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WalletHub names McAllen metro area as country’s ‘fattest city’ for 2022

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A recent article by WalletHub places the greater McAllen area as the most obese city within the United States.

The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area was given a score of 84.78, with 100 being the worst possible score. The factors looked at included “Obesity and Overweight” — 60 points, “Health Consequences” — 25 points and “Food and Fitness” — 15 points, using 19 different metrics.

But Xochitl Mora, director of communications for the city of McAllen, respectfully disagrees. Mora, who is also part of the mayor’s wellness council, a pro-active, pro-health movement introduced in 2018 by now-former Jim Darling, said that the methodology that placed the McAllen area at the top doesn’t give a complete perspective.

“One (reason) is they’re looking at people who are sick,” Mora said. “People who are going to the doctor, and of course, you’re going to see over-index in that number of people who are dealing with these chronic illnesses and diseases that define being overweight and all of those complications that come with that.

“Instead, they can look at everything that the city of McAllen offers for its residents including the miles of Hike and Bike Trails, the number of parks and community centers, and all of those are offered free.”

Mora also pointed to the city’s healthy restaurants, gyms and wellness centers.

The city of McAllen has also won the “It’s Time Texas” community challenge for five years in a row now, Mora said. In fact, a “victory lap” with the mayor is set for Saturday, March 26 at Rio Grande Regional Hospital at 8:30 a.m.

“To win in this competition, residents themselves post their healthy activities to this website that gets tracked for each community,” she said. “To earn the amount of points that we did and to have the number of participants be a part of this demonstrates again that McAllen residents are living healthy.

“We just disagree with this study and the methodology used, but we’re going to continue our efforts, that’s really all we can do is continue our efforts so that most importantly, the needle that we move is the one on the scale moving down.”

However, the Hidalgo County Health Authority Ivan Melendez wasn’t surprised. Rather, he said obesity is an ongoing issue that’s been in need of a culture change.

“Are we number one? I don’t know — I don’t even know what that means, but do we certainly have what I consider the number one healthcare priority in the Rio Grande Valley being obesity? Absolutely,” Melendez said. “In healthcare, it’s like your car, next thing you know, pump goes out. One thing is related to the next, and that’s what’s going on in healthcare.”

Melendez said that only a third of the valley’s adult population actually participates in physical activity he mentioned how the area’s low income has been a problem that likely leads to poor diet.

“If you have a typical diet of two breakfast tacos, a Whataburger for lunch and a fajita platter for dinner — you’re already looking at 4 or 5,000 calories,” he said. “Healthy food, good food, is expensive. If you’re making $300 a week and you’re lucky enough for your wife to be working, making the same, you’re making $600 a week with three or four kids. Try to get quality food at a price that’s not outrageous.”

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