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Downsize this! Americans escalate their war on fat

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Bobo "Refrigerator" Simon says his days with a 48-inch waistline are numbered - whether he likes it or not.

"McDonald's cutting back its supersize menu is the last straw," says the appliance salesman, chomping into a carton of fries in the cold shadow of some Golden Arches here. "You know when the dieting craze hits one of America's biggest fast-food outlets, there's no place left for us fatties to hide."

That isn't literally true, of course, not in the land of the Big Gulp. But America has a fresh fixation on a problem that, apparently, has become extra, extra large. The nation's war on fat is escalating on several fronts, from exercise to fast-food-bashing to the carb-consciousness in which "Atkins" is in, starch is out.

On one level, it's all too familiar. The "battle of the bulge" has gone from dieting catchphrase to cliché and back to a piece of World War II history. But there's now an undercurrent of urgency that makes this time different.

Tuesday the government said smoking may soon be overtaken by poor diet and lack of exercise as the leading cause of preventable deaths.

"America is in the midst of a sea change in shifts of how we look at food and dieting," says Amy Lanou, nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington research group that emphasizes preventive approaches.

The comment echoes that of other health experts and culture watchers who say see McDonald's announcement last week that it will no longer offer the famous portion upgrade known as "supersize" - larger fries and drinks for pennies extra - as part of new consciousness in the US.

Recent studies indicate that one-third of Americans are overweight and one-fifth are obese.

The responses are becoming widespread:

• With obesity surging in children, school districts increasingly are saying no to sugary food and sodas.

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