DMV Ranks 86th Out of 100 Fattest Cities
Americans are the fattest people in the world. More than 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, but a recent study by D.C.-based WalletHub, a personal finance website that ranks American states and cities on a variety of social and economic subjects, wasn’t all bad news for the DMV.
It should come as no surprise that Americans are overweight, considering the proliferation of fast-food establishments and increasingly cheaper grocery items that have negatively altered our diets. Those extra pounds have inflated the cost of obesity-related medical treatment to nearly $316 billion a year and annual productivity losses due to work absenteeism to more than $8.6 billion.
Fattest and fittest cities
In the study, WalletHub compared 17 key indicators of weight-related problems from share of physically inactive adults to projected obesity rates by 2030 to healthy-food access in100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas.
Jackson, Miss., was the fattest city followed by the Memphis metropolitan area; Little Rock-North Little Rock and Conway, Ark.; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; and Shrevport-Bossier City, La. The fittest cities included Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.; Portland-Vancouver, Ore., and Hillsboro, Wash.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. and Bloomington, Wis.; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.; and Colorado Springs, Colo.
Not surprisingly, the DMV with all of its organic grocery stores, farmers’ markets and gyms placed in the fittest 25 percent. The analysts at WalletHub ranked Washington-Arlington-Alexandria number 86 of the fattest cities with a total score of 57.66 out of 100.
The area ranked its best in “Healthy Environment,” which included active lifestyles, access to parks and recreational facilities and access to healthy foods – the percentage of residents who earn a low income and live more than 1 mile from a grocery store or supermarket, with a score of 92. It earned 84 points in “Weight-Related Health Problems,” which includes the share of physically inactive adults, the share of adults eating fewer than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day, share of adults with high cholesterol, share of diabetic adults, share of adults with high blood pressure, heart-disease rate and obesity-related death rate; and 65 in “Obesity and Overweight,” which measures the share of overweight and obese adults, teenagers and children in the area.
Better than neighboring areas
But, the DMV was better than its neighboring areas of Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md., which ranked 59th with a total score of 65.05, and Richmond, which finished 41st with a total score of 69.22.
Some good news for DMV residents is that less than a quarter are physically inactive, we have one of the lowest heart disease ranks in the nation and almost 98 percent of us have access to healthy foods. Particularly worrisome were the obesity rankings of the DMV, which has the seventh highest number of overweight teens. However, the study projected that by 2030, the DMV’s obesity rate will be 32.6 percent, the lowest of the areas ranked.
Choose healthier foods
“Although choosing less healthy options can at first seem easier and cheaper, there are some useful tips to encourage healthy and delicious eating without breaking the bank,” said Jennifer D. Roberts, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland. “For example, it is often much less expensive and healthier if eating out at restaurants is minimized. Planning and preparing tasty meals throughout the week can help avoid that quick last-minute trips through the drive-through.”
“When food shopping, it is important to busy plenty of fruits and vegetables in order to maintain a healthy diet,” Roberts added. “Buying in-season produce or at farmer’s markets can minimize costs. Another option is growing your own fruits and vegetables. Even if you have a small area to grow a garden or only a porch or deck, some vegetables, such as tomatoes can be grown in pots. It is amazing how many tomatoes can be harvested from one tomato plant that cost only a few dollars. When possible, busy in bulk. This can be particularly helpful when purchasing lean meats that go on sale. These food items can be kept frozen and will be ready and available when planning meals, Finally, try to never food shop when hungry and enlisting all members in the meal planning and preparing can make the process cost effective, healthy and fun.”
Simone French, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, agreed. She said it is best to eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and eggs, while avoiding processed foods “that have all kinds of things in them that you and your grandmother would never recognize as ‘food.’ Eat whole foods; eat and prepare food at home; keep quick simple meal ingredients on hand at home because home-prepared food allows you to know what is going into your meal and gives you the choices about what to include.”
“Try to always have the basic ingredients for 2-3 meals that you can prepare in 30 minutes or less time on hand at home,” French added. “If you have this as a default plan, you are more likely to make something quick and healthier instead of relying on carry out or less healthy meal choices.”
Maintain a healthy weight
The experts also had advice on getting to a healthy weight.
“There are many mistakes made at certain times when we are trying to achieve and maintain a healthy weight,” said the University of Maryland’s Roberts. “When thinking about our weight, we often first think about eating healthy and exercising. However, one very overlooked and important component to maintaining a healthy body weight is the amount and quality of sleep we receive. From years of research, there is mounting evidence showing a strong connection between inadequate sleep (less than 7-8 hours/night) and risk of weight gain and obesity. Another mistake often made maintaining a healthy weight is not exercising enough or overestimating how many calories are burned during physical activity. For example, the amount of calories burned running on a treadmill for 30 minutes can vary by hundreds of calories depending on the weight of the person.”
Other mistakes Roberts listed include overestimating weight-loss rate; always performing the same type of routine or physical activity; ignoring the importance of strength training; and having unrealistic expectations. “Healthy weight loss takes time and fluctuations in the scale should be expected. Therefore, it is important that we not solely focus on the scale number, but consider the other benefits of exercising, such as improved overall physical fitness and reduction in the risks of obesity-related health conditions. While physical activity is just one part of the equation to maintaining a healthy weight, it is essential to track the foods we eat, read food labels and choose healthy single-ingredient foods from the fruits and vegetables section and meat and seafood counters.”
Melinda Sothern, a professor in the School of Public Health at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, said to engage in outdoor physical activities, such as biking, walking or playing in the park, that don’t require the additional costs, such as internet gaming, movie tickets or shopping.
“This will not only improve overall cardiovascular and metabolic health, but ensure adequate vitamin D,” she said. “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk for obesity.”
Sothern said the biggest mistakes in trying to achieve and maintain a healthy weight include establishing unrealistic goals. “Set a goal to participate in an exercise routine once weekly for 10-20 minutes the first week, then gradually increase the minutes and days over a 3-month period.”
She also advised against comparing your weight loss results to others, increasing physical activity too rapidly and selecting activities that are too difficult, while not planning for social events and unexpected situations.
“When you attend family events, such as birthday parties, holidays, reunions, anniversaries, which revolve around unhealthy foots, it is important to plan ahead,” she said. “Bring your own tasty and healthy dishes such as raw veggies with low-fat yogurt dip, fresh fruit kabobs, frozen grapes, chicken breast skewers and beverages such as sparkling water mixed with fruit juice or iced herbal tea with berries. Serve just a tablespoon of each of the other foods so that you are able to enjoy the occasion.”
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.