November 24, 2008

It's a Big Country

Our Road Trip Comes to an End

Possibly legally insufficient photo credit
(But heck, at least we tried)

Damn it's great to be back to Cranky Fitness. I really missed everybody!

As regular readers may recall, I've been on the road for the past two or three weeks, traveling cross-country with my lawfully wedded spouse the Lobster and our aging but always amiable cat. This is the first year of our Great Bi-Coastal Living Experiment: we spend the temperate seasons in Provincetown, Massachusetts, but flee to sunny California in the winter to stay with the Lobster's mom instead of stoically freezing our butts off like true New Englanders. No point in pretending otherwise: we are weather wimps.

As to the experiment: so far, so good! Our posteriors remain warm; we had Excellent Adventures crossing the country, and arrived back in the S.F. Bay Area safe and sound.

A Shocking Reality Check
However, in some respects the trip was a wake-up call. You know those studies that say obesity rates and healthy behaviors tend to vary by state or by neighborhood?

Well, holy crap is that the truth. (Warning: potentially offensive material ahead.)

I've lived most of my life in various "elitist'" neighborhoods in coastal blue states. Even in the hippest urban neighborhood there is enough variation in how people approach health and fitness that you think you have some sense of perspective. Then you travel across the country and realize you had no freakin' clue.

Making the Worst of a Bad Situation
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the money to choose their "perfect" neighborhood. I think it's awful when so many towns are built with hardly any parks, trails or even sidewalks. Often in these same car-centric places the restaurants are mostly chains, featuring gargantuan meaty greasy cheesy saucy fried dinners paired with decadent desserts. The grocery stores are skimpy in the produce section, and offer mostly processed snack foods, desserts, frozen dinners, and meat laced with hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives.

I know I'd really, really struggle if I lived in some of these places. I'd probably eat lousier and exercise less and feel pretty helpless about it.

But damn, lots of these folks don't seem to be "struggling" with it at all. They're driving everywhere, ignoring their few exercise options, and gobbling up every bite of the junk food on offer.

Hello, personal responsibility?

It was shocking to look at the crap piled up in most people's shopping carts or watch what they ordered at restaurants or even to see how many were smoking. I also had to wonder: was the reason many of the convenience stores had no non-fat milk part of a sinister "make 'em drink whole milk and die young" campaign? Was the grocery store produce section so skimpy because tyrannical suppliers refused to send a variety of wholesome healthy fruits and vegetables?

Or were the selections so lame because the local vendors have discovered most folks won't buy the healthy stuff when they try to stock it?

We are freaks here in health blogland. In much of America, folks are not debating: Should I get my Omega 3 from fish or flax? They are wondering: what do I want for dessert after my triple cheeseburger and fries and coke, the cherry pie with ice cream or the caramel chocolate pecan cake with whipped cream?

And, um, I couldn't help noticing... a huge percentage of people in a lot of these places were fat.

Thin Ice
This is a sensitive issue, and I don't want to be an asshole and start shrieking "Oh My God, Our country is fat! And that's so terrrribbble!"

Because I'm not anti-fat!

At least I think I'm not. I'm all for Fat Acceptance. I hate that the media tells us we're all supposed to be scrawny stick figures and that so many women buy into that. And I firmly believe you can be quite a bit heavier that what those annoying BMI charts say and still be totally healthy and beautiful. Hell, I love adipositivity!

Plus, I think many people have crappy genes and metabolisms and are fat in spite of all their healthy efforts. (And I was thoroughly ridiculed recently over at a site called... wait for it... Testosterone Nation for suggesting that not everyone gets the same deal, genetically, when it comes to losing weight.)

But I have to confess: wandering into communities where most people are not just chunky but are obese, and where exercise is considered eccentric and people make stupid food choices, I find myself troubled.

There is "fit and healthy and making smart choices" kind of fat... many of our readers have that kind. But then there is the other kind. The kind that involves Oreo Dessert pizzas and buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I think I have perhaps underestimated the extent to which "the other kind" of fat is still a huge problem in our country. You folks who live in these places must be going: "Duh, Crabby!"

A Shining Exception
In our travels through the South, one city stood out as being 180% the opposite: Austin Texas. Wow, what an awesome town!

The Whole Foods Flagship store goes on for acres and acres. (And to cheer a lazy slacker's heart, much of what is on offer is already prepared. There may be better healthy grocery stores for those who love to cook, my favorite being Berkeley Bowl in the SF Bay Area, but if you want to grab a quick healthy meal to go? This place is freakin' amazing. (However, I do feel it is my duty, whenever I go to a Whole Foods, to stand in their bakery section, peruse the bread and roll options, and complain loudly to no one in particular that the items that say "whole grain" still list wheat flour as their first ingredient. The Lobster, who has seen this performance repeated many times to absolutely no effect, just rolls her eyes.))

And it's not only the Whole Foods in Austin but the awesome running trails along the river packed with folks huffing and puffing happily at all hours of the day; the many gyms and outdoor gear companies; the walkability of the city, and just the general good cheer which must come from all the music those young folks are listening to or all the coffee they are drinking. Or something. I was impressed--but perhaps you folks who actually live there have a different perspective.

Suggestion to folks in the South: more Austins, please!

Travel is Broadening
At least that's what my mother used to say. (And please excuse the pun). Our trip, while it did set off a blog rant I may end up regretting, gave me new admiration for all of you out there who live in communities where the healthy choices are so limited. How the heck do you cope?


  1. Yay! Crabby's back!
    Great post. And speaking personally, not offensive re fat people.
    The... er... wide spectrum of health/fitness also varies within an area. For example, at my previous workplace I was considered a fitness fanatic for taking a walk break (a good 1/3 of a mile) instead of standing outside with the smokers and chatting.
    My current workplace is filled with real fitness fanatics, who think nothing of running a dozen miles at lunch (or something like that -- they're all lean, nice, and into running).
    I'm sad to hear about the lack of veggies in the 'heartland' -- isn't that supposed to be where most of the food is grown?

  2. I live in Burlington, Vermont (recently nominated as the healthiest city in America) and feel VERY GRATEFUL for all that we have here! I too would suffer greatly trying to live in some of the places you describe. Also, I'm one of the folks you describe living a very active lifestyle, and making smart food choices, but somehow hanging on to 20 stubborn lbs. Thanks for this post!

  3. Welcome home, Crabby.

    It's great to have you back.

    I want to say how much I enjoyed: 1. being a guest columnist and 2. reading the posts by other guest columnists.

    Here in NYC we can see the healthy option difference by traveling a few blocks. Other states??? I imagine there is a wide range of differences.

    Glad you are back safe and sound.


  4. Welcome back Crabby. You were definitely missed.

    But I'm all offended and shit that you wrote this.

    Kidding of course. Look, I'm fat, you know that, there's nothing here that is offensive to me. I live in one of those places that doesn't offer good neighborhoods for walking or exercising at all, no health food stores nearby - the nearest is quite a drive and overpriced - so I feel it and it is a challenge but it's not an excuse. My choice to eat bad and be lazy is on me and I realize I'd probably be that way even if I lived in a place that made it easier.

  5. welcome home!

    and I know Im fortunate to live in a place which makes it easy but grew up in a place which (when I lived there) was more Iron City beer than hoisting the iron.

    it's all a choice huh? every day. and even in aforementioned easy city :) as I still find the oreos in the cookie aisle....

    for me it's trying to choose healthy more often than not. or at least 50/50

  6. As a fat Austinite, I am very conscious of the fact that fitness- and health-consciousness is much more the norm here than in other Texas cities. Sometimes being corralled up with all these uber-fit college students (this is definitely a university town) can be downright depressing, in fact; despite the fact that I'm now doing what I can to turn my weight around....

    When I lived in Houston, at one point I found myself sans automobile. It was the pits! The public transportation there is erratic and, what's worse, there are no sidewalks on some of the important streets. I almost got run over because I had to basically walk along the edge of a really busy thoroughfare at one point. I had no car and no choice. It wasn't even about exercise at that time; I just wanted to get around!

    Here in Austin I once again find myself sans-car.... and the options are much better. The buses are relatively reliable and, what's more, the central part of town is quite bike-able and walkable :). Which I'm sure helps keep the population in better shape.

  7. Great post! I sometimes feel like a bit of a hypocrite because I DO judge those who complain about being unable to lose weight while eating HUGE portions of unhealthy food. But at the same time, they also admit to "cheating" on their diet, and justifying it because the diet isn't working (it's a big reason why I eat out infrequently).

    And Merry, most food is grown there, but it's mostly corn (for HFCS), wheat, and soybeans, not vegetables and fruit.

  8. Great post and gets the brain cells moving.

    I have this feeling that many people approach their fitness choices much like Bill Cosby feeding his kids chocolate cake for breakfast. This country has convinced itself that eggs, milk, flour and sugar in any form is a good thing. May be why beer sales are so good to. You know, water, hops, barley, malt, must be part of good nutrition.
    We have become a society that excess is good and it shouldn’t matter what happens. That is of course until you’re in an emergency room with tightness in your chest to think otherwise.

  9. I agree with April - it's more of a challenge in those areas, but it's not impossible. The BIGGEST (no pun intended) obstacle is ignorance and a lack of education. People don't believe they have a choice. People think salads look gross and boring. People need to be EDUCATED about healthy eating. It's exactly the same in this country. Nobody knows (or cares) what's in anything, they just stick it in their mouths.

    Welcome back Crabby!

    TA (moving to Austin as we speak) x

  10. Isn't it the truth! Yes, there are some difficulties to being healthy if you live in a not-so-nice area, but that doesn't mean you have to go out and eat only ice cream and hamburgers. We do have these choices and once we start looking we can see that there are opportunities available.

    I like to complain loudly at the grocery store regarding the ingredients in just about every food product, lol.

  11. Welcome back, Crabby!!!

    I might have a comment or two for you later - have to go finish my huge fat-laden breakfast, first.... kidding!!!!

    I find it terribly sad that the people who need the healthy choices the most don't seem to have them as available to them as they could be. (How's that for convoluted sentence structure?)

  12. I have a draft post I've been sitting on about how, after several international trips this year, I've been realizing how easy we make it to be fat here in the US (and in some parts, like the South where I live now, it's even easier). Maybe I'll have to finish and post that post today. Hmm.

  13. So true, people want quick, fast and easy. Which usually equals poor nutrient value food! Where there is a demand there is a supply. Doughnuts unfortunately draw more crowds than steamed veggies.

    Although I have to say yay to the companies that are making healthier packaged food like Larabar, Amy's frozen food etc. Chipotle is fairly conscious about high quality ingredients and most all chain restaurant have gluten-free menus these days.

  14. I remember once reading a study about how it was hard for people in rural areas to eat well. This was incredible to me (rural to me means arable land). The blogger who linked to the study mentioned that in those areas, it was against the culture to eat 'fussy Yankee foods' so some of the healthy options aren't available in the stores.

  15. Yay! Crabby's back!

    And did I read you're in the bay area? We must do a workout together or something. (I'm just a few miles north of your favorite Berkeley Bowl...)

    I know what you saw in your travels, and I'm not sure if it's the chicken or the egg. I suspect that markets can't sell the the higher priced, wider variety healthier (or organic) foods. Though I was thrilled to see a couple Farmer's Markets spring up.. hosted by the local hospital.

  16. Welcome back, Crabby! Glad you, the Lobster and the furbaby survived the cross country journey.

    As for your post--this is exactly why I'm a bit nervous to move back to the states. In England, I live in a very fit community. I walk everywhere, don't have a car, and there is plenty of encouragement to be physically active. In America, I know I will be car dependent again and that will take a large chunk of physical activity out of my life, something I have come to depend on in England. All I can hope is that I snag a job in a place like Austin.

  17. Welcome home! The Bay Area's a wonderfully healthy place to live, if you want to make good choices! Thank-you for the reminders about other parts of the country that either don't offer better choices or where people may not choose healthier foods. Still, it's easy to find unhealthy food in the Bay Area and consume large amounts. I did just that for years, and used to know where every McSat-Fat is located from Sonoma to San Jose! Thanks for the great post-it's so great to have you back. Glad you landed safely!

  18. yay! Glad to have you back Crabby. Living in the deep south (Georgia) all my life, I can agree with what you're saying regarding the lack of healthy options. I think a lot of it has to do with culture, which in the south is all about eating and being proud of who you are (no matter your size.) Especially in the smaller, more rural cities, such as *ahem* my own : )

    The good news is that the trend seems to be FINALLY turning and becoming more health conscious. I don't have to hunt as much for healthy food in the grocery store and we just got our 2nd gym in town (along with a Starbucks, Japanese steak house, & pizza chain- go figure!)

  19. Instead of an army of one, I'm a city of one :-)

    Whenever I travel, I notice the difference. I'm always able to eat the way I want, but it does take some intention.

    It's a tide that can't be turned. Too many factors going against the careless. If you want to be fit, you can, but you must learn how, and apply that. If you are presently unfit, you must make changes that are initially very difficult. If you are looking for an easy solution, call me when you find it, thank you!

  20. Now I'm depressed. Not only has my internet crapped out (at home) but most of the country is even worse off than I am at being able to live healthy.

    When my internet gets fixed I'll work on getting more positive.

    Do you suppose there is internet in the afterlife?

  21. Welcome back to the blogosphere, Crabby!
    You were missed.
    Healthy?! Healthy's no damn fun! Who wants to eat healthy?!
    We're supposeed to have fun!
    And once we lose that attitude, then we'll be healthier. For the record healthy is a hell of a lot of fun.

  22. Welcome back!

    Others may have said it better, but that's probably why so many of us struggle so badly! We are smacked in the face with our vices and not with healthier options so often that it's makes it really, really, really difficult to be healthier! But, some of are trying to change it. It's just makes it more challanging at times. Ok, all the time!

  23. Welcome back to the Bay Area, Crabby.

    Of course you know about our micro-climates. Well, here in the North Bay city of Santa Rosa, we even have micro-demographics.

    Go to Trader Joe's in central SR, and the folks are generally fit and trim.

    Go to Food Maxx on the west end of town, and I can often scan the lines to see that I'm the only person in sight (cashiers included) who isn't at least a hundred pounds overweight.

    It's not because of lack of choice--I make special trips to Food Maxx because they have the biggest selection of apple varieties in town, as well as many "ethnic" vegetables such as jicama, plantains and exotic squashes.

    West SR is primarily low-income and Hispanic, with a fairly high percentage of illegal immigrants, so whether the issue is genetic, economic or educational would require further study.

  24. Love the post, Crabby.
    As someone who travels for a living, I see this all over the place. Most of the places I wind up aren't nearly as health conscious as I have been blessed with in the northeast. But that said, as you pointed out, it really is about personal responsibility. You can be unhealthy any place you want to be and conversely you can be just as healthy as you want wherever you are. No matter where I wind up, I wind up running there. Sometimes there aren't sidewalks or gyms or the healthiest options, but you can always go outside and run. or walk. or do stairs. or play tag. its just a matter of wanting to do it. and that kind of energy is contagious. It may have taken off on the periphery of the country first, but I have faith its spreading inwards. Why, just look at things like the Biggest Loser. That to me marks a noticeable shift in the country's attitude to fat. I think it just needs more time to get a little more viral. But I believe that change is beginning.

  25. Change...what a 4 letter word that is. Being involved in the Lutheran church, it's a joke that's just not funny anymore. Same is true for the health of Americans (as a whole, not individual people). I agree that it's personal responsibility, but it's also parental responsibility. For me personally, it's teacher responsibility too. I've realized that this year while I talk to my students about being healthy, I need to set a good example as well (something I haven't done in previous years, much to my chagrin). There are some huge hurdles to get over I think in order to make our nation healthier. The mindset has become : Give it to me when I want it, however much I want it, and for as little effort on my part as possible. I hope that once I teach myself to go against these, I will be able to teach my children the healthy way to live and it will be much easier for them than it was for me.

  26. Welcome back Crabby!! It sounds like you had a great trip. I know what you mean about the culture shock in regards to food. Moving from Seattle where the farmer's markets are open year round and you can choose from a variety of Asian pears, to the Midwest where everyone's fave food is "hotdish" (a.k.a. casserole obv. made with some kind of cream of whatever) and the produce section is a mere aisle has been disturbing. But yes, there are ways to live healthy even here! My number one suggestion is learn to love what is local. Everything is always in season on the west coast. Here the seasons are too harsh for things like grapes and peaches so we are learning to love root veggies, squash, kale and lots of apples!

  27. My family is in Oklahoma, so I totally understand where you are coming from. I wander around in amazment at how fat some of the people there are, and how poorly they dress. I have seen changes in the last five years though, and the grocery stores are offering more.

    I'm also amazed at the difference between the New York and Houston based crews at my airline. You can usually tell right away, of course the accents help.

  28. I want to write a comment on this but I can't seem to get my thoughts together...So short and sweet - I would love to see one of these Whole Foods stores one day, as I keep hearing (reading) about them! I am forever reading about lots of options that don't exist where I'm from, but at least we do have decent grocery stores and public transportation. Yeah, in the winter, the fresh produce can look kind of sad (and not very fresh at all), but the frozen stuff has really improved in recent years. So I have no excuse not to eat my veggies. :)

  29. Utah is a fairly thin, healthy state. We have a fair number of options for trails, we can ski, rock climb, it's a greta place for mountain biking, so yes, I would be feeling as shocked as you I guess. Even here, traveling to Southern Utah, I have been through little town where eat options were grease, grease or grease...

  30. It's so great to be back and reading all these comments--I really did miss everybody while I was offline.

    And I agree that the lifestyle micro-climate thing is fascinating. In the Bay Area you totally see a different approach to health and fitness, neighborhood by neighborhood.

    I really feel lucky to have lived places that have a lot of healthy choices. I really don't know how some of you folks do it!

  31. Welcome back, Crabby. We're pretty fortunate up here as far as food options and walking areas are concerned. I have no excuses.. darn! ;)

  32. Welcome back, Crabby!

    I live in inner-loop Houston, which is much like Austin in terms of availability of healthy food choices, gyms, and running trails. But when Dan and I take road trips west, I have to stock up before we leave because it's a wasteland once you get west of San Antonio.

    Fort Stockton? San Angelo? Those are the biggest towns on our route to New Mexico, and we have to overnight in one or the other because you can't cross Texas in a single day. If I didn't have food with me, I'd starve.

    Okay, I'm exaggerating ever so slightly. There's a chain restaurant called K-Bob's, and they have locations in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico (I don't know where else they might be). They have a fantastic soup and salad bar, so if you can make a town with a K-Bob's before they close, you're in luck.

    Many parts of New Mexico are pretty bleak, too, when it comes to healthy food and lifestyle choices, but Albuquerque and Santa Fe are just fine, as are Taos and Silver City. I remember one year coming down out of the Black range into Silver City, debating with my husband over what we would find there. It was a small New Mexico town, which didn't bode well, but it was also a college town, which suggested options. Not only did we find a great coffee bar, a river trail, and some cute cafes, but we found an organic co-op that stocked all my favorite brands! I nearly wept with joy.

    You can find the good stuff when you travel, but it's not easy. Take a cooler and a grocery bag of dry goods, just in case.

  33. Welcome back!!!

    Loved this post. Whenever I'm in the south I'm just amazed by how different it is. I'm in the true Midwest and sure we have our issues, but I still have good access to parks, trails, clubs and Whole Foods.

    And, I really, really, wanna visit Austin soon!

  34. welcome back!!

    The fitness level varies so much just in my little neck of the woods. my neighborhood is one of the healthiest in Washington- you can walk down the street without getting hit by a biker, or runner or unicycler (im not kidding) but 10 miles in any direction and everyone balloons. and its definately due to the economic difference.

    Kelly Turner

  35. Thanks for your really nice comment - I read your blog all the time and (odd, for this non-tech-literate person)am looking into twitter - Do you use this? Keep videoing and writing - So down-to-earth and so very HUMAN! Thanks so much!

  36. The difference between the grocery stores, restaurants & obesity levels between South Dakota & Portland are crazy - it's so hard to go out to eat or to the grocery store when I visit my parents - there are so few healthy options (especially if you're mostly veg).

  37. welcome back, crabby!

    i think a lot of it depends on socio-economic factors and location. i'm currently living in a fairly well-off neighborhood where there are things within relative walking distance (mile or so) as well as lots of produce at the grocery stores. i'm also in the middle of affluent suburbia, where you see people running all the time and bike racks on all their cars.

    other parts of town? not so much.

    however, no matter where you live, regardless of the demographics of the area, there will be the health fanatics who find a way and (for lack of a better, more kinder term since i'm TIREDPANTS) the overweight ones who just don't (seem to) care one way or another.

  38. Welcome back!
    (Is it bad that I was hoping you would snatch a picture of some of these places?)

    I feel somewhere in the middle. One the one hand I have a mountain in my backyard. Which is awesome. It's just sooo easy to get up there and enjoy beauty and have a great workout. Lots of trails, tons of healthy joggers, bikers, skiers, walkers, nature lovers, etc. On the other hand, fresh (as in FRESH) fruit of all seasons is really hard to come by. We tend to gobble it up when it's in season (strawberries I miss you). I DO get jealous of the people who live super close to WHole Foods and TJ's...and have a greater organics/fresh fruit selection for cheaper pricees.

    But you know, that mountain really does make up for a lot.

    (Although really, what do I care? I haven't eaten anything fresh in over three months. My diet consists of sausage, popsicles, cereal, and candy. I think my baby might be made out of corn syrup. As for exercise? [pffft])

  39. Great Post! Being from Houston, I totally agree with Liz Turtle that given the lack of transportation options, you inevitably end up in your car to get EVERYWHERE. Whats more, in the suburb my family is from in, the gyms are aw-ful, and the classes they offer worse. Little motivation for those less inclined to be addicted to exercise to get off their butts.

    On the flip side, living in austin is awesome. Great running/biking trails, frisbie golf, and tons of options to be healthy.

    Good Stuff!

  40. ok, now I totally want to move to Austin!

    I am always amazed when people honestly believe that some of the junk they eat is good for them. I think we need to focus on more PE and nutrition education in the schools. If we don't, we are going to have a nation of unhealthy, overweight people. :(

    glad to hear you made it home safe and sound!

  41. Hi! First time commenting here and first just wanted to say you kick some butt! However I was somewhat put off by your rant, I know you meant it in the best way possible and it wasn't offending but felt a little "elitest" (oh god do I hate that word but its the jist of what I'm after). Most of these people don't have a choice to live like they do, I grew up in a town with a population of 400 in Arkansas and the nearest grocery store that had a produce section was 25 miles away, the people who you are shocked to see pile "junk" into their cart arn't thinking about how many calories they are eating, they are thinking about how much they can get for their money. If you are working for $6 an hour and feeding a family of four, what are you going to choose: a prepared dinner from whole foods that will cost $8 or 8 crappy tv dinners that will last much longer for $1 a piece. When you are just trying to survive (as most of these people in rural places are) nutrition gets put pretty low on the priority list.

    Well with my rant done, you are doing a great job by educating people about exercis but just don't forget that not everyone is as fortunate as you are.

  42. Nicole -- that's not a rant, it's a good point. Not to speak for Crabby here, but that's the part that puzzled me. These people live in a climate where they could grow their own vegetables most of the year rather than buying them at a store. Plus, it's cheaper!

    I could understand it if people eat badly in Northern Manitoba from November to March, but according to Newsweek, the bad eating is more prevalent in the southern United States.

  43. Good point Nicole! And thanks Merry!

    I agree that economics makes some choices really difficult. I totally understand why someone struggling to feed their family would not spend extra $$ on organic produce or gym memberships! Healthy food is getting more and more expensive, and I didn't mean to be insensitive about that.

    However, a lot of the choices I saw were not about choosing cheaper items. Does nonfat milk cost significantly more than whole milk? Do whole foods bought in bulk like beans and cabbage and brown rice and potatoes cost that much more than burgers and fries and milkshakes and hot fudge sudays?

    While I think income has a lot to do with it, I also know lots of folks with very little money who prioritize their health and make a lot smarter choices than the kinds I was seeing.

    Education is a big factor, but I think a lot of people KNOW that a ten pound bag of apples would make a better snack for their families than potato chips or candy bars, but the junky snacks taste better! Even I think so.

    I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think part of the problem is a culture of instant gratification and short-term thinking, about our bodies, our material desires, our planet, and all kinds of things. Perhaps coastal elitists are worse about material indulgences red-state southern folks reach for the Doritos, I don't know. Anyway, I'm hoping we're on the way to changing that!

    Thanks for your comment, and hope I didn't offend you too much.

  44. Great post! After Hurricane Katrina we were ousted from New Orleans and we set up in rural Louisiana in an old plantation house. Sounds picturesque and it was but our (relatively) healthy lifestyle certainly suffered - if not went out the window.

    I had to drive over 30 minutes to get to a decent grocery store - or anywhere else for that matter. There were no sidewalks and our street was a highway on which cars drove 65 mph. There weren't many other streets, just fields. Outside, the smell from the nearby chemical plants made you feel kinda sick a lot of the time. Our futures were uncertain so we were anxious and stressed. To conserve money we ate ramen and saved the fruits and veg for the kids.

    Knowing what I know now, I think I would get an all-terrain stroller for the baby and get out and walk on the levee and make better cheap-food choices. But it wasn't until we moved out of that environment that I was able to even begin to think about changing my lifestyle to a healthier one. It was like a weight had been lifted when we moved back that I hadn't even known was there.

    I'm not saying it's impossible for people to make changes. But based on your income can be difficult to even contemplate changes.

  45. nolafwug--after a disaster like Katrina, I can't imagine having any kind of "normal" life!

    We were shocked at the extent of the devastation even this many years later. (Outside the French Quarter, that is, which seemed to be humming along pretty nicely). And we noticed that approaching the city, we couldn't find any grocery stores along the route, even now!

    So glad things have gotten better for you.

  46. I drive 50 miles to Whole Foods, of course, spewing hydrocarbons all the way. We Texans do love us our cars.

  47. I lived in western North Dakota for two years... in all that time, I NEVER had a single checker recognize a zucchini! Not once.

    And restaurants would serve either canned peas or canned corn as a vegetable with an entree. It was pretty bad.

    Tough finding half decent produce up there, I can tell you! So it's definitely different in different places. Yet, we still had a half decent health club... run by the local hospital.

    It was surely different from the Bay Area, CA where I used to live!


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