Why Americans are fat and broke


I was thinking of just posting this image with the title and leaving it at that, but I felt some analysis was in order.

Around two thirds of American citizens are overweight. About half of those people are obese. And we’re on track for those numbers to continue to trend dramatically upward.

I have nothing against overweight people. I used to be an overweight person myself, albeit only slightly so. I will say that I’m much happier not to be overweight anymore, and that’s primarily owing to how I feel, although looking better has been a fringe benefit of losing weight.

I do have something against people who throw garbage out the car window onto my street, however. Like this receipt. I picked it up and, well, how could I not play amateur anthropologist?

So here, with caveats*, I present an analysis of this McDonald’s receipt and why I believe it is emblematic of why our country is facing such enormous health and financial crises.

Exhibit A: This food was purchased at around 10PM at night on a Wednesday. Was it dinner? If so, wow, talk about a meal completely devoid of nutritional value. Can you say Type 2 Diabetes?

Exhibit B: If this was merely a late night snack, then how many calories were in that snack? I’ll tell you how many:

Cinnamon Melts: 480
Medium French Fries: 380
Large Vanilla Shake: 1,110
Total calories: 1,960

Let’s assume this was a guy of average height and weight (which today means overweight). We’ll peg him at 5’10” and 200 pounds (BMI of 29, right in the middle of the overweight range). He gets no regular exercise (remember: he’s average).

His caloric needs for the day therefore are somewhere in the range of 2,250. And let’s assume that he’s alone and wasn’t sharing this with his significant other or a child. Our littering friend has just consumed over 87% of his daily required calorie intake in those three food items. That leaves room for a piece of fruit and handful of nuts. I wonder if that’s all he ate for the rest of the day. Probably not.

He’s also just consumed 80%, 42% and 39% of his recommended daily maximums for saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, respectively. Ouch.

Exhibit C: I’ll admit that not only do I rarely eat out, I pretty much never buy fast food. Maybe once every few years, and only under duress when there are no other available options. Even then, I go for the plain chicken breast.

So, I’m totally out of touch with what garbage food costs today. But seven dollars? That seems an unconscionable amount to charge someone for three fast food items.

Exhibit D: MasterCard. It’s everywhere you want to be. Even if that’s McDonald’s on Tuckahoe Road at 10 o’clock at night on a Wednesday. Maybe our guy pays off his credit card bill every month. But, again, he’s average. Meaning that there’s a good chance that he’s among the 60% of Americans who carry a revolving balance, the median of which is $2,200.

That’s a lot of boxes of cinnamon melts. 1,078, to be exact.

*I know nothing about the purchasor of these food items. But I’m a pessimist, and I believe in statistics. So I’m going to assume the worst.

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