Fighting Fat Together

Philly’s Fun, Fit and Free Program – It began in 1999 when Men’s Fitness magazine named Philadelphia as the fattest city in America. In response, Mayor John Street designed a comprehensive, community-based intervention to get the city off the top of that undesirable list. With a program called Fun, Fit and Free, Mayor Street and his staff suggested restaurants serve healthier foods, encouraged more exercise, and offered free support groups. The program also included an educational Web site, public weigh-ins, and the Mayor even led daily walks around the city.

Mayor Street also launched a 10-week program, partially sponsored by Philadelphia’s local professional basketball team, entitled “76 Tons of Fun.” The goal of the program was to help city dwellers lose a total of 76 tons of weight. After a successful start, Philadelphia has now dropped to number four on the Men’s Fitness list of fattest cities.

Planet Health – Steven Gortmaker, M.D., from Harvard University School of Public Health has created and implemented a successful school-based program to reduce overweight and obesity. This innovative program targets middle-school students with a curriculum that focuses on improved nutrition, increased physical fitness, and decreased time spent watching television. Planet Health was successful in reducing obesity among girls from 23.6 percent to 20.3 percent. The rate of obesity in boys was unchanged by the program, possibly because boys are less concerned about diet and activity at this age than girls.

Weight Watchers – For decades Weight Watchers has offered balanced diet recommendations and group meetings for weight loss education and support. The Weight Watchers plan encourages people to eat all types of foods in moderation, and allows clients to choose what they eat without focusing on calories. It emphasizes slow, steady weight loss and teaches clients how to maintain an ideal weight.

Internet-Supported Dieting – Deborah F. Tate, Ph.D., from Brown Medical School, found dieters who received weekly advice from behavioral therapists on the Internet lost three times as much weight in six months compared to those who had access to information about dieting on the Internet, but no personal contact.

Activism– Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Eating and Weight Management at Yale University has been quoted as saying that he believes the government needs to get involved in the area of weight control, much like it has done with smoking cessation. Brownell would like to see the government subsidize the sale of healthy food, increase the cost of non-nutritional foods through taxes, and regulate food advertising to discourage unhealthy eating.

Along the same lines, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging the government to collect small taxes on soft drinks and snack foods to help pay for expanding nutrition-education campaigns.

Government Intervention – According to Marion Nestle, Ph.D., from New York University, the US Government intends to meet the Healthy People 2010 goals to improve the health of Americans. On their priority list are weight loss and increased productivity. Partnerships have been formed among many federal, state and local government agencies to help reach these goals.

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