Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Mar 29, 2022

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Use our Body Mass Index calculator to calculate your health, check out our rankings table for all states, and see our obesity interactive graphics to find out where your state stands.

The Lowdown

  • West Virginia is the fattest state with a 37.7 obesity prevalence percentage
  • The eight worst states in America for obesity are in the South
  • 80 percent of Americans don’t get enough exercise according to the CDC
  • The average American eats 57 more pounds of meat than in the 1950s

“You are what you eat.” . . . So, what are you?

Americans are notorious for their fast-food consumption ― studies show on average, such food makes up over 11 percent of the American diet. This article is about a ranking of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates.

Today, the average American eats a shocking 195 pounds of meat each year. That’s 57 more pounds of meat than what Americans ate annually back in the 1950s.

Just one food group isn’t to blame. The consumption of added fats in our country has increased by over 60 percent since the 1950s, and grain consumption has increased by 45 percent since the 1970s.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans ate about 20 percent more calories in 2000 than they did in 1983. This raise in calories can influence insurance rates, especially rates for health insurance.

Fortunately, we can find you the best health insurance rates for you and your situation, even if you live in one of the states with the highest obesity rates. Just plug your ZIP code into our FREE quote comparison tool at the top of the page to start searching for the best rates, for multiple kinds of insurance.

You can also check out our health insurance page for all the latest information about health insurance and how your weight can affect your monthly insurance rates. In this article, we’ll cover specific topics along with more general issues that affect all states when it comes to obesity. They include:

  • Obesity by state
  • An obesity definition
  • The most obese countries
  • Obesity in America statistics
  • The fattest states in America

Ultimately, all those extra calories and unhealthy eating habits equated to one horribly embarrassing fact — America is one of the fattest nations in the world.

10 States with the Highest Obesity Rates

Prevalence Scores

When you look at the above U.S. obesity rate graphic, you can see that when it comes to the obesity rate by state, some parts of the U.S. are in worse shape than others. There are many places where good eating habits and exercise are a thing of the past, and people are only surrounded by unhealthy temptations and lifestyle choices.

#10 – Indiana

Obesity Prevalence: 32.5 percent
Favorite Beer: 18th Street’s Jade Pale Ale
Most-Searched Food: Noodle Casserole

Indiana’s obesity has increased by 1.2 percent since 2015 and by 14.2 percent since our study began in 1995.

Indiana residents’ favorites seem to be a significant factor in their obesity problem with a high calorie, high carb favorite beer and dish. Both Jade Pale Ale and noodle casserole are loaded with hard-to-burn calories that don’t offer much nutrition.

Plus a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study in 2015 found that only 70.6 percent of people in Indiana participated in any sort of physical activity in the previous month.

#9 – Oklahoma

Obesity Prevalence: 32.8 percent
Favorite Beer: American Solera’s Foeder Cerise
Most-Searched Food: Taco Soup

Despite being on the Top 10 Most Obese list, Oklahoma is headed in the right direction with a decrease in residents with obesity since 2015, when it was nearly 34 percent. 66.8 percent of Oklahomans reported they participated in physical activity.

The favorites for this state aren’t horrible, with a taco soup at only about 260 calories, and the favorite beer, Foeder Cerise Wild Ale that competes with the soup at 165 calories.

#8 – Texas

Obesity Prevalence: 33.7 percent
Favorite Beer: Live Oak’s Hefe Weizen
Most-Searched Food: Stuffed Avocados

With a 1.3 percent increase in obesity among its residents since 2015 and a 17.7 percent increase since 1995, Texas has been on a bad trend for a long time now.

But fortunately, 70.5 percent of Texans reported that they participate in physical activity, and their favorite beer, Hefe Weizen, isn’t the worst on the list with 156 calories.

And even though a medium-sized avocado has about 250 calories, it is considered one of the most nutrient-dense “superfoods.” Hopefully, Texans are careful about what they use to stuff it!

#7 – Kentucky

Obesity Prevalence: 34.2 percent
Favorite Beer: Against the Grain’s Citra Ass Down!
Most-Searched Food: Fudge

Kentucky has somehow slightly improved on their percentage of those with obesity (by 0.4 percent) since 2015. It’s a wonder they pulled it off with only 67.5 percent of residents reporting physical activity.

Plus, the state’s favorite beer not only has a clever name, but it’s packed with just about as many calories as a Snickers bar! And everyone knows fudge (an American favorite guilty pleasure) is full of saturated fat and calories, with as much as 130 calories per bite!

It’s great Kentucky didn’t have an increase in obesity since 2015, but it seems they aren’t making the battle any easier for themselves.

#6 – Tennessee

Obesity Prevalence: 34.8 percent
Favorite Beer: Blackberry Farm’s Classic Saison
Most-Searched Food: Cornbread

When you combine two food items (corn + bread) that are in the top 10 for foods high in starch and carbs you have a buttery, delicious and unhealthy food favorite. Before adding butter, cornbread is a heavy snack or side at about 180 calories per small serving.

Sipping on Tennessee’s favorite beer, Classic Saison brewed by Blackberry Farm will give you a few more calories to burn off than the cornbread – 189.

Only 69.6 percent of Tennessee residents said they participated in physical activity. Hopefully, that will change with obesity on the rise in this state.

#5 – Louisiana

Obesity Prevalence: 35.5 percent
Favorite Beer: Parish Brewing’s Ghost in the Machine
Most-Searched Food: Shrimp Pasta

It’s no surprise that shrimp pasta is the most searched food because seafood is a way of life in the Pelican State. The problem is when you add shrimp (one = seven calories) to pasta (one cup = 213 calories)…you’re on your way to a mighty tasty, mighty caloric meal.

Drinking Louisiana’s favorite beer is just about as bad (calorie-wise) as sipping on a Wendy’s Frosty with dinner. The Ghost in the Machine by Parish Brewing provides 255 hoppy calories that in order to burn off, would require over an hour of walking.

Granted, Louisiana is doing slightly better since 2015 with a 0.7 percent decrease in obesity, but considering only 68.1 percent of residents are physically active and knowing the food and drink favorites, it’s likely you’ll see Louisiana on this dire Top 10 list for the third year in a row.

#3 – Alabama (Tie)

Obesity Prevalence: 35.7 percent
Favorite Beer: Good People’s Coffee Oatmeal Stout
Most-Searched Food: Pound Cake

Thankfully only slightly, but Alabama has still headed in the wrong direction with a 0.1 percent increase in obesity since 2015.

It’s nearly impossible to see weight loss improvements without exercise, and only 68.1 percent of Alabama’s population claimed to participate in any physical activity.

Alabama’s most-searched-for food, pound cake, is far from nutritious. Just one slice of this southern favorite will pound you with 350 unforgiving calories!

Fortunately, Alabama’s favorite beer by Good People isn’t off the charts at about 180 calories.

#3 – Arkansas (Tie)

Obesity Prevalence: 35.7 percent
Favorite Beer: Ozark Beer Company’s American Pale Ale
Most-Searched Food: Coca-Cola

Arkansas and Alabama tied for 3rd with the same obesity prevalence percentage, but we ranked Arkansas higher because of two factors:

  • Obesity Trend – Arkansas had a 1.2 percent increase from 2015 while Alabama had a decrease
  • Physical Activity Participation – Arkansas’ was 2.3 percent lower at 65.8 percent

On the upside, Arkansas’ favorite beer calorie count is less than most at only 120 calories.

Interestingly enough, their most searched for food isn’t a food on its own, but coca-cola is a key ingredient in many comfort food recipes . . . a top one being Coca-Cola cake.

Just one small serving (without the ice cream!) of Cracker Barrel’s Coca-Cola Cake awards eaters a shocking 783 calories – nearly half of an entire day’s worth of calories!

#2 – Mississippi

Obesity Prevalence: 37.3 percent
Favorite Beer: Southern Prohibition’s Crowd Control
Most-Searched Food: Chicken Spaghetti

Mississippi might have only ranked second for Most Obese State (two years in a row), but it was the hands-down 1st place winner of the perilous award from the Kaiser Family Foundation: Most Inactive State.

Mississippians’ favorite brew by Southern Prohibition packs about as many calories as a Klondike bar, a whopping 240. And chicken spaghetti is no light fare at 329 calories per cup—especially since most people consider a serving to be three and a half times that amount!

Mississippi had a 1.7 percent increase in obesity among its residents in only one year. Their food and drink choices just might be contributing to this deadly trend.

#1 – West Virginia

Obesity Prevalence: 37.7 percent
Favorite Beer: Big Timber Brewing’s Big Timber Porter
Most-Searched Food: Pumpkin Desserts

Last but certainly not the least of our worries, we arrive at West Virginia — the Most Obese State in America.

West Virginia might actually be onto something though with their dessert search. Pumpkins are natural appetite suppressants and fat-burners providing both fiber and protein. This probably isn’t what the West Virginians were searching for, but check out these 20 Pumpkin Dessert Recipes for Weight Loss.

Plus, we have seen much worse than West Virginians’ favorite beer, which is just shy of 200 calories. It seems clear that the problem lies in the lack of movement.

Since 2015, West Virginia’s obesity epidemic has increased by 2.1 percent, and that’s sadly only going to continue to climb if the sedentary way of life continues. Only 69.2 percent of people in West Virginia said they participated in any sort of physical activity.

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Obesity in America: Beyond Diet Problems

Obesity can have many causes:

  • Lack of Exercise
  • In Utero Effects of Smoking
  • Weight Gain during Pregnancy
  • Lower Rates of Breastfeeding
  • Heredity and Hormones
  • Poor Sleep Habits
  • Physical and Emotional Stress
  • Medication Side Effects
  • Psychological Factors
  • Various Diseases

What is the #1 cause of obesity? Researchers at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 80 percent of Americans don’t get nearly enough physical activity each week.

“Staring at the computer for hours rather than hoeing the fields means Americans are burning 120 to 140 fewer calories a day than they did 50 years ago.” – U.S. News and World Report

In a day with Amazon Prime and Uber Eats, Americans don’t have to move far to accomplish anything.

The Obesity Crisis Spotlight

Prevalence by Regions - Map

Our findings clearly illustrate that the central-southern area of the U.S. has the highest rate of obesity. As you can see, the Top 10 Most Obese States have many shared state lines and are all centrally located.

Southern Struggles: Poverty and Culture

The southern portion of our nation has the cards stacked against them in this battle against obesity.

“With a poverty rate of 14 percent, the South is easily the most impoverished region in the country.” – Time Magazine

“When you’re poor, you tend to eat more calorie-dense foods because they’re cheaper than fruits and vegetables.” – Jeff Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America’s Health

Not only are unhealthy foods cheaper, they are sometimes all people can get considering many poorer neighborhoods don’t even have grocery stores.

The Southern culture doesn’t help either. With a diet rich in fried foods and staples consisting of biscuits and gravy and barbecue, it’s nearly impossible to not get overweight! Plus, cooking food together and celebrating with a feast are at the core of life in the South.

Southern Struggles: Exercise and Heat

A primary cause for obesity is a lack of exercise, and the South has the lowest rates of physical activity in our entire country.

Walking provides easy, free exercise, but many Southern states don’t have safe sidewalks.

Louisiana (5th Most Obese State) has some of the most dangerous sidewalks in the U.S. with 14 percent of those killed in traffic accidents being pedestrians, according to the NHTSA.

If it risks your life, it isn’t really free, is it?

With scorching temperatures and suffocating humidity, free outdoor fitness becomes nearly impossible especially for someone who is overweight.

Comprehending the Obesity Crisis

Obesity is the term for any amount of body fat above what is considered medically healthy. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a helpful tool in determining body fat. A person’s weight, height, and age are used to calculate their BMI.

  • Less than 18.5 = Underweight
  • 18.5 to 24.9 = Healthy
  • 25 to 29.9 = Overweight
  • 30 + = Obese

When it comes to being overweight or obese, these conditions can affect your health insurance rates. Find out more about how being overweight can influence your health insurance rate so you can find the best healthcare for overweight applicants. This can have a major impact, as over one-third of the U.S. adult population and about 12.5 million children and adolescents are obese and destined for countless, lifelong health problems.

To see where you fall:


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10 Tips to Combat the Obesity Crisis

Despite where you live, maintaining your health must be a top priority. Follow these 10 tips to become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself:

  1. Eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  2. Choose whole-grain foods – brown rice and whole wheat bread
  3. Avoid highly processed foods with sugar, flour, and saturated fat
  4. Weigh and measure your food to learn better portion sizes
  5. Aim to not eat more calories than you are burning for energy
  6. Avoid calorie-dense, low nutrition foods
  7. Weigh yourself to make sure you are staying on track
  8. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  9. Try to take breaks during the day to get moving
  10. Use vegetable-based oils rather than animal-based fats

We have to make an effort like our lives depend on it . . .
. . . Because our lives actually do depend on it.

Frequently Asked Questions: Obesity Causes and Consequences

Now that we’ve covered the 10 most obese states in the country, let’s get to your frequently asked questions about obesity in the United States, including how experts propose beating it and reducing many of the illnesses and conditions associated with obesity.

#1 – What is the obesity rate in America?

The obesity rate in America at the time of this study was a little over 40 percent, with four out of 10 U.S. adults considered obese. As such, the obesity rate for adults in America has increased by 26 percent nationwide, with the number of obese children and adolescents growing as well.

#2 – Is obesity rising in the US?

Yes, obesity rates are rising in the United States, in spite of the fact that nutrition and losing weight are large industries and the problems associated with obesity are more known. In addition, obesity rates are rising throughout the world as economies are shifting to more office jobs with decreased physical activity compared to tougher, more physical jobs and jobs in the agriculture industry.

#3 – What is the most obese country in the world?

What country has the highest obesity rate? Nauru, a small island in the South Pacific, earned the dubious award of the most obese country according to the World Health Organization. The reasons for this are widespread but include the importation of Western food and crops along with a relatively sedentary lifestyle.

#4 – How can I lower my BMI fast?

One idea behind weight loss is to simply reduce the number of calories you are consuming, which would affect your net calories for the day, leading to a drop in your weight. The ways of doing this include various diets like the Mediterranean diet, the Zone diet, Weight Watchers, intermittent fasting, and the ketogenic diet. It is also possible to affect your net calories per day by exercising more, which would burn off more calories, having a similar effect as cutting back on eating.

#5 – Why am I getting fat when I don’t eat much?

One of the factors you may not consider when trying to lose weight or just not gain any calories involves the opposite approach most people take: You’re not getting enough calories, so your body is turning attention to other areas to get the calories necessary for day-to-day activities.

Starving yourself, for instance, can result in a decreased metabolism as your body moves to combat the drop in calories needed to do daily tasks, which can lead to more weight gain or reduce the amount of muscle on your body.

#6 – How can we solve obesity in America?

There are a few areas experts discuss when proposing ideas to solve obesity in America: increasing the amount of physical activity in the daily lives of Americans, promoting healthy foods and having them readily available throughout the country, and changing the culture surrounding food in America by transforming marketing and messages surrounding physical activity and nutrition.

#7 – What can obesity lead to?

Obesity leads to a rise in all kinds of mortalities including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unbalanced triglycerides, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and gallbladder disease, among many other kinds. This can lead to an economic toll as well, with the health system repeatedly called on to combat obesity-related illnesses, even within children.

Methodology: Determining the States with the Highest Obesity Rates

Using the reports provided by the State of Obesity, we were able to rank all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) according to the percentage of the population who are obese.

In order to see where the problem began, we created graphics with each state’s trends of obesity back to 1995. Our ranking is extensive and based on a 22-year period of time.

It’s been proven that beer and certain foods can actually increase your appetite and help contribute to obesity, so we’ve included the favorite beer and most searched for food item for each of the 10 states in our countdown.

Of course, being overweight can affect your health insurance rates. But it also affects your life insurance monthly rate. If you’re looking for more information about life insurance, visit our Buyer’s Guide for Whole Life Insurance. Now, let’s get to the ranking.

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Complete Rankings: Obesity Prevalence

– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.

– For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes

Previous Rankings: Obesity In America

Take a look at our previous studies to see obesity rates in America by year.

  • The 2016 Obesity Rate Study

Ready to compare insurance rates for you and your area? Whether you live in one of the states with the highest obesity rates or one of the states with the healthiest people, use our online quote generator to compare rates for different companies and different insurances, depending on what you need.