OKLAHOMA CITY -- If anyone still doubts the correlation between obese America and our fast-food culture, consider Oklahoma City, where the mayor has asked residents to join him on a diet.
The city best known to many Americans as the site of Timothy McVeigh's horrific act of terrorism in 1995 is also the fast-food axis of the nation and the eighth fattest, with an obesity rate of 25 percent.
Mayor Mick Cornett is hoping to change that. On New Year's Eve, he challenged citizens to lose 1 million pounds and launched an interactive Web site where people can sign on and track their weight loss (thiscityisgoingonadiet.com).
As of this writing, 14,688 dieters, including interlopers from 40 countries, have lost 27,153 pounds, or about 13.5 tons.
Sitting in his office in downtown Oklahoma City, Cornett looks more like a GQ model -- or like the news anchor he was until 1999. Lean and chiseled, he's 38 pounds lighter than a year ago. By the end of February, he hopes to make his goal of losing 42 pounds, from 217 to 175.
Cornett is losing about one pound per week -- and the old-fashioned way. No carb-counting, no fat-gram calculus, no miracle shakes, sugar busters, pills or pulleys. He simply cut his calories from about 3,000 to 2,000 per day and plays tennis three days a week.
That's it. Non-geniuses know that you have to burn more calories than you consume or risk getting fat, but fast-food nation is also quick-fix country. Real, sustained weight loss takes patience, discipline and commitment, not a calculator.
Cornett, who has always struggled with weight, says he wants to remove the "blanket of shame" from excess poundage. People will talk about their erectile dysfunction or sexually transmitted disease in a skinny minute, but they won't talk about their flab. Now that's personal.
The OKC diet isn't an isolated initiative, but is part of this rebirth after the Bombing, which receives uppercase treatment around here. The overhaul actually started in 1993 with a voter-approved penny sales tax that would last five years (later extended) to fund everything from downtown redevelopment and river restoration to education improvements.
The Bombing broke city momentum only temporarily. The sales tax raised more than $309 million and went toward nine projects, including a sports arena, ballpark, trolleys, dams and building renovations. Today, the formerly desolate downtown boasts seven hotels where there used to be one, and thousands of residents are moving back into the inner city.
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