Validation of My Urban Weight Theory

About three years ago, I wrote a post discussing the relative weights of urban, suburban and rural dwellers. There’s even a chart.

My wife is a petite size 6, but she still complains that she feels fat walking around downtown Vancouver. As my local readers know, Vancouver is full of wafer-thin (often surgically modified) women (many of whom are Asian, who typically start with a small frame to begin with). Vancouver’s a tremendously superficial city (look no further than the ads in Vancouver magazine), and its body-obsessed denizens reflect this.

However, we went out to the suburbs yesterday, and suddenly my wife felt thin. The average weight seemed to shoot up once we got out of the city’s core. That got me thinking about skinny, neurotic urbanites giving way to fast food-fed suburbanites giving way to leathery, corn-fed farmers. So, I made this graph (with apologies to all the thin suburbanites out there).

Yesterday, I read Chad Skelton’s piece in the Vancouver Sun (decaying link, here’s an alternative) about a study on health in BC and the Pacific Northwest:

People who live in high-density core cities are significantly healthier than residents of sprawling suburbs, says a report being released today by Sightline, an environmental think-tank based in Seattle.

That’s because the extra time suburbanites spend in their cars each week makes them fatter — increasing their risk of chronic disease — at the same time that it makes them more likely to be killed or injured in a car crash.

Of course, speaking as an urbanite would could stand to lose 15 or 20 pounds, I’m not sure where I can go to get thinner. I have (mostly) switched to Diet Coke, so that’s a start.


  1. Weight loss advice: Commit to a 10K run/race – and train for it (Get yourself up to being able to run 30+ mins non stop at a rate of less than 6 mins/KM)

    I lost 20lbs last year(Probably gained back 15, but that’s another story).

    Also, buy a Garmin Forerunner GPS if you do get into running. That thing is a huge motivator, and a lot of fun too.

  2. Darren, you don’t need to lose 20 lbs. You looked quite healthy when we went for lunch last week (AND you ate a salad AND guilted me into having one too).

    I agree with Jeff – I did a 12 week training session for a 10k run last year, and it was the best I had felt in years. Like Jeff, some of the weight has come back, but I’ve been out for another 10k and a few runs, this year. But now that I live in the ‘burbs I can’t find as nice a place to run as the Yaletown/Downtown seawall 😦

  3. I take some issue with the sentence “Vancouver is full of wafer-thin (often surgically modified) women (many of whom are Asian, who typically start with a small frame to begin with)”, which implies that it’s many Asian women who are often surgically modified. While I agree with you that the high population of generally slim Asians contribute to the low median weight of Vancouver, I doubt that cosmetic beauty enhancements exists mainly within that ethnic group. I mean, eyelid surgery is more likely, but not for the more common procedures like breast implants and liposuction.

  4. Diet sodas, while lower in calories, may still trigger an insulin response by the body, which causes metabolization of carbs into fat. You may want to drop sodas altogether.

  5. Celia: Hmm…too many modifiers. I wrote that 3 years ago, and I’d probably adjust my ‘often surgically modified’ to something like ‘surgically modified at a much higher rate than the average Canadian woman’.

    Also, it’s just my lousy structure and multitude of modifiers that may have implied that Asians get more surgery than the population as a whole. That’s not what I meant. What I meant was:

    * Many of Vancouver’s women are thin
    * Many of Vancouver’s women are Asians, and thus have a headstart on thinness
    * Downtown Vancouver features more surgically modified people per square kilometre than the national average.

    Those statements are meant to be mutually exclusive.

  6. Actually, I’m going to agree with Darren, he’s looking a little chunkier than when I met him a few years ago. Must be all that sitting around feeling superior.

    When I was in high school and university I’d travel to the suburbal malls to buy clothes, because I didn’t have much money and I never found any size smalls on sale in the city. Surrey was especially good for finding bargains.

    My theory on why city people are skinnier is that there’s less space in the city for each person, especially in living quarters, so to conserve space we keep our total physical volumes at a minimum.

  7. Actually, when I’m feeling superior, I like to stand. I find it’s more regal.

    Thanks to everything for weighing in on this issue. Heh, weighing in. Get it? I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

  8. Is there a correspondence between weight and political preference? Maybe that’s what you are really seeing. People in urban areas tend to be more progressive. Do you find yourself moving to the right when you put on pounds?

  9. I’ve gained a bit of weight since I moved out of the city. You don’t walk anywhere, the car is the main means of transport. And you have more creature comforts in a home that you leave less.

    The pace is different out of the city too, you do everything slower and never feel in a rush for anything.

  10. You are so right. When I moved to Burnaby and started commuting downtown a year and a half ago, I have seen the pounds slowly creep on. Nothing terrible, just about 10 pounds or so, but yikes, if I keep up that average for ten years I’ll be in big trouble…

    The problem is the lack of time and energy created by my lifestyle. Work and commuting time combined takes a minimum of ten hours out of my day, often more, so I am usually exhausted when I get home and have limited time left before bedtime.

    But I’m working on it. I’m walking a lot on the weekends, finding time for yoga twice a week on weeknights and playing softball at UBC on Sunday evenings 🙂

  11. Could I note that there is a very fine bike route between downtown and Burnaby? I live on Boundary road, and my bike commute to near Stanley Park takes less time than driving.

    Plus, with our mild weather and some decent rain gear, you can bike commute year-round.

    Oh, and I save at least $2,000 per year through bike commuting. And pass Darren’s place twice every day 🙂

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