Philadelphia sheds some weight

By Staff Writer
May 2, 2002

Obesity has become a weighty issue in the life of many Americans. In 1999, an estimated 61 percent of U.S. adults were overweight, as were 13 percent of children and adolescents. Despite the millions being spent on obesity research and billions on quick weight loss products, Americans are heavier than ever.

Obesity is a chronic, metabolic disease that is caused by excessive calorie and food intake, decreased physical activity and genetic influence. Body Mass Index (BMI) is an accepted indicator of obesity, which takes into account body height and weight. Although this is a valid indicator, being evaluated by a medical professional can assess a person’s body type more specifically and explain methods of treatment.

There are many health risks involved with being obese. “As obesity rates continue to grow at epidemic proportions in this country, the net effect will be dramatic increases in related chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Jeffrey Koplan, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes is the most closely linked with being overweight and has become a national concern. Since 1990, type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed in an increasing number of adolescents, a disease, which has formerly been found in mostly overweight adults. Other diseases associated with too much weight include high blood pressure, various heart diseases, stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

In January 2000, Philadelphia made headlines when Men’s Fitness magazine named it the “fattest city” in America. Philadelphian’s had high rates of diabetes, heart disease and generally just weighed too much. In order to compile the list of the “biggest” cities in the U.S. the magazine evaluated the 50 largest cities in numerous categories, including parks and open spaces, climate, air quality and commuting time. The magazine stuck to the “City of Brotherly Love” for the 16 percent exercise rate and 30 percent obesity rate, for an overabundance of fast food places and lack of fitness facilities.

Mayor John Street did not take the new description of his city lightly. He quickly hired health professionals and organized a citywide shape up program called “76 Tons of Fun,” which aimed for residents of the city to collectively lose 76 tons of weight within 76 days. This amounted to 30,400 people losing five pounds each. Because Philadelphians made an honest effort to rid their city of the name, Men’s Fitness has upgraded Philadelphia to the third-fattest city, after Houston and Detroit.

Donna DeLeo, associate nurse in the Rooyman’s Center does feel that such things as video games and Internet seriously affect young people’s weight and ultimately their health. “People tend to forget about exercising in college because they have too much partying to do,” she said. “Its all about how much you eat, you don’t have to put that mayo on your sandwich.” To calculate your BMI and get more information about healthy weight, exercising and nutrition go to

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