A week in the Fat Apple

By Vincent Leb

Nearly three out of five New Yorkers were obese or overweight in 2016, according to numbers of the city council. But why? Some reflections on a week spent in Midtown Manhattan.

It is 3 am when I suddenly wake up out of nowhere. My stomach feels like its tightening. Even just breathing is painful. I start sweating. I feel sick. My entire body is cramping. I don’t know what to do.

I fall asleep half an hour later, still in my bed. When I wake up the next morning, I feel fine again. But the shock remains: What has happened last night? It felt like my body was breaking down. Could that have been a sign?

I started thinking about my first days in New York City as I was walking through Manhattan’s busy streets, scanning shops and restaurants. When arriving at an editorial meeting 15 minutes later, a thought had crossed my mind: I hadn’t spotted any grocery stores. All the streets I passed had McDonald’s, Chipotle and Subway lined up in big loads. It was only then that I realised I had unintentionally eaten nearly all of my meals in one of those places since arriving in the city.

Burgers, Bagels, Breakfast rolls

Of course, being a tourist accommodated in a small hotel room for a week cannot be compared to living in an apartment with a kitchen, where you’re able to cook daily. Still, the apparent lack of easily accessible, yet affordable dining places and the omnipresence of fast food chains worried me. It seemed like there was no escape from fatty, heavy food; at least in Midtown Manhattan.

Numbers of the New York City Council let me to believe this might also be the case outside of the district I saw most of this past week: Nearly three out of five New Yorkers are obese or overweight, according to the Health & Environment Data Portal. In the areas of South Bronx and Southeast Queens, the number of super-sized citizens is as high as 75 percent – a daunting figure. Both areas are homes to poorer households compared to other parts of the city.

Could less wealthy families be forced to consume more unhealthy food due to the high pricing of healthy food and the laborious way of getting it?

Although this is only my own explanation, one thing remains clear: Obesity might be the outcome of multiple individual factors combined, but living a healthy life should be made as easy as possible. Or in other words: People shouldn’t have to board a plane to Amsterdam in order to be able to find an affordable grocery store…