If you enjoy a laugh, as I do, I recommend the New York Times article headlined
“Fitness for office,” reprinted in The Jerusalem Post this week, from which the
above quote was taken.
Collins starts off with a former White House
physician describing the New Jersey governor’s serious overweight as “almost
like a time-bomb waiting to happen... I worry about him dying in
Employing considerable humor, she takes this dramatic
declaration as a jumping-off point for assessing the fat and lean among various
US chief executives, past and present, weighing popularity and
Counter-intuitively, perhaps, the heavies come out clear
The article, its tongue-incheek( i)ness notwithstanding, has the
ring of truth, leading me to recall that Shakespeare, who so well understood
human nature, had his chief executive Julius Caesar instinctively wish for “men
about me that are fat.”
Beyond the “lean and hungry look” of
co-conspirator Cassius, which clearly caused concern, was the bard hinting that,
to use a more modern expression, “Fat is beautiful” (33,000 entries on Google)?
TO FORESTALL any misapprehension, let me state that I do not consider overweight
itself, Chris Christie’s or anyone else’s, to be a laughing matter; on the
contrary. We’ve come a long way from the era in which a corpulent body
proclaimed wealth and position and was envied, while thinness was the despised
lot of the poor, forced to scrape a meager living through hard physical
Modern medical science has proved beyond argument that excess
weight of more than a few extra pounds is bad for us, increasing the risk of
chronic illness and contributing to overall mortality. One medical laboratory
website lists 20 diseases risked or exacerbated by obesity, of which heart
disease and cancer are only the first two.
How do you know if you are
obese, as opposed to “just” overweight? A classification called the body mass
index (BMI) is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square
of his height in meters. According to the World Health Organization, a BMI
greater than or equal to 25 is considered overweight; a BMI greater than or
equal to 30 is obesity.
DESPITE ITS well-publicized dangers, obesity in
America is reaching epidemic proportions. In 2011, for example, 24.5 percent of
people in the state of New York self-reported as obese. In the southern US, the
percentage was much higher: in Alabama, it was a whopping 32 percent. Some
sources cite overweight rates doubling among children and tripling among
Other western societies aren’t in great shape,
In Germany, a 2011 research project showed half the adult
population to be overweight or obese. A move several years ago to ban junk food
in school kiosks fizzled out, ensuring that fizzy, sugar-laden sodas stayed
“One young man we knew had to have his breasts minimized at age 14,”
a friend who lives near the Dutch border told me. “But it didn’t minimize the
discrimination this poor fat boy suffered in class.”
IN ISRAEL, too many
youngsters ingest way too many empty calories while spending too many hours in
front of the computer or TV, where advertisers, true to form, seduce them with
enticing images of more unhealthy snacks.
A Post item this week cited
research showing that one out of four Israeli children is overweight or obese.
“Out of 571,000 children checked in grades 1 to 9,” wrote health reporter Judy
Siegel-Itzkovich, “16 percent were overweight, while 11% more were
Experts say fixation on a computer or other screen causes stress,
which activates hunger, leading to weight gain. And when you factor in
commercial soft drinks – water and sugar laced with chemicals that leach calcium
from the bone and cause blood sugar levels to jag up and down – the health
picture grows even darker. The aspartame used in “cool” diet drinks can cause
headaches and other problems, playing havoc with the body’s natural responses to
“Visiting Israeli homes for the first time,” a nutrition-conscious
friend from abroad told me, “I was twice offered Coca Cola with an air which
seemed to imply something positive and special about those people’s standard of
(Oh, the success of advertising!) “And when I politely refused,
there was a tangible air of disappointment, as if I had caused that standard to
According to some sources, the only remaining region of the world
where obesity is not common is sub-Saharan Africa.
IT’S NO secret that as
societies living in the consumer age, we face a complex, uphill – some might say
hopeless – task in nudging our children (and ourselves) onto the path of
enjoyable but healthy eating. Yet that issue isn’t the essential point of this
Chris Christie and his obesity send an important message to
people everywhere who don’t conform to current standards of attractiveness and
The message is not, of course, that obesity is good
– Christie recognizes that now he has turned 50, his thus-far surprisingly good
health will fail if he doesn’t lose some serious weight. “Doctors tell me that
parts of me are going to start dropping off,” he told talk show host David
Christie is an engaging figure despite his obesity. Why?
Because he believes in himself. Without showing off, he exudes a self-confidence
that svelter individuals might well envy.
“He speaks his mind where other
politicians hedge their bets, test the polls before calibrating their responses
and are often quite cowardly,” said a friend who follows American politics
closely. “He tells people when they’re wrong, bluntly. But he does it in an
He’s a Republican in a Democratic state, and very
That popularity has many hoping Christie will run for president
in the next US elections. Indeed, he was entreated to run in 2012, but decided
In a society where “wrapping” counts for almost everything and
social judgment is harsh, Christie has bucked the trend and won hearts and minds
by simply being himself.
That’s the message, and its importance can
hardly be overstated to the millions of us whose appearance differs from what
society has deemed its cherished norm.
Here’s another important message:
Humor, when neither snide nor malicious, can be an amazing
Christie’s sense of humor has surely helped him in manifold
ways. Interviewed earlier this month by the practiced Letterman, who has made
Christie’s girth the butt of many jokes, Christie deftly took control of the
conversation and indisputably walked off with the best lines. At one point, he
pulled a doughnut from his pocket and took a large bite.
actress and comedian Dawn French has made peace with her size. “If I had been
around when Rubens was painting,” she once declared, “I would have been revered
as a fabulous model.
“Kate Moss? Well, she would have been the
paintbrush!” Difficult as it is, if we can acquire the courage to believe in
what we have to offer as whole human beings beyond just the shape and features
of our bodies, great things can transpire.
Commented one woman on an
Internet site, “I am fat and men are always chatting me up because I’m
confident, pretty and fun to be around.”
Added a male poster: “The simple
act of forcing myself to look up and stand up straight instead of staring at the
floor and shuffling my feet changed a lot of things in my life.”
calling himself “HARVEYtheDAMNED” posted a message to the entire female sex:
“I’m not wise, and not very intelligent. But if there is one thing in life I
would love to share with the world, it’s that women are beautiful. All of them.
They are all so gorgeous it just drives me crazy.”
Sisters, let us dub
this man “Harvey the Blessed.”
FINALLY, a message to Gov. Christie: Take
your doctor’s words to heart, and start losing that enormous amount of unhealthy
extra weight. But never, ever jettison any of your confidence and belief in
yourself – or your delightful sense of humor.
You’re too valuable a role
model for those of us who don’t fit the mold.