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Moving to Oklahoma City

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This AP story by Sean Murphy popped up one on my Web news pages this morning … and it made me Oklahoma City conscious. The mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett (foto), is placing the city on a diet. He didn’t go to his city council and pass a law. He didn’t blame McDonald’s or foie gras. The man took some unused brain power and decided to challenge his citizens to take control of their lives and the city is providing some of the tools.

OK, my move is a virtual one … I’ve joined the Oklahoma City effort from my own computer. I went to the Web site: This City Is Going On a Diet! and signed up (#5,977). The city’s goal is to lose a million pounds in 2008. When I signed up, the form asked only for my ZIP code as a location identifier … and it didn’t automatically reject me. So my meager 16 pound goal won’t affect the OKC total since they can easily deduct non-Oklahoma ZIPs. Now if Bowie or Washington DC were to issue a similar progressive approach, I’d make the move back. But with a system entrenched in rhetoric and public hearings for the political good, I imagine that we will continue the path of regulation over education.

Back to my new home for a second, here’s some OKC facts that brought on the attention from the mayor:
1- Oklahoma City ranked 15th in a 2007 survey of America’s fattest cities conducted by Men’s Fitness magazine … there’s a good chance that the 2008 survey to be released soon will make them a top ten city, not good!
2- The Oklahoma Legislature designated an official state meal in 1988. The menu includes fried okra, squash, barbecue pork, biscuits, grits, corn, strawberries and black-eyed peas.
3- Cornett, 49, stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs 183 pounds. He began a personal fitness initiative eight months ago when he weighed 217 pounds — he wants to get to 175.

The Web site has a sign-in component that allows you to determine your body mass index and set your goal … and then track it. Groups or Companies in OKC can do it as a team effort and track their own results. Cornett said, “Exercise is part of it and the city is trying to change into a city that is less sprawling, has more density and is more pedestrian friendly, but you’re not really going to take on obesity unless you acknowledge that we eat too much and don’t eat the right foods.” The site includes recipes and links to metro-area fitness centers. Plans call for expanding the site to include the opportunity to blog and network with other participants. Cornett said, “It’s always easier if you’re doing something hard if you have other people to do it with.” My first visit to the site showed other resources available for help … and you know we all need some help.

Do not delude yourself like I have that diet alone can bring weight loss and good health. The article quotes one woman, “Last year I dieted and lost about 10 pounds a month for three months, but I left out a key component,” she said, huffing and puffing on an elliptical machine. “I didn’t exercise regularly. I ended up losing muscle mass instead of fat, and I ended up gaining almost all of it back. Now I’m making it more of a priority to put everything in balance.”

Cornett wants to make exercise more attractive to residents by increasing the number of bike trails and sidewalks in the sprawling city. It’s my opinion that’s more helpful than “trans fat” legislation.

So there it is … are you ready to take the challenge. Let your local politician know you’ve joined the progressive city of Oklahoma City and you’re casting a virtual vote for Mick Cornett. If you want to let me know your Zip code if you join, then if we get enough people, I will ask the OKC site to calculate our collective weight loss … When I lose my 16 pounds, I plan to have that Oklahoma state dinner to celebrate … it sounds mighty tasty.

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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