ellen vanderslice.
fit, fat, radical pedestrian.


Sprawl makes us fat.
Americans are driving more and more, and walking less and less. We are getting fat, and we are dying.

Okay, I'm fat. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Body Mass Index (BMI), I was obese, back when my BMI was 34. I'm 5'-2" tall, and I used to weigh 185 lbs. Now I'm down to being merely overweight, at 160 lbs and a BMI of 29.

I think the BMI stinks. It's a gross measure for large populations, not a good measure for an individual. It doesn't discriminate between muscle and fat and it doesn't measure how fit you are. A better measure for the individual is adiposity. Don't you love these technical terms? Adiposity is a bodily state in which the proportion of the body weight composed of fat is excessive, as opposed to obesity, in which body weight is above "normal."

You can be fat and fit. In fact, you can be fit and fat and phat (see Cheryl Haworth in the sidebar)! I am with the fat acceptance movement in believing it is time we stopped treating fat people like criminals. People don't have very much control over how fat they get, according to a great article in Scientific American, August 1996 (used to have a link to this but Scientific American has taken everything before 1999 off their site).

(Since I wrote that I've gotten fitter. In May 2007 I finally made good on my admiration of Cheryl Haworth, and started working out lifting weights with Rich Jacklin at his little gym, Body by Design. I love lifting, and I've gotten really strong, but the surprise was as I got more muscles I also dropped 25 lbs. It turns out how much muscle you have makes a difference in how your body processes calories.)

There is no doubt that inactivity is linked to ill-health, and we face an epidemic of inactivity in this country. Physical inactivity and unhealthy eating are risk factors that contribute to at least 300,000 preventable deaths each year in the U.S.

Kids don't walk and ride bikes as much as they used to -- in fact between 1977 and 1995 walking and biking declined 40% for 5- to 15-year-olds (Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey 1997). Today's children are at greatest risk of any generation ever of contracting preventable chronic diseases within their lifetime. Active children do better in school and are more likely to be active adults than their non-active peers.

The simplest and most accessible form of physical activity is walking. Chronic disease prevention specialists and physical activity promoters have woken up to the notion that the physical environment has become a serious barrier to more walking, and they are inserting themselves into transportation decision-making processes. Across the U.S. health professionals are teaming with transportation practitioners and advocates to promote what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call, "healthy community design," making places where people of all ages and abilities can easily enjoy walking and bicycling.

Why Walk?
Why Not?

Sprawling disconnected Generica and the fast food joints it harbors are part of the fat equation.


To see a series of slides from the CDC that tracks the fattening of America, click HERE.


The coolest fat grrl in the world: Cheryl Haworth

Photo courtesy MensJournal.com

This page was first posted in 2001 and last updated 1/10/13. Problems? info@ellenvanderslice.com