Chris Christie’s weight drama

On January 10th, 2013 it was reported that Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey (my home state) had an approval rating of 78%. Christie, a Republican whose politics are not always popular with Democrats, even polled 70% approval with that demographic. The “Superstorm Sandy” crisis helped him immensely, with most in NJ very impressed with how he handled the aftermath of that horrific natural disaster. With approval ratings President Obama, and many presidents before him, could only dream of, Christie seems a likely choice for the GOP front-runner in the next election.

Whether or not someone is qualified for the office of president should have NOTHING to do with how someone looks. It should be about political platforms and goals, as well as career accomplishments. Yet, in the case of Chris Christie, it’s not. It’s about his damn weight. Former NJ Governor Jon Corzine attempted to use Christie’s weight against him during campaign ads, saying he was “throwing his weight around.” It didn’t work, and Christie managed to beat Corzine. But that’s one state. Can a fat man really win a national election in a country obsessed with the so-called obesity epidemic?

President Bill Clinton’s former White House physician Dr. Connie Mariano – a woman with NO personal knowledge of Christie’s health – said publicly yesterday that Christie’s health is “like a ticking time bomb.” She warned,darkly,”I’m worried about this man dying in office.” She went on to say she is a Republican and wants him to run, but only if he’s lost weight first. Mariano also said, “When somebody who has morbid obesity is running around, he’s probably got heart disease and continued stress and eventually will have a heart attack. So that’s the time-bomb theory. It’s bound to happen if he continues that lifestyle.”

Really, Ms. Mariano? Sorry, but when you spew off random and biased BS, I refuse to call you “doctor.” You are supposed to be a medical professional. This diatribe doesn’t show the intelligence and skill I’d expect from someone who served 9 years in the White House medical staff. Instead, it demonstrates a clear bias against people who are fat. It shows a bias that I think is a far bigger risk to the health of overweight people than their actual weight! Let’s also not forget that Ms. Mariano’s famous former patient Bill Clinton, a man who has generally “looked” healthy – in other words, he’s looked like a “normal” weight, has had more than one heart scare, and ultimately even had quadruple bypass surgery. So I ask, Ms. Mariano… how succsessful was your healthcare treatment of former President Clinton? Should we judge your skills, as a physician, solely on that one patient? You are credited with helping him get his weight down (not that Clinton would ever have been considered “fat”), and yet he still had to have major heart surgery. Gee, does that suggest, perhaps, that genetics are a factor? That dietary choices – and not merely what the scale says – might play a role?

Ragen Chastain just wrote an excellent blog post about how the healthcare industry likes to blame fat people for whatever ails them, and I highly recommend you read it.

Christie, by his own admission, has struggled with dieting for 30 years. He also told David Letterman that he is is, “basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve seen in your entire life.” He also said that his blood sugar and cholesterol levels are both normal, but added that his own doctor has (not at all surprisingly) warned him that his luck will run out. By his own admission, Christie’s spent the last 30 years dieting. He said, “I’m making the best effort I can. And sometimes I’m successful, and other times I’m not. And sometimes periods of great success are followed by periods of great failure.” This makes me really sad for Christie. First of all, what he looks like should have no bearing on the job he’s doing. He proved, in the hours following Hurricane Sandy, that his weight is not a hindrance to him in a crisis situation. Secondly, when you consider the facts about dieting, the odds of him ever “succeeding” in a way that will satisfy his critics – and idiots like Connie Mariano – are incredibly slim (no pun intended, believe me).

95 – 98% of people who do lose weight will gain it back within 5 years. This is simply a fact. It’s been shown over and over in countless studies to be a fact. Which means, at best, 5% of people who diet will maintain that weight loss. Why does this fact so rarely get mentioned in the mainstream media? Why is the focus not on healthy habits as opposed to weight loss? We do insane, and often very unhealthy, things to attempt to lose weight. And for what? We put our bodies through hell. We allow ourselves to be defined by a number on the scale. We beat ourselves up emotionally for “failure,” when the simple reality is that we’re not to blame for the “failure.” The dieting industry sells us false hope and false promises. The tiny print at the bottom of every diet ad that states “results not typical” should be enough to make us all realize that diets do not work, and yet we all think we’ll be the exception. We’ll be in that 2 – 5% that magically manage to succeed. Diets do not work. But an industry that is raking in about $60 billion dollars annually doesn’t want us to know that, despite what the research shows.

I say no more. Mr. Governor, I don’t ever expect you’ll see this blog post, but I sincerely hope you take advantage of the national platform you’ve landed on. You have the chance to redirect the conversation, as you tried to do when Barbara Walters asked you if you were too fat to be president, and you told her that is ridiculous. You’re right. It is ridiculous. 30 years of your life is enough to give to the critics who say you need to be thin to be successful and, more importantly, healthy. You do the right things for your body. Only you know what those things are, and only you have the right to decide what steps, if any, you need to take right now to be a healthier you.

Whether or not Chris Christie is qualified to be president has nothing to do with how he looks or what the scale says. It should be related only to his professional career. The voters opted to overlook his weight before, and we can only hope they will do so again when he runs for re-election in NJ later this year. Our leaders should be elected based on merit, not based looks or biased claims from so-called medical professionals with no actual evidence to support them.

~Jessica

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