Thursday, July 9, 2009

This is why we're fat

The Chubby South:

People from Mississippi are fat. With an adult obesity rate of 33%, Mississippi has gobbled its way to the "chubbiest state" crown for the fifth year in a row, according to a new joint report by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee aren't far behind, with obesity rates over 30%. In fact, eight of the 10 fattest states are in the South. The region famous for its biscuits, barbecue and pecan pies has been struggling with its weight for years — but then again, so has the rest of the country. Wisconsin loves cheese, New Yorkers scarf pizza, and New Englanders have been known to enjoy a crab cake or two. So why is the South so portly?

... Southerners have little access to healthy food and limited means with which to purchase it. It's hard for them to exercise outdoors, and even when they do have the opportunity, it's so hot, they don't want to.

I might add a few other reasons: the car-centered culture and the sprawl, which both make walkable communities virtually impossible in this part of the country. I don't think I need to explain why walking, regularly, to and from work and within your community, might be healthier than relying on a air-conditioned vehicle to get around.

Because of that, over the past year or so, I've grown disenchanted with the idea of settling and raising a family in the South. This is a relatively recent development. Maybe that's because I spend two hours a day commuting to and from work. Maybe I like the idea of being able to find something to eat after 9 p.m. besides Chili's. Or maybe I like the idea of being able to walk outside without breaking out into a full-bodied sweat.

Don't get me wrong: I love the South, I love living near the best beaches in the country, I love college football, I love shrimp and grits, and I've learned to live in an uneasy peace with people who take pride in brandishing the Confederate flag.

But I've seen the toll this has taken on my waistline. I'm only 31, and I can imagine that things aren't going to get easier my lifestyle doesn't change drastically. I don't want to have to buy bigger pants or start worrying about high-blood pressure or diabetes in my 30s.

I think I want to move. Really. I fell in love with the D.C. area recently. Philly has always had an appeal to me that I can't quite explain. I love Chicago but those winters seem too brutal. The Bay Area might be out of my price range. I've heard really good things about Seattle. And I've got this inexplicable fascination with Toronto though, once again, winter would be a problem.

Should I stay or should I go?


Anonymous said...

Jersey City and its environs would welcome you with open arms.

Esquire said...

Well, as a recent escapee from Seattle, I offer a loud, emphatic "HELL NO" to there.

I feel your pain though. But after being away from the south, I think you start to miss it. Its tough on the waistline, but as someone who has lived in a ton of places, every spot has its bad aspects.

maria said...

dc. but no guarantee on waistline control. can be just as bad...and you have more reason to look good wo/a shirt in, not so much.

blackink said...

@Anon: You know, if Cory Booker was willing to hire me on, I'd move to Newark. And depending on what Jers has for me, shoot, I'm open to almost anything.

@Esq: Man, you just disappointed the hell out of me. What's wrong with Seattle? I've heard nothing but good things since I was a tyke.

@Maria: Yeah. That much is true. But I'm not walking around with my shirt off anymore these days. I stopped that in my early 20s. Which means I could never make it on South Beach.

Esquire said...

Don't get me wrong, I still have friends out there and the summers are beautiful. But I wouldn't recommend a southern black person to head up there. It's just so different.

I lives out there for about 2 years, and then I understood the thought that too much of anything is bad. Growing up in the south, I always assumed that living in a more liberal place would be better. i honestly didn't think it was. Just going from one extreme to another without any balance.

As I'm sure you know, there isn't a large black population there. But, I assumed that they would be a lot more tightly knit than they were.

It can also be difficult to meet people and make friends. I made more friends in my first month or so here in DC than I did in the entire time I was up there. There's just not a lot to do and the young black professional scene was just not that great. This is what ultimately did in my wife, who is a social butterfly.

My Seattle friends get on me when I'm so harsh, but most of them haven't lived anywhere else. Coming from a Dallas, Houston, DC, Miami, etc and heading up there is just a completely different experience. There are so many things you don't even think about like barber shops, rib joints, happy hour spots, that you never really think you will miss but you do. Those things are available in some forms in Tacoma (and to a lesser sense, the Central District), but you're not going to want to drive from Seattle to Tacoma every time you want to experience black culture (at least I didn't). Even then, once you find stuff, its just not the same.

Also, don't let people fool you. Seattle is an extremely segregated city. I was stunned by that, but it is true. Rich people on the eastside and mercer island. Poor people in White Center, Federal Way, etc. black people in the Central District. Asian people in the Asian District. with me working downtown, we lived in a pretty much all white neighborhood. The people were friendly, but you definitely had folks peeking through curtains and stuff when we walked down the street.

People make a big deal about the rain, but its nothing coming from thunderstorm and hurricane country. What gets to you more is the lack of sun. Coming from the south where you get so much heat and sunlight to a place where you can go weeks without sunshine is tough and leads to a form of depression due from the lack of sun (I'm not kidding. i thought this was total bullshit, but damn near every southern transplant goes through it). Also, during the winter, the sun comes out at around 9 and sets at around 4, while its cloudy and rainy all day. Thus, its almost like it is dark all day long for weeks at a time.

Again, there are people who love it up there, but honestly most of those people that I know are either already from there or they are well off to rich so it really doesn't matter where they live. I just don't know many black people from other parts who moved there and liked it.

I do know some though and that could easily be you. But everyone told me all these great things about the place and i got there and didn't like it all. THEN everyone was like, oh yeah, this is wrong, that is wrong, etc.

Maybe my expectations were too high. I will still visit my friends up there, as the summers are wonderful (even though it only lasts like 3 or 4 weeks), but I wouldn't want to live there again.

blackink said...

Damn, fam. You know, I have this joke with The First Lady stemming from something a good friend's wife told him during an argument once. He was being overly practical or shooting down some idea of hers (I really don't remember), when she told him: "You're always killing my dreams."

So, Esq, you just killed my dream.

No, but really, you make some very interesting points. I haven't even been to Seattle but I've heard similar complaints from brown folks who happen to make their way up to that part of the country. I heard much the same thing about Portland.

Of course, everyone has different experiences. The First Lady and I are mostly homebodies, so the lack of social opportunities wouldn't kill us too much - though we really do miss our close friends in Shreveport.

But you're right: things like barber shops and bbq joints and churches and happy-hour spots do matter over time. Just the act of seeing a black professional, going about his/her business during the day really can make a difference. I can't explain it, thus I think it's hard for people who aren't black to understand that sometimes.

And best believe: I'm a tropical brotha. I love the sun. It's all I know, when you get down to it. And my feelings about this have only gotten stronger after living in ... The Sunshine State.

I dunno. I do want to take a trip out there someday, take a gander for myself.

But thanks for the 'ledge. You raised some interesting points.

Jack T. said...

There's no way to say this without coming off like a dorky fan/blog stalker but if you move to DC, holla at JT.

That said, I have a friend who went to school in Seattle. I'll have to ask him about what Esq is saying. I've also heard good things, but I wouldn't be surprised if Esq's experience was correct.

Chicago is a lot of fun. I hear you about the winters though. It's pretty bad up that way. Philly is also great, but DC has some of the same positives and more museums and such. Philly is better priced though.

blackink said...

Lol. Nah, fam ... best believe that I'll be reaching out if I ever make it out to D.C. That place has got a hold on me lately.

And, you know, if it wasn't for winters, Chicago would probably be a lot higher on a lot of people's lists. It's a beautiful, vibrant place. But that Hawk off the Lake will wear that ass out in the winter.

I haven't been to Philly in almost 20 years. From what I remember, I had a great time. (I still can't get over that Philly cheesesteak) And the feel of the city and its people really resonate with me. Even dating back to my college days, I always thought I'd be the sort of cat who would wind up in Philly.