Boston 'Flab' Party

A runner exercises along the Charles River across from the Longfellow Bridge in Boston, Mass.

You hear about it all the time -- elected officials get it in their head that their whole city or state needs to lose weight, and they promptly challenge residents to go on a group diet. Trimming the fat helps the heart -- and re-election efforts I guess.

Last April, my town's mayor challenged Bostonians to lose a collective one million pounds in a year's time. So far -- 11 and a half months in -- we've lost 96,000 pounds. Only 904,000 to go... by April 23.

Fellow Bostonians, now would be a good time to start that juice fast.

The mayor got the idea for a citywide diet after he met a very overweight boy while giving out Thanksgiving turkeys and worried the child was doomed. He also thought we'd have an easier chance slimming down if we avoided Dunkin' Donuts together.  

It's not over until the fat lady sings, of course, but maybe the goal was just too ambitious. Perhaps a call to gain one million pounds would have better tapped into our strengths. Or to rack up $1 million in parking tickets.

But let's take a step back and examine the weight-loss target. Why one million pounds? After all, Corpus Christi, Texas, officials challenged their citizens to lose only 50,000 pounds, and that town was branded "America's Fattest City."

Not to brag, but Boston recently made a list of the fittest cities. Even so, the Boston Public Health Commission figured that we have about 200,000 overweight or obese adults, and if each lost five pounds, we'd be set. But the commission wasn't going to be picky. Each of our 625,00 residents could lose 1.6 pounds. Or one person could lose ... a million pounds.

Actually, a dieter doesn't even need to live in Boston. The Public Health Commission says it will take a pound of flesh from anyone who "works, plays, or lives" here. So by all means, if you come into town for a Celtics game, and you've had the stomach flu, please log onto the Boston Moves for Health website and share your loss.

The city has worked hard to promote its program. It's offering free fitness classes and pedometers, deeply discounted memberships to Weight Watchers, coupons for healthy food, community walks, and other incentives. So what's going on? As a lifelong dieter, I see two possibilities: either we're retaining water, or, even more likely, the scale is wrong.

About the author

Beth Teitell writes for the Boston Globe. Her most recent book is called "Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth."

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