This city went on a diet
Oklahoma City has experienced a lot of gains recently. The heartland city was recently named the most recession-proof city in the nation by Forbes.com, home values are rising solidly, and the city’s ranking for job creation is climbing higher. Those are the results of fewer issues with sub-prime lending, fewer home foreclosures and the growing demand for energy, energy-related products and higher energy prices.
But, not all of Oklahoma City’s growth has been positive. The city was listed 15th among “America’s Fattest Cities” in a 2007 Men’s Fitness magazine survey, and a 2007 Fortune article labeled Oklahoma City the fast-food capital of America. And, according to Washington-based Trust for America’s Health, Oklahoma City has the eighth highest rate of adult obesity in the nation and the 17th highest rate of obesity for children ages 10 to 17. “Obesity is an epidemic in Oklahoma, and the problem is only getting worse,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett after hearing the news about his city’s rankings. “It’s time to end our sedentary, fast-food lifestyle.”
Mayor Cornett, who has been vocal about his life-long battle with weight, launched a citywide initiative on New Year’s Eve 2007 to create a healthier city. He challenged residents to collectively lose 1 million pounds by increasing their physical activity and taking stock of how much and what they eat. From local newscasts to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Mayor Cornett reiterated the cornerstones of the initiative: eat less, move more.
Mayor Cornett led by example and recently announced that he had lost 42 pounds by watching his food intake and participating in more physical activity. “Everyone wants to feed the mayor,” he says. “I was gaining, on average, five pounds a year during my term as mayor. I thought, certainly if I’m going to be speaking on obesity, I’ve got to be a better example.”
That example has paid off, especially with city staff. More than 324 employees have lost a total of 1,408 pounds since the mayor announced the initiative. Several have organized daily or weekly group fitness activities, and the city has joined with a local fitness club to offer discounted memberships for city employees and their families.
Oklahoma City’s weight-loss initiative includes an interactive Web site, www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com, designed as a one-stop resource for people intending to lose weight. Participants can use the site to confidentially track their weight loss progress and calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a simple method for estimating body fat. The site also features information about nutrition, exercise and how to set and achieve weight loss goals. The site is not just for Oklahoma City residents. “Anyone is encouraged to register on this site if it’s going help,” Mayor Cornett says.
To date, 23,354 people have registered for the program. Since January, participants have lost a total of nearly 150,000 pounds — an average of 6.39 pounds per person.
The weight-loss initiative is among other changes that Oklahoma City is making to become a healthier city. A bond issue passed last year that will add 300 miles of new sidewalks to the city’s suburbs, making neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly so residents can safely walk instead of drive wherever they need to go. And, a school bond issue passed in October 2007 that will fund construction of 47 gymnasiums for city schools that did not have them. “We’re truly trying to change the culture of the city,” Cornett says.
— Danielle Walker is a professional technician for Oklahoma City’s Public Information & Marketing Office.