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Thin City

July 23, 2009

Yesterday news broke that Manhattan is the thinnest county in New York State, with 42% of Manhattanites overweight or obese as compared to 58-62% of the city’s outer boroughs. As a follow-up to this news, there’s an article in today’s NY Times about why people in Manhattan are thinner than the rest of the state. “Where Thin People Roam, and Sometimes Even Eat,” is full of interviews of elite NY City men and women (with their heights and weights attached) who are exercise fiends and graze on salads for lunch. Some quotes:

“I exercise so I can eat…If I feel fat, I can’t enjoy eating. This is unhealthy — that if I gain a few pounds, I’m not happy — but it’s the truth for me.”

“My mom always says, “The smaller the dress size, the larger the apartment.”

As a dietitian, I’m all for people exercising and eating healthfully — if I didn’t advocate for that I would be in the wrong profession! But what I’m not for is people who go to extremes, something that unfortunately a lot of New Yorkers do. Since I work with eating disorder patients, hearing people speak the way they do in this article is very upsetting. It perpetuates the eating disorders that already exist, and leads to them in people who are the same height but weigh more than those mentioned — even when their weights are in a healthy range.

Just as upsetting is that the outer boroughs have high obesity rates in large part because of lack of access to healthy, nutritious foods including fresh fruits and vegetables. One would think that in this day and age there would be enough fresh produce to go around; alas, there isn’t. Something needs to be done about that, and hopefully as a result of these findings something will.

What do you think about the health and weight discrepancies in the city? And what can be done?

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