Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States. There is unlimited access to unhealthy foods that cost less and are more convenient to obtain. That doesn’t mean though that convenience should ever override one’s health. One could arguably state that in the end, eating “cheap” fast food could cost even more in health care expenses down the line. According to the Journal of Health Economics, the estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illnesses are $190.2 billion or nearly 21 percent of annual medical spending in the United States. Mayor Mick Cornett helped the citizens of Oklahoma City make changes that would change their lives forever and recognized that obesity isn’t always a personal issue, but a cultural one. Let’s see how Oklahoma City went from being one of the most obese cities in the country, to one of the fittest!
Face the Truth
In an interview with Cornett, he explained how he checked his body mass index according to his height and weight on a government website, and it indicated he was obese. At first, he was in denial since he didn’t “feel” obese, then he was finally honest with himself and thought of a game plan. According to the Campaign to End Obesity, two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children struggle with being overweight and obese. Nothing will change if you’re not honest with yourself and don’t stop making excuses. What started the whole weight loss success of Oklahoma City was that Cornett recognized that there was a health issue in his city and something needed to be done about it.
Eat Less, Exercise More
Rule number one is to take a look at what your current diet is like and to assess what definitely needs to change. Cornett indicated that he was eating 3,000 calories a day and he cut it to 2,000 a day, which caused him to lose about one pound per week for 40 weeks. Now these results may certainly vary from person to person, but if you eat less and exercise more, you’re bound to shed some unwanted pounds. Making even small changes at first can very well lead to life-altering ones. Eating empty calories is a big culprit when it comes to weight gain. Empty calories—calories from solid fats and/or added sugars—are in many of the foods and beverages individuals consume each day and should be avoided at all costs! Combine eating unhealthy foods with an inactive lifestyle and you have a recipe for weight gain.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 80 percent of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities and more than 80 percent of adolescents do not engage in enough aerobic physical activity. Cornett stated that prior to the city’s success, there was “virtually no level of walkability.” According to Juststand.org, key fat burners are shut off once a person sits. Every two hours spent sitting reduces blood flow, raises blood sugar and drops good cholesterol by 20 percent. Cornett’s decision to encourage the community to be more active and increase the city’s level of walkability was a key driver to the city’s success. By adding a new park in the downtown area and investing in the river to accommodate for water sports, locals began to take advantage of the local government’s initiative to create more of a healthy lifestyle. Choosing to walk instead of drive or taking the stairs rather than the elevator—while they may seem like small steps—matter a lot when it comes to looking at the bigger picture and weight loss goals.
The Buddy System
Taking a look at the whole city’s culture, it went from a very sedentary lifestyle to a more active one with the city’s development changes. Organizations in the city started running support groups for those who were obese. In addition, medium-sized companies started to follow wellness programs that were typically only seen at larger companies that encouraged employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle with weight loss contests. Everyone loves a challenge right?! Many studies have shown that the buddy system works when it comes to losing weight. Having like-minded people by your side will only keep you focused on your weight loss goals and encourages a healthy lifestyle.