Our Culture of Obesity, Embodied in a Kentucky Town

No YMCA, no YWCA, no bike trails, and no department of parks and recreation—not in the town of Manchester, Kentucky, where more than 2,000 people live. But with a population twice as obese as the national average (estimated at about 52 percent), it has plenty of fast food. In an in-depth feature story, The Washington Post showcases a culture resigned to obesity:

Charlie Rawlins loathes every fast-food joint in Manchester.

He might be the town apostate. He used to be "like, way overweight, man," tipping the scales at 251 pounds. He's 5 feet 9 inches tall. He's 20 years old. The weight caused so much pain on his knees that he had to undergo several knee surgeries. Now he's down to 185 pounds, and could a person be any prouder of himself?

Charlie began speaking out about the fast-food places to friends a while ago. "I realized that no one was going to listen to me," he says. He educated himself about nutrition. "I started going in for the fruits, the asparagus, making my own salads." He realized he could live without the large boxes of sweets he used to load up on at Wal-Mart. "The kids around here, they'll eat cornbread and taters for lunch. They'll get a 20-piece chicken meal. It's killing them."

He knows these kids. He waits for them to come see him where he works. They don't. He is a personal trainer at Clay County Physical Therapy, a small space affiliated with a local hospital. It is not advertised as a gym, because it's mostly for physical therapy. He figures there's a reason that people don't come, a lack of resources. It costs $25 a month for individuals and $40 a month for families. "Which is a bargain," he proclaims. "I mean, look how much money these families around here spend on fast food!"

But they don't come.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Presented by

John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

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