As promised, I have thoroughly investigated the lifestyle differences between Kentuckians and Coloradans.
Okay, no I haven't. I have investigated the differences between tourists in CO and some Kentuckians, and I have some information about why Coloradans weigh less on average than we do.
Before I get into my hard-hitting investigative journalism, however, I want to thank those of you who commented and e-mailed me on this hot topic. I especially appreciated insights about the socio-economic relationship between weight and income. It's easier to be thin when you are rich--calories are cheap, but nutrients are expensive. And I, like some readers, am dismayed by the increasing lack of physical activity in schools (even though I hated, hated, hated P.E. growing up!)
Back to Colorado! They have mountains. Really, really big mountains. In fact, the altitudes in the Rockies add about 10 beats per minute to the average person's heart rate. And the faster you heart beats, the more calories you burn.
I actually tested this one--I wore my heart rate monitor one day while we were hiking in the mountains. While at rest in the car my heart rate was consistently 10 beats faster than normal. It jacked up to my aerobic zone when I got out of the car simply to walk to the national park latrine (of course, that could have been anxiety--if I am doomed to hell, I'm convinced I'll spend eternity in a port-a-potty). I put the monitor on my husband (who has the heart rate of a coma patient) and he saw similar results.
Thing is, Coloradans actually use those mountains. On Saturday, we thought we'd take one last little hike before the wedding and the long drive home. Getting to the parking lot of the trail, however, was an adventure of it's own. Cars stretched down the road from the trailhead for miles, and park volunteers acted as traffic cops. We checked, and sure enough--all the plates were local. Although it's high tourist season at Rocky Mountain National Park, that doesn't stop the residents from using it for their weekend constitutional.
Of course, it's not enough to have access to physical activity and take advantage of that access. "Calories in" is the other side of the equation. Thus is raised the fascinating question--what do Coloradans eat?
Let's see . . . they eat gouda and apples and blintzes and escargot and halibut and salmon and chicken nuggets and frosties and chicken salads and--oh, wait. That's me.
I did see more "Whole Foods Markets" in Colorado than I've seen in any other state. The Safeway had a fantastic produce and organics section. But then again--I just got some terrific salsa from Remke's made in Florence. And I can buy all the high-end dairy I want at Kroger in Union.
There is no question in my mind that environment plays a major role in weight management (which is why I preach so much about managing your environment). But the resources are only part of the story. Our choices determine how happy the ending will be.
Why is Colorado the skinniest state in the nation? I don't have (and won't give) a laundry list of pat answers. Fact is, Coloradans, like the rest of us, are getting larger every day in spite of any natural or economic advantages. By their choices they are changing the fate of their state. Those of us in the other 49 can watch, learn--and make new choices of our own.