The ZIP code obsesity disparity: a solution

Skinny people are excluded from certain neighborhoods in Seattle, and our Flip Side writer has, of course, a modest proposal to address this injustice.
Crosscut archive image.

This <i>Seattle Post-Intelligencer</i> map depicts all too clearly the exclusion of skinny people from certain neighborhoods.

Skinny people are excluded from certain neighborhoods in Seattle, and our Flip Side writer has, of course, a modest proposal to address this injustice.

University of Washington researchers have found a link between where people live and how much they weigh, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently reported. Obesity rates were less than 10 percent in certain ZIP codes and more than 25 percent in others. The researchers found a correlation between weight and property value. Each additional $100,000 in median home value for a ZIP code corresponded with a drop in obesity of 2 percentage points. It is no surprise that an additional $100,000 of mortgage debt leads to worry, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite. But this is not the whole story. Seattle housing patterns are the shameful legacy of bank redlining, dishonest real estate brokers, and weightest discrimination Flip Side sent underweight investigators to pose as homebuyers in full-figured ZIP codes. Real estate agents would not show them homes, dismissing them with statements such as, "You would not fit in here, toothpick," "You look like you just escaped from a concentration camp," and "Come back after you have gained 30 pounds." Even if they were allowed to purchase a home in high-weight ZIPs, "skinnies" couldn't get financing. In plus-sized ZIP codes, banks will not lend to buyers with a body mass index below 23.8. Thus, skinnies are condemned to the hopelessness of the elliptical trainer, the treadmill, and the Stairmaster in their low-carb ghettos. This is a life of loneliness and fear. At any moment, one risks being blindsided by a jogger or bicyclist. Local merchants prey on these captive scrawnies. Size 6 clothing is overpriced; organic vegetables are overpriced; Pilates classes are overpriced. Children in skinny ghettos face a bleak future. With adults constantly complaining about their diet regimen, sadistic personal trainers, and the cost of liposuction, children are never exposed to happy, satisfied adult role models. Subject to the abuses of forced exercise and a diet of tofu, mâche, lentils, and gluten-free rolled oats, ghetto children grow up to be anxious, neurotic, and underweight. We can tolerate this outrage no longer. A regulatory solution, such as prohibiting bank redlining or enforcing fair housing laws, would take generations. We need immediate action. I call upon the Seattle City Council to enact a mandatory busing program. Scrawnies and skinnies should be bused daily into heavier ZIP codes and vice-versa. Busing should continue until each ZIP code is within plus or minus 2 percent of the average citywide biomass index. While this might disrupt the lives of a few people, it is a small price to pay for equality.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors