The 10 Most Overweight Cities in the U.S. and the 10 Least
Obesity is one of America’s most pressing health concerns — more than two in three adults are overweight or obese. Although Trust for America’s Health’s most recent State of Obesity
10. Most Overweight: Louisville, Kentucky
WalletHub’s experts analyzed three indicators of obesity — obesity and overweight statistics, weight-related health problems and healthy environment — to determine the overall rating of each city. Unfortunately, Louisville performed poorly on all three factors.
The city reports high rates of heart disease and diabetes, which are both weight-related health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is unusually high in Louisville’s 12 low-income neighborhoods where healthy food is scarce. WalletHub expert Dana Hunnes, senior dietician at Ronald Reagan Medical Center, says that the lack of access to fresh food in lower-income neighborhoods contributes to the obesity epidemic.
9. Most Overweight: Columbia, South Carolina
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Like Louisville, Columbia ranked poorly in all three categories. Although South Carolina created SCaleDown, a program geared toward battling obesity, in 2014, it still has the fifth highest percentage of adults who eat less than one serving of fruit or vegetables a day. Columbia is located in the southern U.S., which Hunnes says is a factor that contributes to its heightened obesity rate. “Dietary quality is typically lower in the South, where many foods are deep-fried, highly salted or sugar-sweetened.”
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8. Most Overweight: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge has the third highest percentage of adults who eat less than one serving of fruits or vegetables a day. However, its current ranking as the eighth most overweight city is an improvement from 2015, when Baton Rouge was declared the fattest city in America. According to Healthy BR, a government initiative, there are low-income areas in Baton Rouge with limited access to the city’s grocery stores, which might explain the prevalence of overweight and obese residents there.
WalletHub expert Mohammad Siahpush, associate dean for research in social and behavioral health at the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, has more insight: “Generally, obesity is more prevalent in geographic areas where there are less large supermarkets, streets are less safe and the built environment is less supportive of physical activity.”
7. Most Overweight: San Antonio, Texas
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More than a decade ago, San Antonio was named the most obese city in America by the CDC. Although progress has been made, the city still has the third least healthy environment in the United States. Fostering a healthy environment is key to reducing obesity rates. For example, a Cornell University study found that changing your environment, such as by using smaller plates and rearranging your cupboards, can help you lose weight.
On the bright side, the San Antonio Area Foundation states that since 2011 it has been working to combat obesity by encouraging healthy eating and physical activity.
6. Most Overweight: McAllen, Texas
McAllen has the second most weight-related health problems and the seventh least healthy environment in the U.S. The city also has the highest percentage of overweight and physically inactive adults, according to WalletHub’s analysis.
Additionally, McAllen has the second highest percentage of adults with diabetes. The Washington Post reported in 2013 that many South Texans, including those who reside in McAllen, rely on food stamps. When people are forced to shop for quantity over quality, they end up eating processed foods that are less nutritious than fresh foods and “heavy in preservatives, fats, salt and refined sugar,” the Washington Post reports. And research has consistently shown that processed foods promote obesity. The solution? One study found that simply educating people about purchasing healthy food and food preparation improved their habits, suggesting that nutritional education can have a positive impact on obesity rates, health care costs and longevity.
5. Most Overweight: Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette is the second Louisiana city to make WalletHub’s list of the most overweight cities. A major issue there is its high percentage of people with weight-related health problems. Lafayette residents enjoy eating out and noshing on local treats like boudin and crawfish boil, according to KFLY News. “The food is really great, and it tastes really great but maybe isn’t exactly the healthiest,” Cody Chambers, a Lafayette resident, tells the news outlet.
As a way to avoid hidden calories lurking in restaurant foods, WalletHub expert Elissa Epel, professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, suggests that individuals try to reserve eating out for special occasions. “Change the food and beverage environment, make the healthy choice — and voila,” she says. “People are healthier and happier.”
4. Most Overweight: Little Rock, Arkansas
According to WalletHub, Little Rock has the highest percentage of adults who eat less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. Why does this matter? Well, one study found that not eating enough fruits and vegetables accounts for about 15 percent of diet-related cardiometabolic deaths every year.
The city also has the fourth highest percentage of adults who are physically inactive. This might be explained by the lack of recreational facilities there. In an article for Huffington Post, David Katz, founder of the True Health Initiative, describes how Little Rock locals are less likely to have access to parks, well-maintained playgrounds, home workout equipment or even a nearby gym.
3. Most Overweight: Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is so famous for its southern-style barbecue ribs that it was ranked as one of America’s best barbecue cities by U.S. News and World Report in 2012. Unfortunately, Memphis also landed on WalletHub’s list of the most overweight cities.
In addition to being the third most overweight city in America, Memphis also has the least health-promoting environment of the 100 metropolitan areas analyzed. The city has the second highest percentage of obese adults, which might explain why it was fourth in the highest percentage of diabetic adults and third in highest percentage of adults with high blood pressure.
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2. Most Overweight: Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson is the capital city of Mississippi, the second most obese state in the U.S., according to the 2016 State of Obesity report. Although the city has the 22nd least healthy environment, making it somewhat average in that category, it didn’t do so well when it came to other indicators of how “fat” a city is.
Jackson tops the chart for having the most weight-related health problems and has the second highest percentage of physically inactive adults. Physical inactivity can spawn a variety of other health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, so it’s no surprise that Jackson also has the highest percentage of diabetic adults.
1. Most Overweight: Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport has consistently ranked among the most obese cities in America in recent years, according to WalletHub, and now tops the chart as the most overweight city in 2017. It also has the second highest percentage of adults with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Food is a key part of Shreveport’s culture, and the cuisine of a metropolitan area can heavily influence the diet of its residents. Cajun and fried foods are an integral part of iconic eating spots in Shreveport, according to the Shreveport and Bossier City tourism site. To avoid the temptations of eating out, WalletHub expert Simone French, professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, suggests, “Eat whole foods, eat and prepare food at home and keep quick, simple meal ingredients on hand at home.”
10. Least Overweight: Seattle, Washington
Seattle has the fourth lowest percentage of physically inactive adults in the nation. This is likely because it has integrated wellness into its culture. For example, the City of Seattle’s Commuter Trip Reduction program supports a Walk to Work Day, and Seattle’s Department of Transportation has a bike program.
Seattle’s community also emphasizes fresh, locally sourced foods. It is home to many farmers markets, one of which is the famous Pike Place Market. “When food shopping, it is important to buy plenty of fruits and vegetables in order to maintain a healthy diet,” WalletHub expert Jennifer D. Roberts, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland, says. “Buying in-season produce or at farmers markets can minimize costs.” With Seattle’s bountiful markets, it’s no wonder that it is one of the least overweight cities in the nation.
9. Least Overweight: Ogden, Utah
Ogden, located near the mountain ranges of Utah, is a popular ecotourism destination that offers year-round outdoor activities, such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking and cycling. This recreational lifestyle is integrated into the life of its residents, who are ranked 76th in their likeliness to suffer from weight-related health problems in their lifetime.
The city of Ogden also celebrates a Bike to Work Day in March, and May is Utah’s Bike Month, which is a statewide initiative aimed at reducing traffic and promoting health. According to the 2016 State of Obesity report, Utah also has the seventh lowest adult obesity rate in the nation.
8. Least Overweight: San Francisco, California
San Francisco has the fourth lowest percentage of physically inactive adults, despite its tightly knit urban environment. Research shows that public parks positively influence rates of physical activity, and San Francisco has more than 220 parks, open spaces and playgrounds. The city’s department of recreation also sponsors its own Healthy People, Healthy Parks initiative, which organizes weekend walks through its parks.
San Francisco also has the second lowest percentage of individuals eating less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. According to VegSF, San Francisco has a variety of vegetarian and vegan dining options to choose from. Farmers markets and community farms are especially popular, since sustainable agriculture is a major part of the city’s history, Hoodline reports.
7. Least Overweight: Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu is a world-famous vacation destination, but it is also home to one of the healthiest populations in the U.S. It has the third lowest adult obesity rate in the nation, according to the 2016 State of Obesity report. It also has the fourth-lowest percentage of overweight adults and is above the 90th percentile in having the least weight-related health problems and least overweight population.
There’s much to boast about in Honolulu, including the health-conscious lifestyle that many of its residents have adapted. Hawaii has a variety of island-wide programs that encourage healthy living, such as the Healthy Hawaii Initiative, which focuses on promoting physical activity and decreasing smoking rates.
6. Least Overweight: Boston, Massachusetts
Despite its cold winters, Boston has the 10th healthiest environment for residents. Almost all Massachusetts residents (96 percent) have access to health care, according to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Plus, Boston is currently experiencing a “farm-to-table renaissance,” because its residents are increasingly consuming locally sourced food, according to Smithsonian Mag . The city’s variety of food choices and health promotion efforts, such as the its Summer Fitness Series with free park workouts, help to boost the health of its residents.
5. Least Overweight: San Jose, California
San Jose impressively tops the chart for having the fewest weight-related health problems, with the fifth-lowest percentage of diabetic adults and lowest percentage of adults with high cholesterol. The San Jose Office of Economic Development’s website describes the city as “active, green and healthy.” Its bike-friendly environment is coupled with numerous parks and trails. Like the other least overweight cities on this list, San Jose’s culture encourages healthy living.
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4. Least Overweight: Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City’s capital is located near five national parks and several ski resorts. It’s no wonder that it has the 9th most healthy environment in the U.S. Its residents have access to outdoor activities year-round — from snowboarding and sledding during the winter months to hiking in the spring and summer. According to a Livability survey, 83 percent of Salt Lake City adults say they engage in physical activity during their leisure time, and 75 percent are at a healthy weight.
3. Least Overweight: Provo, Utah
Provo ranks a little higher than Salt Lake City in terms of having few weight-related health problems, although it has a lower healthy environment rank. Provo is ranked among the top five cities with the lowest percentage of adults with high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, diseases that are linked to obesity. Provo boasts an impressive number of parks (92) that span across 802 acres, and it also has a farmers market in its downtown area that supports local farms and food providers.
2. Least Overweight: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs has the second fewest weight-related health problems and the fifth lowest percentage of adults with high blood pressure. Its success can be partially attributed to the many Colorado government initiatives that promote healthy eating and active living. For example, LiveWell Colorado Springs participates in community partnerships, like the YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative, to create physical activity and nutrition programs for its residents. Colorado Springs also has 500 acres of trails and 9,000 acres of parkland with athletic fields and open spaces.
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1. Least Overweight: Denver, Colorado
Denver tops the chart as the least overweight city in America. It has the second fewest weight-related health problems and is also tied for fourth place with San Diego and San Francisco for having one of the lowest percentages of physically inactive adults.
In 2016, Denver was ranked the best place to live by U.S. News and World Report, so it comes as no surprise that this city has the fewest overweight individuals in the nation. The city has an impressive parks and recreation system, with 29 recreation centers and 309 athletic fields.
What Do You Think?
Was your city on this list? How does your city and state fight the obesity epidemic? What are factors you believe that contribute to living a healthy lifestyle? Let us know in the comments section!
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