Top 21 Fattest Cities In The US

Houston Texas cityscape view from aerial view

It’s no secret that obesity is one of the most pressing health concerns in the United States. Paradoxically, healthy eating is very trendy right now and there is a lot of talk about diets and what’s good for your health and what’s not. Despite this trend that has been going on for years now, obesity is on the rise, even among children, which is particularly worrying.

While America as a whole is one chubby nation, according to statistics, some cities seem to be more so than the others. The list that follows is not ranked, but it does represent U.S. cities that have the highest percentage of obese people.

1. Houston

Houston is one of the largest cities in the United States, and one with the largest residents as well. A trip to the biggest city in the state of Texas reveals that Houstonites definitely have a weight problem. Not all of them, of course, but a very large percentage, that’s for sure.

It’s unclear what the reason behind Houston’s obesity is. According to some researchers, it might be the city’s climate. Houston is a hot city, with over 100 days of temperatures of 90° or higher. As we all know, hot weather is not exactly ideal for working out, or going outside for that matter. And physical activity is one of the top factors in weight loss and in maintaining a healthy figure.

Also, most Houstonites drive to work or do their errands by car, instead of using public transportation, which is understandable, because the system is inefficient and inadequate. Maybe the city needs better air conditioned gyms?


2. Detroit

Michigan is among the most obese U.S. states and logically, its largest city is one of the most obese cities as well. Detroit is a city that chronically suffers from many problems, from poverty to crime, and obesity is just another thorn in the side of this troubled city.

As for the reasons behind this, just like in the case of Houston, they have to do with the climate, but obviously in a different way. While Houston has a high number of days with extreme heat per year, Detroit has months and months of extremely cold weather.


When it’s cold like it often gets in Detroit, it’s hard to imagine going out to exercise or even to walk. A trip to the gym can also be an arduous task, with frequent storms and traffic that gets incredibly slow due to bad weather.

Another major factor in Detroit’s obesity is its current economic situation. When things are as bad as they are right now, most residents are more worried about keeping their jobs than about working out and eating healthy.


Morning in Memphis

3. Memphis

The home of Elvis Presley, who invented the heart-attack sandwich, Memphis has long been the city with the highest obesity rate in the United States. Today the situation is somewhat improved thanks to the efforts of public officials but the problem is far from solved. Memphis still has a dangerously high percentage of obese residents.

The reasons for this are numerous, but most experts agree that one of the biggest ones is the traditional cuisine of Tennessee.

The residents of this state, and particularly of the city of Memphis, love their food barbecued and deep-fried. And their food is so delicious it’s very difficult to eat something else, something healthier but less mouth-watering.

Residents of Memphis eat delicious and terribly unhealthy food on an everyday basis more than any other city or state in America, so it’s really no mystery why its residents are struggling with unhealthy body weight.

overweight woman behind the wheel

4. Tampa

Many will be surprised to learn that Tampa, Florida, frequently shows up on lists of the most obese cities in the USA. The city has a great climate – mild, warm, sunny weather and plenty of opportunities to go outside and be active. However, two out of three residents of this major city in Florida are at least overweight.

One of the possible reasons for this may be the city’s exceptionally high smoking rate. Tampa is one of the top cities in the USA when it comes to the number of smokers. And we all know that smokers often have a very hard time working out and being physically active.

Also, the city is not particularly friendly to pedestrians. Sure, there may be a lot of areas to go out and walk and spend time outdoors, but not in the actual city and it’s downtown area, which does not exactly encourage walking.


5. Las Vegas

You know what they say – everything is bigger in Las Vegas! Unfortunately, this goes for the residents of the city as well.

People usually associate this desert casino haven with gorgeous people – but those good looking people are mostly guests who are just visiting. The sad truth is that the natives of Las Vegas are more on the chubby side.

The reason for Las Vegas’ obesity lies in the food, but not in the type of cuisine, like in the case of Memphis. In the case of Las Vegas, it’s the portion size that is at the root of the weight problem of this city. If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you know what we’re talking about. The portions are ginormous, and there are hundreds of places that offer all-you-can-eat buffets day and night at low prices. The fact that the residents mostly use their cars to get around town doesn’t help either.

Fat man showing thumbs up

6. Los Angeles

Believe it or not, but LA residents are actually getting fatter! Los Angeles was once the Mecca of the thin and the beautiful, and it was also one of the cities that created most of the nation’s health and dieting fads. But today the situation is different and the city actually has one of the highest rates of obese people in the United States.

So why is this happening? First of all, we have to understand that not everyone who lives in Los Angeles is a rich movie star. There are neighborhoods in LA that struggle with poverty and, needless to say, don’t have a lot of access to healthy foods and gyms.

Also, the average commute in this major Californian city is over 30 minutes. People get around in cars almost exclusively and it definitely takes a lot of time to get to the outdoor areas like trails and beaches.


7. Cleveland

Cleveland has long had the reputation of one of the chubbiest cities in America but things have started to change for this big Midwestern city. The city officials are working to make healthy foods more available to those residents who have not been able to afford it previously, they are raising the public consciousness about the dangers of obesity and creating more outdoor areas, parks and recreational areas in an effort to make it more appealing for people to spend time outside.

Tight button

As for the reasons for Cleveland’s weight problem, it’s a combination of inadequate access to healthy foods and opportunities for outdoor activities, and that’s precisely where the city officials are starting from.

Still, the city can’t make its residents any richer, so large portions of the population on the lower side of the economic spectrum are still struggling to afford healthy food and to pay gym memberships.


8. Louisville

Kentucky is a state that is traditionally considered obese. This is not just a case of bad reputation – the actual statistics put this state among the chubbiest in the United States. Logically, the largest city in Kentucky, Louisville, is also one of the most obese cities in America.

The reason for this is quite simple – the residents of Louisville, and those of the rest of the state, love their fast food. The city has an unusually high number of fast food restaurants and the residents are tempted to eat something unhealthy and fattening every time they walk down the street.

And, of course, the state is the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which says a lot about the eating habits of the people who live there.

The city is making efforts to improve this unhealthy status through education and public campaigns, and also by encouraging fast food stores to include healthier options on their menus.


9. Miami

Another Florida city on the list of the fattest cities in America must come as a surprise to many, since the residents of Miami are usually perceived as skinny and gorgeous. But that’s all TV and movies, and the reality is, unfortunately, very much different.

Miami does, in fact, have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation. The number one reason for this, like in many other cities, is the lack of opportunities for physical activity and exercise in the city. Sure, Miami has gorgeous beaches, but those who don’t live there don’t realize that most residents of Miami don’t live anywhere near the beach. The city is big and there are neighborhoods that don’t exactly look like what we see on TV.

The traffic in the city is bad and it takes a lot of time to get anywhere. This discourages people from going out and getting active and directly contributes to the city’s growing obesity problem.


10. El Paso

Another city in Texas that makes it to the unflattering list of 21 most obese cities in America. The statistics say that as much as one quarter of the population of El Paso has a weight problem and that half of the children are overweight, which is tragic.


Fat Man Greedily Eating Hamburger

Like Houston, one of the main reasons for the obesity problem in El Paso is the weather. Most of the months are hot or very hot and it makes exercising and spending time outdoors hard and unpleasant. Even when the weather is nicer, there aren’t really that many opportunities or areas to get active anyway.

El Paso also has a high rate of fast food consumption, in fact, it is one of the highest in the country. There aren’t that many health food shops and restaurants in the city and awareness on the importance of healthy eating is generally low.

Diabetes Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.

11. Mobile

Mobile is the next city on our list and it perfectly represents the second-most obese state in the country – Alabama. Looking at the list, you will probably notice that a lot of the chubbiest cities are from the Southern parts of the country and Mobile is a great example.

Mobile has traditionally found its way to various lists of the most obese places in America, and our list is no different.

The large part of the problem in Mobile is the traditional southern food, with plenty of fried foods and not that many dishes that are popular and that are also particularly healthy. It also seems that the problem in Alabama in general (Mobile included) is the high school obesity, consumption of soda and inactivity.

The Alabama Department of Health is doing everything in their power to battle this issue and to ensure that fewer and fewer of their citizens end up overweight and obese. We only hope that they start from the bottom, i.e. the kids.


12. Toledo

Toledo is one of the few Ohio cities that have made our list, which makes the state of Ohio one of the best represented on our list. Toledo has a large percentage of both adults and children who are overweight or obese and the worst thing is that the trend seems to be a negative one, with the percentage rising from one year to the other.

The biggest issue in Toledo, according to the experts, is the deteriorating financial situation, which always contributes to poor eating habits. They calculated that a father of four can buy a cheeseburger for each of his children for the price of one salad, let alone something more elaborate from the healthy foods specter.

The poor economic situation also means that people have less and less time for recreation and exercise as they spend most of their waking hours trying to earn a few bucks more at an extra job or something.

Woman eating hot dog.

13. San Antonio

Due to its tradition as a city of good meat and eating in general, as well as its tradition as a laid-back city, San Antonio has had problems with extra weight for years. This Texan city ranked among the chubbiest in America for years and it is still “chubby” enough to get on our list.

There are a few reasons why San Antonio makes our list and perhaps the craziest one is that the people in the city spend 9 percent more time watching TV than the national average. Also, the air quality in San Antonio is among the worst in all of the cities on our list, which is a another reason why people don’t exercise enough outdoors on a regular basis.

When you combine that with poor city recreational facilities and poor parks and open spaces, it makes for a dire situation.

The good news is that the percentage of San Antonio residents who are overweight is on the decline in the last two or three years and we are hoping it’s a lasting trend.


14. Oklahoma City

The next entry on our list is Oklahoma City which is home to 29 percent of people who are clinically obese, which is significantly higher than the national average of 25.19%. And this is not including people who are overweight who are also more common than in the rest of the nation.

Perhaps the biggest issue in Oklahoma City and the rest of the state is that the state does not participate in CDC-sponsored programs for reduction of obesity and other chronic diseases. Also, people from Oklahoma City spend dramatically more time in front of their television sets than is the national average.

Furthermore, there is an obvious lack of health food stores in the city, which has resulted in very low scores when it came to healthy eating habits.

However, it seems that Oklahoma City is doing its work to motivate the citizens and to get them fitter and it is very likely that we will not be seeing OKC on our lists in the future.


15. Charlotte

Despite being a very “green’ city in the sense that it’s parks cover a wider area than in many other cities in America, Charlotte still managed to get on our list with a very high percentage of people who are obese or overweight. It is the curse of the South once again.

Charlotte’s biggest problem seem to be the eating habits of the citizens, with only 21 percent of them eating the recommended servings of vegetables and fruit, which is less than half of the national average. The people of Charlotte just do not want to eat healthy.

Also, Charlotte has very poor participation rates in walking, biking and running despite the green areas in the city and the pleasant climate. In addition to this, Charlotte has very, very few pools for public use, meaning that those who wish to swim are pretty much left to dry.

The percentage of residents of Charlotte who jog or run regularly is the 2nd lowest in the country. So there you go.


16. Jacksonville

We have another Florida city on our list and it is Jacksonville. Once again, it is a surprising entry on our list, especially since it is one of the cities in the United States with the most parks and open areas that are perfect for exercising and recreation.

Despite such great facilities, Jacksonville residents are not that motivated to exercise and the percentage of people in the city who exercise outside regularly is a rather low one, significantly lower than the national average. They are also much less likely to engage in sports, way below national average.

Furthermore, there is the issue of watching too much TV, with Jacksonvile residents being among the most ardent TV watchers in the country, spending too much time watching the tube.

Of course, we must not forget to factor in the Florida cuisine which is a long way from being healthy, even though there have been some developments in the city with health foods opening and offering more variety to the residents.

City of Columbus, Ohio with the new Rich Street Bridge in the foreground.

17. Columbus

Like we said earlier, Ohio is one of the chubbiest states in the country and we have another one of their cities on our list, Columbus. Once again, the majority of the city’s problems stems from the dire financial situation and the lack of opportunities for the residents to spend money and time on a healthier lifestyle.

It should be noted that the city is very bike-friendly but that this does not contribute that much to the number of people who ride their bikes regularly. It is still a very automobile-heavy city, which definitely contributes to the number of people with excess weight in the city.

The state government has started a number of initiatives including nutrition programs, community gardens and biking and walking trails that are making the situation a bit better than in years past, but Columbus is still obese enough to make our list.

We are looking forward to the day when it will not.

Indianapois Skyline

18. Indianapolis

Indianapolis is the next city on our list with its county ranking 89th of the 92 of Indiana’s counties when we’re talking health factors. One of the effects of this poor state of the county is the large percentage of overweight and obese residents of Indianapolis.

One of the main contributing factors for this is the tobacco consumption which is much higher than in the rest of the state and country, but it is not the only one. For instance, the residents of the city are also less likely to exercise regularly than is the national average.


Mother and Daughter Riding Motor Bike

The city is also not very friendly towards the walkers, with very few walking areas being available to the general public. The number of health stores and restaurants that serve healthy food is also low, which definitely contributes to the obesity numbers.

Once again we have good news, as there has been an overwhelming strategy being thought out and implemented in the city, which should in the future result in the percentage of overweight people dropping.


19. Wichita

Wichita, Kansas has also made our list of the chubbiest cities in America with a large percentage of people who are obese and an even larger one of overweight residents. In Wichita, we can see a combination of factors that together work towards a large overweight population.

First of all, the access to healthy food is atrocious in the city, with very few places where one can purchase healthy foods and go out for healthy meals. This is always a huge factor and in Wichita, it is the most important one.

The situation is also not great when we’re talking health clubs and gyms which are very few, well below national average for a city of Wichita’s size. Furthermore, the city is just no bike and walking friendly, which limits the options for those people who wish to do these activities to stay fit.

The good news is that with all this, the residents of Wichita are still a very happy bunch and we are just worried that this may become a double-edged sword.


20. New Orleans

The Big Easy is a city that definitely earns its nickname. Namely, New Orleans is one of the chubbiest cities in America and that is why it earned a place on our list.

The premiere factor for the overall percentage of overweight people in New Orleans is the culture. It is a city where people like to live their lives to the fullest and unfortunately this often means eating till you are well past full. Also, there is the fact that nearly all of the cities favorite foods and delicacies could never be put in the healthy foods bracket. On the contrary.

Perhaps the most worrying trend is that the children in New Orleans are significantly more overweight than is the national average and that no one seems to be noticing this.

The local government is making moves and stating initiatives that will steer the things in the right way in New Orleans. And this is something we always salute.

Nashville, Tennessee, USA

21. Nashville

We have another Southern town on our list and it is Nashville, the city of country music, good times and Southern-style cooking, which is one of the main reasons why it is one of the chubbiest cities in the United States. The city was never particularly friendly to walkers and bikers, even though the city government has made some significant moves in making the city much more accepting of the people who like to bike and run.

Another problem that needs to be remedied in Nashville is the apparent lack of exercising facilities such as gyms and health clubs. It all has to do with the tradition of the city which was never really about healthy living and healthy bodies.

We have already mentioned the Southern-style cooking, but this does not give you a clear picture of how difficult it is to find places that serve and/or sell healthy foods and meals in the city. It is near impossible. This will also need to change in the future if Nashville is to become any less obese.

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