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High Cost of Dieting

From Dr. Mercola, comes this amazing article by Nanci Hellmich about the high cost of dieting. She writes:

  • The Atkins diet’s ongoing weight-loss phase (45 grams of carbs a day) averaged $14.27 a day, ranging from $11.04 to $15.97.
  • South Beach diet’s Phase 2 averaged $12.78 a day, ranging from $11.16 to $14.90.
  • The Thrifty Food Plan from the USDA (PDF) averaged $6.22 a day, ranging from $6 to $6.61. (The government’s calculation is slightly lower).

She reports:

About 60.5% of people who earn $15,000 to $75,000 are overweight or obese, compared with 56% of people who earn more than $75,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a large state-based telephone system in which 250,000 participants report their own weight and height. (When adults are actually weighed and measured, about 65% of people overall weigh too much.)
The disparity is even more obvious when it comes to obesity (30 or more pounds overweight), according to the National Health Interview Survey from 1999 to 2001. For people below the poverty level, which was then defined as anyone with an annual household income of less than about $17,000, about 26% were obese, compared with 18% of those with incomes of $67,000 or more….

Troy Blanchard, an assistant professor of sociology at Mississippi State University in Starkville, did an analysis that examined where large supermarkets and super-center stores are located in comparison with the U.S. population and found pockets of what he describes as “food deserts” ? some in inner-city neighborhoods, but some in more generalized areas. He cites, for example, a large swath from North Dakota down through West Texas as having many major “food deserts.”

People who live in these “deserts” typically need to drive or take a bus for a half-hour or more to get to a major store; otherwise they need to rely on small grocery stores, convenience markets and “hybrid gas stations” where they choose from a smaller selection of food items at higher prices, Blanchard says. The stores may have hot dogs, fried chicken, doughnuts, deli meats, frozen pizza, pork rinds, candy and some canned foods, but they don’t have many ? if any ? fresh fruits and vegetables.

While this analysis is on the mark (and fits with my observations–when you are impoverished, you are pressed for time to shop for food or to cook), it seems to point to cities (with their megalomarts) as the key to salvation. I work across the street from Walmart and one or two other excellent supermarket and pretty have access to anything at reasonable prices. But consider the tradeoffs. The areas with good supermarkets in Houston are not particularly pedestrian-friendly, and there are very few parks/public spaces where one can go to relax or roam or exercise. My perception is tinged somewhat by the fact that I live in apartment-ridden neighborhoods instead of neighborhoods of actual houses. The problem as I see it is: how can we design urban landscapes that bring the advantages of retail megamarts and big city culture while still providing places to walk and excuses to do so. Even in Austin, (which comes closer to the goal), my sister used to drive 20 minutes (that’s 40 minutes both ways) to go walking at Town Lake. Gosh, if you have to drive that long, what’s the point?

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