When the Coalition for Excess Weight Risk Education announced recently that Kansas City, Missouri, my hometown, was the fourth most obese city in the U.S., I received some congratulatory telephone calls that I suspect were not entirely sincere.

"You must be very proud," I was told by an acquaintance I'll call Ariel, who grew up in San Francisco. My father would have described Ariel as weighing "65 lbs. soaking wet--with her galoshes on." In Kansas City she wouldn't be wide enough to be noticed. I am aware that Ariel probably doesn't think that having the fourth-highest percentage of overweight residents (after...

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