Weekly Obsession: Does this ‘It City’ label make us look fat?

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 12:20am

Somehow, in a year, Nashville got a lot less fit.

It defies reason, because Mayor Karl Dean is still entreating us weekly to walk with him or run with him or bike with him or wander with him through his six-block box on Demonbreun, a full walking tour of which would fell even the best-trained Olympic-caliber race walker.

Nevertheless, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s American Fitness Index, Nashville is three points less fit than last year, now the nation’s 32nd fittest city, down five spots from last year.

It’s a complicated metric — it combines personal factors like health behavior, the incidence of chronic health conditions and access to health care with community factors like walkability, PE requirements and park expenditures.

And somehow, when the numbers were crunched, Nashville found itself less fit.

It’s not all bad news here. The boosters with their obsessive yearning to best our so-called peer cities will happily boast that Nashville ranked ahead of Charlotte, whose bevy of bankers apparently need to exercise more.

Indeed, the city’s website includes an exhortation to help Nashville beat Charlotte in something called the Fit Family Challenge, the winners of which could be awarded a prize pack from America’s great provider of health food: Coca-Cola.

In any case, these rankings, like the annual trip to the family doctor, don’t really tell us anything we don’t already know.

Our primary culinary touchstones are fried chicken covered in a lard-and-cayenne paste and a lunch consisting of a big hunk of some kind of meat with a heaping helping of three vegetables, at least one of which is fried or simmered in pork fat.

Though the parks system has made great strides with its greenway program, there are large swaths of the city that aren’t particularly walkable, with most everyone opting to drive point-to-point, even if the points are proximate.

And, like at that doctor’s appointment, we nod our head — “I know, I know” — when we’re told to eat better, exercise more often and quit smoking. Those head-nods last just long enough for us to get into our cars to drive the quarter-mile to Wendy’s, which is just enough time to suck down this Camel Light.

The mayor’s inability to goad us into becoming 600,000 muscle-bound mesomorphs must cause him untold levels of frustration. By now he is used to everyone within the sound of his voice acquiescing to his will, capitulating to the singular wisdom of his ideas.

Sure, we’ll roll over for a half-billion-dollar convention center, we’ll happily turn over control of our public schools to private operators, and we’ll bat not a lash when the mayor cuts seven-figure checks to incentivize giant corporations to lay down tax-free stakes here.

But cut back on the Baconators? Oh, that’s a line your city will not walk over, Mayor Dean. We might drive over it, but we’re definitely not doing any jumping jacks once we get there.