Friday, July 20, 2007

Durham, North Carolina—Diet Capital of the World?

I recently joined a couple of online groups that read cozy mysteries. A few readers in these groups have asked me a question about the setting for my upcoming series, The Fat City Mysteries. The stories are set in Durham, North Carolina.

On my web site, I mention that Durham is the “self-described ‘Diet Capital of the World.’”

My readers ask: is Durham, North Carolina really the Diet Capital of the World?

The short answer is: Yes.

Durham is home to a number of residential diet clinics (read: fat farms). The clinics helped to establish that city’s reputation as a remedy—and a last resort—for the obese.

There was once a sign at the Durham City limits, welcoming visitors to the Diet Capital of the World. I think the sign is long since gone, but the reputation stuck.

A bit of personal history: I first arrived in Durham more than twenty years ago (Yikes! How time flies). I’d just graduated from journalism school, where I’d been told by an advisor that in order to get a job in broadcast news, I needed to lose weight. Lots of weight. We’re talking ninety pounds.

I was morbidly obese.

All my life, I’d heard about Durham. About how Durham had programs that could help people like me. So, with a financial assist from my parents, I journeyed south to Durham and enrolled in a diet clinic. I tried several programs before finding the one that best suited me (alas, they all involved eating significantly less. Who knew that’s how you lose weight?) Ultimately, I lost the ninety pounds, and went on to get a job in TV news.

Fast forward a couple of decades. I’ve long since left TV work (and kept about half the weight off all these years). But I’ve never been able to forget Durham. A few years ago, I decided to set my mystery stories there. The theme of the books features a protagonist who fights the Battle of the Bulge, natch.

Like they say, you should write what you know!


Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Kathryn. As one who always wishes I did better in my arguments with food--in which the food usually wins and leaps into my mouth--I really admire you, Durham or not!


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