In a region famous for Coney Island
restaurants, pazckis and Little Caesar’s pizza, it should
come as no surprise that Detroit residents aren’t exactly
renowned for their fitness. However, in an annual study of the
nation’s 50 largest cities performed by Men’s Fitness
magazine, the city of Detroit not only made a deplorable showing,
but managed to weigh in as America’s fattest city. What
garnered the Motor City this dubious honor were a number of
factors, ranging from the abundance of fast food restaurants and
donut shops, to Detroit’s affinity for television viewing and
its lack of fitness facilities. Unfortunately, this problem
isn’t one that is confined to Motown. Overall, the United
States is overweight — a product of poor diet, inactive
lifestyles and a culture that places a low priority on physical

Kate Green

In a city like Detroit, where the prevalence of crime limits
personal safety when walking down the street, it is more likely
that you will drive to your destination rather than walk, bike or
run, no matter how close or how far away.

Furthermore, the effect of poverty on the results of the survey
cannot be underestimated. Given a choice between personal fitness
and simply being able to have three meals a day, most would choose
to eat rather than lift weights. Given the economic situation of
the city, many of its residents are forced to make this choice on a
day-to-day basis. For those working two jobs, or who are unable to
cook for themselves, it may seem more feasible economically and
practically to just stop by the nearest fast food chain to pick up
lunch or dinner.

City and state planners understandably share this set of
priorities, as the economic situation in Detroit commands the
lion’s share of public attention and dollars. Few would argue
that the construction of a Bally’s should take precedence
over a soup kitchen.

As a result, there are very few alternatives for those who do
wish to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Gyms and fitness centers, near
necessities in a state with harsh winters, are often economically
unable to thrive.

Adding to all of this are factors outside of the control of city
residents. The power of large corporations like McDonald’s
and KFC to market their products is undeniable, and they share some
of the blame for the sorry physical shape of the city and the
nation. Often, meal options are presented in advertisements as
“healthy alternatives” when in fact they are loaded
with fat and calories. The most recent example of this are the KFC
commercials presenting its fried chicken as low in carbohydrates
and high in protein.

There are a number of ways in which Detroit and the nation can
combat this trend. It would be a good start to offer healthier
alternatives at school lunchrooms and in vending machines. Recent
programs have been debated that would ban soda from public schools.
As a result, restaurants like Wendy’s and McDonald’s
are now beginning to put together menus that adhere to a standard
that is consistent with healthy eating habits. Though we are a long
way from being a healthy nation, small and realistic goals are
certainly within reach, helping to ease the burden of this public
health crisis.

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