Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

Mississippi is home to the most obese people in the world. That's right. The fattest people in the world, on average, reside within the state lines of this small (3 million people) southern state.

I'm not bringing up the point to slam Mississippi. I was born in Mississippi. I grew up in Mississippi. Although I've lived other places, I'm here now and have spent the majority of my life living in Mississippi. So it's like family; I can talk about the "unmentionables."

Why is Mississippi so fat?

Sure there's the fried food, the fast food, and the proliferation of packaged foods available in the Wal-Marts dotting every little small town in the state. There's also the low level of education - Mississippi perennially grades lowest in the nation on any number of education statistics - which comes into play as the general population is less likely to have the honed critical thinking skills necessary for making the connection between diet and exercise and good physical health.

But there's another issue, seldom discussed when it comes to obesity, that contributes to obesity: the lack of walkable communities. When I moved back to Mississippi from Washington, DC, a very walkable city, I instantly gained 20 pounds. In Mississippi, as in most of America, the older walkable neighborhoods have been replaced by sprawling suburbs with no sidewalks and nowhere to walk to.

I believe our national obesity problem can, in part, be traced to the way we've designed automobile-only neighborhoods that are hostile to walking and bicycling.

This week, Mississippi Public Radio is featuring a series called "Battle of the Bulge" with helpful information about staying healthy, fit, and thinner. Check it out.

And here's a link to "Fat People Dont' Walk - a recent article I wrote on the relationship between obesity and non-walkable neighborhoods.


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