Georgian London, with green squares everywhere
April recently wrote Bike-Happy, Ped-Friendly Cities Less Obese, but how do they get that way? George Monbiot writes that "We are, to a surprising extent, what the built environment makes us," quoting a series of studies which show trees make us more social, quiet areas are friendlier and vegetation reduces crime. He also notes the relationship between urban planning and body mass index:
Where settlements are dense (and therefore able to support public transport) and close to shops, work places and recreation places, people are more likely to walk and cycle and less likely to be fat.
Vaughan, Ontario suburbs
Build loose suburbs carved up by busy roads and without green spaces and you help to create a population of fat, lonely people plagued by criminals. Build dense, leafy settlements with mixed uses, protected from traffic, and you help to create safe, fit and friendly communities.
Natasha Singer puts it more simply in the New York Times:
It's the environment, stupid.
"Everyone knows that you shouldn't eat junk food and you should exercise," says Kelly D. Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. "But the environment makes it so difficult that fewer people can do these things, and then you have a public health catastrophe."
When there are no parks within easy walking distance, when every kid has to be bused or driven to school, when they are surrounded by six lane arterial and need a lift to go anywhere, it is no surprise that they are getting fat and their parents are getting stressed driving them everywhere.
It is difficult to eat a balanced diet when corn and soybeans are subsidized; The price of a Big Mac, adjusted for inflation, fell 5.44% in the last decade while fruits and vegetables increased by 17%.
The real problem is a landscape littered with inexpensive fast-food meals; saturation advertising for fatty, sugary products; inner cities that lack supermarkets; and unhealthy, high-stress workplaces.
More in the New York Times
More on what makes you fat:
What Makes You Fat?
Cheap Gas Makes You Fat
The Government Makes You Fat
Where You Live Makes You Fat
Being Surrounded by Fast Food Restaurants Makes You Fat.