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Does Where You Live Affect Your Weight and Health?

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Where we live tends to affect what we eat. I was born and educated in the southern part of the United States, and although I lived in several states, I never moved north of the Mason-Dixon line―an imaginary line dividing the north and south.

A poll by WalletHub comparing 18 weight-related issues in the U. S. most populous 100 cities, determined the “fattest” cities and other factors (physical activity, cholesterol level, diabetes) related to weight and potential health issues.  In rank order, the top 10 cities with the most obese people were: Little Rock, AR; Shreveport-Bossier City, LA; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX; Memphis, TN; Mobile, AL; Knoxville, TN; Jackson, MS; Birmingham, AL; Baton Rouge, LA; and Lexington-Fayette, KY. And where are these located? The sunny south.

I have spent most years of my life in Mississippi and western Tennessee. Memphis, the barbecue capital, ships its famous meat all over the world. Locals know the best places for this unmatched decadent food.

The Mississippi delta is home to the best catfish, straight from its many catfish farms. When dining out for the delectable fried catfish, southerners make sure the product is homegrown. The imported variety has less flavor, and shipped in products may lack the required safety and sanitation standards Americans often take for granted.

My southern heritage included fried chicken and soul food. We southerners grew up on various cooked greens―mostly mustard, turnip, and collard. While these vegetables are packed with nutrients and a major source of the often-touted antioxidants, the problem comes in the cooking method. To this day, too many southern cooks season these healthy fares with saturated fat in the form of ham bones or fat trimmings.

It makes sense that acquired tastes are handed down from generation to generation. Today, however, many of us choose healthier cooking methods to assure better health. Fried foods can become delicious baked, and different seasonings make those cooked greens a great addition to any meal.

And the five least fat cities? Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR/WA; Honolulu, HI; Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; and Colorado Springs, CO (with Denver—Aurora-Lakewood, CO coming in as 7th place).

What about where you live? What food customs keep you from the healthiest eating choices? Calorie counting goes way beyond cooking methods. Regardless of where we are, we can choose to prepare foods in ways to make them healthier. In addition, the health-wise will increase activity and limit or omit those calorie-laden choices we have come to love. We can weigh too much in those cities known for healthier lifestyles, and likewise, we can remain slim and trim in places where customs dictate higher calorie fares. We have choices. Healthy eating!

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