© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mayor, Chamber Leader Put Weight In Personal And Public Spotlight

Elana Gordon

Kansas City Mayor Sly James knows that when he’s in better shape, he’s more productive and less stressed out. And he recognizes the weight, so to speak, of having a better diet and getting exercise regularly.

“My dad died of a major heart attack. I’ve got his same body style. I don’t want to have the same fate,” says James. “He died too young.”

Even so, James says making lasting lifestyle changes can be a challenge. Now he hopes a good friend, along with the entire city, will help hold him accountable.

A Friendly Competition

Ever since James was elected a year ago, he and longtime friend, Jim Heeter, have been talking about how they can both stand to lose some weight and be more active.

“One of the things we realized is that we’re both in positions where gaining weight is an occupational hazard,” says Heeter, who heads the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Their workdays regularly involve business meetings over rich meals, with not much room carved out for exercise. 

Well, excuses no more.

The two have challenged each other to a four-and-a-half-month weight loss competition.  They made the announcement at a restaurant on the Plaza yesterday, “weighing-in” for the competition behind a closed curtain afterwards.

Up until the end of October, James and Heeter will try to lose more weight (percentage-wise) than the other and also work to improve their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Wellness coaches will be on hand for support.

“We hope to do it [healthy behaviors/activities] so long that it becomes engrained and part of our second nature,” says James. “It takes a while to change habits.” 

Not Just Personal

Kansas City, like the rest of the country, struggles with its weight and with getting enough physical activity. The city ranks as one of the fattest in the country by some measures.  And last year, obesity nearly made it into the local Chamber's top five regional priorities.

For James and Heeter, the problem has been a main driver in going public with their weight loss efforts.

“We can all afford to get a little healthier,” says James, who hopes people and businesses around Kansas City will join in on their challenge. 

“We’re trying to be good examples,” says Heeter. “To hit the reset buttons personally, to get fitter, be weller, to engage in more healthy lifestyles and to put ourselves out there, not only for personal accountability for the two of us, but also to set the example for other folks in Kansas city.”

Heeter looks to Oklahoma City for some inspiration.   In 2008, Mayor Mick Cornett was wrestling with personal weight problems and a growing discontent with the city’s reputation as one of the fattest places in the country. So he challenged city residents to collectively drop a million pounds.

The mayor was successful in slimming down, and the city hit its goal in four years.  


Find more Health Coverage on KCUR.

Follow KCUR health news on Twitter.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.