Last summer, I struck up  a conversation with a taxi cab driver in Chicago.  He was originally from Sudan.

I asked him when last he’d been home, and he told em the summer before he’d spent 3 months there.  He then reported that in that time he lost 30-40 pounds, just by living life!  No dieting, no gymnasium.

Taxi driver's lunch

What as different?  First, he had to walk everywhere.  Second, the temperature would climb above 110 degrees, and there was no airconditioning.  I don’t know what his diet consisted of.  I do not that when my sister was in the PEace Corp in western Kenya, eating mostly grits and greens, she was thin as a reed.

So, it ain’t all genetics!  The environment explains why Americans have gotten so much more obese in the past few decades.

BTW, my cab driver also told me he promptly regained the weight when he returned to Chicago, spending his days sitting in his cab and eating fast food…

How can you alter your environment?  This is difficult in an America based on automobiles, long work days, long commutes, no sidewalks, motorized carts in stores (check out Walmart, or your favorite mega-casino!).  I understand that some people need the carts, but if they didn’t exist, would so many people be able to get so big?

Some suggestions:  walk around the field while your kids are playing organized sports; organize family walks or hikes; go to the park rather than out to a restaurant; use public transportation some times; take the stairs.

How can YOU change YOUR environment?

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See vascularanesthesia.com for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.


  1. I lost 40 lbs. when I was in the Peace Corps (Guinea) without even trying. I ate fresh food (a lot of fruit and veggies, grains, (brown rice, millet, couscous) some meat and fish but not a lot. I either walked or biked almost everywhere I went.

    When I came back to the US after Peace Corps, I eventually gained the weight back – after having babies, rarely exercising and eating more fast food than I should have. But every time I subsequently returned to W. Africa to live/work I lost weight because automatically I had better eating and exercise habits.

    I went through this cycle- in and out of the US while my weight fluctuated up and down- for several years until I found myself living and working in the US permanetly.

    After a few years in the U.S. full-time, my weight crept up again (65 lbs over my Peace Corps low). I decided to do something about it four years ago and I’ve lost 40 lbs and kept it off using many of the same eating and excercise strategies that I used in W Africa .

  2. I think I left my wallet in that guys taxi! I remember I spoke arabic and he told me he did too, and he said he was from Sudan. Would you happen to remember the company or the driver by chance? This just happend last night 7/5/12. Thank you.

  3. No idea… I suspect there are a number of cabbies in Chicago who fit that description. Sorry.

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