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OK City Mayor Ignores Reality, Puts City on Diet

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett recently decided that his city was too fat. So he told them all to go on a diet. Apparently this all came about when Fortune put OKC on one of their, "Like OMG you guys? This city is so fat in those jeans!" lists. The best part? The article is laden with ways to make people feel good about themselves. Like:

...his news conference to announce the initiative was held in front of the elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Clever, right? Because elephants are in the room.

"I want people to openly discuss this issue," Cornett said. "Everyone is afraid to talk out loud about obesity because they don't want to offend anyone."

Anyone who doesn't think "everyone" is talking about fat should open his eyes to find he is throughly inside an elephant's ass. Everyone is talking about fat. Us. Pill pushers. Weight Watchers. Diet blogs. TV news. Oprah. Magazines. Newspapers.

I can imagine Cornett's argument would be something like, "But they're not talking about the real issue!" No, no, they're just trying to scare us into an unhealthy diet mentality. The elephant in the room.

"No city has ever been placed on a diet by the mayor," said Cornett, who says he weighed 217 pounds in April 2007, and was down to 179 last month.

So here we have Cornett, a pretty standard "I lost weight, you can too!" type of guy. This is the same thing we see over and over again: lots - but not all! - of people who lose weight later turn on people who don't or can't, and make it an issue of superiority. Cornett is better than us because he lost weight, you see; coupled with the fact that he is in a position of power is a dangerous thing.

"I realized after I'd done it that I was putting my wife on a diet, and that's probably not a good strategy. Not that she's overweight, but telling your wife she's now on a diet was an interesting aspect of this."

Wait. What? I missed that. He put his wife on a diet? Interesting how he saw that as a bad thing and yet decided to do the same thing to the city.

"We've never documented it, but someone who claimed to know said we have more fast-food restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.," Cornett said. "Life in Oklahoma City is built around the automobile. The business model for a fast-food restaurant works really well here because you can get the land cheap."

Hm. Wait: "we've never documented it." So he's just guessing? Sounds like a sound political strategy to me!

Now's the time in the piece where Cornett's true colors start to shine through. He's put the city on a diet because he lost weight. He thinks there are too many fast food places (uh, you can help control that, you're the mayor.) I bet he thinks OKC's fat people eat "too much".

The article steps to the side for a moment to focus on Sonic, the drive-thru chain that's based here. They were undoubtedly overjoyed to be a part of this article. Their spokesperson provided a standard, "We're doing what we can!" sound bite - they've added diet sodas, low-fat milk, and smoothies to their menus. All right. Choice is good, right? Even if those people order burgers with their smoothies. You can practically hear Cornett fall over when that's noted by Sonic's spokesperson.

But what article would be complete without a dissenting viewpoint? This one.

Meanwhile, at the Oklahoma City chapter of Overeaters Anonymous -- a self-help group modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous -- members think the mayor's weight-loss campaign is a great idea.

That's a surprise.

"We have an obese nation, and Oklahoma ranks at the top of obese states," said Mike, a chapter leader who, in accordance with the group's traditions, requested anonymity. "I think what the mayor is trying to do is wonderful. I'm glad he had the courage to speak up about this."

Your opinion sir, fine, etc. etc. etc. But man, I know we've got members in OKC - you guys do get all of the anti-fat media coverage out there too, right?

But Mike knows from personal experience how resistant Oklahoma City residents are to acknowledging that they have a weight problem. "In the whole metro area," he said, "we don't have even 100 members."

Gee Mike, maybe it's because not all those fat folks don't have eating problems. (Or worse, some could have true eating disorders and dysfunctional relationships with their bodies - but that's just a small elephant in the room, isn't it?)

This thing bothers me. A whole city on a diet is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars and mindshare; think about all of the wasted mental energy on this. Worse, the article pins all of the blame on fast food and overeating when there's not one shred of evidence in this piece suggesting that OKC's residents eat more fast food than other cities nor is there any evidence suggesting they overeat. None. And there's nothing here that focuses on health - just weight.

Instead of funneling this effort into a weight loss project, maybe the mayor should focus on physical and mental health - without forcing people into feeling bad about their bodies. Imagine if there was more money spent on something like... a city-wide sidewalk system. And encouraging use of public transit. And encouraging development that worked well with these city-provided assets. I could go on but you get the idea. The goal here isn't weight loss but, instead, making a livable city. And geez, if you think cars are the problem, go after that instead.

As Cornett suggests, there's something that no one is talking about here. That's true. But it's poor urban planning, and not fat. But hey, everyone hates fat people so... go for the quick win! Good luck with the re-election!

[Edited to fix a weird typo, and to credit BFBer Sarahbear for finding this a couple of months back]

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richie79's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | Wait. What? I missed that.

Wait. What? I missed that. He put his wife on a diet? Interesting how he saw that as a bad thing and yet decided to do the same thing to the city.

I think he meant that his wife would be automatically included in the city-wide diet thing. But I'm just guessing - given his distain for individual choice he's probably the kind of person who'd think it was perfectly acceptable to 'put his wife on a diet'.

This is horrible and my thoughts are with the OK SA community. I'd normally expect this from schools - talk about the infantilisation of society. I don't know what I'd do if my city council adopted a similar tactic - most likely sell up and leave a city where it was made quite clear I was no longer welcome. Do the residents get any choice at all in this? Or will it be increasingly backed up with sanctions against those who fail to fall into line? Because whilst being bombarded with weight-loss propaganda at every turn would be soul-destroying enough, I fear that an evangelist such as this mayor wouldn't stop at billboards and encouraging Wendy's to promote diet soda.

You raise an interesting point in the final part of the post. I'm a city planner here in Leeds and clearly we're a little more enlightened than our OKC counterparts as we've been encouraging footway, cycle lane and public transport provision for years. Now we're being told by central Government to stress how all these things are critical weaopns in the fight against obesity - a rebranding exercise, if you will. Oh, and we're to get new powers to ban takeaways from opening near schools - not sure how that would sit with free trade laws, but there you go.

If only there were enough self-acceptance and shared identity amongst fat people to start showing these politicians what we think of them at the ballot box.

sparklepants's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | Ohhh GOD!

This is one of those times when I am horribly ashamed to be an Oklahoman. Argh. If it's not one crazy politician claiming global warming is a hoax, it's another saying that girls will become lesbians by going to the bathroom together. Or a mayor saying he's putting the entire city on notice. NICE. I'll assume that since he's mayor of OKC, he's a lot like the OTHER mayors OKC has had in the past, which means he's starkly out of touch with a majority of the city and pretty much the entire state. The poverty level in Oklahoma is outrageous. I grew up in a community where almost everyone lived below the poverty line or hovered pretty close to it. Not much has changed either. If anyone has been to OKC, it's not that hard to see that it isn't the wealthiest city. It's kind of small and dirty and parts of it I wouldn't go into in broad daylight. I'd wager that a lot of people there are already suffering from pretty low self esteem from jobs, relationships, financial standing, etc. I'm not sure how many options people have for "healthy" eating. I know I'd like to spend more money on healthy foods myself but given my income and the fact that I'd like to have heat, I don't buy as much healthy food. I buy things that are quick and easy to prepare and are pretty cheap.



rachelr's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | I wish these diet-dupes

I wish these diet-dupes would wake up and realize that you can't measure improved health through weight-loss. Sure, weight loss gives you some tangible numbers for those who like to see results, but so can blood pressures, cholesterol levels, increased stamina and fitness, better glucose tolerance tests, etc... Why aren't we looking at THOSE numbers - the more important ones - instead for the mark of improved health?

The mayor has good intentions, I'm sure (or, I'm hoping diet-moguls aren't contributing to his campaign). But by promoting the diet mentality, he's actually setting his city up to gain, not lose weight. And I'd also like to check in with the mayor in a year, two years, and even five to see if he himself has maintained his weight loss.

Mystery Mommy's picture
Mystery Mommy
February 11th, 2008 | Link | Gah!!

I really like what you're saying about putting in sidewalks and public transit.

Hey, Mr. Mayor! How does your city rank in bike-ability? How much recess and PE do your school kids get each day? Does everyone have access to affordable energy-packed breakfasts? Are there enough affordable rec centers? What about parks? Basketball courts? Can kids get to recreation facilities without a parent driving them? Do folks feel safe letting their kids bike around their neighborhoods to friends' houses? Are kids safe playing outside? Can people walk to shops and restaurants? Can kids safely walk to school?

And by "safe", I don't mean just from crime, but also are crosswalks available?


Morrighan's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | So? Letter writing? Press

So? Letter writing? Press release? Take as many of our fat asses as possible to OKC and plop ourselves down on any handy piece of ground out front of the mayor's office?

Kate Harding's picture
Kate Harding
February 11th, 2008 | Link | Brilliant.

Anyone who doesn't think "everyone" is talking about fat should open his eyes to find he is throughly inside an elephant's ass.

Love you. That's all.

kristin's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | This seems to be the newest

This seems to be the newest sensation sweeping the country. I mentioned this over at Shapely Prose, but in Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels (better known as "my bitch Mitch") is encouraging Indiana residents to lose "10 in 10". The commercials are ridiculous complete with a fatty putting a donut back at a work meeting . 'Cause, you know, only fat people eat donuts. He also said, "If you can, quit smoking". Yeah. Make sure you lose weight, but only quit smoking IF YOU CAN.

diane February 11th, 2008 | Link | "...a Web site,

"...a Web site,, featuring links to information about nutrition, exercise and weight loss. He encouraged citizens to register and track their progress together with others toward the million-pound goal."

From what I"ve been able to gather this is the sum total of his city-wide diet plan. This is certainly not putting or forcing anyone anywhere on a diet. "Encouraging" people to go to a website and self-report their supposed weight-loss isn't anywhere near the claim of the headline "Mayor puts city on diet".

Now, is it a stupid idea? Certainly. Does it give the mayor publicity, name in the media and all that? Absolutely. Is it using societies obsession with weight to boost his public image? A resounding yes. But is it "forcing" anyone to do anything? No it most certainly is not. It's a pr stunt in response to another pr stunt. A letter to the mayor pointing out his stupidity in even coming up with such rubish might be something to think about writing. I'd also include that his annoucment in front of elephants is almost poetic--- elephants are large--it's their genetic make-up and they have long memories.... which the mayor better hope his constituents don't have come time for re-election.

Fillyjonk's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | "Like OMG you guys? This

"Like OMG you guys? This city is so fat in those jeans!"

It looks like one of those rapper guys' girlfriends!

I think all outrage worth expressing has been expressed, but I wanted to add my love for "thoroughly inside an elephant's ass."

kristin's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | @ rachelr- Yeah, those

@ rachelr- Yeah, those numbers would be great indicators, too. I also think measuring subjective variables of individuals' quality of life would be a big step forward.

Sarahbear February 11th, 2008 | Link | I remember posting this on

I remember posting this on the forum a while back. As an Oklahoman, albeit from Tulsa and not OKC, it just makes me shudder.

"A diet counselor once told me that all overweight people are angry with their mothers and channel their frustrations into overeating. So I guess that means all thin people are happy, calm, and have resolved their Oedipal entanglements."

JeanC's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | If I were living in that

If I were living in that city my reply to the major would be "You are hereby directed to attempt an airborne indecent assault at a perambulating, perforated pastry." What an idiot Sticking out tongue

TariRocks's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | From what I"ve been able to

From what I"ve been able to gather this is the sum total of his city-wide diet plan. This is certainly not putting or forcing anyone anywhere on a diet.

You know, I get what you're saying....everybody has free will and all. But I think this kind of PR stunt, as you say, only further serves to add another voice to the mass hysteria. Exercising free will is fucking hard in an environment that constantly reinforces (if not glorifies) conformity.

Not only that, but as government officials at all levels hop on the weight loss bandwagon, it lends an official-ness that could sway folks who have thus far resisted Madison Avenue's pitches. I know plenty of people who can ignore advertising bullshit and shallow Hollywood-ization.....but have a harder time shrugging off something coming from the an elected official whose job is purportedly looking out for the health and wellbeing of his constituents.

fat_chic's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | so what's really going on?

Historically speaking, when the media makes a big fuss about a non-essential issue like obesity, there's something else going on. Are they trying to distract us from the stupidity in Iraq? Is it because the gay marriage straw man isn't working anymore? Is there something not being reported that will mushroom into a much larger problem?

That said, I love Sonic. I should road trip for it.

You can find me at:

GoingLoopy February 11th, 2008 | Link | I live in OKC - and in terms

I live in OKC - and in terms of things like access to public transit, bike (or walking) friendliness, etc - it sucks. Fitness centers are few and far between. There are not many whole-food type stores. Anything health-conscious is expensive here. Even Weight Watchers doesn't have a lot of alternatives for meetings. They're either company-sponsored or require a major commute or are at times which preclude those who are gainfully employed from joining. The few nice fitness centers are either in the ritzier suburban areas or are completely overcrowded (the downtown Y is really nice, but if you want to work out before or after work, good luck with that). Lower-rent apartment complexes don't have fitness centers. There aren't a whole lot of safe public parks. There are a few nice areas - like the walking/biking trails around Lake Hefner - but even if you live near downtown, that's a 15-20 minute drive.

Maybe there are more alternatives than I think, but they're not anywhere near where I live and work. Driving halfway across town every day to work out is not practical. Neither is driving halfway across town to buy healthy food.

GoingLoopy February 11th, 2008 | Link | PS - as to Sonic - healthy

PS - as to Sonic - healthy alternatives my white dimpled ass. They have a few salads and grilled chicken items. Otherwise, it's all fried, all the time. Every fast food chain has diet soda, as far as I know. I doubt their smoothies are all that healthy either.

Bree's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | Fast-food salads are loaded

Fast-food salads are loaded with just as much calories and fat as the burger meals that the Fat Nazi Banshees constantly scream about. If you want a salad from Wendy's or McD's but don't want the calories, you have to eat it with no dressing. How tasty is that?

I can't stress enough how weight loss should be an individual choice. We don't need politicians, celebrities, and drive by anti-fatty trolls publicly announcing "HEY FATSO, HOW ABOUT DROPPING SOME POUNDS?" I'd like to know how much activity they're getting. I bet you it's a lot less than us.

Dreama February 11th, 2008 | Link | Beyond the "oh no fat will

Beyond the "oh no fat will kill us!!!" message implicit in this, what about the people in Oklahoma City who absolutely do not have any reason to lose weight? What about the teenagers who shouldn't lose a pound, but are convinced that they're fat and will take this message as reinforcements of that idea? What about people are already suffer from an eating disorder and body dysmorphic issue? There are plenty of "normal" weight people around, even in OKC, who do not need to have a "you should lose weight" message drummed into their brain.

In Pittsburgh we've got a quasi-weight loss thing going on that's more geared toward eat well and move more, something good for everyone, more than an "everyone is fat, diet diet diet" idea. There are TV ads and I believe a website (I haven't been paying that much attention) and some of the larger local companies are on board with ads and fitness initiatives in the workplace like lunchtime walking clubs and healthier offerings in cafeterias and so on.

I have no problems with using bully pulpits to encourage fitness and wellbeing. I do have major problems with a government using a penny of tax dollars to send a message that doesn't serve either of those goals.

catrandom February 11th, 2008 | Link | I do have a problem...

Just for me, I DO have a problem with the government poking its nose into what it perceives to be people's "fitness." Fitness is not an absolute in any case; what's possible and desirable varies tremendously from one person to the next.

Government folks are (as this matter in OKC clearly shows) as susceptible to propaganda as anyone else, and "I'm putting this city on a diet" is exactly where earnest concern for the health of the proletariat tends to lead.

And if some functionary were to pick better measures of health to focus on than the all-but-meaningless item of weight -- well, I don't believe I want the government watching my cholesterol and my blood pressure any more than I want it tracking my BMI.

Generally speaking, I think the best contribution the government can make to people's well-being is to, as nearly as possible, leave us the hell alone. For many reasons, I'm not a libertarian, but sometimes I can really see where they're coming from.

Meowzer February 11th, 2008 | Link | Apparently this guy does not

Apparently this guy does not think there is any such thing as:

- Fat vegetarians.
- Fat vegans.
- Fat people with small appetites.
- Fat people who always drink diet soda anyway.
- Fat people who despise fast food and avoid it like the plague, or at least only eat it when they "have" to.
- Fat people who have dieted their brains out all their lives and are fat anyway, in some cases much fatter than if they had never dieted.
- Thin people who eat at Sonic every chance they get and do NOT order diet soda (what, haven't they always had that? and grilled chicken too? I always used to get grilled chicken when I went there).
- A chattering class and its followers that will not SHUT UP ABOUT FAT FOR TWO GODDAMNED SECONDS. In what world do we equate not literally throwing rotten eggs, overripe fruit, and pointed rocks at fat people when they walk by with being too nice to them for their own good?

And what happens if you don't get thin on this "diet"? Do they deport you to Tulsa?

vesta44's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | Nah, they're gonna deport

Nah, they're gonna deport you to Mississippi with the rest of the fatties who can't eat in public. And if I remember correctly, the whole town losing a million pounds means each person would have to lose less than 2 pounds each (hell, I can do that just by using the bathroom). It's a publicity stunt with no brains behind it and no concern for people with EDs or for the fat people who have been hearing this shit for too damned long. That mayor needs to pull his head out of the elephant's ass and get a clue about self-determination, not government involvement in any individual's health. IOW, mind your own business, Mayor.

it's all right to be crazy, just don't let it drive ya nuts!

AnnieMcPhee's picture
February 11th, 2008 | Link | "In what world do we equate

"In what world do we equate not literally throwing rotten eggs, overripe fruit, and pointed rocks at fat people when they walk by with being too nice to them for their own good?"

To some people, even throwing shit out of moving cars and mooing at fat people IS considered too nice for their own good. I was walking with my husband once and some idiot teens screamed out of the car, "Oh my god, is that your girl, dude?" I pulled up my shirt and shook my belly at them. They laughed, but so did I. Assholes. If fat upsets them so much, let 'em see more of it. (I was younger then.) The one with the giant soda flying at me on the bicycle bothered me because it upset my daughter and knocked me down. Some people are just evil.

Zero isn't a size, it's a warning sign. - Carson Kressley

rebelle February 14th, 2008 | Link | Kathleen Parker also just

Kathleen Parker also just weighed in on this. She, of course, thinks the mayor's diet is a great idea!,0,1038573.column

Now, what is it about this column that annoys me so much...

"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."

In other words: "Fat people all eat a certain way! And that way is clearly unhealthy! Because they're faaaat!" Oh. That'd be it! (Also, if you critically examine the lede, it doesn't make any logical sense, and not just because plenty of people actually do doubt the correlation).

rebelle February 14th, 2008 | Link | Annie: Just read your post

Annie: Just read your post and I have to say anyone should be upset to be knocked over by a flying soda deliberately flung from a moving vehicle. Those people assaulted you! So very, very wrong. I'm sorry that happened. Worst that ever happened to me was some idiots leaning out their window and going "moooo!" I wanted to break into applause and in my best Kindergarten-teacher voice say: "Very good! Now, what sound does a jackass make? Oh. That's right. They sound like you!" Anyway, the incident was amusing in one respect: The fat lady was the one walking for two miles, while the harriers were the ones sitting on their asses and driving!

AnnieMcPhee's picture
February 15th, 2008 | Link | That thought occurred to me

That thought occurred to me too, rebelle - there *I* was riding a bicycle, and they were sitting in a car eating White Castle garbage lol. And since the soda was full, they had to buy another. Jackasses. It is, however, one of those things you just never forget. (And yeah, they screamed Moo as well. Sigh. Looking back, I wasn't even very fat.)

Zero isn't a size, it's a warning sign. - Carson Kressley

Lillian's picture
February 18th, 2008 | Link | When I was a women in my

When I was a women in my twenties, college boys would yell 'fat, ugly chick' as I walked by. Since I've turned 30 no one has done that. I'm almost 44 now. I wonder if it was because some how they saw my lack of confidence in my manner or dress. It's not like I've got thinner over the years. Perhaps, they don't yell at 'older' chicks as much. Then, again, no one whistled at me when I was younger and after I was thirty, I got a few. Anyway, I hold my head up high and don't let idiots driving by ruin my day.

btownbbw February 18th, 2008 | Link | Did you guys know

Jawdropping! I was just curious if you guys knew that our esteemed mayor in OKC is a former sportscaster... I think there is a general promotion of sports and fitness due to an obvious bias.. I also wonder if it will be parlayed into something to support our efforts to get a major league team. Maybe I am too conspiracy minded.. but I wonder if there are bigger fish to fry!

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