In today's Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote a column entitled "Christie's Hefty Burden" (see here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chris-christies-big-problem/2011/09/29/gIQAAL7J8K_story.html ). This is NOT another boring blog post about political ideology or an attempt to sway people to a particular political party, because, frankly, your politcal views are none of my business. The column discussed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's issues with his weight and health being an issue if he runs for President of the United States. A candidate's or potential candidate's health issues are a viable concern if they can impede their ability to do their job. I have no qualms in bringing this subject up as he does in paragraph two of the article. However, he gets personal and makes insensitive, mean & DISCRIMINATORY statements that are both uncalled for and unprofessional, but I will get to those later.
First and foremost, I’ll start with the dirty cheap shot that is the title; issues with obesity should not be publicly made fun of by news outlets that want to be taken seriously. The title is making fun of Christie's weight issues, and in most situations columnists should be given a pass on derogatory and inappropriate titles such as this. However, when he came on the political news show Morning Joe on MSNBC this morning they stated that he is a Pulitzer Prize winning Columnist and an Associate Editor for the Washington Post. I cannot give him a pass on the title as the show did, because no one can convince me that a columnist who is an associate editor had no influence on this title.
In his first paragraph he starts by saying Governor Christie needs to lose weight to perform optimally in the political arena, which is out of line and discriminatory because he is subtly saying fat people are less capable in a race for president than those who aren’t. Which is shameful enough, but he tops himself later by closing with this wryly insulting but still heinous statement, "Politically, I disagree with Christie on almost everything. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell him why. Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk." He defends these statements on the show by saying that If you have a friend who is extremely or what they used to call morbidly obese and struggles with it you would say ,"come on let's have a salad." Let's debunk that right now! First, I'm guessing he's not a close friend of Governor Christie's, but for argument's sake let's say he is. Would a friend or someone else who truly cares about someone struggling with weight issues tell them so in public for all sorts of other people to hear (or in this case, newspaper that has a circulation of around 500,000 people)??? This is what makes this awful piece of writing so inappropriate. He goes out of his way to talk down at and embarrass Governor Christie without provocation. Think about what would happen to you if you said something like that unprovoked to a co-worker in your office?
His next argument is that this column was meant to bring obesity and its link to rising health care costs to the forefront of the discussion. Great! We in the fitness community have been waiting for this. We know it's an issue and definitely needs addressing. However, in his 742 word column only 291 (roughly 40% of the column) were dedicated to the actual topic of obesity and healthcare costs. As you can tell by my writing ability I was not a journalism or english major, but I would imagine if Robinson wanted to truly write about obesity he would lead with discussing how much of an epidemic obesity is and make that a greater percentage (maybe at least half!!!) of his column while lightly tying in Governor Christie’s admitted struggles to show that the well known politicians in our country realize and have experienced the struggle it can be. Yet, this is not the case. It reads as though he read some articles online found numbers that help him disguise a personal political opinion of a person with “Starting the Nation’s Discussion on Obesity.” The problem is this is a serious issue for serious professionals and Robinson is using it to further his own personal political agenda. That is simply wrong and by doing so, the only part of the discussion he brings to light is he doesn't have the maturity to handle it. Notice I haven’t even gotten to the flawed statistic he uses to broach the subject. That’s how insulting he was.
He uses BMI statistics from the National Institutes of Health and finds numbers linking obesity to extra costs in health care and the monetary numbers are relevant and interesting, but those numbers are based on BMI. When I go to conventions and here true experts on health and wellness they bring BMI up as one of if not the most flawed and bureaucratic statistics we have in our industry, because it does not show fat mass vs fat free mass which skews the perception of overweight vs over fat. I have calculated and evaluated many individuals in classes, labs & gyms and I have come across many who are statistically overweight by BMI standards, but their body fat percentage measurements can show them as being at a lower risk for heart disease than their BMI calculation shows. He also just barely glosses over some of the genetic issues that are being found, as well as, the unconscious psychological issues that can cause or exacerbate an overeating or lack of activity issue. To me what puts him so far out of line here is that he has ZERO clues as to the struggle weight loss can be for someone who is obese, as a trainer I do and he is minimizing their daily fight for health and well being. I work with clients who struggle with anxiety and depression over their appearance some more serious than others, so much so, that they are terrified of going into a gym and exercising near any person that looks fit. Every single day is a battle for them and we shouldn't be dismissive of similarities of overeating and things like alcoholism, because similarly, they will have to overhaul their entire lifestyle to solve their own obesity issues. Food can be an emotional crutch for many and for some they go too far, become obese and then suffer not only from health issues, but social isolation and the possibility of being passed up for new jobs, promotions, etc. Their struggles shouldn't be minimized and encouraged by Robinson as he does in saying that Christie needs to,"eat a salad and walk," if he wants to run for president.
The only positive to be found is he was able to take shots at someone’s weight issues in a slightly less offensive tone than former Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly (see here: http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/overweight-couples-on-television). His column is offends me as a health and wellness professional and insults my intelligence as a member of civilized society. Robinson simply saw a chance to reach across the ideological spectrum and sucker punch someone he disagrees with politically by subtly saying, "he's too fat to run for president,” because he doesn’t agree with his politics, which he will deny unsuccessfully to anyone with a functioning brain, by saying he’s telling him this as a friend, with friends like Robinson who needs enemies. So, Mr. Robinson if you really would like to be a part of discussions on obesity issues then get up from the little kids table so we can have a meaningful and adult conversation on a what has been a long term issue for this country. Until then ask yourself WHO YOU CRAPPIN?!?!?!