we, as doctors, often treat the problems, and the discussions about how to stop these issues in the first place frequently go by the wayside.” So, he decided to change that dynamic by starting a program called “Walk with a Doc.” /// The free monthly event, which takes place in a different local park each time, brings together the public, a handful of physicians, and a smattering of other health-care professionals like nurses, dietitians, and physical therapists. The session begins at 8 a.m. with a 10-minute seminar given by one of the doctors (usually a cardiologist or pulmonologist) and then moves on to the “walking” portion of the event. “We use exercise as medicine,” Freeman says. “There is almost no illness that doesn’t benefit from exercise.” So, the entire group begins a two-mile stroll around the park, during which “patients” can ask medical questions in a casual, comfortable atmosphere. The program’s mission is to encourage people to understand—and advocate—for their own health and to learn more about common medical conditions. “There’s really no excuse not to come,” Freeman says. “It’s free, it’s easy, and we’re giving out great advice without a co-pay.”