Why weight? 

If you live in Oklahoma City, you owe Mick Cornett two pounds.


This isn't a new MAPS tax in British currency. It's more like a voluntary "FATS tax," on behalf of the mayor's "This City Is Going on a Diet" program, announced at the beginning of the year to make weight loss a consideration for everybody's 2008 resolution list. You don't have to send the poundage to anybody. You just have to get rid of it and forget where you put it. In other words, lose it.


In 2007, Oklahoma City ranked 15th on the list of America's fattest cities compiled by Men's Fitness magazine and eighth on a similar list released by Forbes. The Men's Fitness calculations were based on such factors as the availability of junk food and recreational facilities. Forbes used statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Body Mass Index, a computation of weight to height. Many of us are overweight or obese, according to Forbes, and a growing percentage of children are following our bad example.


Cornett's program features a Web site, www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com, where folks can calculate their own BMI, get information on diet and exercise, and track personal weight loss as well as that of all participants combined. As of mid-January, more than 10,000 people had registered at the site and reported a combined weight loss of more than 10,000 pounds.


The mayor has stressed that our collective weight is a matter of health, not vanity. Health problems related to obesity add $93 billion annually to national health expenses, with an additional cost of 112,000 lives lost per year. On the good news front, Oklahoma City failed to make the Forbes list of vainest cities, as measured by expenditures for hair- and skin-care products. Oklahoma City residents spend less than 10 percent of similar purchases by denizens of Salt Lake City, which rated the top spot on the vanity list.


The weight-loss approach touted by the city's Web site is the only one that has been proven to work: Eat less, move more.


That's oversimplified, of course, but participants are urged to make better food choices from the standpoint of nutrition and calories, and to begin a program of regular exercise. Instead of sitting on the couch (and snacking) while watching television, stand up and clean the room. If you're bound and determined to have a McDonald's quarter-pounder with cheese for lunch, skip the usual large fries and you'll still be 570 calories ahead of the game.


If you think you can have the fries, too, and exercise the calories away later, be prepared to jog or swim for a solid hour or take the dog for at least a two-hour walk simply to get back to "even." I'll add the often-repeated advice to check with your doctor before you begin any rigorous exercise program. Start slowly and increase your time and intensity as your body adapts.


Those two pounds I mentioned in the first sentence are the average loss required per person for adults within city limits to meet Cornett's 1 million pound goal. You may seek a far greater weight loss, or none at all. In diet and exercise, as in the rest of life, common sense counts.


Together, by meeting our individual goals, we can reach the mayor's big goal. Let's win this one for the Mickster.


Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Norman.

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