20 Most Overweight Cities in America

6 minute read

By Christopher Brown

Obesity has plagued the modern world for decades. And solving it isn’t as simple as, say, telling everyone to put down the Oreos. Fortunately, you can learn everything about obesity with a search online.

It’s a complex, multi-faceted social issue stemming from equal parts education, culture, poverty and industry. The effects of widespread obesity begin with staggering healthcare costs and ripple through our culture.

The Big Picture

I want to make this clear from the get-go: this is not a “point and laugh” piece. If you’ve ever struggled with weight or are currently on the path to better health (fist bump), then you understand how hurtful words can be.

No — this is a very, very, very small snapshot of a much larger problem. It’s also a reminder that obesity isn’t simply a problem of willpower or a purely individual problem – it can be cultural.

Today at Healthversed, we’re travelling from sea to shining sea to bring you the 20 most overweight cities in the good ‘ole US of A. We use the term “city” loosely here. Some of the following metropolitan regions contain more than one city and a few even cross state borders.

As far as the numbers go, we’re ranking the cities on the categories of Fat Prevalence (percentage of overweight/obese citizens), weight related health problems, and their access to Healthy Food or, their Healthy Environment ranking.

#20: Scranton – Wilkes Barre – Hazleton, PA

We begin with an amalgamation of cities located in North Eastern Pennsylvania. This working class city boasts a population of over 550,000 residents spread out across the Wyoming Valley.

The region ranked 3rd in fat prevalence (the percentage of people overweight or obese) but balanced it out with lower rankings in weight related health problems (35th) and better access to healthy food (64th).

#19: Oklahoma City, OK

Next, we travel to the home of Olivia Munn, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the University of Oklahoma. The Fat Prevalence of Oklahoma City isn’t bad (44th), but its overall score is brought down dramatically by its high percentage of weight related health problems (20th).

When news broke of OKC’s unfortunate place on the chubby list, the mayor decided to take action in the most American way possible: by declaring a War on Obesity!

#18: Greensboro – High Point, North Carolina

The home of the world’s largest furniture specialty library! I mean, talk about excitement.

Unfortunately for its residents, the Greensboro/High Point area of North Carolina is also famous for ranking embarrassingly low on the Healthy Environment ranking (22nd overall). They didn’t fare much better on the percentage of weight related health problems ranking either (23rd).

#17: Lafayette, LA

The first of three Louisiana State representatives, the city of Lafayette has a strong Healthy Lifestyle rating, coming in at 60th overall.

Unfortunately, the city’s overall rating is brought dramatically down by the prevalence of overweight citizens (16th) and its staggering weight-related health problem numbers (12th).

#16: Myrtle Beach – Conway – North Myrtle Beach, SC – NC

Golfing, beaches, tourism and obesity. The Myrtle Beach metro area technically crosses state lines with a population that fluctuates dramatically during the summer months.

As far as the numbers are concerned, the region’s rank took a dip as a result of its damning Healthy Environment rating (6th overall).

#15: Dallas – Fort Worth – Arlington, TX

So… umm… I guess everything really is bigger in Texas.

This amalgamation of 13 has a high enough percentage of overweight citizens to award it 30th in Fat Prevalence. And their overall Healthy Lifestyle numbers land them securely at 13th in that category.

#14: Nashville – Davidson – Murfreesboro – Franklin, TN

Don’t let its ranking on the overweight scale discourage you. Nashville is a dynamic, musical city that everyone should visit at least once. Just promise me you’ll pack some celery sticks, OK?

Country Music Country sits at 14 on our list mainly because of their high rate of weight related health problems (16th overall).

#13: Youngstown – Warren – Boardman, OH-PA

We return to Pennsylvania in the epicentre of the American Rust Belt for the 13th most overweight city on our list.

Why is this Metropolitan area ranked so high on America’s overweight rankings? It’s a combination of dreadful Healthy Environment rankings (17th) and dramatic weight related health problem numbers (11th).

#12: Knoxville, TN

Knoxville, TN is a haven for those that love slow-smoked meat, slow-BBQ’d meat and glass balls in the sky. However, over 33% of all adults in Knoxville, Tennessee are considered obese.

You could imagine what that would do to the healthcare system. It’s enough to award them a 5th overall in that category and 12th overall on this not-so-illustrious list.

#11: Columbia, SC

Next we visit a little old place called Columbia. It’s the capital of South Carolina and, interestingly enough, named after Christopher Columbus.

By the numbers, Columbia ranks 7th overall in Fat Prevalence, 19th overall in weight related health problems and 26th overall as a Healthy Environment.

#10: Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway, AR

Little Rock ain’t so little either. The aforementioned metropolitan area is commonly referred to as Central Arkansas and has a population just shy of a million people.

Why is it 10th on our list? Well, by the numbers, Central Arkansas isn’t a very Healthy Environment (8th overall). But don’t sweat it, Little Rock… it could be worse.

#9: Greenville – Anderson – Mauldin, SC

Remember when I mentioned the cultural impact of obesity? Once again, we return to the Carolinas.

This metro area is weighed down by its Healthy Environment rating (2nd overall). And as such, it’s plagued by a staggering percentage of weight-related health problems too (17th overall).

#8: San Antonio – New Braunfels, TX

The home of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs is also the most overweight metro area in Texas.

Why? Its poor healthy environment rating (7th overall). Although they do seem to have a relatively good handle on their weight-related health problems (42nd overall), so at least there’s that.

#7: Mobile, AL

MOBILE, ALABAMA!? Come on. At least make this hard on me, America!

Mobile, AL is home to the only salt water port in the state of Alabama (the 12th largest port in the country). Today though, it’s home to some of the most overweight citizens in the country. With a terrible Fat Prevalence Rating (10th overall), an awful Healthy Environment rating (14th) and near catastrophic weight related health problem numbers (8th overall).

#6: Chattanooga, TN – GA

Call me immature all you want, but Chattanooga sure is fun to say. Nestled in the valley of the Appalachian mountains, Chattanooga gained international fame as the inspiration for the world’s very first gold record. And apparently they’ve been celebrating ever since.

Chattanooga rounds out (I’m so sorry) our top 15. This poor ranking is mostly due to its poor Healthy Environment rating (4th overall).

#5: New Orleans – Metairie, LA

It’s only fitting that the birthplace of Gumbo is ranked so poorly on our list. I mean, if I had continuous gumbo access, I’d be in trouble too.

New Orleans has some of the worst Weight Related Health Problem numbers we’ve seen (4th overall). And that flies in the face of its relatively stronger Healthy Environment rating (28th overall).

#4: Jackson, MS

Up next, we’re following Johnny and June to Jackson. Mississippi. The “City with Soul” is the epicentre of Jazz, Blues and gospel. But, the music ends where the city’s weight problem begins.

Jackson is ranked 3rd overall in Weight Related Health Problems, 11th overall in Healthy Environment and 13th overall in Fat Prevalence. I’d be singing the blues too.

#3: Indianapolis – Carmel – Anderson, IN

The Indianapolis Metro area cracked our top 3, but I doubt they’ll include that tidbit on their welcome sign.

And it could be lower. It ranked 2nd overall in Fat Prevalence but benefitted from better (not great, but better) Healthy Environment (15th) and Weight Related Health Problem (25th) numbers.

#2: Shreveport – Bossier City, LA

Back to Louisiana we go.

The Shreveport/Bossier City metro area has the worst Weight Related Health Problem numbers in the country (1st overall), not to mention a pretty bad Healthy Environment rating too (3rd).

#1: Memphis, TN – MS – AR

We’ve arrived at our last stop. The most overweight city in the USA is Memphis, Tennessee! The birthplace of Blues! The home of The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum! And, home of a Fat Prevalence Rating of 14th overall, a Healthy Environment rating of 5th and a weight related health problem ranking of 2nd overall.

Well, we’re done. Thanks for joining us today. If you’re interested on delving a little deeper, take a look at the numbers yourself right over here. Now, I’m off to find some gumbo.

Christopher Brown