I want to start this post with an admission: I have never seen a cop eating a donut in my life. I've always considered the stereotype—kind of like calling cops "pigs"—a cultural relic that's last relevancy will die along with the boomer generation. I've never even taken cops to be a particularly tubby bunch.
But on that last account, I am woefully wrong, according to recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Using data from 2010, researchers looked at the average body mass index (BMI)—a height to weight ratio used as shorthand for measuring body size—for a range of occupations in the United States.
Overall, 27.7 percent of U.S. workers met the criterion for obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or above. For police officers, firefighters, and security guards, however, this jumps to 40.7 percent. Other highly obese occupations include social workers, clergy, and counselors (35.6 percent); home health aides and massage therapists (34.8 percent); architects and engineers (34.1 percent); and bus drivers, truckers, crane operators, and garbage collectors (32.8 percent).
Interestingly, America's fattest professions span the socioeconomic gamut—as do the least obese categories. Occupations with the least obese workers included janitors, maids, and landscapers (23.5 percent); cooks, bartenders, and food servers (23.1 percent); physicians, dentists, EMTs, and nurses (22 percent); artists, actors, athletes, and reporters (20.1 percent); and economists, scientists, and psychologists (14.2 percent).
One caveat, however: body mass index is never a perfect formula for ascertaining obesity, and it can be a particularly bad measure for people with a lot of muscle mass. I've known very fit, athletic men and women whose BMIs place them in the obese category. (For instance, a 6 foot man who weighed 221 pounds would be considered obese.) If we want to be charitable, or perhaps just realistic, there's a good chance that many of our "fat" firefighters and cops actually aren't.