America’s Fattest Cities Are All in One Part of the Country

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Besides Oklahoma City weighing in at No. 18, all 20 of the “Fattest Cities in America” are in the South.

Credit: Joel Gillman/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

That’s per a new study by the personal finance website WalletHub. “Americans are the fattest people in the world,” WalletHub reports. “By one measure, more than 70 percent of the U.S. population aged 15 and older is overweight or obese.”

What’s more, the nation spends about $316 billion per year on obesity-related medical treatments.

The top 20 Fattest Cities, in order, are:

  1. Jackson, Miss.
  2. Memphis, Tenn.
  3. Little Rock, Ark.
  4. McAllen, Texas
  5. Shreveport, La.
  6. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  7. Mobile, Ala.
  8. Lafayette, La.
  9. Winston, N.C.
  10. Knoxville, Tenn.
  11. Columbia, S.C.
  12. Greenville, S.C.
  13. Birmingham, Ala.
  14. San Antonio
  15. Louisville, Ky.
  16. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  17. Houston
  18. Oklahoma City
  19. Augusta, Ga.
  20. Baton Rouge, La.

WalletHub ranked 100 cities across 17 metrics that measure weight-related problems. Other findings include:

Highest number of obese adults: McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Memphis, Tenn.; Shreveport-Bossier City, La.; Wichita, Kan.; San Antonio.

Lowest number of obese adults: Reno, Nev., Denver, San Jose, Calif., Asheville, N.C., and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward.

Highest percentage of physically inactive adults: McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Jackson, Miss.; El Paso, Texas; Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.; Tulsa, Okla.

Lowest number of physically inactive adults: San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward; San Diego-Carlsbad; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood; Portland-Vancouver, Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

Highest number of adults with high blood pressure: Mobile, Ala.; Shreveport-Bossier City, La.; Memphis, Tenn.-Miss-Ark.; Jackson, Miss.; Chattanooga, Tenn.

Lowest number of adults with high blood pressure: Salt Lake City; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.; Tucson, Ariz.; Provo-Orem, Utah; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

Fattest Cities in America. Source: WalletHub

So, what is America doing wrong when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight? Obviously, we need to eat better (fruits and vegetables) and exercise regularly. But we also need to get enough sleep, and we aren’t.

“When thinking about our weight, we often first think about eating healthy and exercising,” said Jennifer D. Roberts, assistant professor of Kinesiology, faculty associate in the Maryland Population Health Research Center, and director of the public health outcomes and effects of the Built Environment Laboratory at University of Maryland. “However, one very overlooked and important component to maintaining a healthy body weight is the mounting evidence showing a strong connection between inadequate sleep (less than 7-8 hours/night) and risk of weight gain and obesity.”

Related: As Americans Become More Obese, Fewer Are Trying to Lose Weight

Roberts said people sometimes overestimate how many calories they have burned during exercise, which can “lead individuals to overeat or give ourselves license to binge.”

Credit: Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Also, eating healthy can be expensive, said Mo Siahpush, Associate Dean for Research and professor of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health at University of Nebraska Medical Center. So, you must look for bargains on fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables.

“It is generally more expensive to eat healthy, but often there are healthy items on sale that are much cheaper than unhealthy foods. Our local grocery store, for example, which doesn’t cater to wealthy people, often has three apples or three oranges for a dollar…Fruits are excellent snacks, and can satisfy a person’s craving for sweets.”

Related: New Study Busts the Myth That Healthy Foods Cost More

You may be wondering: Which cities are the least fat? The top 10, in descending order, are: Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.; Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro Ore.-Wash.; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood; Colorado Springs; Boston-Cambridge-Newton Mass.-N.H.; Honolulu; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara; and Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif.

Per Elissa Epel, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, you can lose weight by reserving restaurants only for special occasions. “In most cases, this means you’ve spent more money, and ingested more sugar, salt, fat, and carb calories than you would have if you bought fresh foods.”

She also says a healthy corporate culture can help their employees lose weight. “The default culture, which little effort into shaping it, is to have a stress laden social culture. That means with time scarcity, more competition than collaboration and teamwork, and a propagation of valuing overworking, under sleeping and for many, sitting in front of the screen for long hours. Is that really moral high ground? This is the trajectory for work inefficiency, poor health, low morale, and the dreaded likelihood of burnout.”

A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.” 
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