Fit vs. Fat: Tale of Two Cities

In the US, we have fit cities and we have fat cities, but what's the real difference between the two?

Fit & Fat

Determining the fittest or fattest cities is subjective. So instead of debating who is fitter or fatter, let's take Portland as our Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy and Houston as our Chris Pratt in Parks & Rec. Season 1. Let's start by looking at a snapshot of the two cities.


These cities seem to be relatively similar in terms of population growth, median resident age, male / female ratio, and gross rent. Households in Portland make approximately $1,050 more per month than Houston. If average rent is similar between the two cities, but household income is greater then perhaps Portlanders have more disposable income. If someone had more disposable income, then they may allocate more of their monthly income toward improving their quality of life.


Both cities are known for their extreme weather. Portland, the Land of Eternal Rain. It rained over 145 days out of 211 days from October 2016 to April 2017. In Portland there's nearly a 70% chance of rain, 100% of the time. Houston's weather is unbearable. From May to December the average temperature remains over 80 degrees. In Houston, there's a 67% chance you're going to rush into your car and turn on the A/C as if it's the only thing providing your the will to survive such a climate. 

In hot and humid Houston (say that a few times fast), you may be more likely to live a sedentary life. Spending more time in an air conditioned building or car than walking around. Houston's Metro system transports 16.5 million passengers per year compared to Portland's MAX rail transporting 40 million riders. Houston has 3x the population of Portland, but has 60% less railway riders. It's easy to understand why people in Houston don't move around, but with the constant rain why are people in Portland more active? Perhaps the answer lies in culture.


Portland, the haven of hipsters is rather peculiar. Portlanders embrace the outdoors, some even choose to be "voluntarily homeless". Seems that during the Western Expansion, the fittest explorers continued until they hit the coast, leaving their less fit travelers behind in Houston. Beside an obsession with fancy donuts (VooDoo), Portland pales in comparison to Houston's food culture. 

Houston is home to the legendary fast food chain: Whataburger. It holds a special place in the hearts (or maybe arteries) of many Texans. Texas has some of the best cheat meals known to mankind: Tex-Mex, fried Coke & fried Oreos, kolaches, and of course barbeque.


Alright, jokes aside. There are some interesting points to takeaway from this odd comparison of cities.

Point 1: Money Matters - It appears that as income increases, health begins to take a greater priority. Surviving trumps thriving. If basic needs are not met, then it is difficult to optimize your life. At greater levels of wealth, the burden of basic needs decreases, thus allowing the ability optimize a persons life. 

Point 2: Climate Control - Geography plays a significant role in our lives. The more extreme the climate, the greater we rely on technology to survive in such climates. If the technology required to live in such climates leads to a sedentary lifestyle, then it is more challenging to be active. Fairly easy to imagine staying inside if it's always over 90+ degrees outside. 

Point 3: Choose your friends wisely - The people you associate with influence what you like, where you go, and what you do. If you associate with a group of people that stay inside, are less active, and consume food in excess, then it is likely that you will adopt similar habits. Such habits will affect your well being. The culture of a city is no more than a collection of human networks and if it adopts an active culture, you may find yourself going for a stroll more often.


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