Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Everything’s BIG In Texas

5 years ago, work took me to Houston, Texas where I stayed in a well-known chain hotel located above a popular shopping center. The mall was huge, brimming with shops, and full of very heavy people. I was struck by how small I felt walking around relative to the (physically) larger-than-life Texans around me. After a busy day, I headed back up to the hotel to exercise in the fitness center before dinner, but much to my surprise, this international, brand-name hotel in the middle of Houston did not have a gym of any kind. In fact, not only did the hotel not offer gym access, the mall itself did not have a gym, and there wasn’t one for many miles. I considered jogging outside but the 100 degree heat and lack of sidewalks and shade made me rethink that plan. As a result, I didn’t exercise once during the trip. My conclusion: THIS is why “everything’s bigger in Texas”.

Currently, Texas ranks sixth-highest in the nation for obesity in 10- to 17-year-old children. A whopping 42% of Texas' fourth-graders are overweight or obese and the majority of them will become obese adults (El Paso Times). Research suggests that a child who is obese by the age of 12 has a 75% chance of becoming an obese adult. Those are some pretty big odds.

In 2002, 62% of El Paso adults were overweight or obese; in 2009, that number climbed to 66%. In Houston, 36% of children ages 6 to 17 are overweight. Within this population, 19% are obese .

The American Obesity Society lists Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in their "Top 10 Overweight Cities", with Houston ranking number one. Men's Health recently placed four of the nation's heaviest cities in Texas.

Strangely enough, despite all the evidence, there does not seem to be any easily accessible state-wide health initiative aimed at fighting obesity. Compared to other states, Texans are heavy and getting heavier. The future looks like more of the same: “Everything’s Bigger in Texas”.

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