Wednesday, March 19, 1997
We're fat here,
and it's all
in our jeans


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati has made yet another top-10 list. But this one comes with pretty thin bragging rights.

We're No. 8 on the National Weight Report. That's the fat-city scale. Only seven other towns in the country have more wide-body adults than Cincinnati.

News of this rating stopped me cold at breakfast as I reached for my second doughnut.

We're the eighth-largest city in the country because 30.71 per cent of Cincinnati's grown-ups are overweight.

On a list topped by New Orleans, Ohio (and the Midwest) are well-represented. Cleveland is No. 5. Columbus is No. 7. (Detroit, No. 6, and Pittsburgh, No. 9, help the Midwest make up half of the top-10 list.)

Once more, we can be thankful we don't live in Cleveland. (Or the state capital, or Detroit for that matter.) But that's small comfort.

Nutritional experts blame Cincinnati's ranking on a climate and geography that conspire to turn hard bodies into sofa spuds. Winters are cloudy and cold. Summers are hot and muggy. In the relatively flat, land-locked Midwest, there are no mountains to climb or ocean beaches to prowl. So, people stay indoors, watch TV and exercise their jaw muscles by eating.

Extra-Extra-Large

Phil Poley has been sizing up big men for 57 years. He owns Poley's Big & Tall clothing store.

Straightening merchandise in the business his father opened 95 years ago, Phil unfolded and unfolded again a pair of jeans with an 80-inch waist.

He held up the pants and stared at the backside. The hind quarters were so generously cut the standard-size back pockets looked like two postage stamps stuck on a sheet of denim.

''The person who wears these jeans,'' he said, ''weighs 450-550 pounds.''

Ten years ago, he didn't sell jeans that large. Size 60 was as far as he went.

''Cincinnatians are definitely getting bigger,'' he said. ''We've got kids coming in here the size of mountains.''

He blames the city's weight gain on ''the chow.''

Even though he wears only a size 42 suit, Phil Poley knows Cincinnati as a ''good restaurant town.'' He mentioned the Maisonette, Montgomery Inn, Graeter's Ice Cream.

''And that Skyline Chili.''

Rocco Castellano, the Covington-based certified exercise physiologist made famous by Jerry Springer's televised efforts to slim down an obese Hamilton man, also put the blame on the chili.

''It's those cheese coneys,'' said the New Yorker who moved to Cincinnati in 1994 because this is where the fat is.

''It's all concentrated ... in the middle of the country,'' he said.

He sees the Midwest as America's love handles. ''You don't have any ocean. People don't walk around here with their clothes half off. If they did, they'd cut back on the coneys and start exercising.''

Skyline time

Thom Jackson was exercising moderation. The lawyer coolly pumped a stationary bicycle in the 80,000-square-foot fitness center of the new TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion in Montgomery.

Built by the side of Interstate 71, the Pavilion with the vaulted roof and multitude of windows beckons drivers to pull off the road and burn off some calories.

The ultramodern 2-month-old center makes the connection between mental and physical fitness. As Thom Jackson worked out, member services representative Sarah Forsgren stood next to his bike. She spoke of the body being ''a vessel.'' Some vessels are trim speedboats. Others are old battleships.

Thom Jackson's body is a chili tanker.

''I'm working off the Skyline chili,'' he said. ''So I can eat more cheese coneys.''

Hearing that chili connection again, I had to ask Joe Lambrinides about it. He's the grandson of Skyline's founder.

''Cheese coneys are addicting,'' he admitted. ''The aroma, the taste, the spices.'' The cheese slowly collapsing as it melts into the chili. The slow pace the chili takes as it soaks into the bun. All this at 350 calories per serving.

Joe Lambrinides would not say Skyline causes overeating. He doesn't see it putting Cincinnati on the list of fat cities.

''The majority of our customers do not eat a lot when they come in,'' he said.

''But they do come in a lot.''

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.