Friday, October 21, 2011

Obesity Risk May Be Lowered By Moving Into A Better Neighborhood

"Obesity Risk May Be Lowered by Moving Into a Better Neighborhood"

see here too

"Obesity rates are about one-fifth lower in women who moved from poor neighborhoods into low-poverty neighborhoods than those who did not move, according to results from a federal housing program initiated in the mid-1990s."

I found this one really interesting, it seems living in a dangerous crime-ridden neighborhood heightens obesity risk. I wonder how much of this is increased cortisol from the constant 'fight or flight" feelings one has living in such a place. When I had my weight gain, I lived in a more dangerous 'inner-city" neighborhood for around 4 and half years. Three of those years, I worked, but the last was when I was disabled.

One had to be tough to survive, we are talking a place where beggars would come up to you daily at the local bus stop, and where you could get jumped. I saw an armed robbery, got attacked--was able to fight off my attacker whose intentions were rape before anything too bad happened, and life was spent with constant crime, stress and knowing that your neighbors were not there to "help" you but often there to rob or take you for a ride. The times of being followed or being set up as a "would be" victim, were incredible. There was a meanness in every place, no mercy, no neighborly kindness just cruelty, get sick in a store and ask to use a bathroom, they would send you away. By the way, the most dangerous place was the subway stands and daring to leave the house after dark. Even the cab drivers and cable companies avoided my then neighborhood. One I befriended from meeting his cab in a neighboring better area, provided a lot of my transportation while others refused.

  For many in these bad neighborhoods, life itself is filled with daily danger. Gang-bangers in the streets, beggars, and would be hustlers on the take everywhere you turn does not make for a pleasant life. Even the closed Chinese restaurant across the street from my ghetto apartment had homeless people sleeping on it's ledge with their shopping carts. Police cars filled the streets to bust the drug dealers across the way. It was despair, depression and fear all rolled up in one. When you did meet the occasional kind face, they were beaten down and poor too.  Home life wasn't much better, I would see around 6-8 mice and rats a day run across the floors in the cramped 2 room apartment. Well at least with the rats and mice, there was no cockroaches.

Some may be in shock, that I would admit such poverty, often times in this culture, one is told to hide such a thing, lest it be a negative reflection on you, but I lived it, and it played an integral part in my health collapse and severe weight gain. 

I did not end up there by choice, I moved to that big city to avoid homelessness after a teaching job lay off which led to a year of unemployment and underemployment, piecing together sub teaching jobs and fast food work, hoping I could jump onto a career track in social work and finish an already started paralegal degree. My first teaching job was grant-based and the grant had ended. [I had a bachelors degree from earlier on]. I did not drug or drink my way into this life, but slipped through the cracks and then some.

Later my family would help, but a older male relative at that time, was of the "let them sink or swim school" blaming me for my then growing weight, career failures and health problems. Looking back, even the pictures of my swollen face, hands and feet were extreme, I was sick before the move to this place even happened. My health had been rotten since college, denying me even regular teaching jobs from failing medical exams. This was during my mid 20s and during the mid 1990s.

My low residential counselor wages, while offering me training in self defense ironically and experience working with the very violent and mentally ill youth which served as being useful for street survival, just didn't pay the rent in a better part of town. $350-450 dollar a month rent in that particular metropolitan city meant living in dangerous neighborhoods. My take home pay was a lousy average $1000 a month. Transportation was very expensive as well, even a trip just down the road could cost 6 dollars to even just get there. Which made life much more narrow, and activities more dear. I know that impacted things too.

I do believe that my weight gain came about from severe economic stresses and what I faced day to day, and my endocrine system saying "I am out of here!"

That is one thing they do not tell people, live in a constant state of vigilance, and fear and the body is pumping cortisol like gang-busters even in normal healthy people. This is one reason I believe obesity is far higher in impoverished populations in America. Add to that endocrine disease and the use of steroids to control serious breathing problems and it was the set up for the snowball to run right down the hill. They should do a study of the obesity differences between huge teeming cities and more rural areas, would be of interest. When humans live in concrete jungles, health diminishes. How much of the obesity epidemic is based on the bad environment so many are being forced to live in? In other words, its not you that is "sick", it is your surroundings and their impact on you.

They mention the lack of access to healthy food, that plays a part. In the ghetto, you have the corner stores full of snack foods and the food is of far lower quality even in the bigger grocery stores. That's where they send the rotten produce and meat. I have seen it with my own eyes. No cab money to get to the decent grocery store in the neighboring suburbs? You are stuck with the little store across the street that sells ramen noodles and hotdogs and one dying onion in the bin by the door.  By the way, the poverty brokers like the food pantries and rest, aren't passing out fresh fruit and vegetables, you are getting the most processed carbohydrate rich foods possible. This is true across the board and even applied to later communities. Who decided the poor should just eat endless boxes of spaghetti, beans, and rice?

I believe poverty itself in this society which does not offer strong social networks, stable jobs or communities anymore, jacks up ones cortisol levels to the ceiling especially when crime rates rise. I know how I feel when the budget is always strained to the breaking point or weeks where I am trying to assemble meals from the dregs from the refrigerator, and it's always the good stuff that disappears the fastest. Often the very poor do not have resources to even cook decently. Slumlords do not care about making sure your stove works. I was forced to cook with an old microwave and one plug in spiral during these years. No baking bread, I didn't have a bread pan, or gardening there either, there was no land to be had or patio.

Life in the ghetto stunk. I often think to myself if I had been a woman of normal socio-economic means, that my life would have turned out far different. For me obesity is automatically tied to food insecurity and opening an empty fridge and realizing that week there is no money for food. Some may say, how does one get so fat, having no food? Wouldn't it be the opposite, but I often wonder how my 1 meal a day lifestyle, during my worse years of poverty affected my metabolism? Even now, during the wealthier times, I know the weight dips. More food and more variety for me means, better weight loss and control of hunger. More money means more activities. Today I am provided for and God responds to my needs, but those times have stayed with me.

There is a reason I escaped to a very small town, a town I still miss right now. Watching its economic demise, was very difficult. This place is too urban for my tastes though I live in a safer more affluent neighborhood here by default. But I know it's important to pay more rent even for my health and well-being, but live with a life long fear now of living in a place where just leaving your front door, means the predators are upon you. I have decided if I am ever that poor again, that I will hop on a bus to a middle of nowhere small town and rent a room. Learning the hard lesson that peace and safety come first came too late for me.

The night before we escaped to a small town for almost 10 years, I still remember the gun shots at 5 am. Bang Bang Bang! probably some sort of gang fight down the street. I was very glad to be getting out.

Being poor does make you fat. The elitist size acceptance types can claim that obesity isn't a disease or ignore the poverty and obesity quotients. No hobbling to the bus stop for them worrying about getting jumped. They live in another world. Sadly because of their elitism, those who suffer from obesity and are poor and who live in neighborhoods like this still will go unheard. At least I am one of the lucky ones who escaped.


  1. Don't be ashamed of having been in that situation. I have been living in a rundown mobile home for quite some time--and I work full time, but I can't fund the repairs. My mother helped me pay for some of them so at least there is a floor and walls in the back, but I can't ask her for more.
    I think that living in these areas does raise people's cortisol levels due to stress. Also, how are you going to get out and get exercise if it's dangerous to go out? And how many of these folks can afford exercise equipment. Seriously! But hey--it's as simple as moving to a less rundown area! :/

  2. Thanks Real Cie, I am glad you understand. Am glad your mother helped you. I hope your area is safe even if run down. Rural run down was far far easier then urban run down, I escaped to the middle of nowhere, and it probably saved my life back then. Also a rural community is easier to bear, then urban community with violent crime. Your neighbors are friendlier. I still regret leaving there but the economic collapse of America has affected many personal lives including my own.

    Live somewhere else now but it's not like that first place. I think cortisol for the poor where everyday is survival and even thinking of how modern life has stressed everyone to the gills, and throwing in the giant dash of stigma, the cortisol levels are probably through the roof. I have a study in one paper I wrote from the 90s where they studied cortisol levels in men, and the poorer men had far higher cortisol levels then other groups. Yeah it was dangerous in that first neighborhood to even go out to take a walk mid-day, and even then even the shortest trip that could not be walked cost $1.50 for the bus. Imagine coming up with 4 or 5 bucks everytime you just wanted to go somewhere ordinary. Oh it was a terrible lifestyle. Even getting to work, was a $1.50 bus ride each way coupled with a 3-4 dollar cab ride each way. 6-7 bucks every day just to get to work before I was disabled. I was being locked in via poverty owning no car, and locked in via the body. Few social connections as well as soon as I was disabled.

    Yeah gym memberships, exercise equipment far out of the reach. Being too broke to do things means you are at home more, less opportunity to move, etc. Bad food, bad groceries, skipping and missing many a meal, and so hungry by the time meal time came around, a person doesn't want to eat carrot sticks then.

    LOL about moving to a less run down area. Yeah they make it sound so simple. My escape only came via outside help. Thanks for your comments glad you relate. Sometimes reading the blogs of fatland, I feel like I am reading richy-richy--"we do not relate land"--still remember the chick on Big Fat Blog, talking about parasailing in Ecuador, that is someone as far from my reality as the Queen of England. That isn't a poor fat person quibbling about how she is going to afford her compression hose.

    In "fat land" there very few working class or lower socio-economic voices but that is across the board on the internet due to the lower degrees of internet access and computer ownership, but sometimes one can feel very alone in the life they live. Glad you relate.