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Does where you live influence your weight & fitness?



  • littlegreenparrot1littlegreenparrot1 Member Posts: 511 Member Member Posts: 511 Member
    I’m wondering if people’s neighborhoods can influence people’s weight, health and nutrition levels. I have no overweight friends. I rarely see anyone above the “normal” weight in charts when I’m out and about. Most people are definitely on the low end of normal. People here actually look like the people in movies and on TV (because they often ARE or want to be lol.) If other areas started removing junk food from supermarkets and stocking more healthy nutritious food, would that change the health of America? Is eating healthy or unhealthy just a habit that people get used to depending on where they live and what their circle of friends/family eat? I know there are many psychological reasons people either overeat or develop eating disorders, but is it possible than many overeat unhealthy food just because it’s “normal” where they live? Just curious...

    If I thought someone would pay me thousands for looking a certain way I would probably have paid more attention to it over the last 20 years.

    There are lots of other things that play into this. Food culture, transport structure - is it possible and safe to walk places? Habit, availability and cost of different types of food. Confidence, equipment, space and power required to cook.

    It's all very well that I know how to make a pan full of vegetable soup cheaply. I have access to the space, time, energy (both my own and power for the hob), equipment, and motivation to do it. Those things do not apply to everyone.

    I also have a car, access to lots of supermarkets, have money to spend on what I want, don't have to lug heavy bags up flights of stairs along with several small children...can pay for a gym membership and have the time and energy to use it. If I had worked a 12 hour warehouse shift that might not be the case.

    It can play a part but it is a simplification, money buys you choices that make these things a lot easier.
  • ritzvinritzvin Member, Premium Posts: 2,764 Member Member, Premium Posts: 2,764 Member
    Definitely the above.
    - Walking will be way more common in some places just to get around. (even if you have a car, if in a dense city, you won't have the option of waddling a mere 3 yards out the door and jumping in it, or from the parking lot sea in front of your destination).
    - different places will have a different 'standard' of what is considered normal. If you live somewhere where you are considered a twig (despite being overweight, but just no where near as much as pretty much everyone else), there will likely be much less drive to lose it. (and you might not even realize that you are overweight).
  • MikePfirrmanMikePfirrman Member Posts: 2,562 Member Member Posts: 2,562 Member
    Just weather alone makes a huge difference. I left Cincinnati, where in 3 of the last five years they've had over 60 inches of rain and likely less than 100 sunny days. Now, I'm Southern AZ with 9 or 10 months of great weather, not three like in Cincinnati.

    When it rains 26 of 30 days, you tend to eat a LOT more out of depression. Cincinnati is equal in wealth (or even wealthier) than Tucson overall, with the exception of a few affluent areas near the mountains and resorts. But I see 1/5th of the heavy people here in AZ than I did in Ohio.
    edited September 2020
  • PsychgrrlPsychgrrl Member Posts: 3,148 Member Member Posts: 3,148 Member
    freda78 wrote: »
    I have never eaten a McDonald's Big Mac in my life and instead went from large-ish to morbid obese slowly over a 15 year period by simply eating a bit more than I should. There is more to it of course, quite a bit more in fact, how come I did not care enough about myself to nip it in the bud but that is a story for another day.

    But now I am shifting it and am doing that by eating less than I need and not one morsel of my current diet is an organic superfood because I do not have more money than sense. I eat nice food I enjoy, always have, but now I am calorie counting.

    Just saying that a lot of stuff that gets trotted out when discussing obesity is a load of tosh and very little of it comes from actually talking to people who are or who have been obese to understanding how they got there.

    Would living in California, surrounded by skinny people and shops that sell organic bananas for 4 times the price of ordinary ones have stopped me from getting so fat? No, not unless all the other factors were removed also.

    As another Californian (SoCal), it’s not about the people around me—they do them, I do me—that inspires fitness. It’s the weather and the geography. Great temps year-round, everything from beaches to forests to desert to mountains (and 🍷 country!) within a couple hours. So many opportunities to be active! I go hiking a couple weekends a month.

    And my grocery bill has gone down from when I lived in the middle/south. Could be some of my fav foods are grown here 🥑 🍊 etc. and therefore they’re less expensive. I have my own olive tree! I also think it’s supply and demand. Places to go shopping galore! Very different than when you only have a few grocery stores in town.

    Never bought an organic banana. Don’t imagine I ever will. 😊

    I do think Socio-economic status, access to healthcare, and access to healthy food can impact obesity rates along with other co-morbidities. I lived in one of those states, saw it firsthand for over a decade. Educational level does make a difference in deciphering all the crazy advertising madness brands and charlatans throw at you. So does access to the internet. Another thing that can be lacking in areas with lower median incomes.
  • qhob_89qhob_89 Member Posts: 97 Member Member Posts: 97 Member
    I live in north Alabama. According to the above maps, we have high obesity and low median incomes. I think a few things play into the bigger sizes around here. Our food culture: we fry everything! Fried okra, squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomatoes, pumpkin, potatoes, skillet-fried corn -- I've eaten them all! Our religious culture: Pre-pandemic church socials involved a lot of potluck meals. And of course you had to try a little bit of Bro. Jim's squash casserole and Sister Jean's triple layer fudge cake. And I'm not even mentioning family reunions with enough food to feed generations!

    But then there's the low incomes. I grew up in a home where Daddy worked and Mom would babysit to bring in extra money. Food for us, a family of five, consisted mostly of pots of pinto beans with cornbread, spaghetti with a bit of hamburger in it, occasional meatloafs, frozen pot pies if they were on sale, and occasionally bbq chicken quarters to brighten a weekend. Lunches were canned soups or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Nothing marked "diet" or "organic".

    I think my problem with food came with making sure to "clean my plate" and bowing to pressure of seconds, which became too much of a habit. I also had to learn how to cook in a different way than my mom and relatives. Not that I won't eat my mom's fried okra when given the chance!

    Just my 2 cents worth in this conversation.

    I grew up in southern WV which is mostly lower income, and what you described in your post is pretty much the culture of my area up to the last decade or two.

    But from what I've observed and reflected upon looking back at my growing up years, it wasn't the type of food that was the problem - it was the amount. You can be healthy eating what I grew up with - beans and cornbread, cheap cuts of beef or pork, fried chicken, canned corn, peas, and green beans, mashed potatoes, spaghetti with hamburger, etc. What is the ongoing cause of obesity that I've seen in my own family, including myself, and in the community around me is that people are simply eating too much. It doesn't really matter whether they are eating fast food every day or eating fresh produce - I see person after person eating way more than their bodies need.

    In my own family and community, though, I see the reason for why people are eating too much to be cultural. I live in a rural area where most people in times past were farmers or miners meaning they had very labor intensive jobs, and the families at home were taking care of gardens and working hard to keep body and soul together. So while they ate heartily and had big meals, such as farmer's breakfasts with gravy and biscuits and sausage and eggs and pancakes - they were also working very hard and needed those calories to fuel their daily grind. This was my great-grandparents' generation and the way of life that my grandparents grew up on, and even my parents describe their childhoods in this manner.

    But then modern times finally penetrated the mountains and the local area slowly caught up with technology that made life easier during my own childhood. And many folks were giving up the farms and the mines were closing, so people were shifting to lifestyles that were much less physically demanding. But they were still eating the way grandma and grandpa did back in the day. The problem is, that people today are not nearly as physically active as grandma and grandpa were back in the day, so people today are eating 2 to 3 times as much food as they physically need.

    And it doesn't help that the local culture revolves around food and the encouragement to eat lots of it - such as the eat everything on your plate and getting seconds and thirds.

    I will piggyback off you and Wanda since there is some parallel. I grew up in rural, southern Illinois (around 17,000 people in a pretty large county). We ate cheap meat (80/20 ground beef was the big staple), pasta, canned veggies, bread, and most things were fried... we also had plenty of “junk foods” around. Baking was big throughout the generations (bonding, potlucks, bake sales, etc.) Most grocery/convenient stores in the small towns were smaller than a Hollywood boutique, which mostly meant shelf stable and non-“nutrient rich” options. You had to drive 20+ minutes to the 1 “big grocery store” in the county to even see produce other than your own garden. I can agree with the old-school farming lifestyle playing a roll as I feel we had plenty and overate often just due to trans-generational habits. I chalk part of that up to socioeconomic status as well- it’s a poor area where there is plenty of food insecurity, you ate what you had because you knew you were poor and weren’t going to pass it up while you had it. I had the “clear your plate” mentality pushed on me, pretty heavily engrained as I catch myself doing it to my own kids at times, even though it did create unhealthy habits into adulthood. (Actually why I recently started using a smaller plate!) There were plenty of outdoor activities- hunting, ATVs, farming/gardening, fishing, etc. (Nothing of great benefit to your fitness, More so survival) but nothing like recreational areas, walking trails, forest preserves. After joining the military I moved to Northern Illinois in the Chicago suburbs. Seeing a different way of life, eating new things, having many outdoor recreational areas (free at that) changed plenty. There’s still plenty of bad habits I had to deal with from my youth, and still do. But being in an area where you can get to 10+ grocery stores in 20 minutes opposed to 1, higher average socioeconomic status, and other opportunities certainly played a role in me realizing I wasn’t being healthy. Back home you “eat good,” work hard, food is at the center of a lot of gatherings, and fitness/well-being/health really are never talked about or prioritized. There are certainly far more people who are “heavy” there than where I currently live.

    All of that to say I think there’s largely a “cultural” and socioeconomic impact that leads to a “geographical” impact as these 2 tend to cluster hand in hand in geographical areas. (Also- previously shared maps were based on self reporting, so I question their true accuracy).

    Sorry that got so long winded! Lol
  • activeadrianaactiveadriana Member Posts: 65 Member Member Posts: 65 Member
    I think this is great insight! I think it has something to do with the area where you live, particularly if there are a lot of health conscious people there. If someone were to open a fast food restaurant there, it might tank because not many people would want to go there.

    I think giving people access to affordable healthier options in their neighbourhoods, as well as education and support on things like nutrition, health and exercise would help.
  • kshama2001kshama2001 Member Posts: 24,064 Member Member Posts: 24,064 Member
    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    I think where you live can play a roll...but I'd say it's not on a large geographical scale, but rather "bubbles" or "pockets".

    New Mexico has more than ample opportunities for outdoor recreation from hiking in the mountains to the numerous miles of multi use paths that traverse the city of Albuquerque and everything in between...never mind that we have roughly 360 days of sunshine a year and pretty incredible weather year around save for January. But that doesn't mean everyone takes advantage...many do, and I spend a lot of time on those multi use trails and trail riding in the mountains and hiking and if that were my only reference point I'd say that we're pretty healthy and fit up in here...but that's really not the case overall, and the bottom line is that a lot of people simply don't have the ease of access to things that I do...the opportunity is limited...or I should maybe say ease of opportunity is limited.

    I live in a "bubble"...I don't ever really think of myself on these lines, but statistically I'm in the top 5% of wage earners relative to cost of living in the nation and I live in a fairly affluent area of the metro and I'm about 3.5 miles from access to the largest multi use trail head in the state and a quick car drive to the foothills for some of the best trail riding and mountain biking in the "privilege" gives me much easier access to many recreational opportunities that keep me active, not to mention it's not really a big deal for me to get in the car and drive 1.5 hours to some great hiking in the Jemez Mts or skiing in the winter. Never mind that I don't have to work multiple jobs to make ends meat or have to decide if I'm going to pay my bills and eat Ramen or not meet my bills and feed my family better...these aren't choices I have to make. I think there's a huge socioeconomic component to all of this. Money gives you time and gives you access...or more time and easier access. I really have zero excuse for not getting out and being active...I'm very privileged to be able to do so and do so quite easily.

    You also have to figure in your social circle. Most of me and my wife's social circle are active people...we all like to get outside and ride or mountain bike or hike or ski or whatever...not so much gym rat types, just active people. Getting together for...say, breakfast on a weekend is usually a ride to Bike In Coffee which has excellent food and subpar coffee (they should call it "Bike In Food") and ends up in a roughly 20 mile round trip bike ride when all is said and done...we like it because we get to ride and you can't get to the shop by car, and it's just a beautiful thing to do on a Saturday morning. Or we might get the families together for a hike or a ski trip in winter, etc. It doesn't really have anything to do with "weight" or "weight loss" or even fitness, those things almost never come up...we just enjoy these things and enjoy doing them together and getting our families together. This is obviously not everyone's cup of tea...

    There is also a huge food culture component here which, as a gringo I'm not really a part of...don't get me wrong, I love some NM food...but it's a huge food culture thing here with long standing Hispanic communities and natives. Everything is a celebration, and every celebration comes with food...lots of food...lots and lots of food.

    TLDR: So yeah...I think where you live can play a roll...but it's probably pretty minor in the bigger picture geographically and likely has more to do with "bubbles" and "pockets" of prosperity than anything else. Have or have not...the middle has been're either pinched down or up...

    This makes me think if the two years I was stationed in Okinawa. As far as my circle was concerned, there were tons of indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, and we took advantage of them, all the time.

    Others moped around the dorm, complaining about nothing to do, or spent their time drinking.

    Since we were all close in age and income level, it wasn't *current* socioeconomic status. I wonder how much was related to family-of-origin and how much was personality/sense of adventure.

    I grew up middle class with a mother who valued outdoor activity. (She's 83 and still does, lol.)
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