This column, which I have enjoyed writing twice a month since mid-January, is mostly an expression of my opinions about food, eating, and health issues.

By training I am a music teacher (which I love!). However, because I have fought a tendency to eat too much, exercise too little, and therefore weigh too much for most of my adult life, I have made an effort to learn as much as I can by reading books and articles on those subjects, by talking to many health professionals, and by watching educational and news programs concerning weight management. I have finally achieved my goal weight for the first time ever by, for the most part, cutting out all sweets and reducing portion sizes of everything else. Because many people who have known me when I was 50-plus pounds overweight ask about what I eat, I enjoy sharing what helped contribute to my success.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those folks - friends, family, and new acquaintances - who have affirmed what I write by calling, writing e-mails and snail mails, and speaking to me personally. They have greatly outnumbered the anonymous folks who post negative comments to the online Journal, of which there were quite a few after my last column. To the second group, I'd just like to say: if you don't like what I write about, don't read it. If you do choose to read it and want to comment, have the guts to sign your name so that we might have an adult discussion.

OK ... got that off my chest.

Last week there was an article in the Muscatine Journal that said that Iowa had kept the same place - 22nd - in the nation for adult obesity rates. Sounds sort of like good news, right? At least we didn't move up in the ranking. The bad news is that everyone's getting fatter: Last year Iowa achieved that ranking because 26.7 percent of adults were obese; this year it's 27.6 percent. According to the article, adult obesity rates increased in 28 states in the past year, and declined only in the District of Columbia. (Could that be a result of Michelle Obama's garden?) And a survey found that 84 percent of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight, but research shows that nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese.

What I see more of is big, fat bellies, on bodies of all ages. Years ago I saw Dr. Mehmet Oz, a New York cardiac surgeon, on "Oprah" (before he had his own show) and he was displaying something I had never heard of called the "omentum." It is the layer of fat in the front of the stomach that protects our internal organs. In a person of normal weight and size, it is thin and lacy-looking, but Dr. Oz also had one from an overweight person. It was thick and more solid looking. He explained that belly fat is by far the most dangerous fat we can have on our bodies, because that omentum, as it thickens, starts to impede the normal function of our organs, especially the heart. Dr. Oz contends that the great concern with a fatty omentum is that it starts inflammatory processes, which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries. Essentially the bigger the omentum, the more you are at risk for a variety of difficult illnesses.

Apparently, even though big bellies are unhealthy, they're becoming more accepted. Have you noticed how many people - especially young women - are wearing tight shirts made of thin material, no matter how big their stomachs are? Whatever happened to: "Does this make me look fat?"

Yes. It does.

Lori Carroll has been a music teacher for 30-plus years, and teaches at Louisa-Muscatine Schools. She may be contacted at lorising2me@yahoo.com.

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