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Weighty debate: Is being heavy a sure sign of an early demise?

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POSTED February 7, 2013 9:43 p.m.

Can we stop being fixated with Gov. Chris Christie’s weight?

It may come as a shock to those who view overweight people with disdain but they do tend to know they aren’t skinny and it doesn’t necessarily mean they are in the express line to meet the grim reaper.

Everyone from Barbara Walters — who popped the question to Christie, “are you too fat to be president?” — to former White House physician Connie Mariano seem to be saying if Christie is elected in 2016 the stress of being the leader of the free world coupled with his weight is going to send him to an early grave.

If you can not only survive being governor of New Jersey, but also get rid of a massive deficit without raising taxes while being overweight and that hasn’t caused you to keel over, what’s the concern?

In fairness to Barbara Walters, I’m sure she would have asked Franklin Roosevelt back in 1930 on national radio whether he was too crippled to be president.

As for Dr. Mariano, she probably would have publicly speculated whether the 300-pound-plus William Taft was fit to be president and not die in office back in 1909 and – heaven forbid – question how he could later possibly juggle being overweight with his duties as the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court without croaking.

Is being overweight a healthy situation? It depends. Is being obese healthy? Probably not. That being said, being an “ideal weight” or being skinny isn’t a sign of good health, either.

A lot of things are in play: DNA, how you deal with stress, the type of food you consume, and your level of exercise to name a few.

The real problem with the piling on when it comes to Christie’s weight is that it is oversimplification.

Back when I was 320 pounds, I rarely got sick. I never went to the hospital. I was an adult recreation city league basketball referee in Lincoln. I worked full-time and had a part-time job, and I was involved in a host of non-profits.

My diet by any standards was atrocious.

Today, at 166 pounds, I eat more calories by far than when there was almost twice as much of me. I also exercise like a madman. Which brings up a rather important point: Since I lost weight, I have been to the hospital three times on a backboard. They were all bicycle crashes which I never would have been involved in if I hadn’t lost weight, since I certainly wouldn’t have been pedaling 200-plus miles a week.

I’m not going to deny that I feel much healthier, am more energetic, and have lower blood pressure and have a resting pulse rate that is more often than not sub-50. But here’s the catch. I didn’t have high blood pressure before and my resting heart rate was in the 70 to 80 range which is considered normal.

So here’s the question: Would Dennis Wyatt, at age 56 and weighing 320 pounds, be more likely to drop dead or have severe health problems than Dennis Wyatt at age 56 weighing 166 pounds?

Conventional wisdom would say the lighter version of me would be healthier. And while I believe that to be true, it wasn’t all that long ago that conventional wisdom said that overweight people were healthier.

Although I readily admit I’m so obsessed with weight that I step on the scale every morning and mark the numbers down on a calendar, I clearly understand that the numbers that pop up between my feet aren’t a barometer of my health.

We are too fixated on weight. I didn’t need the entire world telling me I was fat when I was fat. I knew it.

And without trying to seem snide, at least five of the people who constantly reminded me that I was fat and therefore unhealthy died of either heart disease or stroke long before I turned 50. Not one of them came close to being overweight.

Again, I do not believe being obese is healthy, nor that being “normal weight” or less guarantees you a longer life.

We should expect our elected leaders in critical offices such as the president to be healthy. But simply focusing on the obvious – a person’s weight – is not only simplistic but unreliable in determining whether they might die in office.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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