Words that describe New Jersey Governor Christie would include: outspoken, direct, no nonsense, empathic and big. He is big in spirit, big in voice, and quite frankly, overweight. He makes no secret of his personal struggle with eating. He has shared that his struggle with food is a never-ending cycle of diet efforts, exercise efforts and life getting in the way. He emphatically states that he is a “healthy fat man,” and says his numbers, as in lab test numbers and vital signs (I assume), are within a healthy range. Since HIPPA prevents anyone from accessing his medical test results, only Governor Christie and his doctor know for sure if indeed he is defying his excess weight with exemplary health. I, for one, am a doubter.
So is Ex-White House Doctor Connie Mariano, who when interviewed by CNN recently, suggested that she is worried that if Governor Christie does become President, he may have a heart attack or stroke while in office because of his weight and the enormous stress levels that come with the job. She alluded to his being a time bomb that could go off if he does not address his weight. Let’s be clear, there was no political agenda here. Quite the contrary, Dr. Mariano expressed her respect for his toughness and ability to get things done, and she suggested that he could be a powerful role model in helping people to conquer their weight and health issues….if he does it before becoming President. Christie responded by telling the doctor to shut up. The next day he shared with a reporter, that his kids saw the interview and became genuinely concerned that he might die suddenly. Am I missing something here?
When I saw my dad chain smoke at the ripe old age of 7, I realized, thanks to ads, news reports and my teachers, that smokers die sooner than healthier people. That’s why I began to steal his cigarettes and flush them down the toilet. Kids are smart and they connect the dots. Does Governor Christie really think his school age kids are not concerned about his weight, without Dr. Mariano weighing in on this discussion? Yes, it’s humiliating to be a public figure and have your weight discussed in a public forum but I must confess that if he is truly bothered by the impact of the comments on his kids, then I ultimately hope he is inspired to commit to long term sustained change. That also means dropping the donut habit that he felt compelled to use comically on the David Letterman Show. I’m not laughing.
Any parent with a bad habit has a problem. The very tenant of being a parent is to model good behavior. That doesn’t preclude you from being human and having failings, but it should require you to talk to your kids about bad habits, especially if they threaten your health, in a meaningful and honest way; particularly if you don’t want your kids to model these habits. I can’t imagine a parent who cannot kick his smoking habit, wanting his kids to smoke. And most parents who have past drug experiences do not want their kids to try drugs. That’s called parenting. A parent struggling with long term obesity needs to talk frankly to his kids about weight and health consequences. Kids independently come to their own conclusions, particularly with all the information being disseminated on the topic of obesity – in the classroom, on TV, online and pretty much in every life forum. Based on that reality, Governor Christie needs to discuss his weight and health reality with his kids, in an age-appropriate fashion. Maybe he has, but more than likely, he has not discussed the health risks he faces as an obese individual who also has significant professional stress. Health experts connect that to a heightened risk of many chronic conditions and earlier mortality. I appreciate the sensitivity of this discussion, but you cannot be in public office and even toy with the idea of being the leader of a nation, and not factor in weight and health and medical risks and the public discussions that will revolve around this issue. Governor Christie strikes me as the real deal……he needs to get real with his approach to his personal weight discussion as long as he fills a public office.
What do you think? Weigh in on the discussion!
Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and the upcoming What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.