Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 6.
The holidays are a time for weight gain.
It's unpleasant, but true. Among all the parties, egg nog and endless family dinners, most of are going to put on at least a few pounds over the next few weeks. Worse yet? Studies say that weight will usually never come off.
The good news is, we're all in outstanding company. Americans as a whole… well, we're a hefty bunch. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75% of Americans qualify as overweight or outright obese. There are a lot of contributing factors, from our poor diet and sleeping habits to increasingly sedentary work lives over the past several decades. (Or did none of us think that spending ten hours per day on Facebook would have consequences?)
This raises many questions, but one most importantly of all: We all may be fat, but who's the fattest? It is obviously a burning issue, and happily Wallethub has the answer. Read on to see which of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. could most stand to put down the ham this Christmas.
As the eighth fattest state in the Union, Alabama starts our list off strong.
The South factors heavily in the country's heaviest states, likely due to the regional diet. Southern cooking, along with barbecue and Tex/Mex, may be one of America's greatest contributions to the world culinary scene, but it is far from healthy.
Like Hawaii, most of us will never get to Alaska, and that's a shame. An enormous part of the country, and one totally alien to those of us from the mainland, this state is practically a country apart.
So perhaps its that much more impressive that the folks from the frozen north are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to weight gain. With nearly 60% of U.S. seafood coming from the state, though, it's almost a surprise that they're not svelter.
One thing that's surprising about the prevalence of southern states on the high end of this list is their traditional reputation for outdoor activity. Places such as Arizona, with its year-round good weather (at least, certainly better than that which New York enjoys in December), are famed for residents who spend 365 days biking and hiking.
It doesn't seem to translate to trimmer waistlines, however.
While it's true to say that few states are fatter than Arkansas, there's no room for the rest of us to gloat. In a country that pours money into weight loss programs, where the average man weighs 191 pounds, we are few of us particularly fit and trim.
California's reputation appears to be true: the people really are prettier there. Or at least, they're skinnier. The residents of the Golden State are some of the thinnest Americans around, with studies putting them an average five pounds lighter than the rest of us.
Of course, if everyone had the year-round bathing suit season of Southern California, we all might look a bit better ourselves.
Almost the winner, Colorado gives some truth to those rumors about the athletic southwestern lifestyle. With some of the best cities to live in the country, spectacular skiing and a food culture that's starting to take off, it's easy to see why people want to move to the state.
Somewhat harder is the question of just what they're doing to stay so healthy. Whatever it is, though, the rest of us should take notes because apparently it's working.
There are some things in life that make no sense. Whatever happened to D.B. Cooper? How is the Big Bang Theory such a phenomenal success? When will Netflix just remake Firefly already?
Add to that list the mystery of Connecticut residents losing more weight than the average Californian.
This is the state that perfected the art of being uptight, but somehow it has managed to drop more pounds than the beach bums out West. Go figure.
Delaware often gets forgotten in the jumble of larger and noisier states. It is the quiet, well-behaved middle child next to Florida's juvenile delinquent, a student who brings home steady B-plusses while her sister burns down the living room during a suburban Burning Man.
They don't tend to make much noise over in Delaware, and the same goes for their weight ranking: not the slimmest, but not the top ten fattest either.
It's even better than that, though. Washington has the second lowest rates of obesity in the nation, along with some of the lowest rates of weight-related health issues. It is a consistently impressive performance for this odd political creature stuck in between Virginia and Maryland.
Another state known for its long beaches and sunny weather, it's no surprise that Florida part of the lightest half of the nation. With a climate that encourages its residents to spend their time outside (except during the summer), and an absolutely terrifying selection of local fauna, Florida's population has every reason to be fit and trim.
What may come as a surprise, though, given Florida's reputation for bizarre behavior, is that the state has one of Wallethub's lowest ranks for "Unhealthy Habits and Consequences" as well, coming in at number 32.
In Pirates of the Caribbean, King George II is portrayed as a corpulent man who cannot hold a simple meeting unless his banquet table groans with food. Well, his namesake state hasn't done all that much better. Ranked 16, the state hasn't hit the top ten (and indeed outperformed Delaware up above), but paired with one of the highest obesity rates in the country, Georgia also isn't looking too good either.
Not the worst performance, but not the best.
Continuing our trend of svelte, sun-kissed lands, we usher Hawaii in at number 47, one of the five fittest states in the nation.
The residents of this state live on a chain of small islands in Pacific, a veritable Paradise of palm trees and sandy beaches. Anyone who can start his day with a swim on Waikiki Beach and then take a climb on the Haiku Stairs deserves the body he gets.
All that stuff I just said about people getting trim because people live in Hawaii? Completely forget about it, because here's Idaho: landlocked, potato farming, unlike Hawaii in every way Idaho... and it's number 42.
Poor Illinois... With its budget woes stretching on and on, this state just can't seem to get a lot of good news lately. We don't have any here for them either. Rank 23 isn't bad, it certainly isn't top ten, but it's not that great either.
Indiana will soon have its hands full searching for a new Governor, as current executive Mike Pence is headed for Washington, but its residents might want to pencil in some time with a personal trainer. This state is big and getting bigger.
Unfortunately, this isn't just about the state's overall weight ranking either. Indiana also struggles with high rates of obesity and one of the country's most significant diabetic populations. It's a health problem which will need addressing, and sooner rather than later.
Welcome to the Hawkeye State, home to five area codes, a flag modeled after that of France, a heck of a lot of geodes and the 22nd fattest population in the country.
It is, of course, that last that interests us today. Coming in just after Illinois, Iowa's performance is aggressively middle of the road. Unfortunately, in this particular campaign, that's not necessarily a good thing.
Kansas is the state which Illinois looks to when it wants to feel better about things. Springfield may have a financial fire on its hands, but Topeka moved in Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Thanks to heavy tax cuts the state is so short on funds that it is struggling even to keep the schools open.
In that context, placing 19th on this list is probably the least of this plains-state's woes. Although it does warrant some attention.
Not as much attention as Kentucky will get, though. Welcome to one of the top five fattest states in the nation.
There is no good news for the Bluegrass State when it comes to weight and health. One of the leading states for obesity, Kentucky also has some of the highest rates of diabetes and hypertension in America.
One of the downsides to having an extraordinary food culture is, often enough, the weight gain that comes with it. Louisiana is the second heaviest state in the nation... but it's also earned that distinction by creating one of America's most distinctive national dining scenes.
Creole cooking is one of the few parts of American food culture truly created here, and it is marvelous. Whether you're grabbing gumbo or a paczki, this is a place that has taken ownership of its global influences. Unfortunately, the results have shown up in local waistlines.
Dead center, Maine deserves some recognition for its place on this list: with 25 entries, this is just about as close to average as it could possibly get.
Of course, this northern state is anything but average. One of the least densely populated states in America, Maine is home to the endless tracks of dark forest that inspire authors like Stephen King and John Connolly. For nature lovers, this wild state is well worth visiting, and you don't even need to worry about putting on too many pounds.
Another aggressively average placement, Maryland's placement on this list belies some of its national statistics. With the highest median income in the nation (at $75,847) and the lowest poverty rate (9.7%), this state is a national leader in some major respects.
While weight isn't one of them, Maryland also doesn't disappoint with its standing right in the middle of the pack.
Along with the likes of Idaho, Hawaii and California one of the lightest states in the Union, Massachusetts is a beacon of good health (at least as far as waistlines are concerned).
The northeast corridor in general has produced some of America's leaders in weight loss. Perhaps the notoriously high-stress lifestyles of those in Boston and New York City have something to do with this, but either way whatever those in Massachusetts are doing, it works.
What Michigan is doing, on the other hand, clearly does not.
One of the heavier states in the nation, Michigan is among a Midwestern cluster of hefty states. Despite the wild Upper Peninsula, the state is among the heaviest-half of Americans.
Although the state is still concerned with its public health crisis in and around Flint, Michigan has a growing problem with weight issues as well.
Here are a few fun facts about Minnesota, home of the Twin Cities (America's very own version of Buda and Pest):
Madison is known as "the Lutefisk Capital of the United States."
The pacemaker was invented in a garage here by inventor Earl Bakken.
Thanks to the St. Lawrence Seaway, ships from the Atlantic Ocean can reach all the way to Duluth.
And this is one of the lighter, but not lightest, states in the nation.
We come, as we knew we must, to Number One: the fattest state in America.
Mississippi struggles with weight and all of the related public health consequences. A state which has the second highest rate of adult obesity, and the highest among teenagers and high school students, chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension have reached critical levels among residents. With health and social services facing massive cuts in order to finance statewide tax cuts, these are problems not likely to go away any time soon.
Relatively well placed on this list, at least by comparison, Missouri could nevertheless stand to lose a few pounds.
However it wouldn't do for the state to lose too much weight, because it has a very specific claim to fame: Missouri is the state that invented the ice cream cone. In 1904 Ernest Hamwi, a Syrian vendor, came to the World's Fair to sell a waffle pastry. With his place next to an ice cream vendor, Hamwi was perfectly positioned when his neighbor ran out of cups.
Springing into action, Hamwi rolled up his waffles into a cone... and a dessert legend was born.
With a few exceptions, the lightest states in the nation are clustered in the Northeast and the West.
Montana begins that far coast break. Next door to Idaho, Montana has millions of acres of wilderness and a population that seems to take advantage of it.
Middle of the country, middle of the road, Nebraska is one of the dead-center states on this list.
Part of what was once called "the Great American Desert," Nebraska has since shed that image in favor of rolling corn fields and college football. Happily it avoids adding a new reputation for weight gain, slipping under the radar on this survey.
A surprisingly light state, given the anything-goes reputation of Las Vegas, Nevada is in the top 40% of America.
Yet all things considered, this probably makes sense. As a destination, Sin City brings us in, packs us full of food, booze and card games and sends us all on our way. It seems like the locals show much better sense.
Along with Maine, the Granite State is an exception to New England's dominance on this list. Not heavy, but not light, New Hampshire is another placement solidly in the mid-20s.
And it's for the best that New Hampshire didn't gain more weight. No one wanted to see the Old Man with a double chin.
Here's something no one expected: New Jersey, yes that New Jersey, is one of the three lightest states in America.
It goes against every stereotype we have of the state, not to mention every image of its robust governor, which really means just one thing: we have all gotten this coastal state very wrong.
With Arizona, New Mexico holds down the hefty southwest element.
All things considered, folks out in Santa Fe should probably be grateful that they're not higher up on this list. Thanks to the region's signature Frito Pie, this is a state that by all rights could be considerably heavier.
New York has done well for itself on this list! Rated in the top ten lightest states, the Empire State has dropped the weight and kept it off.
There are plenty of benefits to this healthier lifestyle. With fewer health concerns and complications arising from the weight of its residents, New York doesn't just feel better: it gets to spend less on chronic problems as well.
In other words, dropping the weight has been good for the citizens and their bottom line as well.
It looks like plenty of folks from North Carolina have been enjoying the state's legendary shoreline, because they're a lighter bunch.
Certainly not the lightest in the country, but close to the middle of pack, the state with America's first miniature golf course has clearly retained its love of staying active.
Some states get known for inventing the lightbulb or starting America's oil business. Others, like North Dakota, become famous for criminalizing the act of serving beer with your pretzels (or pretzels with your beer).
While the beer and pretzel law may be apocryphal, clearly the state hasn't stinted on either... and closing in on the top ten fattest states, it might not be a bad idea for North Dakota to start.
Michigan and Ohio just can't seem to pull apart from each other. From starting a 19th Century war over Toledo to carrying the fight on today in sports rivalries, these two states seem constantly at odds.
The same seems to go when it comes to weight, with Ohio ranking lighter than Michigan by one measly point.
Well done, Buckeyes.
It's a tough competition, picking which state in the U.S. has the oddest shape, but the award probably has to go to Oklahoma: the only known political entity shaped like kitchenware.
Oklahoma could leave that cooking on the map a little more often. Coming in at number ten, Oklahoma holds down the top ten fattest states in America.
Happily, they can now expand that to bragging rights over personal weight loss. In the top ten lightest states, Oregon has apparently been on a diet while touring all those empty towns.
No Eastern states rival Pennsylvania for sheer amount of wilderness. The north-central section of the state, known as The Wilds, is a section of land that takes approximately eight hours to cross by car dotted only occasionally with small towns and highway stops.
It is gorgeous, however, and may help explain how the people of Pennsylvania stay so thin (leaning on the same rationale we have applied to states such as Idaho and Hawaii).
After all, going for a hike in the Poconos is a just plain good idea.
There are many interesting things to say about Rhode Island, but perhaps the best place to start is with the state's name. Officially called "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," they have the longest name of any state in America (somewhat ironically).
Perhaps they can use this to offset the state's weight, because it's one of the slimmer members of the Union. Bumped out of the top ten by Washington D.C. (which makes this a 51 point list), Rhode Island comes in strong with number 40.
If North Carolina holds down the middle of the pack, South Carolina has unfortunately let itself go. Among the ten fattest in the country, the Palmetto State could stand to lose some weight.
One of the least populated states in America, South Dakota manages what would be a solid B (if we were handing out letter grades). Already known as one of the best states for retirement, this is apparently also a solid choice for people looking to lose a little weight and seeking good examples.
With low costs of living, seemingly endless land and an up-and-coming city in Sioux Falls, it may be time to start paying more attention to this central state.
Many of America's fattest states seem to cluster around the Mississippi, and Tennessee is no exception. One of the heaviest states we have to offer, this state joins many of its neighbors such as Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi itself at the top of the list.
Some things are cliches for a reason, and in this case everything really is bigger in Texas.
Yes, it had to be said, and it's true. Number nine among the fattest states in America, Texas holds tight to its reputation.
Of course, as with Louisiana, it also has to be said: in the land that perfected barbecue, who wouldn't carry a few extra pounds?
Folks here are doing something profoundly right in and around Salt Lake City, because this is the single lightest state in the country.
The results show. Ranked sixth in total population health, Utah has low incidents of obesity, diabetes, drinking and smoking. It reaps both the humanitarian and budgetary rewards of this, as residents suffer from these issues less and spend less on health-related problems than most other states.
Maybe there's something to be said for the granola-munching hippies, since they seem to hold so many of the best places on this list.
Vermont may be well known for its tree hugging liberals, but with its place just shy of the ten trimmest states in America, perhaps they've got a few good ideas.
Virginia is solidly above average without being great. In the top 40% of lightest states, it also has chronic health problems, heart disease and obesity rates in line with national averages.
All things considered, it's a good place to be.
Washington state can be proud of two, among many, things: it is home to the world's largest building, and not home to America's largest people.
One of the trimmer parts in America, although solidly kept out of the top ten, this is among the western belt of lighter states.
As the modern coal industry suffers, due to a market flooded with cheap natural gas, West Virginia has become an increasingly difficult place to live. Already older than the national median age by more than four years, being one of the heaviest populations in America will only add to those challenges.
Perhaps we should be surprised that Wisconsin found its way so aggressively into the middle of the pack. A state dedicated to its cheeses and where locals indulge in plenty of beer love grilled sausages so much they hosts an annual brat fest... by all rights they should be substantially heavier than they are.