Overweight Ohio

Some entity I’ve never heard of came out with their list of the fattest states in America.  Of course, I checked to see where Ohio ranked, and found that we’re at number 12 on the portly parade — not quite cracking the Top Ten of Tubbiness, but definitely up there farther than we want to be.

3672977397_af1d0d37ac_zAn outfit called WalletHub (has anybody heard of these guys?) supposedly looked at three factors — “obesity and overweight prevalence, health consequences and food and fitness” — to determine their rankings.  By their analysis, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Arkansas rank 1, 2, and 3 in overall corpulence, whereas Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii, respectively, are the top three at the slender end of the spectrum.  And notwithstanding all of the lobbying fat cats who prowl the halls of Congress, the District of Columbia is found to be one of the slimmest jurisdictions in the U.S.

I’m always skeptical of these kinds of rankings of states, but the news stories never get into the details of how they are developed that would allow proper analysis.  Precisely how was the “obesity and overweight prevalence” factor in this study determined?  Is there some kind of secret federal blubber database that was consulted?  And does food and fitness just look at the availability of food and workout facilities, or the kind of food that is consumed, or the use of restaurants and fitness outlets, or something else?  How in the world would you determine, for example, that Ohio is marginally fatter than That State Up North?

All that said, it’s clear that Ohio has work to do.  We don’t want to crack the Top Ten on the State Stoutness Scale and be known as Obese Ohio.  It’s time to put down those delectable Buckeye candies, push back from the kitchen table, hop on the elliptical or the bike, break out the weights, and start turning blubbery Buckeyes into buff Buckeyes.

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Running Through Airports 

Nothing makes you feel older, slower, and more horribly out of shape than having to sprint through an airport, past about 25 gates, to catch your connection just before the door closes.  But when you make it, winded and embarrassed, the endorphins kick in and you actually feel pretty good about yourself.

Treadmill Promises

You notice that the clothing is fitting a bit snugly.  The waistline has expanded beyond what you find acceptable, and your face has begun to take on a fleshy, jowly appearance.  Then one night, as you snack on chips and watch some late-night TV, you see a commercial for a treadmill, complete with happy, fit people wearing tight exercise clothing jogging, then laughing as they go on a date with an attractive person of the opposite sex.

You’ve tried to do exercise programs before, you recognize, but you think that perhaps things will be different if you actually buy a treadmill.   You reason that, if you actually pay money for an exercise device, you’ll be much more likely to follow through on your exercise promises because you won’t want to utterly waste your hard-earned money.  The treadmill, you conclude, could be the linchpin of a drive to create a new, fitter you.

So you brush the chip shards off your belly, call the number on the commercial, and place your order.  The treadmill comes, all sleek and shiny, and your resolution increases.  This will be the beginning!  You put it in your bedroom, read the instructions, and don the new exercise outfit you bought for the occasion.  It’s treadmill time!  You walk a few miles on that rubbery, rotating surface, feeling good about yourself, and then have a green salad for dinner.  Already, you feel lighter.  The next morning you feel sore, but it’s a good soreness.  You do the treadmill that day, and the next.

Maybe you eat some more salad.  The soreness increases.  Then you think that it’s kind of boring just walking on a treadmill, so you move a TV in front of the treadmill.  And then one day you miss a day, because you overslept or you were hung over from going out with your friends.  It just couldn’t be helped.  You promise to redouble your efforts, and for a while you’re back on track.  Then you miss another day, and another.

Weeks later, you realize that the treadmill is now being used exclusively as an adjunct clothes rack, and every time you see the damn thing you smell the reek of personal failure.  At first you think the guilt feelings might get you back to your brief fitness regimen, but after a while you’re sick of looking at the stupid treadmill, so you sell it in a garage sale or on eBay.  And then, months later, you see a new fat-burning device on TV, and you think that it might just be the key to a newer, better you.

I’m reminded of treadmill promises when I read about the President and Congress reaching agreement on another last-minute, short-term, stop-gap spending and debt limit bill and suggesting that things will be different when the next deadline nears.

On The River Walk

IMG_4118When you ask most people about San Antonio, they’ll probably mention the Alamo and the River Walk.  (The NBA fans among us would probably also mention the San Antonio Spurs, who fell just short this year in their bid for another NBA championship.)

I was one of those people who’d heard of the River Walk.  I figured it was something that was created in the ’60s or ’70s as one of those grand urban renewal projects, but the reality is much more interesting.  The River Walk in its modern form actually dates back to the 1930s, and as you walk along you will occasionally see signs about areas that were built by New Deal agencies like the Works Progress Administration.  There have been many other additions and modifications over the years.

IMG_4064The River Walk obviously has been a great positive for San Antonio from an economic standpoint.  It’s a tourist attraction and is one of the reasons why San Antonio draws lots of convention traffic.  Many restaurants, bars, and shops are found there.  A number of people are employed as tourist boat operators, or landscapers, or in other jobs related to the River Walk.  It’s home to a number of sidewalk vendors selling their wares.

There’s lots to like about the River Walk.  In many American cities, planners seemed oddly eager to close off access to the rivers or lakes that caused the city to be founded in the first place.  If residents wanted to take a stroll by the river, they had to try to cross multiple highways or the parking lots of sports stadiums, and if they got to the water they found desolate, underdeveloped areas.  San Antonio, in contrast, embraced its river.  The wise city fathers here understood that people like walking by water and hearing the quack of a duck.  Now other waterfront cities are scrambling to catch up and correct city design mistakes that should never have been made in the first place.

IMG_4133There are other nice aspects of the San Antonio River Walk, too.  It’s a place full of unique vistas.  Some areas are home to towering trees and welcome shade, others have a distinct Spanish feel.  There’s a lovely riverfront theater, with seats built into the hillside on one side of the river and the stage on the other.  The bridges spanning the river walk and the stairways leading up and down aren’t uniform, either, which adds to the charm.  And even on the hottest San Antonio summer day, it’s cooler down by the river.

During our visit here, we’ve walked on the River Walk every day, and it’s been crowded.  Richard says that San Antonio residents tend not to use it much because of the tourist crowds.  I can understand that, I suppose, but I applaud any urban plan that has “Walk” in it.  I have to believe that some people use the River Walk to get to work, and that the River Walk makes the downtown workers in San Antonio much more likely to walk somewhere for lunch than is the case in other cities.   In an era of too many red-faced, flabby Americans, any urban planning that also encourages walking and fitness is a good thing.IMG_4059