GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Just in time for Thanksgiving, we have some bad news for you: We North Carolinians are too fat.

In fact, North Carolina ranks as the 15th worst state nationally for having the biggest problem with being overweight (at least) and obese (at worst).

Children playing in Centennial Olympic Park showing signs of obesity issues. (CNN photo)

We are sorry to point our fat finger, but Southerners, in general, share in this problem, and we are spending tens of billions of dollars to try to change the gain plan.

These are the findings of data analysis by WalletHub, the financial advice platform that collects and analyzes tons of data to create insights into how we live and where we live. This is National Diabetes Month, and WalletHub’s analysts sought to understand how significant a problem we have is.

And they even have an idea of which comfort food we prefer and how that is contributing to our fatness.

WalletHub created an index based on data points that we will explain and found that the highest score for obesity belonged to West Virginia, which had 74.6 points, beating out No. 2 Mississippi (72.33) and No. 3 Kentucky (68.99). In fact, outside of Delaware (which was No. 8) and Ohio (No. 13) but including Oklahoma (No. 9) and Missouri (No. 14), the top 15 looked like the Southeastern Conference of the future.

In order, they were (4-7) Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and (10-12) South Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

Then came North Carolina. Virginia was No. 20, FWIW.

The best and the fittest (or the bottom of this list, Nos. 51-47): Colorado, Utah, DC, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Florida checked in at No. 31.

Source: WalletHub

So how did we determine all of this? WalletHub aggregated data under three headings and – pardon – weighted that data: Obesity & Overweight (including adults, teens, children and projections); Health Consequences (cholesterol figures, diabetes cases, obesity-related cancer, hypertension, strokes, etc.); and Food & Fitness (adult eating habits, sugar drink consumption, school diet controls, access to healthy foods).

North Carolina ranked No. 16 for obesity prevalence and No. 21 for health consequences but only No. 18 for food & fitness. West Virginia was worst for the first two categories and Mississippi was for the third.

North Carolina didn’t show up on any lists of the five worst or five best when ranked by topics such as our rate of diabetes and high blood pressure, physical inactivity and other subcategories.

What is this costing us?

WalletHub cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggests 7 in 10 adults 20 and older are either overweight or obese. Children and adolescents have lower rates that have increased.

The Physical Activity Council reported that 72.2 million Americans ages 6 and older were completely inactive in 2021, which led to myriad health problems, including obesity.

WalletHub, being a financial site, of course, puts a cost to all of this. It suggests that obesity is costing the health care system about $173 billion per year. And that has caused the weight-loss and diet-control industry to expand to about a $72 billion industry.

Comforting thoughts

Which are the most comforting food by state? Read on. (WALLETHUB)

WalletHub also included a list of the most popular comfort foods by state. You absolutely cannot be surprised to learn that the pulled pork sandwich, which has about 532 calories, was preferred by North Carolinians.

You can compare that to hotel buffets in Nevada (1,000 calories) or apple deserts in New Hampshire (227) or lobster rolls in Maine (507) or hot browns in Kentucky (951).

Oddly, the top comfort food in West Virginia is the pepperoni roll (250 calories), and in Mississippi it’s mud pie (510). You can have the chowder in Massachusetts (201 calories) but avoid the shrimp and grits in South Carolina (716) or something called pasties in Michigan (768).

Source: WalletHub

The expert opinions

Brie Turner-McGrievy, University of South Carolina (WALLETHUB)

WalletHub always includes experts to answer questions related to an issue. This time the closest expert geographically to North Carolina is from South Carolina and ironically has the first name of “Brie.”

The question was concerning mistakes people make in trying to lose weight. Eating better and exercising more aren’t the only answers to that.

“We always tell participants in our research studies to set realistic goals,” Brie Turner-McGrievy, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina, told WalletHub. “If you plan to lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks, you are not going to meet that goal, and we do not want you then to feel defeated. Also, we love teaching our participants about the concept of Volumetrics. When you decrease your energy intake and up your exercise, people often battle feeling hungry.

David Julian McClements, UMass Amherst (WALLETHUB)

“So we encourage participants to fill up on satiating foods that are high in nutrient density but lower in calories. So, foods with high water content, like broth soups and salads, can make you feel fuller without overeating.”

David Julian McClements, a professor of food science at UMass Amherst, said the biggest problem is people who go “on a diet that they cannot sustain.

“The regime may be too strict, or the foods may be undesirable. Better to eat three good meals a day, cut out snacks between meals, do not drink sugary beverages, and exercise (even a walk per day).”